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Henry Mowbray
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Henry Mowbray – Player 1966-67

 

 

We feature a player whose senior career began at Central Park before a record transfer fee for Cowden took him down south to play top flight football in England.  We caught up with Henry Mowbray at his home in Dunfermline.

 

‘I was actually born in the west of Scotland and a number of clubs started to show interest in me when I was playing for Blairhall.  I had two trials with Blackburn Rovers while Dunfermline wanted me to become a provisional signing. 

 

Archie Robertson was the Cowden manager then.  He phoned me and asked and my family moved through to Fife to work in the Pits.  I grew up in Dunfermline and played for Townhill before going junior with Blairhall Colliery.  Blairhall were run by Johnny Wilson who had been there for years.  At one time he had played for Celtic and Cowdenbeath.  His nephew was Paddy Wilson who more recently was in the East Port Bar in Dunfermline. 

 

I was working as a labourer for Dunfermline Town Council back then and came to play as a trialist for Cowden on Christmas Eve 1966 in a match v Forfar.  Cowden won 3-1 and I played well.  Archie was good and he knew other sides were interested in me.  He persuaded me to sign after the game and convinced me that I would have a first-team place at left-back with Cowdenbeath. 

 

A week or so later, on the day after New Year’s Day, we went to Cappielow to play Morton.  They were enjoying a record breaking season and were undefeated.  There was a huge crowd but we put up a great show to win 2-0.  After the game, all the players got back on the bus eager to get home to at last enjoy the New Year festivities after a quiet New Year so far due to playing commitments.  We ended up waiting ages though as Jock Gilliard and the other directors were absolutely ecstatic and were getting absolutely fu’ enjoying celebratory drinks in the Morton boardroom.  However, once they were on the bus the drink was flowing freely for all and we had a great trip home. 

 

A few weeks later, we played First Division St Mirren in the Scottish Cup at Love Street and earned a 1-1 draw.  In fact, in my time at Cowdenbeath we never lost a single away game.  We lost though in the replay v Saints and I remember Mike Clinton missing a penalty.  I also picked up my first ever booking in this replay in a clash with Archie Gemmill which ended up with us both being cautioned. 

 

Other games I can remember were the local derbies v East Fife and Raith Rovers.  My only goal came in a drawn game v Hamilton in the snow at Central Park.  I also recall us playing really well to win at Clydebank. 

 

The Cowden team then featured John Ritchie or John Fyfe in goals – they vied for the keeper’s jersey.  There was wee Roger Sugden, Pat Henderson, Andy Kinnell, Jimmy Taylor and Tam Clark.  Tam was a nightmare, he was always falling over and would miss 10 chances for every one he scored.  Mind you he scored plenty goals and would always pop up to score the winner. 

 

Andy Matthew and Mike Clinton added experience to the team.  It was Andy’s last season while Mike had a calming influence as a sweeper.  Jim Burns was in midfield and I ran into Jim a few years ago when I was coaching at Steelend Vics.  Jim was watching his son who played for Bo’ness I think. 

 

We were standing speaking to each other for a time before we actually realised we knew each other – both having aged a bit of course in the time since we had last met.  A similar thing happened when I ran into Denis Jack at Berwick Holiday Camp some time back and we ended up having a beer together. 

 

Then of course there was Andy Rolland – what a character, a nutter.  I remember once someone reported to Archie Robertson that he had seen Andy  out on the town in Cowdenbeath on a Friday night before a match.  Now Archie was a teetotaller and a bit of a ‘bible boy’ and he had a word with Andy.  Rollie wasn’t bothered at all and told Archie ‘You can tell me what to do on Friday nights if you’re paying me 112 a week no’ the 12 a week I get here!’.

 

Archie Robertson was well ahead of his time as a manager despite only having part-time players at his disposal.  He worked us hard when we trained a couple of nights a week and drilled us in corner routines and the like.  Archie ate and slept football. 

 

Watty Glancy was the trainer then and he was a straightforward  guy.  The last time I met Watty was years back at Kelty Club.  Watty did the lap work with us and Archie did everything else.  The Board was OK as well and I can remember Messrs Gronbach, Fowlis, Gilliard and Demarco. 

 

I had a good spell of form with Cowden but I was to be really lucky in getting a move to full-time football.  Andy Rolland of course was the man I have to thank for helping me get my move to Blackpool.  A lot of clubs were watching Andy.  For example scouts from Brighton, Blackpool and Celtic came to watch us play.  Some of the scouts noticed me as well.  Indeed Jock Stein expressed an interest in me but Archie advised me to hold on and wait’. 

 

‘The legendary Stan Mortensen had just been appointed Blackpool manager then.  Blackpool were watching Andy Rolland but Stan took a fancy to me.  I agreed to join Blackpool after our second last game of the season v Forfar and the formalities were concluded over the next week. 

 

I played my last game for Cowden in a morning kick-off match v Albion Rovers at Cliftonhill.  Morty travelled up to see me again plus to look at Rovers’ Tony Green.  Tony was fantastic and Stan signed him as well after the two teams drew 0-0.  Thankfully, I’d already signed on the dotted line because I had a nightmare at Coatbridge that day!  In the afternoon, all the Cowden team went to see the Aberdeen v Celtic Scottish Cup final – Celtic won 2-0 and I won the sweep on the bus. 

 

Cowden received something like 6,000 for me plus another couple of thousand pounds soon after once I had made 20 appearances for Blackpool.   There were no player’s agents then - all I got from the transfer was a few hundred pounds – nothing like today’s stars. 

 

I felt the Cowden directors could have been a bit more generous but I can’t really complain and I was grateful for the opportunity Cowden had provided for me.  I was on 12 a week if we won when I was with Cowdenbeath.  Blackpool when I joined had just been relegated to Division 2 but their wages were like gold dust back then.  35 per week basic rising to 60 if you were in the fiirst team pool and 100 if you were in the side.  Over and above that were bonuses including an accumulator bonus where you would earn 1,000 if the side won 16 points out of 22 in the league. 

 

Tony Green and I travelled down together to Blackpool, on the train the Monday after that game at Cliftonhill.  We were put up in digs in Blackpool where we were soon joined by another great character Tommy Hutchison from Cardenden who Blackpool signed from Alloa.  Tony and Tommy were to become great friends of mine. 

 

Stan Mortensen was a good manager – he liked old fashioned, attacking football and could be firm when he needed to be.  Morty was hugely popular in Blackpool – much more so than Stanley Matthews.  He did lots of free work for charity while the other Stan preferred to receive a fee.   Morty’s close pal Harry Johnston was our coach. 

 

Tony, Tommy and I were given an early chance by Morty to shine as he tried to put the emphasis on youth.  He was delighted by our success especially as not everyone on the board was fully behind his ideas.  The three of us were all mentioned as possibles for the Scotland Under 23 side and Tony and Tommy eventually both went on to play for Scotland at full international level. 

 

Scotland of course at the time were well off for full-backs though with players like Tommy Gemmell and Eddie McCreadie around.  Another thing Tony, Tommy and I had in common was that we had all played trials for Blackburn Rovers who didn’t sign any of us. 

 

My strength was that I was real hard worker.  I was a good tackler and liked getting forward.  Throughout my career I was always willing to learn and played to my capabilities.  At Bloomfield Road I had the benefits of full-time training and had some of my rough edges knocked off.  Playing in England was an eye-opener and the pace was much quicker.   I soon learned not to dive into the tackle. 

 

Blackpool had a decent side but like many teams relied on selling a player every year. Alan Ball and Emlyn Hughes had both recently been sold by the club.  I was viewed as Emlyn’s replacement while Tony took on the task of taking over from Alan Ball. 

 

Also in the side were former England full-back and  captain Jimmy Armfield who had been part of the England world cup squad.  Veteran ex-England striker big Ray Charnley was still  leading the front line and John White’s brother Tommy was also in the line-up.  Tommy White’s style was nothing like his brother’s and he would go mental waiting for Tommy Hutchison to centre the ball.  Instead Tommy would just keep beating his man again and again. 

 

Tommy Hutchison wasn’t always easy for me to play alongside either.   I was the left-back and he was the outside left.  We played 4-4-2 and that meant the wingers needed to track back.  Tommy really became a great player after his transfer to Coventry City. 

 

For my first season at Blackpool I got a good pre-season under my belt and was sub for the opening match which the side lost 4-1.  I was then drafted in to the team and made my debut v Ipswich.  We drew that game with an Ipswich side led by Ray Crawford which went on to be Second Division champions that year.  We challenged for promotion all that season and ended only a point behind Ipswich. 

 

In our last game of the season we beat Huddersfield 4-1 in a really exciting match but League Cup holders Queen’s Park Rangers featuring Rodney Marsh scored two late goals to win their game v Aston Villa as well.  We therefore missed out on second place and promotion on goal average. 

 

We didn’t do so well the following year and Stan Mortensen was replaced by Les Shannon following some boardroom politics.  1969/70 though was to be much better.  By then our team included me, Tony and Tommy.  Harry Thomson who Alex Ferguson famously didn’t hit it off with on a Scotland ‘B’ tour of Australia was another Scot who joined us from Burnley to play in goal. 

 

Jimmy Armfield was still my partner at full back and he remained a classy, elegant player. Jimmy was one of the original overlapping full-backs.  Glyn James the Welsh international was centre-half while Dave Hatton replaced ex-Motherwell man John McPhee.  John still owns the Sheraton Hotel in Blackpool.  There was also  John ‘Mazza’ Craven who later joined Crystal Palace.  Up front Fred Pickering the ex-England centre forward was a good asset – a great volleyer and shielder of the ball. 

 

Mickey Burns had been signed from Skelmersdale after they won the FA Amateur Cup and he was a nippy player who scored goals.  Finally, there was Alan Suddick – I never saw a player who could bend a ball like him and bear in mind the ball then was a lot heavier than what they use nowadays.  This was the basis of the Blackpool side which was to do so well in 1969/70’. 

 

1970 saw Blackpool win promotion as runners-up to Huddersfield Town.  We won promotion despite Tony Green being absent virtually all season when he ripped his Achilles.  We ended up two points clear of Leicester at the end of the campaign. 

 

That season we also beat Arsenal in the FA Cup – we drew at Highbury and then won 3-2 in the replay at Bloomfield Road.  Unfortunately we lost to Mansfield in the next round!  Another exciting aspect of being at Blackpool was the number of celebrities you would meet at the ground.  Many of them came to use the service of our physio  – stars like Mike and Bernie Winters and Freddie Starr. 

 

Playing in the English First Division in 1970/71 was like a dream come true for me.  We faced Manchester United with Law, Charlton and Best.  Liverpool had Toshack and Hughes, Everton had just won the championship with players like Ball, Kendall and Harvey.  That was the year Arsenal did the double and they were a quality side. 

 

They were a method team though, very defensive, playing 4-4-2 under Bertie Mee and Don Howe.  We managed a draw v Don Revie’s Leeds and they were a very good team.  They were another method side but had an unbelievable team spirit.  If you fouled a Leeds player, next thing they would all be at your throat.  They all worked together protecting each other.  We didn’t have a good time though in the top flight – we only won a few matches although we were never hammered and never conceded more than 3 goals in match.  We would play before crowds typically of between 17,000 to 35,000.

 

Later in that season I was played in midfield in a holding role where I was up against players such as Charlie Cooke of Chelsea.  Injury struck though when I was overlapping from full-back in a match v Manchester City.  I tried to take on Francis Lee and we clashed in a tackle.  I twisted my knee and ended up needing a cartilage op. 

 

Ex-Manchester City star Tony Coleman was now also playing for Blackpool and he was a real character.  Tony had his pink trousers and famously had invited Princess Anne to City’s reception after they won the FA Cup.  He was daft and proud of the telegram he got back from Princess Anne.

 

I guess many people best now remember that Blackpool team for their FA Cup win over West Ham which was shown on Match of the Day.  That was the match in which I scored my one and only goal for Blackpool.  We were drawn at home v West Ham for a third- round game on January 2.  We were locked up by Blackpool on Ne’erday at a Hotel in Morecambe.  However, West Ham stayed overnight in Blackpool.  New Year ’s Day was freezing and matches were postponed all around the country.  It seemed likely that the match at Bloomfield Road too would fall victim to the weather. 

 

Certainly that’s what Bobby Moore, Jimmy Greaves, Brian Dear and Clyde Best of the Hammers must have thought as they enjoyed a night out at Brian London’s 007 club in Blackpool.  Unfortunately for them, our game was on the next day and West Ham were ripped apart by Tony Green who had at last returned to the team. 

 

Tony gave Bobby Moore a terrible time as he used his pace to expose him again and again.  4-0 it ended with Tony scoring twice.  Moore and the others were slaughtered in the Sunday papers and suspended by West Ham.  Meantime we went and had a great night after winning at the Blackpool Conservative Club.  I remember though we also heard that night about the Ibrox disaster at the Rangers v Celtic match that day. 

 

Bob Stokoe took over as manager from Les Shannon that season and he was a good manager and I was a regular in the pool.  However, after being relegated Jimmy Armfield who was by now getting past it as a player left to become player manager of Bolton Wanderers.  Jimmy asked me to move with him to Burnden Park.  Bob Stokoe was bringing in his own players and I felt it would be a good move for me.  The wages were the same as at Blackpool. 

 

I was able to continue living in Blackpool out at the South Shore at the back of the airport.  Travelling to Bolton was easy as it was so close.  Indeed, one of the features of my time at Blackpool was the large number of derby matches versus other Lancashire clubs. 

 

Nat Lofthouse was the general manager at Bolton then, the Lion of Vienna, and he was a nice bloke.  Jimmy Armfield used good coaches, he was more an inspirational type of manager than tactical a bit like Jim Leishman but a lot quieter and more diplomatic.  Blackpool, meantime saw most of their stars leave.  Tony Green and Micky Burns went to Newcastle and Tommy Hutchinson to Coventry.  Unfortunately they were one of those clubs who had to sell players to get by.

 

Bolton had been relegated to the Third  Division but Jimmy quickly built up a good young side.  In 1971/72, I had a good season but, when we went on to walk away with the Third Division championship in 1972/73, I missed virtually the whole season due to another cartilage problem. 

 

The Bolton team then had players such as Roy Greaves and John Byrom.  Barry Siddall was a fine goalie.  We also had England world cup winner Roger Hunt playing for us.  He was a great lad and it was an honour to play with such a modest guy.  Roger now has a haulage business near Bolton.  There were also youngsters there like Peter Reid and a big strong centre half called Sam Allardyce.  

 

After being injured all season I just couldn’t get right again.  I asked for a transfer and Jimmy Armfield allowed me to leave on a free.  I now fancied returning home to play in Scotland thus I looked for a club north of the Border.

 

‘On leaving Bolton, I returned to Scotland in 1973.  My old Cowden boss Archie Robertson wanted to sign me for Clyde but I got an offer to play full time for St Mirren and ended up at Love Street.  Things didn’t work out all that well at Paisley though.  Big Willie Cunningham was the manager but we didn’t really see too much of him.  It was rare to see him in his track suit but he was a good talker in the dressing room. 

 

Part of the problem was because I had decided to stay in Dunfermline.  Indeed, many of the players just travelled through for training.  The players didn’t mix so much and there wasn’t a great team spirit.  Stan Quinn lived in Ayr, George Caldwell in Airdrie, Jim Herriot in Larkhall and we only met up for training and matches.  Brian Third was there along with Ally McLeod. 

 

Jimmy Taylor who I had played with at Cowden was also at Saints as was John Dickson who St Mirren had signed from Cowden.  John was great in training but in matches he just didn’t do it and was wasting his talent.  There were though some good youngsters coming through in Bobby Reid and Tony Fitzpatrick.  Fitzy was a good wee player and I knew he would make it. 

 

Saints were paying good money but needed a clear out.  They agreed to pay up my contract and I was free to go elsewhere.  Alloa wanted me but I had opportunities to go to Australia, Canada or America. 

 

Eventually I headed down under and joined Hakoah Sydney City.  They were a Jewish team which was poorly supported but its backers were quite well off.  We got the best of treatment at the club.  I also got a good job working for the Australian government and settled quickly in Australia.  As a player I enjoyed a good deal of success as we won the State title and then became the first ever winners of the Australian National League which involved flying to matches all over the country. 

 

Eventually, ex-Hearts player Eddie Thomson took over from me as captain and I became coach.  We won a couple of trophies as well when I was coaching and my playing days had finally come to an end when my knee went around about the age of 34.  Not so long ago I had my kneecap replaced with a titanium version which is better than the real thing. 

 

Eddie Thomson of course later became the coach of the Australian National team and I was really shocked to hear of his death.  Another playing colleague of mine in Sydney was fellow Fifer Joe Watson and he too died from cancer not all that long ago. 

 

After six or seven years in Australia I decided to return to Scotland and moved back home to live in Dunfermline.  I sometimes went to see Dunfermline play but it got too dear and I would rather watch the football on the TV. 

 

Toorie Winter used to stay a couple of doors down from me when his son Craig was playing with Cowden.  I went several times with Toorie to watch Cowden then.  I helped out Toorie for a spell when he started up Steelend Vics in the Fife Juniors but it was difficult as they were getting hammered every week. 

 

I also sent Sean Robertson the son of one of my old Australian colleagues along to Central Park.  His brother joined Dundee and Sean looked quite good as a right back.  He played a few games in the Cowden reserves when Sammy Conn was the manager.  I don’t know what went wrong though, maybe his attitude wasn’t right.  Last I heard he was playing in Ireland. 

 

Looking back over my career I was lucky to play in such a great era.  I played at grounds like Highbury and Old Trafford – it was a dream come true for a Miner’s laddie.  

 

The best players I came up against naturally included George Best.  Rodney Marsh was another good one.  One player who always gave me a hard time was Blackburn Rovers winger Mike Ferguson – I really walloped him but he gave me roasting and was nutmegging me.  Scottish international Jimmy Robertson who used to play for Cowden was another difficult opponent – he was really fast. 

 

As for the best teams I played against I am spoiled for choice.  There was so much quality, there was the boring Arsenal double winners side which featured George Graham - they were some team.  Manchester United had the flair, Spurs, Manchester City, Leeds.  I thought Bill Shankly’s Liverpool though were perhaps the best of the bunch.  The finest side I played in was Blackpool’s 1970 promotion side.  Archie Robertson has to be high on the list of the most impressive managers I had along with Stan Mortensen and Bob Stokoe. 

 

The best player I played alongside was Tony Green.  He was outstanding and could have been one of the greatest ever until he did his knee.  He never got over it.  Tony had electric pace and always attacked the opposition.

 

Nowadays I work for Saltire who handle catering and event co-ordination.  It’s a very varied and sometimes frantic job.  I have met the Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Anne and been involved in catering for the opening of the Scottish Parliament, horse trials,  the Royal Highland Show, etc.  This week though I’m driving the steak trailer down to Southport!  Other times it’s a collar and tie or dickey bow event.  The company is owned by a St Mirren fan and I’ve worked for them for five years. 

 

Looking back I’ve got a lot to thank Cowdenbeath for.  I still look out for all my old clubs results every Saturday.  I’ve had a great life which like everyone’s has had its up and downs.  I really wouldn’t change anything though’.  

 

Cowden Conversations with David A Allan