Shropshire Star

Proud footballing memories for cup winner Ken, 91

Cup winners, shield winners – not a bad season for the Little Drayton Recreation Ramblers football team.

Last updated
Little Drayton Recreation Ramblers with the shield and cup in about 1947.

And a proud moment for the centre forward, Ken Vernon, who was a teenager back then and has recently turned 91.

Ken, from Market Drayton, took along the picture to an event celebrating 175 years since the dedication of Christ Church, Little Drayton, and got chatting to John Cole, whom he has known for many years.

"He ran through the names as though it was yesterday," said John, who sat down with him and they wrote all the names on back of the print, which John has now shared with us.

"I'm third from left on the front row," Ken told us.

"The team is the Little Drayton Recreation Ramblers, although we called ourselves the Recca Ramblers. We played in green shirts.

"A few of the lads just after the war started the team between us. We never played on the recreation ground because it was not fit to play on, but we used to practise on there when we were kids."

Here's the line-up in the picture, which was taken in about 1947: Back row, from left, the Rev G W E Rooke (that is, George William Emmanuel Rooke), Len Birch, Brian Speakman, Sam Smith, Brian Rutter, Derek Dee. Bottom row, Brian Garratt, Den Evans, Ken Vernon, Glyn Hughes (captain), Maldwyn Williams, John Williams (who later played for Everton, and was Maldwyn's brother) and Alan Evanson.

Centre forward Ken Vernon.

Ken says that Rooke, the vicar of Christ Church, had helped them when they formed the team, and he thinks the photo may have been taken on the vicarage lawn.

"There was a minor league formed that local teams played in – Hinstock, Woore, Hodnet, Cheswardine, Ashley, and one or two more, like Wistanswick.

"The pitch at Shrewsbury Road belonged to a local smallholder who let us have the field. We played there and then moved to another one, Common Pits Farm, Little Drayton.

"The picture shows us with the trophies we won in a final played at the Mear ground, where Palethorpes is now, which used to be the town football ground. We played in the final against Ashley and won the cup, and we also won the league shield. I don't know what the score was."

Did he score himself? "Probably," said Ken, who lived at the time in Bentleys Road, Little Drayton.

"We were presented with the cup by Freddie Steele, the Stoke and England centre forward. That league was for players up to the age of 17, and after that you had to pack it in. I played for the county two or three times. There was conscription in those days and I went into the RAF. I worked in the station workshops at RAF Lyneham."

Ken also got in some football in the RAF, and after his stint in uniform went back to the same firm he had been was working for before going into the RAF, A W Gower and Son agricultural engineers in Stafford Street.

His footballing days were sadly to be curtailed by injury.

"I played for Cheswardine until I broke a leg, and then that stopped it. The goalkeeper lunged at me. I was trying to get the ball and he landed in the middle of my leg. I was in Shrewsbury hospital for quite a while."

As for the Recreation Ramblers: "A lot of us lads went into the services and it folded."

Ken says some of those players of yesteryear are still around.

"There are about three or four. I don't know where they are now. They got scattered about and one of them died recently, I know that. John Williams is still alive somewhere and Alan Evanson is still about, I see him quite regularly in town."

He doesn't really follow football now, although he still watches on television, nor did he really have a favourite team as a youngster.

"I went to watch Stoke a time or two with one or two other lads. In those days you could go on the train from Market Drayton. You didn't have to have a car."