FEATURE: From Herringthorpe to Europe ... the Rotherham men behind 1970s non-league football success story

FEATURE: From Herringthorpe to Europe ... the Rotherham men behind 1970s non-league football success story

By David Beddows | 01/03/2021

FEATURE: From Herringthorpe to Europe ... the Rotherham men behind 1970s non-league football success story
Matlock Town, including their contingent of Rotherham players, enjoy an open top bus parade through the Derbyshire town after winning the FA Trophy in 1975.

 

THEY won a cup final at Wembley, competed in Europe, got to the third round of the FA Cup and trained on a field in Rotherham.


Matlock Town, one of the most successful non-league sides of the 1970s, might have been based in Derbyshire but they had South Yorkshire stamped right through them.


Seven of their team which won the FA Trophy at Wembley in 1975 were from Rotherham and the town's playing contingent remained right through the club's glory years which included knocking Wigan Athletic and  Mansfield Town out of the FA Cup and playing two matches in Italy in an Anglo-Italian cup competition in 1979.


And after all those successes, played out in front of thousands of fans, the Matlock team would get together to work on their fitness, not at some fenced off private facility, but at Herringthorpe.


“We trained there all the time,” remembers Pete Scott, the centre-forward from Kilnhurst who turned out 418 times for Matlock, scoring 182 goals. 


“We'd change at the old Leisure Centre and just go out and get on with it.


“We'd be there on Tuesdays and Thursdays if we hadn't got a match in midweek and afterwards we'd have a drink at the Park Hotel.”

Pete Scott polishes his boots watched by Colin Dawson before the FA Trophy final at Wembley.

 

The venue for the sessions, which moved to the floodlit hard courts above Herringthorpe Stadium in the winter, made sense because it was convenient for most of the team.


The Rotherham men included the three Fenoughty brothers — Tom, Mick and Nick — Brian Stuart and Colin Oxley, from Dinnington.


Another member of the side, Dave Fell, was a local dentist and defender Colin Dawson was from Swinton.


Known as The Gladiators, Matlock played in the Northern Premier League, just below the Football League, but it was in the cups that they made the biggest headlines.


A trip to Italy was still far from the players' thoughts when they beat Scarborough 4-0 to win the FA Trophy at Wembley in 1975.
“We'd have played at Wembley for nothing. It was a fantastic day,” said Colin, who scored one of the goals on what was his 27th birthday.


“I'd never even been to London before that,” admitted his friend and Matlock team-mate Pete Scott. 


“It was a really hot day and the next morning we went around Matlock with the cup on an open top bus.”


That same season, helped by those sweat sessions at Herringthorpe, the Gladiators got through the qualifying rounds of the FA Cup to play Blackburn Rovers in the first round.


In 1976/77 they beat Wigan Athletic in the first round before thumping Mansfield Town, soon to become Third Division champions, 5-2 in front of more than 8,000 at Field Mill.


Matlock went out at Carlisle United in the third round but had momentum — and spirit.


“There were no cliques in that team,” remembers Colin. “Nobody thought they were better than anyone else. We all mingled together. It was just like a family club.


“To think, me and Pete were playing in the Mexborough Montagu Cup in 1973 and then at Wembley in '75. That's a big jump.” 
An even bigger one was to follow.


In 1978 Matlock beat Boston at Maine Road to win the Northern Premier League Cup — and qualification for an eight-team Anglo Italian competition.


Shortly after a final training stint at Herringthorpe, the team flew from Heathrow to Italy to play two matches against Pisa and Chieti.


“When we played Pisa, there were 8,000 there,” remembers Colin. “At their ground, you emerged from a moat into the stadium, it was like a bowl.


“There were flares going off in the crowd, we'd never seen anything like it.”


Matlock lost both games 2-1 but then returned home to host two more Italian teams, Cremonese and Juniorcasale, and beat them both.


They just missed out on becoming England's representatives in the final, which was played at the Olympic Stadium in Rome. 
No wonder Matlock and their home ground, Causeway Lane, was buzzing.


“When we first started playing we had 200 watching. Later on we had 4,000 watching us,” remembers Pete.


Matlock's cause was helped by player manager Peter Swan, the former Sheffield Wednesday and England international. Mick Hennigan, who later worked with Howard Wilkinson in the Football League,  was also with Matlock for a while.


The success couldn't last forever.


Matlock had the team but not the facilities to get into the new Alliance Premier League, or “fifth division,” introduced in 1979 and as the 1980s dawned the players were entering their 30s. 


In 1982 Pete left to join Mexborough and then played with Colin at Swinton Athletic. Retirement beckoned for all.


“I can't believe it is 40 odd years ago,” says Colin, now 72. He and Pete were at a reunion of the Matlock team at the Carlton Park Hotel a couple of years ago, reflecting on the glory days and those times running around Herringthorpe.


So was it strange going back to train at Herringthorpe after all those big occasions?


“No,” says Pete. “That's just how it was.


“They were good times. You look back and think: 'we didn't do bad'”.

 

Pete Scott heads down for Colin Dawson to score at Wembley.

******

LIFE as a semi-pro footballer wasn't easy for Matlock Town's Rotherham contingent.


Pete Scott worked down Kilnhurst Pit and team-mate Colin Dawson was a bricklayer.


Even after a midweek trip, the players had to be up for work the next morning.


They also faced an 80-mile round trip for home games.


“We started out at about £15 a week and after we played at Wembley it went up to £30 to £40, which was a lot of money then,” remembers Pete.


“Having said that, we had midweek matches at places like Weymouth, Gateshead and Barrow so you could say we earned it.” 


Colin added: “After winning the FA Trophy on the Saturday, we had a Derbyshire Cup Final on the Monday and matches on Thursday and Friday to finish the season while working in the day. It was hard work.”