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Tales of Tooting Terrors and their FA Cup exploits

For those who were there, it will feel like a strange mix of a lifetime ago and something which happened very recently, writes Yann Tear.

Such is the world inhabited by football nostalgics everywhere.

That is certainly the case for lifelong Tooting and Mitcham Football Club fan Jeff Brooks, who now loves them from afar in Hampshire, but whose ingrained happy moments from the 1970s have led him to write a third book about his beloved club – and an era when the Terrors had their finest hours.

Alan Ives running to the crowd after scoring the winning goal v Swindon Town, FA Cup 3rd. Round Proper, January 1976 Pictures: Mitcham History Notes / Tooting & Mitcham FC

Hereford famously had their Ronnie Radford moment when the non-leaguers downed Newcastle United, but Tooting had exciting FA Cup ties of their own and rubbed shoulders with some league sides in the competition.

Jeff recalls one famous brush with illustrious neighbours Crystal Palace at Tooting’s old Sandy Lane ground – the Eagles led by the incomparable fedora-wearing Malcolm Allison.

He told South London Press: “In 1974, Sandy Lane hosted South London rivals, Crystal Palace, in the First Round proper of the FA Cup.

“Although Palace were in the Third Division at the time, they had a star-studded team, including future England managers, Peter Taylor and Terry Venables and were managed by the flamboyant Allison.

Tales of Tooting Terrors and their FA Cup exploits - broadway shows nyc - Entertainment - Public News Time
Steve Grubb scoring in the first minute against Palace in the 1974 cup tie at Sandy Lane

“Within a minute of the kick-off, Tooting & Mitcham United were leading, But the professionals, before a crowd of 12,000, recovered to win 2-1.
“Malcolm Allison was less than impressed with the playing surface at aptly named Sandy Lane.

“He said: ‘A couple of deckchairs wouldn’t have looked out of place.’”

The following season, 1975/76, the club reached the Third Round for the second time in its history.

Following a 2-2 draw at Third Division Swindon Town (after being 2-0 down with five minutes to play), the amateurs defeated their professional opponents at Sandy Lane 2-1, before an attendance of 7,500 and the TV cameras, to progress, as the only non-league team left in the competition.

Tales of Tooting Terrors and their FA Cup exploits - broadway shows nyc - Entertainment - Public News Time
Left, author Jeff Brooks with fellow long-time supporter Charlie Till Picture: Sam Conquest

“The club’s manager at the time was Roy Dwight, who had played for Nottingham Forest against Tooting & Mitcham United in 1959 and scored the opening goal in the final at Wembley that year before breaking his leg in the match.

“A cousin of Roy’s was Elton John. He was performing in the USA and sent a telegram of good luck to the team –no Facebook, Twitter etc, in those days.

“All at the club were hoping for a memorable and profitable draw in the Fourth Round – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United?

The balls drawn out of the velvet bag at the FA gave the non-leaguers a trip to Bradford City of the Fourth Division.

Tales of Tooting Terrors and their FA Cup exploits - broadway shows nyc - Entertainment - Public News Time
Alan Ives scoring the winning goal v Swindon Town

The Yorkshire club triumphed 3-1 but it had been a great journey. “

Jeff’s recent book The Tooting Terrors In The 70s, covers that season in detail and to tie in with the launch of the book, he organised a reunion of players from the 1970s at the club.

Eleven players were able to attend, including four England amateur internationals, one, John Robertson, also having played for the GB Olympic team.

That season when Dwight played against Tooting for Forest was another key one in the club’s history, bringing much national and international attention to this part of South London.

In the first two rounds of the FA Cup, the amateur team defeated the professionals of Bournemouth, Boscombe Athletic and Northampton Town before the visit of Nottingham Forest – then seventh in the top flight.

Tales of Tooting Terrors and their FA Cup exploits - broadway shows nyc - Entertainment - Public News Time
From L to R – Brian Feeney, Dave Juneman, Nick Glover, Chris Gedney, Alan Ives, Dace Cobb, Jen Jelly, Derek Casey, John Robertson, Des Dennis, Bobby Green.

“At half-time on Saturday, January 10, 1959, in front of 14,300 fans and the national press and TV cameras, the amateurs were 2-0 up against the professionals.

“In the second half, Nottingham Forest equalised by virtue of an unfortunate own goal and a highly debatable late penalty. In the replay at The City Ground, Nottingham triumphed 3-0, before with 42,000 in attendance and went on to win the FA Cup.

“Many locals relived the matches, watching the Pathe News coverage at the Tooting Granada or the Mitcham Majestic.

Some years ago, I spoke with a number of the Nottingham Forest players who told me that, when they look at their cup winner’s medal, they usually think back to a cold and icy day in South London.

“If Tooting & Mitcham United had defeated Nottingham Forest, the club would have secured a place in English football history as the first amateur team to have defeated a team from the top level of English football.

They were only 10 minutes and a dodgy penalty away.

“It was during this season that the journalists of the national press gave the club the epithet The Tooting Terrors.

 

Pictured: Dave Juneman and Alan Ives – goalscorers v Swindon Town in January 1976 Pictures Mitcham History Notes / Tooting & Mitcham FC

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