Sunday, 26 March 2023

Brakes progress under Knox

Brakes were hoping for better times following the appointment of Jimmy Knox as manager in March 1973.  ‘Talk to Jimmy Knox on the field and you will find him soft-spoken with a realistic approach to soccer.  Ask him what he wants from his players, and he’ll tell you in one word – WORK.  And don’t the Lockheed players know it!   

Ever since Knox took over at the Windmill four games ago, the Lockheed players have earned their money – by hard graft.   They have not lost under Knox, and capped a promising fortnight with the midweek win over Borough in the Birmingham Senior Cup.  And they did that by combining their skill with sheer hard running. 

Says Knox: “I insist on fitness and the players are finding it out.  I was pleased with the way they worked against Nuneaton, but they were feeling the effects in the closing stages.  Players should come off the field knowing they have been in a match.   They should work on the field, and if they do, it’s half the battle.”  

Since Knox took over, Brakes have drawn at Bury, beaten Corby and Nuneaton, and drawn at home to Enderby.  And if Tuesday’s match is anything to go by, I am convinced the team have had almost 300 minutes of non-stop running.   For they applied pressure on a Borough side, even though below par, should have been capable of snatching at least a draw.  In reality, they were beaten by a stronger, better, more purposeful side. 

 It’s this attitude, instilled in them by Knox, which might carry Brakes into a far higher position in the First Division table next season.   As Knox says: “It’s no use just consolidating.   We must aim to do as well as we can in every game.”   And that means a lot of hard work in store!’

‘Jimmy Knox’s revitalised s Lockheed side tore Corby to shreds with an impressive showing at the Windmill.  Two goals clear at the interval, Brakes played with pace and fire to put an end to Corby’s promotion hopes.  It was encouraging for the new Lockheed manager, who has seen his side take three points from two games.  They ran themselves into the ground and with a little more steadiness would have doubled their tally.   Leading scorer Dennis Walker put them in front with a fine goal against his former colleagues after 36 minutes.  Walker blasted home after Barry Whitlock’s shot had rebounded from the bar.  And four minutes later Tom Sweenie placed a fine pass in front of John Moreton to hit the target from close range.

 Lockheed remained on top in the second half and Whitlock’s goal three minutes from the end was fully deserved.   The tall striker, drafted in to replace Graham Jessop, took full advantage of Walker’s quick thinking and beat Dennis Hill for a neatly taken goal.  Corby were rarely given a look in against a composed home defence and Sweenie and the aggressive Keith Shrimpston pulled the strings in midfield to lay the foundations for a promising success.’

‘Disappointing Lockheed boobed against Enderby – two penalties in the last four minutes enabling the visitors to snatch a shock point.  Brakes never got going, but were still good enough to ease into a 2-0 lead.  John Moreton rammed them in front on the half hour with a neatly taken goal.  Back-to-form striker Barry Whitlock capped a sharp display with a well-struck goal.  

Peter King conceded the first goal when ending a poor personal display with a rash tackle and injury time brought a second penalty when Mel Davis handled the ball.’

Sunday, 12 March 2023

Knox sets out his stall

Prior to his arrival at the Windmill Ground in March 1973 new manager Jimmy Knox set out his hopes and plans   ‘So what made him decide to leave [Rugby Town] and join Lockheed?  “Insecurity more anything,” says the Scot.   “Town could not guarantee anything and if the worst happened, then the players could get fixed up easily.  But I would be left out in the cold.”   And what of the future?   Says Knox: “I hope to do even better with Brakes.  I have a free hand with a budget that’s a wee bit higher, and it’s a new challenge for me.  I believe the club has the potential to do well.”’

‘Any promises?  “None, only that if the players give me 100 per cent, they will have every chance, I can promise them this – that I’m a player’s manager.   I shall be honest with them, and I expect them to be honest with me.  It’s my job to get the players on my side, I stand and fall by them. The lads at Rugby did a lot for me, and I shall not forget it.  Now I start all over again.”

He starts by telling his players that there will be no “settling down” period.  “I don’t believe in it,” he says.  “We shall be approaching every match with the same idea – to win.   I am not going to promise that we shall be gaining promotion next season, but that will be the intention.   I am not a believer in saying let’s aim for a halfway spot and then consolidation.  That’s a defeatist attitude.  You have to reach for the top from the start of the season.”   Knox will spend the next few weeks having a good look at the side before he names his retained list.  “It will be my judgment and no-one else’s.   It’s now up to the players,” he says.’

‘As Knox moves in committee man Bill Branston steps down after four “reasonably successful” months as caretaker manager.  Branston, a former Aston Villa goalkeeper, who has stood in between Windmill managers before, took over from Geoff Coleman in October.   And he has guided Brakes out of trouble with quiet, sincere leadership that has placed the club on a much firmer platform.  Coleman’s 17 matches this season produced a grim record of two wins, five draws and 10 defeats. 

Branston took over and immediately ended a seven match losing run when his first team selection drew at Banbury United.  His full record is played 24, won 10, drawn 4, lost 10.   And Branston thinks it could have been a lot better: “Some of our defeats should have been avoided but I really think we have made progress during the last four months.  Team spirit has definitely improved and Jimmy will be taking over a first class set of lads.” 

Now Knox faces a comfortable run in of 10 matches – seven of them at the Windmill.  And Branston is confident that Brakes can win all the home games and end the season in a respectable position.   “I am pleased to be handing over to Jimmy.   He is a great bloke, a first class professional and a man who could bring about an immediate improvement.  I have enjoyed my spell in the manager’s chair but it will be nice to sit back and watch from now on.”’


Saturday, 4 March 2023

Jimmy Knox appointed manager in 1973

Would Jimmy Knox join Brakes as manager?   That was the big question fifty years ago.  At the end of February 1973 it was reported:  ‘Jimmy Knox, the man at the centre of a tug of war between Rugby Town and Lockheed, was keeping a discreet silence this week as the fight for his services went on.  Knox is currently player-manager of Southern League Rugby, but Lockheed revealed that he is the man they want to take over at the Windmill ground.  

The Brakes have been without a manager since Geoff Coleman resigned in October and since then committee man Bill Branston has been responsible for training and selection.  When Lockheed asked for permission to interview Knox they claimed that Rugby placed a “prohibitive fee” on his head, and the only comment from Knox was that “I am going to leave the two clubs to work it out between them.  Other than that I am not saying anything.”  But with Town’s football future very much in doubt – they have to quit their Oakfield ground at the end of the season – it may be that Knox will be interested in a move to Lockheed who have no such fears. 

Meanwhile the signing of Micky Boot from Kidderminster Harriers has pleased caretaker manager Branston.  The Brakes paid a “substantial fee” for the former Nuneaton Borough midfield man.  Said Branston: “We can now claim to boasting a superb midfield department in terms of skill and experience.  If Micky and Tom Sweenie can click, I am convinced that Lockheed will start to buzz.  We will have the best engine room in the Southern League.”    Neither Sweenie nor Boot fulfilled the potential they displayed at Leicester City and Arsenal respectively, but they are outstanding players by non-league standards and Branston is convinced they can lead Lockheed into the Premier Division.   Boot’s capture means a stylish boost for Lockheed’s newly-tried 4-2-4 system and Branston said, “I am happier now than at any time since I took over from Geoff Coleman.”’

In early March it was announced that ‘Rugby Town boss Jimmy Knox is leaving Oakfield for the vacant manager’s chair at Lockheed.  He takes charge of his last match for Town in Saturday’s vital Southern League clash with Atherstone at Oakfield, and will join Lockheed on Monday.   The move was announced today by Town director Peter Lutkin who said: “It is a big wrench for us to lose Jimmy Knox, but Lockheed will be gaining a tremendous asset.  He will do well.” 

There has been speculation over Knox’s future since Lockheed parted company with Geoff Coleman before Christmas, but he stayed with Rugby and kept them in the promotion hunt.  But their chances have faded recently, and if they do not beat Atherstone on Saturday, their hopes will have virtually died.’

‘Knox takes over at Lockheed on Monday with the pledge: “Every player at the Windmill will get a fair crack of the whip.” And so ends speculation – for the time being anyway – that half the current Town side will follow their boss to play for the Brakes.    Said Knox: “I have seen Brakes several times this season, but I am not going to prejudge them.    Everyone will be assessed on their merits.   If they come up to my standards, they will continue to play for Lockheed.  I am going with an open mind, and I shall not be bothered with reputations.”’

Sunday, 19 February 2023

Brakes lacked consistency 50 years ago

Brakes continued to face challenges in February 1973.    ‘Tom Sweenie’s prolonged absence  from the Lockheed team is seen by many as the major reason behind the side’s recent loss of form.  Sweenie has missed six of the last seven matches because of a strained hamstring and the Leamington club have struggled to make any impact in midfield – a position occupied with great skill by the former Leicester City player.   And although Brakes have won twice and gained an away draw without Sweenie’s influence, they have failed to reproduce the form that saw them make such a substantial improvement before Christmas. 

Manager Bill Branston is certain that Sweenie’s spell on the sidelines has a lot to do with the slipping standard.  “Tom is a fine player – one of the best in the Southern League.  We can scarcely afford to be without him at a time when everyone at the Windmill is attempting to get the side into the top half of the table.”  And there is no immediate prospect of Sweenie returning to the side.  He was expected to play against Redditch today but cried off with tonsillitis.  “He could be out for another fortnight” said Branston “and Lockheed will continue to suffer.  Tom makes us tick.”’

‘Caretaker manager Bill Branston could be replaced at Lockheed tomorrow, next week, next month or next season.  But while other people are speculating about who will take over the Windmill reins, Branston is solely concerned with the day-to-day running of the club.   Said the former Aston Villa goalkeeper: “I don’t know how long the committee want me to look after the side, but I must obviously make plans on a long term basis.   I want to be able to hand over a strong squad to the new man and I am, therefore, on the look out for fresh talent. 

Branston is reasonably satisfied with the Brakes’ progress since he took over in October, but he recognises that the side lacks consistency. “You never realise how difficult the manager’s job is until you take it yourself,” he said.   “The lads have played some brilliant stuff in one match and then plunged to rock bottom three days later.  The manager cannot really be blamed for this but obviously I must try to make sure that the team play to their full potential every week.”  And Branston is tight lipped about where the search for new signings is taking him, but it is believed that at least one signing is imminent.’

Facing Redditch at home, ‘Skipper Keith Shrimpston gave Lockheed the lead from the penalty spot ten minutes before the interval.  Lockheed relied on a much more direct approach and Evans was kept busy dealing with a series of hopeful shots.  But he had no possible chance of stopping Shrimpton’s penalty kick.  Moreton was pulled down by Hamilton and the Lockheed captain sent the goalkeeper the wrong way.   Redditch made a fine start to the second half, scoring a deserved equaliser after 47 minutes.     With Pete King stranded, substitute Paul Evans was the scorer blasting home a first time shot from the edge of the penalty area after a corner had eluded the home defence.   

An 85th minute goal from John Moreton enabled Lockheed to secure their second win over Redditch inside two weeks.   Lockheed deserved their win for one reason – they took the chances offered.  It was fitting that Moreton should be involved in the home successes.   He was the game’s most effective player on a day when skills were at a premium.’

Wednesday, 15 February 2023

Stevenage outplay Brakes

Brakes faced Stevenage Athletic as they were then called in January 1973.  ‘Brakes went into the match with an impressive record of four successive home wins with no goals conceded. Two goals in the opening four minutes provided struggling Stevenage with a sizzling start.   The visitors snatched the lead in their first attack when Richardson’s low cross was headed in by Pitt at the near post.  It was a shock opening and Lockheed had further problems two minutes later as left back Hull moved up to lash the second goal off Bowden’s outstretched leg.  Brakes were struggling to find any rhythm and Athletic almost made it 3-0 when Pitt sent a powerful shot just wide. 

Lockheed were not in the game at this stage but it came as no surprise when Burton ran 35 yards unchallenged to lash a superb goal from 18 yards.  But two minutes later Lockheed replied when Jessop prodded the ball over the line after right-winger Moreton had directed a shot against the post.  It was a dismal display from the home side, however, and Athletic looked in command of the situation as they continued to press forward against a jittery home defence.   Lockheed need a goal badly and they resumed in brighter fashion. 

But lowly Stevenage were in mood to surrender their advantage.   Spillane weaved through for a simple Stevenage goal on the hour.   In the last 30 minutes lethargic Lockheed attempted to salvage something from a grim display and Steve Sherry and Dennis Walker cut the deficit to a single goal.’  Stevenage secured their first away win of the season 4-3.

‘In one of the most thrilling matches seen at the Valley Stadium this season, Redditch and Lockheed were locked in a thrilling Birmingham Senior Cup tie.   Lockheed took the lead after five minutes when Jessop slid the ball into the net.  Redditch drew level after 11 minutes through Howell.  After 39 minutes Lockheed regained the lead from a free kick.  Dennis Walker headed the ball to Jessop who let fly from 30 yards and sent the ball crashing into the net.  In the first minute of the second half Redditch equalised.  Fleet waiting in the penalty area lobbed the ball into the net.  Both sides struggled madly to get the winning goal, but the result ended in a fairly well deserved draw.’

In the replay ‘Holders Lockheed were forced to survive hectic pressure before disposing of Birmingham Senior Cup visitors Redditch under the Windmill lights.   Given the boost of a sharply-taken goal from Graham Jessop after 10 minutes, Brakes went off the boil to allow a youthful Redditch side to dictate most of the action.   But the defence was again in determined form.   And when a superb two man break conjured up a second goal 10 minutes before the end, Redditch were drained of fire and ambition to allow Lockheed to finish on top of the replay.   Jessop who slammed both goals at Redditch quickly displayed his liking for the visitors’ defence with a crisp hook that drifted over Keith Evans and under the bar. 

However, Redditch gradually gained midfield advantage and most of the play was confined to the home half.   Although there was style in the visitors’ build up, there was little pace and penetration – qualities that combined to produce Lockheed’s second goal.   John Moreton won possession deep in his own half.  He quickly made progress down the wing before feeding Dennis Walker with a superb through ball.  And Walker calmly shot his 10th goal of the season with a fiercely hit effort taken on the turn.’

Monday, 6 February 2023

Brakes do better in early 1973

Wyn Grant

‘During the early weeks of the 1972-3 season Lockheed seemed almost frightened of playing on their own Windmill Ground.   The Leamington fans became frustrated with some below par displays and Brakes simply weren’t getting the encouragement normally afforded to home teams.  But they finally broke the ice on November 16 – their 10th home match of the season – when they beat Tamworth 3-2 and their confidence has soared in the last few weeks.     They have not lost a Windmill match since then and following a 2-2 draw with Rugby Town have rattled off four successive victories.  And news of their revitalised form has spread. 

Gates are gradually picking up and caretaker manager Bill Branston is convinced the best is yet to come.  “We are a changed side these days,” he said.  “One certainly couldn’t blame the crowd for losing faith in the team, but I think that the players have now shown what they can do and have earned the right to much better support.”

Lockheed’s committee are delighted with the side’s form at the moment and are in no hurry to appoint a new manager.  They feel that they can now afford to wait for the right man to appear.  When the job was first advertised following Geoff Coleman’s resignation in October, several of the best-known names on the Midlands non-league scene displayed an interest.  And interviews were held with six men as Brakes tried to fill the vacancy with some urgency.

 But the three-man selection panel did not make an appointment and it was agreed to shelve their plans until the ideal personality could be attracted.   Says Branston: “We honestly feel that we have turned the corner.  When an appointment is made the new man will be the best we can afford – everything is geared to putting Lockheed back on the soccer map.”

Three goals after the interval redeemed hard-pressed Brakes against Cheltenham Town at home on 20th January 1973.   Lockheed spent most of the first half penned in their own half but still managed to be on terms at the interval.  Conditions were appalling when first half heavy rain developed into a snowstorm.  Town opened in bright fashion and were unlucky when a delightful four-man move ended with Williams powering his shot wide.  And in a bombardment on the Lockheed goal Taylor and then goalkeeper King managed to block shots from Gladstone when a goal seemed certain.   Town continued to cut out most of the running with some neat approach play.  

Lockheed’s first serious raid almost brought them a goal, however, as Jessop crashed in a shot which Townsend dived to flick out for a corner.  Casey then weaved through only to see his left foot shot skidded off the post and rebounded into play.   But Jessop almost broke the deadlock with a fabulous volley which goalkeeper Townsend helped out with a fabulous save that brought the smallest crowd of the season to its feet.  Brakes resumed with Salmon on for Sherry.  The newcomer quickly made his presence felt in a driving raid down the right.  But he put his cross into the side netting. 

However, Lockheed were not to be denied and Walker crashed in two goals within two minutes as the Town defence fell apart – an incredible transformation.  In the 70th minute Moreton put the issue beyond doubt when he ran on to a long downfield ball from Cartwright to score a third goal for Brakes.’   Lockheed were 15th in the table.

Saturday, 28 January 2023

History repeats itself

Almost fifty years ago to the day at the end of January 1973 King’s Lynn faced Lockheed Leamington at home and the Lynn Advertiser reported on the game.  ‘This was much better, Lynn.  Stung by the memory of two successive home Southern League defeats, the team shook Lockheed with some entertaining football.  The Linnets got a confidence-boosting early goal and from then did not look back as they recorded their first Southern League double of the season and their first league win of the New Year.

On the day, Lockheed were not good opposition, but with 12 points from 14 away games including wins at Cheltenham, Corby, Tamworth and Bedworth behind them, they could not be taken lightly.  And Lockheed started brightly enough, with a free kick by Mick Cartwright being headed on by Graham Jessop and Dennis Walker got in an awkward deflection which had Gary Street diving low to save.  But there were not many more anxious moments for the uncompromising Lynn defence, which earlier this month had given away silly goals.  A hard shot from Dominic MacCallum was the sign of things to come and Cartwright was only too pleased to turn it round the post.

The breakthrough came in the 14th minute.  A centre from David Charles was too high for Malcolm Lindsay who had taken two defenders with him and this left Tony Woolmer alone to force the ball in. Lockheed goalkeeper Peter King could rightly complain that he was given no cover and he again had no chance in the 21st minute when Dominic MacCallum scored his first Southern League goal of the season.  A good cross from Vince Radcliffe was neatly headed on by Lindsay into the penalty spot with MacCallum running in to finish the move off.   King then had to save a deflected shot from John Durrant and a lob from Clarke as Lynn kept moving forward.   

The third goal came in the 37th minute, being set up by Lindsay’s penetrating pass on the right wing to Durant.  Lockheed hesitated, waiting for an offside decision, giving Durant the chance to get to the by-line and beat Dennis Taylor before passing back to Lindsay.  The shot from Lindsay was charged down and Clarke was on hand to push his shot past King’s left hand.

Lockheed had a half time dressing down and looked a more spirited side early in the second half.  With a rearranged line up, bringing on substitute Keith Shrimpston for full back Cartwright it was not such a one-sided affair.  But Lynn looked the more likely side to score, especially through the electrifying bursts by Durant on the right.  

In the space of five minutes Lockheed were in all sorts of trouble on three separate occasions.   The first started with Woolmer’s quick pass on the halfway line.  Durant ran hard at the retreating defence but Bowden blocked his shot; a precision reverse pass from Durant then gave Lindsay a chance and he shot to the near post which King had covered finally in a tricky burst in which he eluded three tackles, Durant laid the ball back for Brooks who put his shot well wide.   Mick Bloxham came on when Wright came on and in the 88th minute he won a penalty when he was hacked down from behind by Wilkinson.  Trevor Painter, with four successful penalty kicks behind him, including one at Leamington, this time shot over the top.’

Lockheed: King, Cartwright (Shrimpston 45), Taylor, Davies, Bowden, Wilkinson, Salmon, Walker, Jessop, Morton, Sherry.  Attendance 422.