My club’s birthday thanks to the Herald
Centenary celebrations had to quickly be brought forward after newspaper files revealed eight seasons we never knew we had
Chris Gay has been secretary of Chertsey Town FC for four decades. Here, in this final edition, he explains how the Herald & News helped to uncover the story of the birth of his beloved
I ONCE delved into the Herald’s back numbers and soon the realisation dawned on me that the birth of the club was 1890 and not, as had been previously thought, 1898.
This revelation came in 1989, just a year before the club’s centenary.
The newspaper, therefore, was instrumental in revealing the true age of Chertsey Football Club.
The archives, in the late 1980s, were kept unceremoniously in a cupboard at the Eastworth Road office.
They were in a poor condition but now facsimile copies can be explored at the Surrey History Centre in Woking.
We, therefore, owe a debt to the Herald in discovering that our birth date was wrong by as much as eight years.
Its articles and the county FA’s own limited records persuaded our footballing controllers to accept our true pedigree.
This gave just enough time to squeeze in centenary celebrations, including a top-notch dinner dance at the Runnymede Hotel, attended by dignitaries including the mayor.
In scanning those past editions, it is blindingly obvious how the style of reporting has evolved.
Nowadays, under the current sports editorship of Clive Youlton, we have lively, pun-led headlines.
I know he loved it when Spencer Day was in charge, as his name was a gift for irreverent word play. I’m keeping my head down at this point!
What a difference then, to the approach in late Victorian times when, for instance, a report said that ‘homesters’ Laleham entertained a Chertsey side and not only won the toss but also the match, 8-1, despite the considerable efforts of the visitors’ goalkeeper.
He was described as ‘small for the place’ but ‘saved his side from what would otherwise have been a more severe defeat.’
The half-backs (today’s midfield) were chiefly to blame, it was said. Although livelier than this, when I became involved at first hand in writing match reports in 1974, presentation was still somewhat prosaic and factual.
I was required to put pen to paper on an official Surrey Herald form, then post it in my local letterbox, hoping it would arrive in time for the Tuesday deadline. It usually did, but not always.
The communications became slicker over time which, I suppose, is the double-edged sword that has done for local newspapers across the land.
Electronic messaging has made the task of filing reports and news much easier but sadly, it has also diminished the need for the printed word.
Such a system may have lasted for centuries but, as now demonstrated, no form of communication can be said to be written in tablets of stone.
The history man: Chertsey FC stalwart Chris Gay, who saw his first match in
1959, has been club secretary since 1974.