5:45 AM June 7, 2022
This isn’t just a book on football…it is about a way of life and lifelong friendships between tens of thousands of players over almost a century.
Some years ago Paul Oxbury wrote a wonderful best-seller called The League of Forgotten Men – a history of the Norwich & District Thursday Football League with a foreword by one of their star players, world cup winner Martin Peters.
Now Paul has hit the back of the net with this absolute cracker of a follow-up called Close of Business which tells the story of the Norwich Business Houses League which ran from 1924 to 2017.
The 52-year-old accountant has produced a glorious 342-page book packed with photographs, match reports and tables which will bring back so many memories, given that in its heyday the league dominated the action on the parks and school pitches of Norwich.
Whilst it initially catered for businesses in the city, it evolved and grew and was the starting point for many well-known teams and players.
At the beginning of the 1930s St Andrew’s Hospital dominated the league, playing all their matches at home and then in 1937 CNS Old Boys took their first steps in adult football under the direction of a young Billy Ribbons… and swept all before them.
After the war, Trowse Villa were the team to beat, with their sloping pitch, and when they eventually faded Sprowston Athletic and then Hellesdon came along to the fore before stepping up to the Anglian Combination.
Then it was the turn of Lomas Athletic (who remembers Dick and the late Terry Cann?) to rule the roost followed by Diamond H, UEA, Earlham and Marlborough Old Boys.
The book also covers the thriving family social scene which the league had in the 50s and 60s with Geoffrey Watling and Billy Butlin presenting trophies and looks at the link with industry.
It was in 1929 when Henry Sexton, of Assembly House fame, donated the Shoe Trades Charity Cup for competition for those who worked in the industry with its final staged at The Nest on Easter Tuesday to much fanfare. The league eventually took over the running of this until the late 1960s.
Paul thanks all those who helped him put this great book together including former Archant librarian Rosemary Dixon. “Archant have kindly allowed articles and photographs to be reproduced and for that I would like to thank them.”
Close of Business – A History of the Norwich Business Houses League costs £15 and is available from City Books, Davey Place, Norwich, Jarrold Books department or from Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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