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Leeds United John Cave


Diary of 1950’s Elland Road Autograph Hunter

“Sign here please Mr. Quixhall, and if you could sign this one “Best Wishes”, oh and this one as well”.......... I asked the baby- faced pin up boy, soon to be of Manchester United, to sign 43 of his pictures that day in around, I suspect 1956, just before his move from Sheffield Wednesday.

The location of the above was either Moortown, Sand Moor or Moor Allerton Golf Club in north Leeds and the occasion was the Northern Professional Footballers Association Annual Golf Day, an event that attracted soccer players from all of the northern clubs regardless of the division they played in. The latter was a very important fact because it meant that 1st Division players including Internationals might be there and if you followed a club forever ensconced in the lower division then it was an opportunity not to be missed. Indeed you might get taken on as a caddy for one of them and earn yourself a few shillings as well as rubbing shoulders with your hero’s for a few hours.

Expanding your collection of soccer autographs required a degree of lateral thinking in order to get bragging rights amongst your mates. It was of little use just standing outside the West Stand on match days waiting for players to sign in the rugby scrum that surrounded the arrival and departure of teams. You had to know how each club travelled to matches. If they came by train which station (there were 2 in Leeds then) and what time they arrived and departed. If they came the night before (and many did) then you had to know which hotel they stayed at. There were only 3 hotels of any real import – The Queens Hotel, The Griffin and The Metropole. You were then able to accost players during the quiet of a mid morning stroll after their breakfast. You might even be lucky and be able to blag a lift up to the ground in the local coach their club hired to take them to Elland Road (Bristol Rovers were always good for that). Now who acquired this information I haven’t a clue but ‘those in the know’ always seemed to find out and if you were lucky enough to be part of the inner sanctum then you would be made privy.

Collecting Leeds United player’s signatures was not on the agenda on match days – that was for the little kids to do in the match day scrum. For Leeds players you attended a pre-season training day and get all you wanted in one session, leaving time to concentrate on visitors during the season itself. Strangely as it may seem home reserve games were very often a better source of the rarer ‘star’ autographs. We rarely saw 1st Division players at Elland Road unless they had been dropped or were returning from injury and using Central League games to get fit again. The Central League had clubs playing their reserve side regardless of their standing in the Football League. One memorable game against Manchester United in the mid 1950’s had several of the famous Busby Babes playing including the likes of Duncan Edwards and they were brilliant at lining the kids up in orderly rows to sign their books until their hands were almost dropping off. Their loss at Munich will always be lamented by this Leeds United supporter.

Another way to be ahead of the autograph game was to collate photographs of a particular club, usually a 1st Division one. Choose a friendly looking player at the club, send him the photographs along with a polite letter (Leeds Grammar School was useful for something!!) plus a stamped addressed envelope and hope he would do the business and send them all signed back to you. Many times it did work and once it got around which players would take the time would be shared information amongst the inner sanctum.

Collecting footballers’ autographs was far more sophisticated than just having a little pocket-sized book with signatures in. One stuck photographs cut out from the likes of Charlie Buchans Football Monthly – the bible for officiandos - into a ledger-sized scrap book with sections arranged for each club. You obviously needed a school satchel or ruck sac with you to carry the scrap book as well as the latest Charlie Buchans Football Annual – these annuals were also a must have for the 1950’s autograph hunter and a usually the first item on any Christmas list.

I stopped collecting autographs when I go to about 16 I think and I needed to earn some extra pocket money. Selling programmes at Elland Road was a useful earner and most of my contemporaries became sellers at about the same time. . I kept my collection of scrap books and annuals with several thousand autographs which included many famous players from the 1950’s (Charles – obviously, Matthews, Finney, Edwards et al) along with a huge post war programme collection at my parents and they remained there when I finally left for London in 1965. I went ‘home’, behind the Wheatsheaf pub in Gelderd Road, one Saturday to park up for the game to find my Mum having one of her clear outs and she was burning the lot!!!! More than £10,000 worth at 2012 valuations I would imagine! Eh ho.

They were great times for a youngster and I am sure Tony Hill (Ozwhite on TSB), his brother Ronny, Mac Brown (a retired solicitor now a season ticket holder at St Mary’s – traitor), ‘Ginner Johnson (I still see him at Elland Road but he doesn’t recognise me) and Micky Hayes plus many others whose names I cannot remember all have similar wonderful memories of the halcyon days spent supporting our club.

John Cave


Our thanks to John Cave & The Square Ball, where this article first appeared

thesquareball.net

 

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Autopgraph Hunting (copyright John Cave)Autopgraph Hunting (copyright John Cave)