Whitby Town: 50 years since Wembley final

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Whitby Town recorded an unforgettable moment in the club’s history when they played in a cup final at Wembley Stadium for the first time 50 years ago.

The Blues, coached at the time by Bill Jeffs, caused a sensation by reaching the final of the FA Amateur Cup, where they took on Hendon in front of a crowd of 49,000 at the Twin Towers.

A celebration is taking place this weekend and the eight surviving players will be reunited for the golden anniversary.

But the epic cup run might never have happened at all.

Whitby made hard work of beating first round opponents Moor Green of Birmingham, who hit the post and crossbar and caused many problems as the Blues just held on to win 3-2.

Whitby faced tougher opponents in subsequent rounds and a third round tie took them to Oxford City, which current club secretary John Tyreman recalls for other reasons too.

“It was February time and Churchill had just died,” he said. “The coach got to Oxfordshire around 8am and the driver took us to the cemetery in the small village of Bladon, near Woodstock.

Local firm Howards Coaches, of the West Cliff, provided the travel for away games. Coaches would set off at midnight to arrive for morning and supporters would have some free time.

On the morning of the final, the coach had arrived at Russell Square, London, which allowed Whitby fans some time to explore a few sights and sounds of the capital before taking tube trains to Wembley in time for the most memorable match of their lives.

Nearly 700 supporters travelled from Middlesbrough to Kings Cross on two overnight excursion trains laid on by British Railways, while an estimated 170 made their way by road and caught trains on the Saturday morning.

Those unable to make it to Wembley at least had the consolation of being able to listen to a BBC broadcast of the second half, with commentator Gerald Sinstadt saying Whitby had “covered themselves in glory” in one of the best amateur cup finals he had seen.

The sides went in at the break level pegging at 0-0 but the Londoners, blessed with four internationals in their side, showed their pedigree to score twice.

But the 61st minute of the game saw a tremendous roar from the big Whitby contingent as Jimmy Mulvaney reduced the arrears.

Inside forward Ray Edwards drew in the Hendon keeper and rolled the ball to his left for Mulvaney to hammer low into the net.

Unfortunately Whitby, hamstrung by an early injury to Maurice Crosthwaite who was a virtual passenger with no subs allowed, could not find the crucial second which would have won extra time and a replay at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough.

Mulvaney hit the bar, but Hendon went on to seal the contest; however, southern league football’s elite amateurs knew they had been in a contest.

Hendon skipper Bobby Cantrell said after the game: “Whitby put up a wonderful fight and really had us worried.”

The trophy was presented by Sir Stanley Rous. Captain Barker said later he was “a bit too full to speak, a little choked up.”

Despite losing at the HQ of English football, the Blues were not to be deterred and wrote a separate chapter in the club’s history just 10 days later.

The played fiercest rivals Scarborough in the North Riding Senior Cup final at the Turnbull Ground which attracted a record crowd.

Secretary John Tyreman recalled: “The official gate was something like 4,500 but they always reckoned there was many more and some had come over the fence.

“Behind the goals you could not physically move and there was not an inch to spare.”

A Gazette match report of the game claimed the crowd was in fact, over 5,000.

The eight surviving Wembley finalists, including skipper Eddie Barker, will be reunited at a buffet lunch at the Stables and introduced to the crowd at half-time of the Blues’ final home game of the league campaign tomorrow, against Ashton United.

Videos of the team’s cup run will be broadcast after the game, in the club house.

Whitby Town repeated the Wembley feat 32 years later by reaching the final of the FA Vase, this time winning the cup as Harry Dunn’s side triumphed over North Ferriby in the club’s finest hour.