Even in games that mean very little – the likes of friendlies – it still feels good to get one over on them. Bragging rights in this game are essential.
When it’s the FA Cup, though, that is undeniably a special feeling. No matter what round it is – to knock them out of the national competition? Brilliant.
Fans of a more recent vintage will remember celebrating a Turnbull Ground win over Scarborough FC, with the likes of Alex Gildea, David Logan and Jamie Burt on the field, in the final qualifying round of the competition, 2001.
But roll the clock back a few more years – to 1969, to be precise – and FA Cup success was something of an alien concept to Whitby Town.
When the draw took place for the early rounds of the competition that season, few people in Whitby even took notice.
The Seasiders were drawn at home to West Auckland Town in the preliminary round, though the feeling around the town was one of, “well, it’s just another cup competition – we never get anywhere, so why would we this time?”
Whitby’s record fuelled that. Up until that point, the first round was something of a distant dream for the most part. They had never been there. Did that seem like it was going to change? Most likely not. But how wrong people can be.
As FA Amateur Cup finalists in 1965, the club should have made their bow in the competition’s proper rounds the following season – however, with the paperwork not submitted, the chance to appear at that stage was denied, leaving Whitby to fight it out through the qualifying rounds as usual.
The Blues’ run in 1969 started on September 6 against West Auckland.
Whitby’s early season form had been poor going into the tie.
Despite an opening day win over Bishop Auckland, Bill Jeffs’ side had gone on to lose the next three games, failing to score in two of them, and shipping eight goals in the process to Spennymoor, and South Bank twice.
Supporters were disillusioned, with a crowd of just 450 coming through the gates.
Surprisingly, Maurice Crosthwaite was dropped for the match, with Eddie Nobbs taking his place on the left wing.
However, it did not matter. Whitby found themselves ahead after plenty of pressure on the West goal. Dave Rutherford advanced forward for Whitby, finding himself with just Porter to beat.
His effort ricocheted off the leg of Collingwood, and spun over the West gloveman, dipping just under the bar to put Whitby ahead.
And just minutes later it was two. Eddie Myers burst down the wing, laying inside to Veart. He found Rutherford, who made no mistake netting his second.
In the second half, the visitors made it 2-1, thanks to a thunderous 30-yard effort, though Whitby sealed victory late on, with Bobby Veart driving home.
The reward for the 3-1 victory was a trip to Bedlington CW – a Northern Alliance side restyled from the old Bedlington Mechanics – a club which had previously knocked Whitby out of the competition in both the 1961/62 and 1962/63 seasons.
It would be third time lucky, however, for the Seasiders, as they ran out 1-0 winners, in surroundings most would consider less than desirable.
It was a bumpy, sloped pitch, the ground had railings collapsed in part while in some areas it was non-existent and behind one goal was an area of rough grass that went as far as the eye could see.
Many supporters clambered through this to find their way in without paying.
It was a goal from a Whitby lad – Alan McCloy – that separated the two sides on the afternoon. Bobby Veart’s cross found McCloy after Rutherford had failed to connect, and he headed home unmarked to send Whitby into the second qualifying round.
This time, it would be Wearside League team Wingate for the Seasiders, who travelled to the Turnbull Ground.
In the previous round, they had taken three games to overcome South Bank – showing themselves to be a fast, young side against the Seasiders.
They took the lead early too, splitting Whitby’s defence, allowing the forward to slot past Pybus.
It took Whitby time to settle, and with the clock running down their best chance seemed to be a draw, a late salvo saw Rutherford net, while Bobby Veart hit a brace, to ensure Whitby avoided a replay in County Durham and run out 3-1 winners.
Between the Wingate and subsequent Evenwood Town game, however, there was drama at the Turnbull Ground, with the club’s successful head coach, Bill Jeffs, relieved of his duties by then-secretary George Frater.
Jeffs had guided his side to wins over West Auckland, Bedlington CW and Wingate so far, and was preparing to face Evenwood Town, who had knocked Blyth out in the previous round.
But something was not quite right - while selection of the side had never been on Jeffs’ to-do list, it was never a million miles away.
Such was old school football, the head coach generally was not the person to pick the team - often the committee would be taking charge of that matter.
At the time, many of the committee never travelled to away games, thus saw very little of the side, other than when they played at the Turnbull Ground.
Jeffs, however, wanted to make his stand. He had his ideas on his selection and wanted to make them known.
He had met his match with Frater, at a point where the two were finding themselves having more and more altercations until Frater had had enough.
Jeffs was sacked on the spot, before going to the committee and declaring: “I’ve sent Bill Jeffs packing,” promoting Bob O’Brien from trainer to coach to replace him.
However, on the trip to Evenwood, the players prepared as usual and knew they were on the cusp of something special.
However, they would find themselves a goal down inside 25 minutes. Pybus could only push Young’s cross to John Weirs who drove the ball home.
Despite Whitby’s fight – all seemed lost in the second half. Due to the pitch being on a slope, Whitby could not take advantage in the first half like the Wood almost did in the second to double the hosts’ lead, when Cunningham lobbed Neville Pybus.
Eddie Myers was in hot pursuit, swinging at the ball once and missing, before getting there at the second attempt and hooking it back over his own head. Relief.
It would be that man McCloy who was the hero for Whitby. He received a beautifully-judged ball from Kevin Mulgrew, taking advantage to hammer home a leveller, before Rutherford settled matters, netting the winner.
The final qualifying round draw immediately had more gravitas when you heard who Whitby would be hosting. The old enemy, Scarborough Football Club.
Two tense weeks leading up to the match followed. Scarborough tried to get the venue switched to the Athletic Ground, and were promptly told by Frater where to go.
It was not uncommon for the Seadogs to perform such a trick, with a number of Yorkshire League clubs previously falling for the idea and ultimately waiving their own success. Whitby weren’t going to be sucked in, though - 3,323 were in attendance at the Turnbull Ground that day – or at least that was according to the official gate.
The visitors – at the time often plagued by hooliganism – were shown in a poor light as supporters manifested themselves with obscene chanting, gesticulations and behaviour.
The game was interrupted by such behaviour, with a piece of nail-spiked wood thrown onto the pitch, while the second half kick-off was delayed due to Scarborough fans setting up camp in the Whitby goalmouth, due to their side being 3-1 down.
In the game, the first blood fell to the Seadogs, albeit against the run of play, with a Scarborough winger turning home a cross from a free-kick. Within minutes, however, Whitby found themselves 2-1 up and restoring the momentum in their own favour.
Bobby Veart flew down the wing, but was felled in the area before he could lay off to a fellow Whitby attacker, leaving the ref no choice but to point to the spot. Veart hammered the ball home from 12 yards.
Just a minute later, Whitby would find themselves 2-1 up. Rutherford sped through the middle ofBoro’s defence, before firing home from 20 yards. Veart would add the third before half-time, driving home from what seemed an impossible angle.
In the second half, Eddie Myers crashed in a fourth from a free-kick, but both Eddie and the crowd were left dismayed when the ref disallowed the attempt, claiming he had actually awarded an indirect free-kick – not that he had made anyone aware of the fact leading up to the effort.
As Scarborough tired, the game developed into an ill-tempered affair. Wood grabbed McCloy behind the ref’s back, giving him a jab to the ribs, while at the other end, the full-back ended up being hacked down.
Whitby, undeterred, turned on the style – playing a fast-paced, open game and should have gone further ahead in the closing minutes, with McCloy going close.
The reward for the 3-1 win was a trip to York City’s Bootham Crescent – a game I look back on in next week’s column…