Geoff Church remembers “Because of post war rationing restriction there were no football shirts or shorts to buy. Mothers made the shorts from ex-blackout curtain material and knitted the shirts from red wool. My place in the team,as goalkeeper, was nothing to do with my ability, It was simply that my aunt Mary let me borrow her bright yellow polo jumper on match days.”
After leaving Balby Street, Geoff continued playing football at Mexborough Technical College. He played for Wolves’ development team – Wath Wanderers – under Mark Crook.
Geoff impressed in a trial match with several goals, but tragically lost an eye a few weeks after. He received a letter from Stan Cullis (manager of Wolves and former England manager) wishing him well. Remarkably, despite this disability, Geoff played football at a semi-professional level (although he remained an amateur) – for Doncaster Rovers, Wombwell Main & Selby Town.
Geoff is proud of the sporting achievements of his sons at Hockey and Athletics.
GEOFF CHURCH FOOTBALL CAREER PROFILE
Born at Mexborough Montagu Hospital in 1936 and lived at Denaby.
Attended Denaby Balby Street Junior School and played for the school football and cricket teams. He played in goal for the 1947 football team which reached the final of the Totty Cup played in Darfield and lost 0-1 to Darfield Council Junior School. Two weeks later they got revenge and defeated the same team 1-0 to win the final of the Totty Shield played on the same ground. The Totty Shield was a play-off between the top two teams in the Don and the Dearne Junior Leagues.
In season 1948-1949 he played in goal for Balby Street Youth Club in the Mexborough Under 14 League.
Was a student at Mexborough Schofield Technical School from 1949 to 1952 and represented the school at football and cricket. In season 1951-1952 Geoff played at inside left in the Under 18 football team, although Mexborough only had students up to 16 years old, which won the South Yorkshire Technical Schools League Cup for the first time ever. The physical education teacher was Clarrie Mason.
He joined Mexborough Tech Old Boys football team (managed by Clarrie Mason) on leaving school aged 16 in season 1952-1953 and played at inside left in the Mexborough Association Under 18 League. He also played for the Don & Dearne District team which won the Sheffield and Hallamshire Association Under 18 County Cup.
At the end of season 1952-1953 aged 16 Geoff played at inside for Wath Wanderers (Wolverhampton Wanderers academy team based at Brampton), in the Sheffield Hatchard League, managed by former Wolves player Mark Crook. In May 1953 Geoff injured his eye at work and he received a personal letter of concern from Stanley Cullis, the legendary Manager of Wolverhampton
Wanderers, wishing him well. This injury tragically lost Geoff the sight of his left eye just before he was 17 years old.
Remarkably, despite this disability, Geoff continued to play football. In season 1953-1954 he played at inside left with Mexborough Tech Old Boys in the Mexborough Association Under 18 League and the team won the Mexborough Youth Cup. MTOB forward line in the three seasons 1951-1954 remained unchanged and they all scored a lot of goals. He also played inside left for Doncaster Rovers in the Northern Intermediate Under 18 League. Doncaster Rovers were managed by Peter Doherty (ex Northern Ireland International inside forward and Manager who took them to the World Cup quarter finals in Sweden 1958).
At the start of season 1953-1954, the MTOB Under 18 team attracted the attention of Cliff Duffy, Doncaster Rovers Chief Scout. He was impressed with the performance of the team and in November 1953 the Doncaster Rovers Manager, Peter Doherty, invited the MTOB Under 18 team to play Doncaster Rovers Northern Intermediate Under 18 team. The game was played under
floodlights on their Belle Vue ground, which at that time was one of the few Football League Clubs to have a full size playing pitch and also one of the few to have floodlights. Doncaster Rovers former centre-half, Sid Bycroft, was manager of their Under 18 team. The referee was Ernest Crawford who was a Football League top tier First Division official. Doncaster Rovers were 3-0 up after 15 minutes as MTOB adjusted to the playing conditions. In the second half MTOB scored 6 goals and won 6-4!
Peter Doherty said MTOB were the best Under 18 team he had ever seen and contacted Lancashire FA to send the best Under 18 team from the Manchester area to play MTOB Under 18 team on Doncaster Rovers ground under floodlights. MTOB won the game at Doncaster and were challenged to a return game near Old Trafford which they lost on a poor quality pitch.
In season 1954-1955, Geoff played at inside left for Doncaster Rovers ‘A’ in the Yorkshire League.
In season 1955-1956 Geoff played inside left for Wath Wanderers (Wolverhampton Wanderers academy team based at Brampton) in the Sheffield Hatchard League (founded in 1892). He showed wonderful promise and in one home game against Shardlows, he scored four goals in their 6-0 win. (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC were one of the strongest teams in the Football League top-tier First Division and were League Champions in 1953-1954 after being runners up on three occasions. The team included two players from Wath Wanderers. Roy Swinbourne centre-forward (born Denaby Main) and Ron Flowers wing half (born Edlington). In the mid 1950’s Wolves were renowned for the staging of high profile floodlit friendlies on their Molineux ground against the top European teams which acted as a precursor to the European Cup).
Geoff had a five year student engineering indentured apprenticeship with Robert Jenkins & Co. Ltd., Boiler Manufacturer, Rotherham from 1952 to 1957. The Company celebrated its centenary year in 1956. At the end of season 1955-1956, because of his eye disability, Geoff decided to lower his football ambitions and concentrate on his studies to become a Chartered Engineer and pursue a career in engineering.
Geoff continued playing football at inside left in the Yorkshire League from 1956 to 1959 at semi-professional level (although he stayed as an amateur) for Wombwell Main (1956-1957), Thorne Colliery (1957-1958) and Selby Town (1958-1959 and 1959-1960 up to December 1959).
In December 1959 Geoff returned to Mexborough Tech Old Boys and played for the remainder of season 1959-1960 in the Sheffield Hatchard League. He scored 5 goals in 15 games at inside left.
In 1960, Geoff switched his playing position to outside left so that he could see the play and receive the ball better with his leading right eye. His goal scoring trademark was to receive the ball from the right, pivot on his left foot and volley the ball into the roof of the net with his right foot.
Geoff continued playing for Mexborough Tech Old Boys in the Sheffield Hatchard League at outside left in season 1960-1961 (scoring 16 goals in 30 games), 1961-1962, 1962-1963 and 1963-1964. The winter of 1962-1963, known as the Big Freeze of 1963, was one of the coldest winters recorded in the UK at that time – there were no local football games for 3 months due to frozen pitches.
In the following three seasons 1964-1965, 1965-1966 and 1966-1967 Geoff played at outside left for Dearne Community & Miners Welfare in the Sheffield Hatchard League.
Prepared by Brian Hill February 2023