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An Interview with Jack Goodchild

Jack Goodchild in 1966

An interview conducted by Tim Wells in February 1995 with the legend that was Jack Goodchild.

Episode 5 of Weaving In and Out contained a history of K’s fanzines, including Mark Murphy’s The Searcher. A regular feature was interviews conducted by Tim Wells. Here we highlight one with Jack Goodchild from Issue 40 in February 1995. Jack will need no introduction to older fans. For the new generation: well, there’s a reason the road up to Kingsmeadow was named after him following his death in 1997. He spent an extraordinary seven decades supporting the club. Here he is on what it was like watching K’s in the 1930s, a wasp attack at Ilford and the decision to leave Richmond Road…

Tim Wells: When did you first starting watching Kingstonian?

Jack Goodchild: A very early age. I distinctly remember a photo of me behind the Richmond Road goal in 1926, when I was eleven years old.

Tim: When did you leave school?

Jack: Most people left at the age of fourteen. I got a job at WH Smiths in Thames Street. Unfortunately I had to work all day Saturday at first. My job was to get the papers ready and not just the British papers costing 2d but also the foreign ones which was “Le Figaro” which cost 3d. The room was above the shop which gave us a good view over the river and also looked out over Kingston Tannery – how many readers have relatives who have memories of that? I’ll bet they’ve never known it existed. Folks today complain about the smell from the sewerage but, believe me, it was NOTHING compared to the Tannery.

Tim: So you couldn’t watch the K’s?

Jack: Not for a while. Then I had a word about it to my boss and the management agreed that I could have time off – although only to see the home matches and on condition that I returned to work directly after the match ended as, like most places of work in those days, the work continued until eight o’clock at night. How I looked forward to Saturdays every other week!

Tim: When would you leave to get to Richmond Road?

Jack: About 12.30-ish, after the nod from this boss. The kick-off for all games then was two o’clock. I went by bicycle. I used to get to the ground through the cycle gate near Latchmere Road. In those days you could leave it there, confident it would still be there when you returned. I can’t recall exactly but I think admission was about 6d. And they had programmes.

Tim: Who was the best player you saw?

Jack: Edgar Kail, an England amateur international who played for Dulwich Hamlet, was easily the best. His scoring rate was better even than Johnny Whing, who was a real favourite of mine in later years. Kail was certainly a far better player than Frank Macey. Although players were amateur, the likes of Frank Macey and Johnny Whitehead (who played in the great sides of the 1930s) were found jobs by the club at the Kingston power station. Like most players, they were not paid but usually found a few pounds in their boots on Saturday.

Tim: Tell us about the 1932/1933 season.

Jack: This one towers above all the others. I was 17 when I saw K’s win the FA Amateur Cup. The first match was at the old Dulwich Hamlet ground at Champion Hill and finished 1-1. And I went up to Darlington for the replay which we won 4-1. I particularly remember the captain of Stockton, PA Smith, refused to collect his loser’s medal.

Tim: I wonder if there are any other K’s fans still alive who saw that match?

Jack: Well, funnily enough, I think there are a few. In particular, a gentleman who supported Brentford at the time. If he or anyone who knows of him, could make him known to me, we’d have an awful lot to chat about, wouldn’t we? That really would be nice after all those years.

Tim: There is a famous photograph of the winners in the town.

Jack: What a welcome K’s received. The population of Kingston at the time was 39,000. And think they were all there to see the parade of the cup in an open top bus. Of course, I was there with my friend, Gladys, who was later to become my wife.

Tim: A lot of the clubs you have been to are now defunct.

Jack: Yes, those such as Summerstown, London Caledonian, Romford and Nunhead. I well remember when we were treated to some unusual half-time entertainment at Nunhead. A chap did a routine of a goalkeeper in play, but without the ball. I think he must have been a professional mime artist in his day. Incidentally, the half time interval only last 5 minutes then.

Tim: Which grounds did you not like?

Jack: Ones with running tracks round them, such as Sutton and at Walton because when there isn’t much of a crowd, there is no atmosphere. My favourite ground was the old Champion Hill.

Tim: We are talking 50 or so years ago here, but how did you know of any team changes?

Jack: Usually you didn’t. From the K’s point of view, the team that was printed in that Friday’s Surrey Comet was the one that invariably played. Sometimes clubs might let people know by writing teams up on a blackboard. Tannoys were not even heard of. Nor were raffles. That would’ve been an absurd idea then. I took part in one, though, at Clapton, and I won a tea set which I still have to this day. Later, I won another one at Walton & Hersham. But going back to the subject of grounds in general, I remember at Wycombe (which had a notorious slope), one of their fans once said to me “they are going to build a hospital on this ground To which I jokingly replied: “that’s a bit silly. The patients will fall out of bed.” He really got the hump at my reply.

Tim: OK, time to talk about past travels.

Jack: Ilford. It is a place I shall always remember as it was a place where both myself and K’s lost. I went to retrieve the ball from behind the goal and unfortunately trod on wasps’ nest in doing so. I wore long pants and the wretched things went up my legs into my long johns, my shoes, everywhere. At half-time, I saw K’s trainer, Ron Carbines, who advised me to get to Kingston Hospital, as soon as I got home as I had been unbelievably stung from my waist to my toes. I watched the rest of the game in his condition.

Tim: So you tortured yourself twice.

Jack: In a way, yes. Anyway, when I got to the hospital I told the doctor what happened and he didn’t believe me. So I proved it by rolling up my trouser leg. Two dead wasps fell out. It was a real case of putting my foot right in it.

Tim: So now take us on to the cup matches.

Jack: We were drawn to play at Saltash in an FA Amateur Cup tie in January 1957. I shall never forget this particular match. Many of the supporters decided to get the overnight train to Plymouth and be there in time for breakfast and take a look round the town. But when the day arrived, the weather had taken a dramatic turn for the worse. So there I was thinking “Fancy coming all this way just to the game called off”. I saw a shed on the far side of the ground and once there I said a prayer to make the rain stop. And, you’re never going to believe this folks, but it did. The pitch was still a quagmire. And the wind, oh my goodness. And we won four-two so the long journey was worth it after all. A year later, we were in the wilds of Norfolk at Bungay Town. The shed was the dressing-room this time. And the wind again. It was blowing a force eight right down the pitch. You only needed to kick the ball a few yards and the let the wind do the rest.  It was no surprise that, having the wind with them in the first-half, Bungay went 6-1 up. K’s needed to use the wind as well in the second half. And they did so, pulling the score back to 6-5, and having a chance to equalise in the dying seconds. Alas, Johnny Whing’s header hit the crossbar. Not our day.

Tim: The 1959/60 cup run must revive some memories.

Jack: In February 1960, we played Ferryhill at Richmond Road and K’s were 3-0 at half-time. But they were really fired up second half and made it 3-3. Then, with only a few minutes left, K’s got a penalty but Les Gilson missed it. Many years later, I met Les, and when the chat got round to that match, he said “Jack, please don’t remind me!” That miss meant two trips to Geordieland, for the replay as the game was snowed off on the first day. I couldn’t go to the eventual replay, two weeks later, which we won 1-0) because of my church work. This was probably one of my greatest regrets.

The semi-final stands out in my memory more than the final. We beat Crook Town 2-1 at St James’ Park, Newcastle. They say the crowd was 25,000 but it looked like 38,000 to me. But remember, in that time, professional football drew crowds of 60-70,000.

Tim: And so to Wembley.

Jack: One thing I will always remember about this match is that it is one of the few occasions my wife came with me. She watched K’s a few years previously but after one game, she told me she would not accompany me to any more matches because I made her look like a fool. And she kept her word. Looking back, I realise she was right, what with my loud voice and everything. It was always meant to be used at football.

Tim: Everyone gets caught up with their emotions when they’re watching matches. Who do you rate as K’s best manager?

Jack: Peter Gleeson. During his reign, I saw some of the finest football ever played. In 1962 and 65, we won the London Senior Cup, which was a very big cup at the time. People also agreed that it was a better-looking cup, when it was on show in the boardroom, than the FA Amateur Cup. Peter was a gentleman. And despite many letters from yours truly to the Surrey Comet daring to tell him what we supporters thought he should do, we remained good friends. On the subject of managers, I must say a few words about Chris Kelly, as under him supporters have had far more access to players to chat to them. Years ago, you just watched the match and went home. There wasn’t the camaraderie there is now.

Tim: You have your own opinion of refs, as do we all. But do you have any anecdotes?

Jack: My opinion of referees was formed about 60 years ago, when one of them ask me for a pen, and I lent him it, and I had just bought it for 30 shillings, which was a lot of money in those days, and he never gave it back.

Tim: You were at the meeting when K’s announced their plans to move from Richmond Road.

Jack: Yeah, and I asked where the money would go if K’s actually folded up, which it was being suggested would happen if they didn’t move. The man told me it would go back to the Football Association. So proposing a move seemed an even more logical suggestion. Not for my contemporaries’ sakes. But for the younger generation.

Tim: Speaking of which, what do you think of our mob?

Jack: I read what David Kempton said in a previous interview and they are my sentiments exactly: We definitely need more cheering at home!

Tim: In a way, K’s are your adopted family.

Jack: You could say that. When I lost my wife after 55 years I was in a bad state and sinking lower and lower. But when I was asked to be President of the K’s Supporters Club, I could only wonder at what she would have said, and I think she probably would have said “Absolutely fantastic, Jack!” The Supporters’ Club and Kingstonian have given me another chance to live. And that is true and sincere.

Tim: The only drawback is seeing me once a fortnight.

Jack: No, Tim. Personally, I think K’s need a few more like yourself. And I’m being sincere again. I constantly tell people, for example, that if you want to know about K’s, see Tim Wells.

Tim: Finally Jack, when the new stand is erected behind the goal, will you lead off the cheering?

Jack: It’ll be my pleasure to do so.

Published Monday 29th June 2020 (last updated Tuesday 30th June 2020)