Turning the clock back some forty years – Legends of the Post Office Field – Jimmy Greenhoff
I THINK IT’S FAIR TO SUGGEST that Jimmy Greenhoff scored more goals at the Post Office field than he did during a 21-year career which took him from Leeds United to Rochdale but most notably leaving a lasting legacy on a collective of Ashingdon Road daydreamers during highly successful spells with Stoke City and Manchester United.
Greenhoff has often been described as Stoke’s greatest ever player. A quite incredible accolade considering the likes of Stanley Matthews, Alan Hudson and Gordon Banks all represented the Potters at various stages of their careers.
However, it was Greenhoff’s four-year spell at Old Trafford which probably ensured him a place amongst the greats to grace the hallowed, but often overgrown, Post Office field turf. He was a Rolls Royce of a footballer who made the game look remarkably easy while scoring a succession of vital goals, much to the delight of the raucous dwellers of the Boothen and Stretford Ends, which at the Post Office field was towards where the Ashingdon Road was situated.
A heated exchange usually ensued between Holt Farm School mate, Andrew Locke and I, as to whom would be Jimmy this week. The unlucky fledgeling usually had to make do with being Joe Jordan, Steve Coppell or perhaps Martin Buchan. Nevertheless, whoever pulled on the imaginary number eight shirt did their utmost to replicate some of the fantastic goals the Barnsley-born frontman bagged for the Red Devils.
Amongst our hero’s most famous goals was a rasping right-footed volley for Stoke City against Birmingham City at St Andrews in 1974 and a somewhat fortuitous 1977 FA Cup final winner, when he deflected Lou Macari’s effort past Ray Clemence, ensuring the famous trophy made its way back to Old Trafford while denying the Merseysiders what would have been a notable treble in the process.
However, It was his vital winner against the Reds in the semi-final replay of 1979 that was the most replayed on our very own field of dreams.
United and Liverpool had played out a pulsating 2-2 draw in the initial tie at Manchester City’s former home at Maine Road. And despite there being little between the sides during that epic contest, Liverpool went into the replay as hot favourite to claim a Wembley berth alongside Arsenal, who had overcome Wolverhampton Wanderers by two goals to nil at Villa Park.
The teams tried again at Everton’s Goodison Park on April 4 -1979. It proved to be another tense affair, with both sides passing up decent opportunities to snatch a valuable advantage. But as the titanic contest moved into its final stages, United’s Welsh winger, Mickey Thomas picked out the marauding Greenhoff, and time seemed to stand still as he stooped to head what proved to be the only goals of the game.
Both Andrew and I regularly arrived at the far post – well, jumper – and nodded a delicious Thomas – otherwise known as Mark Earwicker – cross from the left beyond the desperate clutches of Simon Norris who was expertly deputising as the stranded Clemence.
Of course, the sheer delight of seeing our tatty sphere sail between the unevenly spaced jumpers was followed by an excited shriek of – ‘Jimmy Greennnhhhofff – Manchester United have scored and it’s the man who got the winner in the final’- In our finest, albeit high pitched, dulcet John Motson tones.
These eccentric and exuberant actions were performed whilst running hysterically in the general direction of the nearby chip shop much to the bemusement of the hungry queue of customers, patiently waiting for a fresh piece of cod and a bottle of cream soda for their supper.
Many years later I was fortunate enough to meet Jimmy whilst reporting on an FA Cup tie between Manchester United and West Ham United at Old Trafford. He seemed quite amused as I explained how we had recreated ‘that goal’ on a piece of overgrown wasteland some 250 miles away from where it actually took place while he scribbled his treasured signature in my autograph book.