How I fell in love with football
By former Lyme Regis FC captain Stuart Broom
The final part 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.
It’s a funny old game! So said my football hero Jimmy Greaves, and he wasn’t wrong. During these weeks when we have been confined to ‘barracks’ through the lockdown, it has been a great opportunity for me, like many I am sure, to dig out old photos and memorabilia and reminisce on past times.
Looking through my scrapbooks I was reminded of things that I probably didn’t take too much notice of at the time. I am sure many of you reading this will have your own favourites but here are some of my own.
Favourite ground: South Petherton’s huge expansive, well-manicured pitch was a delight. Sector Lane in Axminster, St Mary’s in Bridport and Zembard Lane in Chard were also great. However, for me, our own old Sidmouth Road ground beats them all. Despite the vagaries of fog and wind that caused problems from time to time, it was big, a lovely flat surface and drained so well we hardly had a game called off because of waterlogging.
Best referee: No contest – the late, great Doug Pomeroy. He was miles better than any other ref I ever encountered. Strict, meticulous, scrupulously fair, he controlled the game from start to finish. Whilst I don’t remember him handing any cards out, he was firm from the start. Chewing gum as he did all the time, he would blow and indicate precisely where the offence occurred.
Woe betide if you tried to gain even the slightest advantage; he would call you back. You didn’t do it again! He would be a sensation in today’s game. No more diving, time wasting, what a star!
Best player: There were several players over the years, but I guess most wouldn’t go further than Merriott’s Barry Bisgrove who had trials with Bristol City, or Andy ‘Dinger’ Bell who played for Haselbury before being signed by Exeter City and then Yeovil Town. Both were exceptionally skilful strikers and caused me many a problem.
Defensively, there weren’t many better than Rodney Jones or my brother Robert. Both wing halves, they were quick, good in the air and graceful, and emerged as teenagers in the successful title-winning Seasiders team of the late 1950s. I also had a lot of time for Mike Steed, by far the best of three brothers that played together for Perry Street.
Worst ground: There were a few which were like ploughed fields in those days, but Winsham I think was the worst. On a slope from side to side, the grass was always very long; I think they only cut it once at the start of the season; and invariably if it wasn’t raining, it had been! They used a well-worn old leather ball with a lace which became a lump of lead inside five minutes, so kicking and even worse heading the ball, was very difficult and painful.
Unusual antics: There were a number of comical and unusual thing that occurred from time to time. Two of them involved Ken ‘Cooey’ Hitchcock who usually was the Reserve’s keeper but stepped up when required for the first team. I remember he once deliberately got sent off five minutes from the end when we played at Winsham.
Whilst most grounds in the 1960s had at least a hut to change in, although often not a water supply, at others like Winsham, you had to change in a local pub and either drive or walk to the ground. The Bell in the centre of the village was around 300 yards from the pitch, and the changing room was the skittle alley with a tin bath of hot water for washing. It was a typical Winsham day and Cooey was covered from head to foot in mud so decided to get to the bath first. When we got there the water was black!
Lyme’s most bizarre goal!
The other incident was an end-of-season evening game ‘Up Top’, as we knew it, at Sidmouth Road. It was very, very foggy, so bad you could hardly see five yards, but it was decided to go ahead. Cooey was in goal and thought he would steal an advantage. Suddenly out the gloom he raced passed me with the ball tucked up his jumper so as not to handle it outside the area, and on reaching the centre circle released the ball and kicked it up field for Arthur Smith to tuck away – allegedly!
As I believe the ref was Doug Pomeroy, it was a good job he wasn’t seen, but he got away with it.
My best goal: The one I always remember was our only goal at South Petherton in 1963, in my third game for the senior side. Pethy were a great side and beat us 10-1, but I continued my goal scoring run having netted in both the previous two games. My chance came on 20 minutes when I hit a 30-yard volley into the top left hand corner of the net past the experienced Dave Gard, the pick-of-the league keeper, who at the end of the match purposely sought me out to congratulate me on it. What a boost that was to a 15-year-old!
Biggest disappointment: In my last piece I told you about my anger surrounding the rejection of the Strawberry Fields project due to some dubious decision making by the local authorities.
My biggest on-field disappointment was that I played a big part in ruining the career of one of the best goalkeepers in the area. Stuart Hobbs was a brilliant keeper and followed in the footsteps of his father Bill who was widely regarded as the best ever number one for Bridport. I was involved in an unfortunate collision with him whilst playing for the Perry Street pick-of-the league side at Glastonbury in 1971.
Chasing down former Bath City striker Andy Codd, I managed to get my slide tackle in just as the fearless Hobbsy came racing to the edge of the box and spreading himself. Unfortunately my foot caught his knee in the follow through, an injury that was to plague his career and leave him eventually needing a replacement. I always feel guilty when I see him. Sorry Stu!
The three amigos
Here’s a question. I believe that my brothers and I were the first trio of brothers to play together for Lyme 1st team in the same game. Does anybody know different? I believe there may have been families since then, so if you know of any perhaps you can let me know?
Brother Robert was by far the best footballer in our family, whilst my other brother Keith, whilst interested (a big Gunners fan), didn’t play much and was usually a back-up goalkeeper when needed. As you can see from the above photo taken at Sidmouth Road in the 1966-67 season, it was atrocious weather that day. Keith tells me we beat Beaminster 1-0 and clearly remembers saving a penalty, diving to his left, hence the state he is in.
Idol: Pip Evans (no, not really but he allowed me to write this series!). There are so many wonderful footballers to inspire you over the decades, but my idol has always been Jimmy Greaves. Renowned for his fabulous goal scoring records, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his skill, which is a shame. Just watch some old footage of him. I met him as we walked to our cars following a sportsman’s dinner at Dorchester Town in 2010 and he was so down to earth. What a lovely man and fabulous footballer!
Inspirations: Lyme Regis Football Club and my father Gordon! Dad went everywhere with me. Chauffeur, boot cleaner, optimist, pick-me-upper, he inspired me to be the best I could, and I hope I didn’t let him down. Having grown up and played with many of my friends who like me graduated into the football club, it became a second home. The support from older players, the encouragement from the spectators (well most of the time!), many of them player’s families, created such a great atmosphere I didn’t crave for pastures new and never regretted my decision.