Gordon Allinson grew up in Islington, North London, before moving to Stevenage. Gordon ran his own facilities management company during the 1970’s, and had a passion for football – both as a long time supporter of his home team Arsenal, and the local football in Stevenage at the time, having played previously as a goalkeeper for Stevenage Town.
When Stevenage Athletic stopped playing in 1976, the remnants of the former youth team continued on under the stewardship of Vic Folbigg, playing their matches on roped-off pitches at the King George V playing fields.
The team were later managed by Martin Lacey, and subsequently Ted Kent.
As the number of promising young players continued to rise, a ‘B’ team was formed by John Aldrin in 1978, partly from from an overflow of the ‘A’ team, but also incorporating a number of other local boys. Most of which went to Alleynes school, Chells school or Heathcote school within the town.
The ‘B’ (youth) team was initially called Cygnets Youth, and was mostly 16/17 year olds. As the youngsters developed into young adults, the day to day management needed more time, so Gordon stepped in as team manager.
Being self employed, Gordon was able to juggle his time in order to support the budding team, and was ably supported by others involved with the club including Vic Greenaway and Sam Beadle.
The youth team also included Gordon’s son Keith (the team’s goalkeeper) and his nephew Martin (who played as centre half). What had started as a hobby for Gordon was in reality anything but! Gordon even sponsored the team for one of the early seasons, with his company name being printed on the shirts.
Gordon reflected on some of the tough matches that his youth team played in, and when asked, he named the toughest teams they faced as being “St Josephs and Holy Ghost, two strong Catholic based teams from Luton and Dunstable. Pirton was another along with Letchworth and Hitchin”.
He specifically highlights the two Luton teams as being the best teams they faced at the time, stating that they were “very physical!”
The youth team were very successful, and one of the stand-out moments for Gordon was an Eastern Junior Cup semi-final game against Ipswich Town. The game was played at 19:30 on Tuesday April 21st, 1980 at the Hitchin FC ground. The Ipswich team was managed by the late Sir Bobby Robson.
Ipswich were one of the strongest teams in the competition, having just lost the previous years final to Norwich. Indeed, Ipswich’s normal opponents in the South East Counties league were the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Arsenal.
History shows that the Stevenage team were beaten 4-1 on the night, but the gutsy team held the Suffolk side at 0-0 until half time, and even grabbing a goal in the second half before finally succumbing to the inevitable Ipswich pressure in the second half.
Gordon remembers that “Bobby Robson was so impressed with the team that he remarked that the game should have been played at Portman Road”. It was a tremendous endorsement for a side which had only been running for a couple of years, and whom many had not expected to progress in the competition. Incidentally, the Ipswich team went on that year to beat Luton 1-0 in the final at Portman Road.
Gordon also has fond memories of the two occassions when his young side won the East Anglia Cup, with both finals being played at Luton’s Kenilworth Road ground.In the youth league, the big games of that era were the local derbies, particuarly against Luton youth, Barnet and Borehamwood.
Other teams in the leagues of that era included Stotfold, Letchworth, Potton and Hitchin.
The whole team ethos at that time was local lads playing for their local team and playing in tough local derbies.
When asked, Gordon described his teams playing style as “Physical and fast! No quarter given none expected!”
In the 1980/81 season, the players in the youth team were too old to continue playing in the youth leagues (18/19), and became the Stevenage reserves team. Gordon stayed on as reserve team manager, whilst the first team were being managed by Derek Montgomery and his assistant Paul Peterson.
Some of the youth players were able to break into the first team, whilst others left for other playing opportunities, primarily to Hitchin or Baldock who had just set-up a new ground at the time.
Gordon’s involvement with the club finished after the 1981/82 season.
Although Gordon is no longer able to attend games, his memories of the Stevenage then and how the club is today are a refreshing reminder of how the club has grown over the years.
When asked how the teams of the late 70’s compare with the Stevenage team of today, Gordon replies that you “can’t compare. These teams were local lads who were born here, went to the same schools and played in the kids leagues. Playing for your town was an honour. It was amateur football. The professional game demands instant success – this comes at a price.”
Gordon remarks that “at the time nobody ever thought the club had that potential.” It really was a small group of individuals giving up their time in order to keep a football club up and running in the town – and to provide a means for the local youngsters to continue playing.
When asked how he would like his team to be remembered, he simply states that the team was simply “Honest football played by honest Stevenage lads!”
The Stevenage FC History website would like to thank Gordon, and his son Keith for their help in compiling this article, and we wish them both well for the future. We would also like to thank Lloyd Briscoe for his input and advice in detailing this period of our club’s history.