Matlock Town's finest hour | 45 years on
April 26th is a very special day for everyone associated with Matlock Town Football Club and for the town itself.
Remarkably, today marks exactly 45 years on since Matlock Town’s greatest achievement so far: winning the FA Trophy at Wembley Stadium.
With this landmark moment for the club coming at a time where the world is in such a strange and uncertain place and football is in a state of hiatus, it feels more important now than ever to indulge in some nostalgia and to look back on the club’s finest moment to date to cheer us all up.
So without further ado, let’s travel back in time to April 26th, 1975.
‘Bye Bye Baby’ by Bay City Rollers was top of the UK singles charts and Death Race 2000 was filling up cinema seats left, right and centre in the country.
In the world of non-league football however, it was Matlock Town’s day to shine as they took on Scarborough in the 1974/75 FA Trophy Final at Wembley Stadium. It was without a shadow of doubt the biggest day in the club’s history and this still remains the case today.
In a remarkable cup run, the Gladiators knocked out Tamworth, King’s Lynn, Burscough, Ilford, Goole Town and Burton Albion to reach Wembley Stadium and stand ninety minutes away from cup glory.
On this day, the Gladiators team lined up as the following:
1) David Fell
2) Steve McKay
3) Colin Smith
4) Brian Stuart
5) Peter Swan (Player/Manager)
6) Colin Dawson
7) Colin Oxley
8) Nick Fenoughty
9) Peter Scott
10) Tom Fenoughty
11) Mick Fenoughty
12) John Brookes (Substitute)
History was made with this team announcement as it was the first time ever (and still remains the only time ever) that three brothers were named in the same starting eleven for a cup final at Wembley.
An impressive attendance of 21,000 took to their seats and cheered their team on for non-league football’s biggest day of the year.
In the 17th minute, the Gladiators broke the deadlock through Colin Oxley. Who better to talk about the opening goal than the man who scored it:
“They got a throw-in where their right-back position was. The throw found a midfielder of theirs and then he attempted a cross over the field to the other half-back but I saw what was going to happen. I nipped in, intercepted the ball before it reached him. I just carried on running, head down. Their keeper came out towards the edge of his box and I just hit it first time. Lucky for me, it went between his legs and straight into an empty net. I just turned round, jumped up and everyone came and patted me on the back. It was a great feeling but it happened that quick before I knew where I were it was half-time.”
The first half ended with the Gladiators leading 1-0. The next goal would be crucial. With twenty minutes to go of the match, the Matlock fans were on their feet as it was the Gladiators that got the all-important goal to go 2-0 up with time running out. Colin Dawson talks us through the vital goal he scored to bring the FA Trophy within Matlock’s grasp:
“Mick Fenoughty took a corner and Peter Scott nodded it down to me where I was about six yards out and I just went towards the ball, dropped down and swung my leg and it was in the back of the net. That was it! The players jumped on me and I couldn’t move. It was special because it was my birthday too!”
Six minutes later, Tom Fenoughty made it all but certain that the FA Trophy would be on its way to Derbyshire after scoring a wonderful free kick to make it 3-0. Tom reveals here the inspired thinking that lead to a superb goal:
“When a foul was given on my brother Nick, it was way out on the left wing. But when I went to the ball and got ready to take the free-kick, it was strange. My brother Nick said ‘Quick one, Tom!’ and I said no, I’ll get my breath back first. But then my other brother Mick ran past and he said ‘It’s on!’ And I looked up and I thought, it is, because their goalkeeper was standing by the far post telling his defenders where to be because everyone thought it was going to go straight towards big Peter Scott. So I set up the free-kick as if I was going to go and cross it and I just turned it in to the left and the ball just shot into the net. Sir Stanley Rous, he was the top man at the FA in those days and he came to all the cup finals at Wembley, said to Cliff Britland (Matlock’s chairman then) that my goal was the best goal he’d ever seen at Wembley. It was just the way it was set up that gave me the chance. Everyone thought the ball was going to Peter Scott and I was just able to turn the ball to the other side and score from miles out.”
In the 82nd minute, Nick Fenoughty provided the icing on the cake to make it 4-0 to the Gladiators. Nick gives a great insight here of this glorious moment for the club:
“Oh blimey! People usually cross over to the other side of the road when they see me coming, they’ve heard this story from me so many times! All I remember from it really was Colin Oxley picked the ball up on the halfway line on the right wing. He was an elusive type of player. He didn’t look particularly fast but if you ever tried to catch him you couldn’t get near him. He was very relaxed but he was very quick. It was late on in the game. The lad marking me was Shaun Marshall and it was the first time in the match that I’d got away from him. When Colin went to cross the ball, Marshall finally looked exhausted to me. So I thought I would run to the near post and the ball came and that was it! It was just that little bit of knowledge seeing that Marshall was tired made me go for that near post run. There’s a photo actually of me scoring the goal and in it you can see Marshall standing still about ten yards away from me. I should have made that near post run a bit more often in my career! When I headed the ball in, I was elated. I remember running towards Colin Oxley and he was so exhausted he was still on the floor. But I was so elated I didn’t pick him up, I just carried on running past him!”
The final whistle blew around ten minutes later. Matlock Town 4-0 Scarborough. The Gladiators had won the FA Trophy! The goal scorers plus defender Colin Smith will now take you through what it was like before, during and after the most famous game in Matlock Town’s history. As well as the goal scorers, we also have a spectator’s insight through the club’s chief executive Keith Brown who was Matlock Town’s club secretary back in 1975:
“It was at the quarter-final stage that we all thought there was a chance that we could get through to the final. After a tough semi-final against Burton Albion (they were a very good side) the relief was great. So was the joy. I was going to play at Wembley. I couldn’t believe it. From that moment, there was a great buzz around the town. It was all very exciting. On the day of the final, the town of Matlock was a ghost town. It was absolutely empty. I’d say it was one of the greatest days in the town’s history and for us players, it was great to be part of it. It was a great game for us to beat Scarborough 4-0 which I think is still the best recorded score for an FA Trophy final. I think we took Scarborough by surprise. Our main strength was that we had players all over the field who could score goals and at that time, to some degree, we were still an unknown quantity. Scarborough were an established team at non-league level and had some very good players.”
“John Woodall caused us no end of trouble. Geoff Barmby, father of Nick Barmby who played for England, was a good player. Shaun Marshall followed me everywhere on the field. He was fit, fast and strong and a dedicated player – just the type of player I hated playing against! Harry Dunne was a stalwart centre-half. If you accidentally bumped into him, you would get a bruise on your leg, arm or ribcage! You know the type, but to be fair to Harry, he always apologised. Their manager was sacked after the game. When we heard that news, we were disappointed because it only takes a second to score a goal and that team we had could have scored against anybody. The prominent memory I have of the actual game was the great fear within our team of losing. Even at 3-0 or 4-0 up with only around ten minutes to go, we were giving it our all. I suppose that’s cup football for you! As an old man looking back, my abiding memory is the committee of Matlock Town who gave their heart and soul to the club. Keith Brown, Mike Tomlinson, George Bonsall and Hazel Brown just to name a few. They were so elated that day and Keith and Hazel are still very much involved with the club. On the rare occasion I get across for a game, there is a very warm welcome. I must mention here about Peter Swan. If he’d had a good right hand man, he could have made it as a good manager at any level in the game. Of course, he was a great player. He played 19 consecutive games for England, he really was a super player. He had a great presence about him. He was great in the dressing room.”
“There was a real buzz around the town as we set off to Wembley. Little Matlock on our way to Wembley! It was amazing for us. We had some great lads in the team, plenty of wit! It was a great time for us. We were really looking forward to playing at Wembley. I thought, bloody hell, are they even going to allow us to play at Wembley! I always thought we were good enough to go back there, but we just didn’t have the breaks really. Throughout the town, everyone was so excited.”
“You do have a bit of an edge (when lining up to step on the turf for the first time at Wembley) but at the end of the day, it’s a game. I know we were semi-professional players, but we treated this as professionals. We knew we had to do a job. We were looking forward to the game a great deal. It was just so great to be at Wembley with all the history behind it – for us players to be there, it was
just marvellous. I also wanted to say something here about my brother Mick. As well as myself, my brothers Tom and Mick also played. Tom scored, I scored but Mick didn’t. Mick has passed away now. Thinking back, I wish he’d have scored. It would have been great. There’s a lot of emotions as you look back. You actually see the things that count. You look back at all the players and all the good laughs you’d have and what a great club it is. It’s an amazing little club and like I said, you see the real meaning of things and the great grass roots of football.”
“We had an evening do booked in a big hotel in Northampton after the game. We had a great evening and then drove home. Then the next morning, we had to get up for nine and we all had to take the cup round Matlock. That was absolutely amazing. We were on an ordinary bus but all the windows had been taken out on the top deck. It was a great day, so many people out. The fire engines played their sirens as we went past the fire station. There were even people waving to us using their tablecloths right from the tops of the cliffs at Matlock Bath. It was a great day for Matlock and to be part of it was just marvellous. Little Matlock Town, we’d not really won anything before this apart from the Derbyshire Senior Cup. We ended up at the town hall and all the players had to say a few words to the crowd there. We had a young player in the squad called Carl Swan and he was very nervous about this. Peter Swan whispered to him, “Say, have the pies come out yet?” So he did for his speech and the crowd had a real good laugh about that!”
“This game changed the club. We ended up becoming quite successful in the few years afterwards. The fans were great right from the beginning of the cup run. They followed us all over.”
“The atmosphere in Matlock in the build-up was fantastic. Having beaten Burton Albion when we’d lost the first leg but then beat them down there in the second leg, it made the town’s atmosphere absolutely fantastic. The support from everyone was superb. We ended up selling around 11,000 tickets for the final.”
“Finances for ourselves compared to Scarborough were totally different. But we had great support from Tarmac and they put on a lunch at their office. A chap called George Peach who was chairman of the council and his wife Mary – they raised around £2,500 so that we could all stay over at a hotel down in London. So when we all went to the Tarmac offices on Thursday lunchtime, there was over 500 fans stood outside to cheer us off which was absolutely fantastic.”
“In all honesty, I think Matlock were the better team throughout the entire match. They were certainly very much up for the game. The fact that we had so many people there to support us – I think that lifted all the team. Peter Swan was a great manager and a great captain. When you look back at the players we had for that day, we had some very talented individuals but also a great team of lads. We had three brothers out there too which enhanced that. I think they just thought ‘right, we’re gonna do this.’ Everyone was saying Scarborough were going to win. They were a top quality side. But on the day, we were certainly the best side.”
“After the game, the players and staff were invited up to one of the suites at Wembley. There they could have refreshments and meet their wives/partners. We couldn’t afford to stay down in London. We’d arranged to stay over at a hotel in Northampton and we had a meal there with all our families and friends. Then we got on the coach again and got back home late on Saturday night to then get ready for the Sunday.”
“I think this was the best team Matlock Town has ever had. They were such a great set of players. The fact we still keep in contact with all those players says everything. Sadly, we lost Mick Fenoughty who died last year. I had a note from one of Peter Scott’s close family members recently. Peter turns 70 this year. It’s wonderful on the one or two occasions we get to see them each year.”
“I think the FA Trophy win was a really massive thing for the club and for the town. We’re a small club but we work very, very hard to take things forward. We’ve never had a person for us who’s had mountains of money. But this win really put Matlock Town on the map. Our supporters still think about it today, they really do.”
“What I remember most personally in the run-up to the final was a game we had previously against Boston United. I turned my ankle and damaged some ligaments on it so I needed to get some treatment for it. On the Thursday that we went down to London, it started aching a bit. On Thursday night, the club’s physio Tommy McDonald took a look at it and said, ‘I don’t like the look of this’. I went to Peter Swan to show him and he said you really need to get that seen to. So Tommy phoned Arsenal up. He was good friends with Fred Street who was Arsenal’s physio. So I went to Arsenal on the Friday morning and I was given a cortisone injection in my ankle and I was told to rest overnight which I did. I had a fitness test on the Saturday morning and it seemed to do the job, so that was my own experience in the run-up to the match!”
“Fan-wise, everyone was talking about it in Matlock. There were lots of people talking about it in Sheffield actually as well. I’ve got a lot of friends in Sheffield who are all football supporters and they were all talking about it too. I think I had to buy about forty tickets! On the Saturday, we could see all the fans and that’s when the adrenaline started kicking in and all the nerves and everything.”
“When you’re lined up and just about to step on the pitch, it was like a dream. You had to pinch yourself to make sure it was happening to you. I was extremely nervous, my heart was fluttering, my legs were a bit like jelly and I thought, Christ, I’m going to be too tired before I even start! Once we kicked off though, I could just treat it like I would have done for any match. I was up against a young player, he was quite quick and I’d been told to keep my eye on him. My first tackle was, well, a foul! The referee came up to me and said ‘Calm down, son, calm down. Don’t spoil it.’ I didn’t see much of that young player after that incident. He was fairly quiet. I was a bit wary of turning over on my ankle again but Tommy McDonald gave me an excellent bandage over it and, to be fair, it wasn’t for him I would never have played in this match.”
“From my perspective, Scarborough played all the football and had a lot of the ball but the ball was always in front of us, they couldn’t get through us. I can’t have touched the ball more than six times in the whole match! So they played all the football but we were the ones who took our chances and scored all the goals. We were a really good, solid, workmanlike side but we had flair with it. We were a big family, we all played for each other and we all looked out for each other. You don’t get many teams like that these days. The match reminds me of how the game went when Wimbledon played Liverpool in the FA Cup final. Scarborough had all the big players and all the money but we had plenty of confidence within ourselves and we knew that if we worked hard for each other and if we looked after each other, we could do it.”
“Tom’s free-kick, when he first hit it I thought, bloody hell Tom, you’re gonna score here! And when it went in the top corner and the keeper was just stranded and looked at the ball go in, I knew then that we’d won it. They actually had a chance in our box and it hit the bar and I can remember shouting to Peter Swan, ‘that’s it, they’re never going to score today!’ Everything went for us on the day and that’s football.”
“We had a few telegrams to read out after the match. I can remember there was a supporter for Matlock, I don’t know his name but he was a big fella with a big, long beard and I think he used to help out with the kit now and then. The players were in the bath and all of a sudden he jumped in! I can’t remember his name but that got a big cheer! We went to a hotel in Northampton afterwards and it was then that I can remember saying to one of the lads, I’m done in, I’m physically drained. I’d never felt like that before in my life.”
“The bus tour happened the following morning. I didn’t know there were that many people in Matlock! It was unbelievable. When I look back now, I can see what it meant. It meant a lot to the football club and to us as a team but I can see now just how much it meant to the supporters and to people who had been following the club for years and years. I was talking about this to my wife very recently and I was a bit choked up actually thinking back to what that was like all those years ago. There’s not many times in your life where you can look back at something and be really proud of and think back to such happy memories. I played professional football for a few years but playing for Matlock then was the best thing that ever happened to me regarding football and I never enjoyed playing football as much as I did when I played for Matlock. We always went out to win. There were never any big shots there at all. We were all on one level. When somebody needed geeing up, there would be someone there to do that. There was a lot of flair in the team and there were players we had that could have easily played in the Football League.”
“Peter Swan became the manager at the club at just the right time. I’d known him for a long time. I first met him when I was at Sheffield Wednesday and I also knew him at my time with Bury. He was very much a man manager. He was never one on tactics but he just let you play your football. When we played Burton away in the semi-final second leg, we went for a meal the night before and he got some bottles of wine out and he said ‘come on, this’ll ease your nerves a bit’ so we all had a glass of wine! If that happened now, there’d be hell to pay! I can remember Peter Swan being sick in the toilet just before that match, so the nerves still got to him. When we played Burton away, that was one of our best games because everybody expected us to lose. Nobody gave us a chance. We didn’t play well at all in the first leg but in the second leg we got our act together and we didn’t give them much chance at all.”
“We represented the town as much as we could. Everybody enjoyed Matlock, we enjoyed the supporters there. We had a good crack with the supporters and after a match we would have a drink with them. I made a lot of good friends at Matlock. It’s only now really when you look back on things, that you really appreciate just how much the supporters did. At the time, you didn’t quite realise just how much it meant to them and how much time they put into the club.”
“I guess everyone was excited in Matlock particularly when you think of how many people from Matlock turned up to the match. When we came out onto the pitch, the roar from the crowd was
colossal. It has such a big effect when your supporters are outdoing theirs in the stadium. It’s a good starting point. I think it lifted nerves just before the match. It’s funny, I think we were all quite relaxed because we were the underdogs. They were near the top of the league and we were around the middle. To go out without too much pressure on you, that’s worth a lot.”
“On the morning of the match, Peter Swan tied a bit of cotton to a five pound note and he left it by the reception desk while we were waiting for the bus to come. People were coming in and obviously, seeing this fiver on the floor, they were edging across to it and edging across to it and when someone bent down to pick it up, Swanny would pull the fiver out of the way and all the players were roaring with laughter. A fiver was a lot of money in those days! I guess it was a bit strange, players were having a joke and a laugh and nobody was worried about the game.”
“I didn’t feel nervous at all when lining up to come out onto the pitch and I don’t think many of the lads did. Peter Swan before the game said forget we’re at Wembley, just think that we’re playing at Causeway Lane. We knew that when we were on form we could beat anybody in the Northern Premier League. Everyone in the team knew that and everything just seemed to come good for us on that day.”
“We worked so hard in the game. We had to work hard because they were a good side. We kept them out of it – I think they only really had one real chance in the whole game. Once we got the first goal through Colin Oxley, I think we relaxed more after that and we ended up running them ragged. Ken Houghton, Scarborough’s manager, said to a reporter after the game that we were lucky!”
“Virtually everyone who could have gone from Matlock was at Wembley. It made such a difference when you heard that roar from the crowd. It was an advantage straight away. The bus tour on the day after was fantastic. The amount of people that turned out. You couldn’t get anywhere near the ground. We went around the town and at one point we stopped at a convent for one of the players and I got out of the bus there and started talking to the nuns. It was a part of the route and we all got involved. It was a terrific drive around the town, it was just packed everywhere.”
“I’d played in the First Division before for Sheffield United and played for them against the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool but this day was a great achievement for me. It’s something I remember very well about my football career, that we were able to reach Wembley and win the trophy. The whole town was involved.”
“It was just unbelievable for a club as small as Matlock to reach Wembley. Especially to go on and win. Scarborough were odds-on favourites to win. The atmosphere was just unbelievable. We went down on the Thursday. There were about 500 people cheering us on when we left the Tarmac offices where we’d had a little do before heading to London.”
“It was unbelievable walking down the tunnel and heading out into the stadium. I read somewhere before where a Matlock fan said ‘You’d have thought that there’s more chance of them walking out onto the Moon than walking out at Wembley’”.
“We went into the match as underdogs. Nobody had really given us a chance of winning at Ilford, nobody gave us a chance of beating Goole, we lost the first leg at home in the semi-final and on that day Burton definitely thought they’d sewn it up. In the second leg, we said we had nothing to lose
and to just go out there and we were the much better team and we even afforded to miss a penalty! It was just a dream that we’d got to Wembley. When we were coming home from Burton, me and my mate big Peter Scott went out for a drink and we just said to each other: ‘We’re going to Wembley, this is just unbelievable’. For the night before the match, Peter Swan just said do whatever you want. Have some pints if you want. So I had a couple of pints, that’s all!”
“After the match, we had a few drinks in the dressing room, had some champagne. Then we got on a bus and called in at a big hotel in Northampton where we had a big meal. We then all went home on the Saturday night before we all headed back to Matlock the following morning for an open top reception. That was good. Streets were full, they said more turned out for this than when the Queen once visited! Then I think it was the next day that we won the Derbyshire Cup so we did a cup double.”
“The game was massive for the club. The first season I was there, which was the previous season, we were getting about 300 watching our games. Then the next season, it built up and we were getting over 1,000 watching. It really took off. We were decent to watch and we were a winning team. They saw some good football and this carried on for a few seasons after Wembley.”
“When I was young, I was a Sheffield Wednesday supporter and Peter Swan was my idol. I once said to him ‘Boss, you were my idol when I were watching football’ and he would just say ‘Oh, p**s off! He thought I was kidding him but I wasn’t!”
“We met up on Thursday in Matlock. I think we treated it like was an ordinary game. Nobody said ‘we’re going to thrash these’ or ‘we’re going to get hammered’, we just went along and that was it. That was the type of team we were.”
“We were the underdogs naturally. We went out there really with the thought of we’ll just play our normal game – and that’s all we did. I felt great that day. It just went right for us. I think that was because we weren’t worried whether we won or lost. They were a better side on paper but you’ve seen these games before where the best side comes a cropper and it was just one of those days – we clicked and they didn’t.”
“Peter Swan wasn’t one for team tactics. It was more of a take the mickey out of each other approach before kick-off. Especially between him and Peter Scott – they were always at it! We all knew what we had to do. I was right wing, so that was my game, run up and down that wing as fast as I could every time. Same with everybody else on the team – they all knew what to do. I can’t ever remember going out nervous for any game that we played. Even that day, when we were lined up in the middle before the match. We just shook hands and got on with it.”
“It was a great feeling going up them steps after the match. Magic going back down them as all our supporters were at the bottom of the steps. Half of them were on the field! I think Matlock supporters were the first ones to ever do that at Wembley. I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen the photos but going down the touchline we were just surrounded by supporters. There were photos took of us on the field surrounded by all the supporters. The Matlock support was very good all day. Once you got on that field though, I don’t know about the rest of the players, I never really noticed the crowd. I was just more concentrated on the game. You could hear the crowd obviously but I wasn’t really
taking any notice – but they were a great crowd especially on the Sunday morning when we went through Matlock. That was brilliant, really good. The streets were absolutely jam-packed all the way from Matlock Bath right through to Matlock and up to the town hall.”
Non-league football certainly finds itself in a very different position on April 26th, 2020 compared to April 26th, 1975.
Nobody knows for sure yet when non-league football will return to the UK and even then it may take some time for full normality to resume and the landscape of the game may even be permanently changed.
In these times, a bit of nostalgia and celebration of past glories is exactly what’s needed. Who knows? In the next few years, maybe there will be another famous Matlock Town team that wins a trophy and are written about decades later?
Writer | Matthew Rhodes
Editor | James Griffiths
With thanks to Nick Fenoughty, Keith Brown, Colin Smith, Tom Fenoughty, Colin Dawson, Colin Oxley.
Credit: Derbyshire Media Company - https://derbyshiremediaco.wixsite.com/derbysmediacompany