When it was pop­u­lar...

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - CONTENTS -

WE HAVE all played a game of five-aside in the school play­ground, in the park or at one of soc­cer cen­tres around the coun­try.

So, we can iden­tify with its ca­pac­ity to make you run around like head­less chick­ens un­til you get a stitch or ar­gue about the ball go­ing above head height, rush goalie or shoot­ing from in­side the ‘D’.

The pros talk about play­ing fun five-a-side games in train­ing and in re­cent years there have var­i­ous tour­na­ments for celebri­ties and former play­ers.

But back in the 70s and 80s, I re­mem­ber watch­ing on shows like BBC’s Sport­snight or ITV’s Mid­week Sports Special a cou­ple of com­pe­ti­tions that were taken se­ri­ously by clubs and play­ers alike.

In fact, Lon­don clubs had en­joyed an an­nual night out first in 1954 at Earls Court be­fore mov­ing to Har­ringay Arena the fol­low­ing year.

It ended up at the Em­pire Pool, Wem­b­ley un­til 1978 when the venue be­came known as Wem­b­ley Arena for the Evening Standard Lon­don Five-a-Side Championships as it was called (Charl­ton Ath­letic won the in­au­gu­ral tour­na­ment in’54, beat­ing Tot­ten­ham 3-1 in the fi­nal).

The Lon­don com­pe­ti­tion was usu­ally held in May and open to all the clubs in and around the cap­i­tal.

It ran for the next six years. In 1955, Ful­ham beat West Ham 4-1 with goals from Bobby Rob­son (two), Jimmy Hill and Johnny Haynes.

Tot­ten­ham won in 1960 and then for some rea­son the com­pe­ti­tion was not held un­til it was re-in­tro­duced in 1967 (fresh from World Cup fever).

It saw West Ham with the World Cup trio of Bobby Moore, Ge­off Hurst and Martin Peters beat Ar­se­nal 4-0 in the fi­nal.

In front of an 8,000 sell-out crowd who had paid 7s 6d a ticket, Hurst scored a hat-trick and Moore col­lected a tro­phy at Wem­b­ley. A case of déjà vu?

Dur­ing the fol­low­ing years there were wins for West Ham again in 1970, QPR in 1971 and 1974, Ley­ton Ori­ent in 1976 and Ar­se­nal in 1977,

Mill­wall had three wins in six years in the early eight­ies, while Wat­ford beat Wim­ble­don in 1993.

Some no­table per­for­mances came from the likes of Trevor Brook­ing, Stan Bowles, Liam Brady, a young Lau­rie Cun­ning­ham for Ori­ent and Teddy Sher­ing­ham in his Mill­wall days.

How­ever, West Ham’s David Cross must hold the record for the fastest hat-trick, scored in 32 sec­onds!

Wy­combe Wan­der­ers won in 1995, the fi­nal year the com­pe­ti­tion was held.

The Daily Ex­press com­pe­ti­tion be­gan in 1967 and went on till 1986.

Usu­ally held in Novem­ber, Lon­don clubs did well in the early years. It prob­a­bly helped that they had some ex­pe­ri­ence play­ing in­doors al­ready.

Charl­ton, again, won the first year, against an un­usual mix of teams in­clud­ing Gilling­ham, Lin­coln, Grimsby and Morton.

In 1970, Manchester City were the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons but were un­able to send a strong team as it clashed with a Euro­pean tie.

Arch-rivals Manchester United, with Ge­orge Best star­ring, took ad­van­tage and lifted the tro­phy.

Tot­ten­ham won in 1972 by beat­ing Ip­swich in the fi­nal in a penalty shoot-out, still a nov­elty in those days.

In 1974, Ley­ton Ori­ent sur­prised every­one by win­ning all their matches in penalty shootouts. Wolves won in 1975 and again a year later, Bobby Rob­son’s Ip­swich took the ti­tle in ’77 and Crys­tal Palace clinched the tro­phy in 1978. Dur­ing these years the tour­na­ment was tele­vised com­pre­hen­sively by the BBC’s Sport­snight show. As­ton Villa took time out from their suc­cess­ful First Di­vi­sion cam­paign to win in 1980 and the fol­low­ing year Celtic be­came the only Scot­tish club to win. With a team of young­sters star­ring Char­lie Ni­cholas, they beat a Manchester United side fea­tur­ing Ray Wilkins and Bryan Rob­son on the way to a fi­nal against Southamp­ton, who in­cluded Kevin Kee­gan. As the eight­ies kicked in, the clubs would turn up with re­serve and youth play­ers and so in­ter­est in the com­pe­ti­tion started to wane. The BBC dropped it after 1983 and with­out TV ex­po­sure the tour­na­ment ended in 1986 when Nor­wich City beat Manchester City 5-0 in the fi­nal.

Out of the blue, the Foot­ball League had de­cided to launch its own event, in­spired by Amer­ica’s Ma­jor In­door Soc­cer League. Soc­cer Six was born.

This was fran­tic, un­like the five-a-side events which had touch­lines and kick-ins. The ball was per­ma­nently in play due to a plex­i­glass wall which sur­rounded the play­ing sur­face and could be used as an ex­tra man by play­ing onet­wos off it.

The goals were big­ger and with no height re­stric­tions, play­ers were en­cour­aged to at­tempt spec­tac­u­lar long-range shots. Matches lasted 15 min­utes, sin-bins and rolling sub­sti­tu­tions added to the drama.

So, in 1981, the Austin-Rover Soc­cer Six was launched at the Birm­ing­ham NEC with teams from the Mid­lands.

The eight teams were full of un­known re­serves and ap­pren­tices, Birm­ing­ham City run­ning out win­ners. The or­gan­is­ers were happy to try again the fol­low­ing year with a line-up of teams from around the coun­try – with Birm­ing­ham re­tain­ing the ti­tle.

Ar­se­nal, Tot­ten­ham and Not­ting­ham For­est all lifted the crown be­fore the boom year of 1988 saw the peak of the tour­na­ment’s pop­u­lar­ity with all 22 First Di­vi­sion clubs tak­ing part.

Spon­sored now by Guin­ness, the event had a to­tal purse of £250,000.

The clubs took it se­ri­ously and play­ers like Stu­art Pearce, Gor­don Stra­chan and Peter Beard­s­ley would lead their teams.

But it was Charl­ton’s Mickey Ben­nett who was the player of the tour­na­ment as he led them to vic­tory.

The BBC showed the ac­tion on TV and it quickly be­came a hit for a few sea­sons, es­pe­cially around the time English clubs were banned from com­pet­ing in Europe and so had time in the cal­en­dar and, more im­por­tantly, there were fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits.

How­ever, once clubs were read­mit­ted to Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tions, the writ­ing was on the wall with fix­ture con­ges­tion.

Lu­ton Town (who at that time played their league games on a plas­tic pitch) beat Liver­pool 4-0 to win what would be the last tour­na­ment in De­cem­ber1990.

The big­ger clubs were again un­will­ing to play or risk their star play­ers. It was con­signed to the his­tory books when it was can­celled in 1991.

Alas, look­ing back, maybe it was only the fans who re­ally en­joyed these in­door com­pe­ti­tions.

Clubs don’t even ac­knowl­edge that they won these tro­phies never mind took part.

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