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David Sexton 1930-2012

Somebody once said :  “It is sad to be so old that there is no-one left to remember when you were young”.

I am old and I remember.

Last weekend I heard the sad news of the death of David Sexton.  His obituaries, and there are many, tell of his life after going to play for Chelmsford F.C.

I would like to tell a story of what happened before that, a story indicating that his love of football preceded his professional career by many years.

David was a school colleague of mine and we attended St. Ignatius’ College at Stamford Hill, in North London. We both played in the same school football team. We were a good team and we won far more matches than we lost.  We were proud in our school kit which consisted of blue and amber quartered shirts, white shorts and blue, amber and white hooped socks.  We played our home matches in the shadow of the Spurs East Stand.

There is the hackneyed couplet concerning football and Rugby, viz., “football is a game for gentlemen played by hooligans – Rugby is a game for hooligans played by gentlemen”.

The headmaster, the Reverend Father Guy Brinkworth S.J, seemed to be of the opinion that football did not quite fit in with the image he was seeking for the school.

It was announced that from the season commencing September 1944, the school would no longer play football, they would play Rugby.  This was a serious blow to the football team because their delicate skills were not required for Rugby.  Most of the proponents for Rugby were from the Sixth Form.  All six footers and overweight.  They had never played football, except perhaps in the playground, and they had never played Rugby either.  They seemed to think that, with their weight and size, they would overcome all opposition, skill didn’t come into it.

The football pitches were removed and replaced by Rugby pitches.  It was a sad day.

For weeks, the new St. Ignatius’ Rugby Fifteen were thrashed by all comers. They were just not fast enough to make use of their weight.  They had no skill, the school was a laughing stock.  Gradually, members of the former First Eleven were drafted in while the Sixth-Form Giants limped out of the team. Both their bodies and egos were severely bruised.  Almost immediately, the team started to pick up.  Soon the entire First Eleven plus their reserves formed the First Fifteen.  In those days, a drop goal counted four points.  Before long, the former football players, most notably David Sexton, would grab the ball and then kick it straight between the posts. They won matches by scoring more points by drop goals than their opposition could gain by tries and conversions.

Those of us who preferred football, started our own clubs and entered the Tottenham Youth League.  William Renwick (Phooey) Forster started the St. Ignatius Football Club, and my father started Cranfield Boys Club.  For a few years, we were the top two teams in the League.  Unfortunately our team was always second.  From the College, there were only three of us who join Cranfield, myself, goalkeeper Tom Hegarty and David Sexton.  At the time, my father worked for J.A. Preswich and noted that there were a number of young lads playing football in the yard during their lunch break.  He recruited them and we were joined by the likes of Jack Surridge, Jimmy Wilmott, Bernie Prentice, Terry Baldwin, Freddie Bee, “Chicka” Brooks, Harry Longman and Laurie Mellowship.

We used to play on Tottenham Marshes where we could rent a pitch. Here we used to pick up the goal posts from the dressing rooms and carry them across to the pitches anything up to a quarter of a mile away.  I suppose there were match days when the sun shone, but I remember the mud and trying to get it off at the cold-water sinks outside the dressing rooms.

We also carried my mother’s white enamel bucket which had water in it with a sponge.   With that we had a small first-aid kit containing bandages, sticking plaster, lint, iodine and white horse oils.

Spectators at our matches usually consisted of the reserves of both sides, perhaps half a dozen people.

We wore white shirts and blue shorts, our socks were blue with a single white hoop at the turnover.  This kit was provided by my father’s former boss, a Mr. Underhill, who donated £5 each year.  This covered the cost of the kit.

Other expenses included the hire of the pitch and payment to the referee. These expenses were covered by our subscriptions.

In June 1944, soon after the invasion of Europe, the V1 rockets started to come over London.  They were also called “buzz bombs”, or “doodlebugs”, because of their distinctive noise which emanated from their rocket engine.  There was no mistaking the noise.  On top of the Spurs East Stand, they built a watchtower from which a spotter would look out towards the south-east and then give warning to the crowd when a “buzz bomb” was coming along.  It is likely that, in all the time that the “buzz-bombs” came over from June 1944 to September 7th 1944, the Spurs and their crowd were not disturbed.

However, on one Saturday afternoon, we were playing on the Tottenham Marshes.  We had been instructed by the referee that, on the approach of a “buzz-bomb”, he would give two long blasts on the whistle, we would all lay down on the pitch and wait until it passed overhead.  The referee was Mr. A.E. Plumb.  Sure enough, a buzz bomb came over, he blew his whistle twice, the game was held up and we all lay on the pitch on our backs watching the bomb fly over towards Southgate.  As soon as it was overhead, with its engine still going, we all stood up and the game was re-started.  We had nothing to worry about until the engine stopped.  This would happen when it ran out of fuel,  at which point its nose would go down and the bomb would plunge into the ground at a forty-five degree angle.

We saw a number of “buzz-bombs” and heard some of their engines stop, but they were too far away to do us damage.

List of Walsall F.C. managers

Major Frank Buckley

David Sexton was our inside-right and a very skilful player.   In three seasons, he never missed a match. There were other fine players and we could hold our own with anyone.  Each Wednesday evening, the team would gather at my house where they were given coaching instruction by my father who had been a professional footballer.  My father, Patrick Joseph Gallacher, had been a colleague of the great Major Frank Buckley, manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers. They met during the First World War when they were part of the 17the Middlesex Service Battalion – The Footballers Battalion.  Tactics were demonstrated on a table-top football pitch that my father had made, with small pieces of wood representing the players.

Patrick’s lectures, for that is what they were, delved into the finer points of the game and we all took in his every word.

At the end of the 1945 season, my father arranged for us to play against Clapton Orient Youth team at Brisbane Road.  We lost 1-0.  My father knew Benjamin Ives who was associated with West ham United and he arranged for us to play West Ham Youth team at Upton Park.  We lost 1-0.  The following year, we played them again and lost 1-0.

At this point, Terry Baldwin, myself and David Sexton were invited by West Ham to train with them. At that time, this was a crude method of finding out whether a player might be good enough to join the club.   We started to go to Upton Park once a week where we ran round the track until it got dark, then we went for a bath.

We started in September 1946.  Eight weeks later, I was called into the Army for two and a half years.  Shortly afterward, Terry Baldwin was called up to the Royal Air Force.  David Sexton, who was eighteen months my junior, remained.

David Sexton would have been well aware of tactical talks long before he started his professional career.

Now you may wonder what all this has got to do with my career in film, well, not a lot, but there is an anecdote that does qualify.

In 1970, by now David had become manager of Chelsea F.C., his team had been drawn against CSKA Sofia in the European Cup.  I saw an interview with David in which he stated that he knew nothing about the team.  At that time, I was Head of Production at UPITN and, by chance, we had received a five minute film of a match involving CSKA Sofia.

I phoned David and told him what I had got and asked him if it would be of any assistance to him.  He said yes and we met for lunch where I handed over the film. Chelsea management informed the press about what had happened and it made the papers at the time.

Chelsea went on to beat CSKA 1-0 at home and 1-0 away within a week or so.  They went on to win the European Cup, beating Real Madrid in the final.

What might have happened if the Reverend Father Guy Brinkworth S.J. had liked football?

I hope that I have filled a gap.

© Terence Gallacher and, 2012.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Matthew Hyams #

    Great article Terry. I’m married to Dave’s daughter, Anne, & will forward your memories of Dave to the family. Regards, Matthew Hyams

    December 3, 2012
    • Hello Matthew, thanks for your kind comments. I hope the article filled in some empty spaces. Regards Terry

      December 4, 2012
  2. Graham Nin #

    Hello Mathew,

    I only managed to find this link to Dave Sexton, s passing a couple of years ago. I was very saddened by the news. I was engaged to Anne when her father was manager at Man Utd all those years ago back in the 80,s. I have very fond memories of all the family. I lived in Prestbury where they lived. Dave and Thea were a lovely and close as were Dave junior, Chris and in particular saddened too of Mike ! I felt for them when I heard as I did of Dave, my thoughts were with them. I have very fond memories of Anne and can still see her warm lovely natural smile, I am glad and happy for her that life is treating you well. Please would you pass on my kindest regards and sincere wishes to Anne and her family, be nice to hear from her and catch up. Regards Graham Nin

    January 20, 2014

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