Sadness as two of Notts' oldest clubs bite the dust
TWO of Nottinghamshire's oldest and most respected amateur football clubs have folded through lack of volunteers to run them.
To those of us steeped in the tradition of the Midland Amateur Alliance it seems almost unthinkable that Lady Bay FC and Brunts Old Boys have disappeared from the local fixture lists.
Having struggled in recent seasons, the lack of anybody to run their affairs off the field of play has seen both clubs bite the dust.
Lady Bay's origins can be traced back to a group of boys who were all members of their local scout troop.
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They called themselves Lady Bay Church FC, but in 1930 the 'Church' part of their title was dropped and they simply became known as Lady Bay FC.
The club joined the old Notts Spartan League in the 1930s, finishing as Division Three runners-up in season 1935-36.
Their home ground was the aptly named Mudpie Lane near Adbolton Lane, West Bridgford, where many of their fixtures were seemingly played out in atrocious conditions.
By the end of the decade, Bay were running three teams. Looking through their records I was quite taken aback to find that my father's brother – my Uncle Harry, who died just after the Second World War – was at one time captain of their reserve side. A small world indeed.
In September 1939, Bay were all set to play Ruddington the day before war broke out and all amateur and professional football was suspended.
However, the club secured permission to play friendlies until just before Christmas when the ban was relaxed.
The Spartan League, now reduced by half, was again able to provide competitive football and Bay were even able to enter a reserve team in the Nottingham Realm League.
Unfortunately, by the summer of 1940, numbers in the Spartan League dwindled to just three clubs – Lady Bay, Parliament Street Meths and Cinderhill Colliery.
Lady Bay Reserves joined the Notts Wartime League in season 1941/42 to become founder members.
During the war, Bay were able to accommodate several servicemen who were looking for a game and they were fortunate enough to secure the use of Boots Athletic's ground for three seasons, finishing runners-up on each occasion.
At the end of the war, with most clubs drifting back into their respective leagues, Lady Bay applied for membership of the Midland Amateur Alliance, having moved to Bridgford Park for their home fixtures.
The club has also enjoyed links with Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club, with such as Brian Bolus, Derek Randall and Mike Smedley playing for them during the winter months.
Season 1946/47 saw the start of a golden era for the club, when they were promoted to Division One of the MAA as champions of Division Two and KO Cup winners, going on to achieve the Division One title and MAA Senior Cup double in both of the next two seasons.
The MAA Centenary Brochure in 2004 noted that the club had by then won no fewer than 22 trophies.
It also carried a quaint 1940's report on the financial aspect of the MAA Senior Cup Final played at the City Ground between Lady Bay and Old Bemrosians – "a net profit of £45 4s 3d was declared, despite an expense of 1s for 'ball blowing up'. The replay produced a profit of £66 18s 10d and allowed for Forest claiming ten per cent of the gate money."
Many stalwarts have been connected with Lady Bay over the years, not least their long-serving secretary and president Eric Penson, who was involved from the club's origin, but sadly passed away in 1994 having kept meticulous record books dating back over more than 80 years. Eddie Dowell was club captain and MAA Representative XI captain from 1947 until 1965, and still made guest appearances up to the age of 56.
After that he became club chairman and club president on the passing of Eric Penson. Eddie's son, Howard Dowell was captain from 1974 to 1991, following the family tradition which also saw his brother John turning out for the club.
Howard regrets that a 'feeder' scheme which was set up some years ago ultimately failed to save Lady Bay.
"In 1987 we started up a third team of schoolboys from the fifth and sixth forms at the then South Wolds Comprehensive School at Keyworth," he explains.
"They were backed up by myself and two other 'old codgers' and we hoped this would leave the club in a strong position for the future. Sadly events have proved this not to be the case."
The demise of Brunts Old Boys has equally saddened MAA officials, with the club poised to embark on their 90th year in the league.
MAA Secretary, Norman Frith, explained that the club had run into problems in appointing at least a couple of key officials.
"They found themselves without a manager and secretary," he said. "I believe they had three people interested in the managerial position, but several players had already left.
"Secretary Jamie Reid is in the RAF and has headed for his second tour of Afghanistan, so basically they were left without anybody to run the club."
Brunts put out a plea of help to any ex-players or former managers to take over the club, but again they were unable to make any appointments.
The Notts FA report that, while there is sadness at having lost two of the county's oldest clubs, the overall picture is encouraging.
Notts FA chief executive, Elaine Oram, said: "We estimate there are about 31,124 people playing football in the county, which is based on 2,406 affiliated teams (including small sided teams). The overall number of teams this season has gone up."