How I fell in love with football
By former Lyme Regis FC captain Stuart Broom
Part two of a special four-part series
Stuart Broom, a bustling centre forward, played his first game for Lyme Reserves in 1963 and was a permanent first teamer until hanging up his boots in 1979, having captained the side for 12 years. He scored more than 200 goals in 600 games for the Seasiders and won one Perry Street League cap.
MUCH as we are experiencing now with coronavirus, the Second World War brought the everyday life of Britain to a standstill.
Among rationing and all the other restrictions was the lack of organised activities for children outside of school apart from the Scouts, Cubs, Girl Guides and the Youth Club, which was housed in the building under the old Borough Offices in Broad Street.
With no dedicated outside area for children to exercise or play, Arthur (Towser) Loveridge approached Tom Ogden, who owned the land next to the gas works adjacent t0 Corporation Terrace (now Lym Close), to provide what is now Anning Road Playing Fields.
The community spirit was in abundance with a lot of the work preparing the ground done by local residents. Les Loveridge, a teenager at the time and a future chairman and life-member of Lyme FC, remembers digging the trenches for the drainage pipes with other lads including Jack Caddy whose son, Lee, and grandsons, Ashley and Adam became some of Lyme’s best players.
This was a great asset but apart from school matches there were few chances for budding footballers to get playing experience.
But again with Towser Loveridge’s determination and enthusiasm, an under 15s youth team was eventually formed in the early 1960s which competed in the East Devon League and included teams from Beer, Seaton, Axminster, Honiton, Millwey Rise and Newton Poppleford.
Comprising mainly of older boys, I was lucky to break into the team aged 13 when three of them were called up for trials for the West Dorset U15s. In those days, the adage was “keep a clean sheet you won’t lose” and so I was drafted in at centre forward to play Beer instead of my normal defensive position. Whilst I was never a ball player, I was good in the air, strong in the tackle and had a vicious shot.
Alan Nute and Graham Searle were two very clever and fast wingers who could deliver a great cross, and as a result I had a field day as they set me up for a hat-trick in our 5-1 win. It proved to be pivotal in my career, leading to me scoring over 200 goals at senior level, as I retained my place in the youth team and within weeks was playing regularly for the Reserves.
Promotion to the first team followed as a 15-year old. I was in awe playing alongside some of the idols I had cheered on from the touchline not so long before, such as Pat Rice, Derek Hallett, Arthur Smith, Roger Long and my brother Robert.
They were all so supportive and that helped me settle in, none more so than captain Pat Rice when I was called up for my debut against Stoke-under-Ham because five regulars were attending a wedding.
Pat, like me, could play as either a centre half or centre forward, but on this occasion he played left wing so I could lead the line. He scored twice, reacting quickly when the keeper could only parry my shots to give us a half-time lead. However, we fell behind, but with just eight minutes left were awarded a penalty for handball.
Pat, the regular taker, turned to me and said, “Go on you take it, nobody will worry if you miss.” Knees knocking and facing the current pick-of the league keeper, I sent him the wrong way to earn ourselves a point.
Over the following seasons many of that successful team that won what was then the Division One title twice in the late 1950s and early 60s retired, and Lyme’s fortunes waned. We became a mediocre mid-table side that flirted a couple of seasons with relegation, but we still maintained a strong core of local players, something I always treasured throughout my career.
Over the years I had a number of invitations from other teams to leave Lyme and play for them. Many were indeed very successful sides that dominated the local scene for a number of seasons, winning umpteen titles and cups. Playing alongside some of the best players in the area would have been wonderful and would almost certainly have improved my game.
I felt a duty to stay with the Seasiders
Bridport FC ,whose chairman was Len Parker, were among the list. He was also a director of Bridport Gundry, the company I joined straight from school in 1965, and he continually tried to get me to move to St Mary’s but I refused.
I did agree though to sign dual forms to play for the Bees Reserves in the Dorset Premier League when Lyme didn’t have a game. I couldn’t go wrong playing alongside veteran inside forward Pat Donovan who fed me such wonderful passes. But I couldn’t leave Lyme.
The Seasiders was my home team, and despite the fact that we rarely even got to a cup final let alone challenge for the title, I felt a duty to try and help the players starting their careers to achieve the best we could, just like the established players did with me when I started playing.
The camaraderie was overriding and I don’t regret it one iota! I was resigned to always being the bridesmaid as far as winning trophies was concerned until 1976 when we won the Axminster Hospital Cup, although we did it the hard way.
It took a Graham ‘Spoge’ Williams’ goal eight minutes from the end of extra-time to beat Seaton in the semi-final, before having to do the same in the final against Chardstock. Trailing 1-2 with just 11 minutes to go, it was Williams again that popped up to send the game into overtime where Tony Messer and Nigel Thompson secured a 4-3 victory.
That summer we moved to the Davey Fort from our Sidmouth Road ground, our home for over 50 years. I had decided to retire at the end of the 1977-78 season. I had played 16 years for the club, 12 of them as first team captain having taken the armband from my brother Robert, and wanted to spend more time with my wife Jan and our young twins born the previous May.
Ironically, fate would have it that the last game of my career was not only a winning one but it provided me with my second trophy, again the Axminster Hospital Cup!
We were the underdogs. Critics at the time had been debating the relative standard of football between local leagues, and suggested that the Devon and Exeter League, which included our opponents, Senior League side Beer Albion, were superior to the Perry Street League counterparts, particularly as we had finished the Premier League season in a modest mid-table position. However, we proved the critics wrong on this occasion winning 2-1.
After going behind in the first half, Richard Austin headed us level in the 72nd minute before Martin Rowe struck the winner just eight minutes from time with a superbly executed chip over Fishermen’s keeper Stuart Warren.
Just like buses, I waited 15 years for a trophy and then two come along almost together. What a way to finish a career!
In part three I will explain how my love for the Seasiders led to me helping the club find a new ground, only to be thwarted by a bunch of NIMBY’s in Yawl and Uplyme, and some interesting stories about some of the characters that helped make Lyme Regis Football Club such a great institution.