Branksome Rec would be overflowing with enthusiastic and committed footballers in the fifties and sixties. Having worked on the shipyard, building site or similar, playing football would be the highlight of the working week. Battles would commence on the muddied pitches or cowpats if ventured further afield into the Dorset countryside.
There wasn’t any luxurious showers or warm changing rooms to ease them into the matches. This didn’t matter as church halls and water pumps were sufficient facilities to assist their participation.
Footballers provided an escapism where they could dream of playing for The Cherries or The Gasworks across the road. Alternatively the dream of playing football with your mates and surviving ninety minutes was a sufficient goal to aim for. Whatever the motivation, all that mattered was you were able to play the game you love with people that would be remembered for the rest of your life.
Branksome Recreation Pitch, better known as Branksome Rec has enjoyed many a football battle through the years. It used to be the heartbeat of football in Poole where all of the pitches would be filled with players from youth to adult on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Matches would happen whether rain, sun or an extreme Branksome Rec bog.
The beauty about football is everyone has their own fascinating story to tell. At 8am in Auckland, Russell Glenister was only too happy to chat about those cherished footballing memories whilst living in Poole, Dorset.
Russel Glenister left Poole to emigrate ‘down under’ some fifty two years ago in 1968 and enjoyed the opportunity recall his playing days. His description of his footballing days at Branksome Rec and throughout Dorset seemed like yesterday. Talking about Branksome Rec and Dorset football to someone from New Zealand seemed extremely surreal.
Glenister is in his eighties and still likes to keep fit by having a kick around with his grandchildren. He has a fantastic sense of humour where he joked, “I don’t look or act like someone in my eighties, I have never grown up,” he joked.
Poole is a place Glenister holds very dear to his heart and had twenty eight wonderful years living there. He has enjoyed the opportunity to reminisce over old football in Poole through a Facebook Group which enabled our ‘Lockdown Football Chat’ to happen.
“Nice Dorset accent you’ve got there,” said Glenister all the way from Auckland, New Zealand, his home for the last forty two years. Glenister spent ten years in Australia before moving to New Zealand. He has a mischievous side to his character where he clearly enjoys the banter but is matter of fact in his love of sport.
Glenister compared the harbour of Auckland to that of Poole where we talked about sailing “I want to get sailing again. I sallied on that wonderful harbour you’ve got in Poole and we have a fantastic harbour over here too.”
There was an instant rapport and Glenister enjoyed reminiscing the different places in Dorset. This started in discussing the schools that I have attended and worked in. Glenister enjoyed listening to the old haunts being read out and recalling his time in Poole. Mentioning Herbert Carter, my upper school started our football stories.
“Ah, you’re a Hamworthy lad. Hamworthy produced a lot of good footballers back in my day, they probably still do,” said Glenister. “I played at Hamworthy’s ground amongst the houses whilst getting a few games for Longfleet St Mary’s,” recalled Glenister.
Russel Glenister was a goalkeeper in the 1960’s that played football mainly for Branksome Athletic down at Branksome Rec. Goalkeepers are a sought after breed and Glenister occasionally helped out other teams such as Longfleet St Mary’s.
Glenister was shocked to hear that Longfleet St Mary’s were not a prominent side in the top leagues of Dorset these days. Their home was the picturesque ground at Whitecliff Park, overlooking Poole Harbour.
Longfleet St Mary’s played in the Dorset Combination League which was the top local league in Glenister’s playing days. It’s been fascinating to chat about the lost teams that once graced the Dorset football scene.
Another lost team discussed was the Bournemouth Gasworks Athletic team. Fascinatingly this team graced Dorset football for many years and played opposite Branksome Rec with Alder Road separating the pitches. There used to be a sports complex and a football stadium that hosted Bournemouth Gasworks Athletic, affectionately known as ‘The Gasworks’. I had only learnt about this team through the Bournemouth League Football Memories Facebook Group. Sadly it is now a housing estate but the old wall still straddles the Alder Road hill.
Glenister was gobsmacked by screaming, “Unbelievable” that I had not known about this team let alone the ground. Being five minutes from my home and opposite my usual running route has astounded me enormously. The running route has since been enhanced with a small football stadium being imagined whilst puffing and panting around Branksome Rec. Any small distraction helps and I have already scored numerous great goals there.
A fond memory of Bournemouth Gasworks Athletic’s ground was recalled by Glenister:
“I only played one game at The Gasworks ground and after playing at Branksome Rec it was like playing at Wembley Stadium.
“It was a fabulous little ground and one of the best in the south of England they reckoned. It was paradise playing there. It was great. It’s all built up now which is terrible.”
He chuckled in astonishment at me trying to explain where the ground used to be. The pitch certainly could not have been positioned alongside the hill up Alder Road.
“It was right opposite Branksome Rec on the level bit. The back of the stadium was the hill that goes up Alder Road. It was a great little stadium that was all banked up with grass and tree edges.
“You had the grandstand backing onto Alder Road and it was a proper little stadium. It was fabulous. The quality of the turf was incredible, self-draining and it was a beautiful beautiful little ground.
“The Gasworks team used to have to work before matches and turn up in their ‘civvy’ working clothes. They looked a right motley lot but they had been into work all morning.”
Football was tough back then and even the AFC Bournemouth players had to hold down other jobs before traveling to Dean Court to play in the football league. He reminisced watching a Bournemouth player turn up to play having worked on the building site in the morning.
“He turned up all scruffy from working on the buildings and then had to play for The Cherries. They had to graft and that was the way of the world back then,”
Glenister enjoyed watching his football in Dorset and having Bournemouth Gasworks Athletic on his doorstep probably ignited this passion for the game.
“I used to go there [Bournemouth Gasworks Athletic] as a kid and you could get in at half time for free. So as an eight or nine year old I would go in and that is how I remember it.”
Having the stadium opposite Branksome Rec must have made the walk across Alder Road feel like walking on the road to Wembley.
Playing at Bournemouth Gasworks Athletic must have been every schoolboys dream from Branksome. You can sense the thrill of hopefully graduating from the muddied pitches of Branksome Rec to the comfort of the ground across the road.
Glenister looked back at some of the players that played for the Gasworks and remembered fondly some of the old Bournemouth Gasworks Athletic players:
“Ben Cheeseman used to be the goalkeeper after the war and up until about 1950. Then Peter Mills went in goal after that.”
The Gasworks produced some great memories and there was enthusiasm in naming a few players in the programme from an FA Cup Qualifying tie in the 1950’s:
“I knew a couple of the players. I knew the centre forward Gordon Flay really well because he also played for Longfleet. ‘Flayer’ was a mate of mine but was a very good player.
“I think he scored seven goals one week and there was a cartoon of him in the Bournemouth Echo. I think he was one of The Gasworks’ top goal scorers.”
Moving onto Glenister’s playing days and he was animated in describing how great they were. There was an enthusiastic tone in recalling the good old days that came out of his mashed up Poole and New Zealand accent. He chuckled affectionately in recalling playing football for Branksome Athletic in Dorset Division Two or Three.
“We’d play out in the country amongst all of the village’s ha-ha. That was pretty tough going because the facilities were not great, I can tell you.
“Playing out in Dorset they very often cleared the cows off the pitch before the game. The ball always ended up in cowpats so you would end up with a face full after a header.”
Branksome Athletic played football at Branksome Rec and joked that the pitch was terrible and always waterlogged. The Alder Road end was the worst and once someone shot past the goalkeeper but the ball held up in the mud and did not go in.
It was not uncommon to swap playing at the bogs of Branksome Rec to the luxury facilities of some of their opponents if the opportunity allowed:
“When we had a home game against Flights we would always play it on their ground, it was always immaculate and everyone was happy. They even had good showers there as opposed to the communal bath at Branksome Rec. If you were the last game to finish you did not bother having a bath as you would come out dirtier than you went in.”
However Branksome Rec would host most home matches and this evoked some humorous memories:
“By mid-season Branksome Rec could best be described as a quagmire, especially the pitch at The Gasworks end. On a bad day there was sixty percent surface water but we always insisted on playing despite the ref pleading to ‘can’ the game. We had been waiting all week to play this match.
“The goal mouths were so worn down, the crossbar which should have been eight foot but was more like eight foot five. It was not good for short goalkeepers.”
The commitment to the cause of playing football in some respects that has never changed. Footballers up and down the country throughout generations have committed their weekends for their match. There has always been an escapism to playing in a football match. It allows the participants to forget about life for a while or dream of playing for the team of your dreams.
Whether it was moving across Alder Road from Branksome Rec to Bournemouth Gasworks Athletic or playing professionally. Football captures the imagination of all and that is why this beautiful game should be celebrated. Attitudes may have changed but the principles still remain.
Glenister winces at the thought of the football kit from the 1950’s and 60’s:
“Those old leather boots had six leather studs each fixed to the sole with three nails. As the studs wore down the eighteen nails in each boot protruded potentially causing some serious leg gashes following crude tackles.
“No nice moulded soles in those days. Shin pads were very often the ‘Readers Digest’ magazine shoved down your sock. And then there was the leather ball. When wet and muddy if it came your way and you had to head it, you were momentarily stunned. No wonder so many footballers of my day ended up with serious issues.”
Glenister helped if Longfleet St Mary’s needed a goalkeeper where they used to ‘grab’ him to play:
“Gordon Flay used to rope me in and I enjoyed playing for Longfleet St Mary. That was in the Dorset Combination. I was okay in that league and could have probably played in it but I was happy playing at Branksome Rec with my mates.”
Glenister was keen to know my football career and school background and shared the clubs I played for. There were similarities with his playing days as I am a goalkeeper that maybe should have played at a higher standard but enjoyed playing football with my friends once university finished. I have wondered sometimes what might have been but that’s a discussion for another time.
Another goalkeeping similarity was that I was also roped in to help a few teams out for their pre-season friendlies whilst I was back from studying in Leeds. This prompted Glenister to inform me that Danny Hay, the New Zealand national manager used to play for Leeds United. I think I was too hungover to recall any of his four performances at Elland Road.
We discussed modern football and Glenister reeled off Chris Wood as a ‘Kiwi’ that is doing well in England. He keeps a close eye on AFC Bournemouth as he followed them whilst living in the south of England. He is a Liverpool fan and we had some banter when I informed him of supporting Manchester United.
“I hate them because they beat us [AFC Bournemouth] in the fifth round of the FA Cup in 1957,” Glenister said. He recalled a fabulous FA Cup run that The Cherries had that season where they mixed with some footballing heavyweights. They defeated Wolverhampton Wanderers away in an earlier round at Molineux and he recalled, “Wolves had a really good side with Billy Wright, the England captain and Bert Williams in goal.”
Bournemouth then had to face Tottenham Hotspur in the next round and they brought down all their top players:
“They had all of the top stars. Danny Blanchflower and all that gang were playing for Spurs. Ted Ditchburn in goal, the England goalkeeper. They reckon 28,000 standing people were at Dean Court that day which is a record. I still have the programme.
“Then two weeks later Manchester United came to town. They were the top team. The Busby Babes everyone called them. It was before the Munich air crash when they lost all of their good players. Duncan Edwards was a famous player that played and Bobby Charlton also. We were winning at half time and they beat us.”
Duncan Edwards is cited by many as the greatest English player ever but unfortunately died as a twenty one year old in The 1958 Munich Air Disaster. Not many got the chance to see him play.
“He was brilliant. I saw him play for England Schoolboys at Wembley in 1954. And I still have the programme for that too. Duncan Edwards was a solid right half. A fabulous player.
“Bobby Charlton was playing too. He was not that tall, only about five foot eight but was solid. He had a hell of a shot on him too where he could hit the ball. He was strong, Duncan Edwards was the same.
“We always used to go to Wembley to watch the English Schoolboys play and I love looking back at the programmes seeing who went on to play in the First Division.”
Glenister made an interesting comparison of players today:
“In our day they were fit and they were solid. Today the soccer players are athletes and well trained. It was more of a solid game back then and none of this short passing.
“Football used to be long ball where a guy would blast the ball long onto the wing where a guy would latch onto it. He would smash it across to the centre forward. Now it is all short intricate passing which is fabulous.”
Glenister was keen to watch as many top players as he could and his chances were limited with Bournemouth playing in Division Three South. He travelled up to Southampton to watch some top players play. One such time he went solely to watch Tommy Lawton play for Notts County. Lawton was an England international centre forward that was a big name and Glenister remembered him being brilliant in the air.
Glenister acknowledged that football is much more intense nowadays through the calculated coaching and fitness plans. Players of his generation were solid, physical and tougher. This was what football was like in the fifties and sixties. Goalkeepers had to be brave during the physicality of football in those times:
“If a centre forward came running through on goal a good goalkeeper would throw themselves at their feet. Tommy Godwin, the Bournemouth goalkeeper was a master at it.
“Nowadays the goalkeepers just spread eagle themselves to the approaching centre forward and they get nutmegged all of the time.
“You wouldn’t see that years ago and would not give them the job as a goalkeeper if it happened then. The ball never went through the legs of a good goalkeeper.
“You would hurl your whole body at the player’s feet to grab the ball. It was pretty brave stuff. You never see it today and they get nutmegged. The goalkeeper took complete control of the penalty area.”
Football was a tough sport in the fifties and sixties and there was an attitude to play on no matter what. Glenister even started a match having been to Westbourne Eye Hospital on the morning of a match. He was working at Bolson’s Shipyard down on Poole Quay the morning before a match and got a bit of steel in his eye. With his eye all patched up after the steel was removed he had the ultimate footballing dilemma. Whether to play wearing the eye patch?
“There’s no bloody way I am turning up at Branksome Rec with a patch over my eye, so I took it off. I turned up and couldn’t see out of my left eye and I was playing on the field at right half that day. I had a terrible first half and kept misjudging the ball. When you only have one eye you cannot see properly.
“Reg Gardiner, our manager was a great old guy but had a go at me. He said, ‘what the hell is matter with you Russ? You’re mistiming everything and playing bloody hopeless.’ I replied that I could only see out of one eye, ha-ha. I wasn’t going to tell him that I couldn’t see and there was no way I was going to miss the game.”
Football meant so much back in the sixties and was an opportunity to meet up with your mates and have a battle down at Branksome Rec or around Dorset. Players wouldn’t let injuries or illness get in the way:
“One winter it was so bad that I remember one of my team mates running around coughing up all sorts of phlegm. One guy was choked up with bronchitis or something and was in a hell of a state.
“He was coughing up all sorts throughout the game. He was running around with a little bottle of cough mixture in his hand. He was taking little swigs to try and loosen up the phlegm and keep him playing. True story ha-ha.”
Charlton Marshall was the venue for Glenister’s last ever football match at the end of the 1967 season
“You’d change at the church hall across the road. There was an old fashioned water pump outside that you would try to crack up to clean yourself off.
“You go on over to the pitch which was covered in cow shit because you had the cows grazing it before the game.
“I went in to tackle this guy and came out on the wrong end and smashed my knee up. Ripped the tendons and buggered the cartilage. I thought I’d run it off because you could always run these things off as a rule.
“Anyway I couldn’t run it off as it was hurting like hell. Someone passed me the ball, I stuck my leg out and it just swung like a pendulum. I knew that I had done something bad and I got carried off. I went to Poole Hospital and they strapped me up.
“That was my very last game of soccer as I did not play after that.”
Glenister continued with his sport when he emigrated to Australia in 1968 where he played cricket for a couple of years but had to stop due to work commitments. Football has never left Glenister as he coached and refereed his son’s school team.
This has been extended to his ‘grandkids’ as he follows their sporting exploits in football and cricket. He has a talented granddaughter that’s a great little soccer player and one of his grandsons has just got his first fifty in cricket.
“He scored his first fifty in his last game. He held his bat aloft with pride and I was nearly in tears.”
Sport is very much a passion and engrained in his family life. He even let slip that he still has a kick around before a football game with his ‘grandkids’. You get the feeling he is chomping at the bit and given half a chance he would be out there playing a full ninety minutes.
“I can still strike a ball but I cannot juggle it. It pisses me off. I even bought my son a soccer ball to practice juggling but the skills have disappeared. That’s what happens when you get to eighty.”
Glenister is a proud New Zealand citizen and acknowledged their sailors and rugby players. He identified that their football is improving and you can tell that he is extremely proud of any exports such as Chris Wood that plays for Burnley in the Premier League in England.
Glenister recalled watching the 1966 World Cup on his little black and white television and thought it was great back when England won the World Cup. The memories remind him of his time living in Poole but he has been gone over fifty years.
He still watches the Premier League regularly and is confident that Liverpool will secure their title. He is amazed that AFC Bournemouth are in the top flight and never thought it would happen. There was a worry for AFC Bournemouth because he asked what would happen to them if the league did not start up. Would they get relegated? That would mean that West Bromwich Albion and Leeds would be promoted. This led to Glenister talking about a friend from school.
“Did you know my mate Tony Forrester used to play for West Brom? We played football from 1951 at Poole Grammar where I was in goal and he was an inside forward. He was a genius then and went up to West Brom in 1957 and got in their first team about 1959.
“There were many internationals in the West Brom team and they were a top team. They had the former England manager Bobby Robson playing for them. West Brom also had the England internationals Ronnie Allen, Don Howe and Derick Kevan. Tony Forrester was playing with all of them on the right wing.”
Coincidently, Tony Forrester lives in Auckland and Russel Glenister still chats to him every week on the phone about the old times. After all they have known each other since they were ten:
“Forrester was at St Joseph’s School and I was at Heatherlands off Branksome Rec and we used to play against each other at junior school. I remember he was good then.
“I played for Poole Schoolboys but never made the county team. At Poole Grammar we had about six or seven players including Tony Forrester that played at county level.
“We had a great Poole Grammar School under 15 team. We won the Mark Froud Cup, which was the Dorset Cup and as big as the FA Cup. We won two other cups and won everything. We only got beat six times from 51-56.”
It was a captivating discussion with Russel Glenister because I was informed of many footballing stories that I was not aware of that happened in my home town of Poole. I was not aware of some of the professional footballers that were born in little old Poole.
There was a West Bromwich Albion link in Poole that I was not aware of because of a scout that was based in the south coast:
“Brian Wood was a year below me and went to West Brom and played about three hundred games in the lower leagues. He was a great player.
“They had a scout down in Poole that used to watch school games and that is how they would pick you out. He would watch the game and afterwards ask to see your Dad to see if you’re interested in turning professional. That is how it used to be in those days.”
It was a an absolute pleasure to chat to such a knowledgeable, charismatic and witty man that has enhanced my own life for much longer than the forty five minute chat that we had.
Russel Glenister is a fantastic character that lives and breathes his sport. He loved recalling his stories and it’s obvious that when he played football he loved the battle, the competition and the banter.
“It has been wonderful looking back and I have loved it. I have loved looking at the photos, reading the comments from the Facebook Group and it has taken me back to those wonderful days.
“They were great times with great mates, although not many of mine are left now. I want to say a belated thank you to a wonderful guy, Reg Gardiner, who ran our team for all of those years. Great Memories.”
Thank you for sharing the memories Russ, I have no doubt that your grandson’s raised bat was not just in celebration of his first fifty. It was also acknowledging the magnificent Grandad that has no doubt shared many a sporting story with him.
As I finish this I am raising a toast to you Russ. As you said, “You can take the boy out of Poole but you can’t take Poole out of the boy.”