We welcome guest writer John Morton. Sometimes in life a lucky black cat crosses your path and you receive an unexpected bonus. That happened to me when I was put in touch with John Morton by Dave Allison. I happened to mention to Dave that Morecambe Football Club were celebrating the 40th anniversary of their Wembley success over Dartford and Dave said, "I know the former Dartford goalkeeper, John Morton, who keeps telling me that they were unlucky to lose that game". To cut a long story short I invited John to the Globe Arena and he was welcomed by his former opponents and received a wonderful reception from the crowd as he walked out to the centre circle. John also put me in touch with a hero of mine, Cliff Jones, the Spurs legend who was voted the best winger in the world in the 1960s. John now works as "Match Delegate Manager" for the Premier League and I still thank Dave Allison and the black cat for the introduction.
“The Early Years” by John Morton
In 1955 my two aunts, Maude and Kath, took me to Priestfield Stadium to see my first game of football. It was the 5th round of the ESFA Trophy between Medway and Middlesbrough. The latter were the winners but I was hooked. Subsequently I followed the Gills and played in their Youth Side in the mid 60’s. When I first supported them we didn’t have floodlights and kick offs varied from 2.15pm to 3pm depending upon the month. I can remember when floodlights were installed and the pylons erected. I crept in with one of my mates the evening they were adjusting the lights. There were white discs all over the pitch and a fella who had climbed to the top of the pylon and was adjusting each light to point at a particular disc. I think that our first game was in the League Cup against Bury who had a young Colin Bell in their midfield and we won.
I can recall changing ends either before the game or at half time so that you could stand be-hind the goal that your team was attacking. I was also the first one in the ground when we played Swansea in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup right behind the goal at the Gillingham end. They were such happy, carefree days. One Boxing Day three of us went to London with our Christmas money. We went to West Ham at 11am, Spurs at 3pm and finally Fulham at 7.15pm before making our weary way home. No hooligans in those days.
As I passed the 11+ examination I went to the grammar school where we had to play rugby. I still played football with my mates in the local park and eventually joined a team called St Mary’s. The manager who was 19 was already married and his wife of a similar age knitted my goalkeeper’s jersey. Unfortunately she ran out of a particular shade of green wool so the jersey was two tone and in the wet, tended to increase in size to below the knees.
After a season I graduated to a Civil Service team in the Rochester and District League. There was no stopping me then. A mate asked me to play for a Chatham Youth side against Gillingham Youth in a friendly at Maidstone Road. The legendary manager Ernie Morgan saw me and asked me to train preseason at Chatham. So in August 1965 I found myself in goal for Chatham in the Metropolitan League which boasted in those days the ‘A’ teams of Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham amongst others.
Just as I appeared to be on the verge of some success I managed to dislocate my shoulder playing as a creative midfielder in a game against the staff at school. After a further 5 dislocations I had to have an operation to save my career both in football and PE teaching. There is a picture of me somewhere with my arm in a sling celebrating our World Cup victory in Trafalgar Square next to one of the Lions.
It took me some 6 months to recover from the operation by which time my chance in professional football appeared to have gone and I found myself at teaching training in Reading. I had been offered the chance to play at Gillingham but that was before the operation.
On leaving College and taking up a teaching post in London I found myself re-united with my former manager at Dartford where I was to spend the next 5 seasons culminating in winning the Southern League Premier Division and playing a certain Morecambe in the Trophy final. My regular visits to A&E continued with a broken jaw in my first season followed by severely damaged cruciate ligaments and a completely ruptured medial ligament later in that first season. I did play against a young Roy Hodgson in the Kent Senior Cup who was at Gravesend and Northfleet at the time (who ever thought that Ebbsfleet sounded better). We were filmed for a 30 minute theatre play on soccer violence which never saw the light of day. After that second injury I spent 9 months in rehabilitation. I’d like to thank Barry Simmons of Ramsgate who inflicted that injury and the NHS who successfully provided me with a new knee some 4 years ago. Only trouble was it was my good knee that needed replacing and I’m now deciding how much longer I can go before the dodgy one must go.
By the way almost 60 years later Dave Richardson who I’d worked with at the Premier League where he was Head of Youth Development pointed out to me that he had played for that Middlesbrough boys’ side that day. It certainly can be a small world in football.
For 12 seasons I’ve been involved as the Match Delegate Manager for the Premier League but I still get as much pleasure, if not more, going to some of my old haunts to watch my son play in the Leagues that I frequented so many years ago. I still meet supporters who remember me playing and we all seem to agree that I rarely had a bad game. Well we’re all allowed a little poetic licence in our declining years aren’t we?
John appeared in goal for Dartford at Wembley against Morecambe in 1974 and represented Dartford at the Globe Arena in 2014 as Morecambe celebrated the anniversary of their victory.
Back Row (L-R)
Stan Marshall, Ray Prior, Martin Binks, Les Burns (Captain), Alan Payne, John Morton, Graham Carr, Charlie Prior (Trainer),
Bob Hearn, John Stevens
Front Row (L-R)
John Read, David Cunningham, Danny Light, Tommy Henderson,
Keith Robinson, Kenny Halliday, Bob Glozier