Croydon – 1975-16 Isthmian League Division Two Runners Up

CROYDON created history in 1975-76 when they managed to go through the entire Isthmian League season without losing a game – but still didn’t win the league title.

Ilford had been the only other club to achieve that feat in 1907, but they only played 10 games, making Croydon’s achievement even more unique.

Ted Shepherd’s side picked up 98 points, drawing 14 of their 42 games to still claim promotion in second, four points behind champions Tilbury and eight ahead of third-placed Carshalton Athletic.

Ordinarily, it would have been enough to have taken the Division Two title, but Shepherd, who only used 14 players, believes the team were too cautious.

He admits they drew too many games because they were intent on keeping their unbeaten record in tact rather than throw caution to the wind and go for the win.

Five of his side were ever present, while goalkeeper Dave Cobb only missed the last two games because he broke his jaw in the promotion-clinching match against Carshalton.

“Tilbury were a very good side to give them their due,” explained boss Shepherd. “They were together just that little bit longer than we were.

“We dropped points in ­games when we were conce­rning ourselves with not losing the game, and I think we might have been better off losing a match ­earlier on. Then I think we would possibly have gone for it.

“After we beat Carshalton, we were in front and all we had to do was win the last three games to win the title. We won two of them and drew the last one, that might have cost us it. Tilbury were always playing after us.

“I think if we had given them just a little bit too much to do we might have won it. But we were a very good side and when we got promoted we did very well.

“To go through the season unbeaten is a feat for everyone concerned. And to do it with 14 players was quite ­something.”

Shepherd admitted that winning promotion was all the more special given the limited budget he had  at his disposal.

“The main thing was getting into the First Division of the Isthmian League as, back then, that was a big jump for ­Croydon.

“The budget we had to work with was very, very moderate anyway. Those players got their heads down and worked hard. The club was well organised from the top.

“Jack Nelson was a wonderful chairman, in the 11 years I was at the club he never interfered once. The finance was there every week. There was never a slip up.

“I think everyone was pleased with themselves. It would have been lovely had we have won the league but we just got on with it and looked at the next season.

“We knew pretty early on that season that we could do ­something. It had been a long time since the club had done ­anything.

“Everyone was getting excited in the dressing room even after one game. Then Robin Gonzalez piped up in his usual quiet manner, ‘Don’t worry lads, ­another 41 games to go’. He probably felt something but brought them down to the earth. He was like that all of the time, he had a great ­temperament.

“Robin and Adrian Hill were the central defenders, they were both very calm. Dave Cobb and even the left-back Ken Grose, they were all nice, level-headed boys.

“We just wanted to establish ourselves and it was a couple of years after that that we won the County Cup, which was a first for Croydon.”

Croydon FCBACK ROW FROM LEFT TO RIGHT

1. Mac Mackenzie (trainer): He lived in Dulwich, south London, and has worked as a clerk in local government for many years.

2. Les Setters: A company director with cleaning busine­sses Strand and OCS. Lives in East Grinstead, Sussex.

3. Adrian Hill: He lives in Sutton, Surrey, and spent his working life as a postman until retiring two years ago.

4. John Sears: John is still living in the Surrey area and worked in commercial printing for 40 years. His son Paul was on the books of Crystal Palace and Brentford.

5. Kelvin Roots: He worked for 35 years in the chemical industry and is now managing director of his own chemical wholesale business, Kemico Ltd, in Oxted, Surrey.

6. David Cobb: An England amateur international goalkeeper who was a PE Teacher at Alleyn’s School in Dulwich until retiring to Norfolk.

7. Ken Grose: After working as a glass blower, he moved down to the Sussex coast and now lives in Lewes, East Sussex.

8. Mike Denton: Australian international played for Croydon while on a working holiday. Worked in customer services and as a supply officer in Burnie, Tasmania, and has coached at Burnie United for 39 years.

9. Robin Gonzalez: An England amateur cap who worked in sales until his death in Bromley, Kent, in March 1985 from gas poisoning, aged 34.

10. Ted Shepherd (manager): Spent a decade in charge of Croydon and he is still working in the rag trade at the age of 72, selling textiles and fabrics.

FRONT ROW FROM LEFT TO RIGHT

11. Alan Prime: He has worked in the insurance and re-insurance industry for the past 40 years and is a director of Charles Taylor.

12. Brian Woozley: Lives in Crowborough, East Sussex, and worked in administration before becoming a policeman. His nephew David played for Crystal Palace and Crawley.

13. Fred Sterling: He worked for Martin O’Toole in the construction business, then ran Red House Farm in Hailsham, East Sussex. He died in March 2013.

14. Bernie Merron: Now based in Surbiton, Surrey, and has earned a living working as a ­surveyor.

15. Martin O’Toole: He has been running the family building company based in Sudbury-on-Thames for many years.

16. Cliff Hall: A former professional with Charlton, he worked for British Telecom as an engineer and then a manager before taking early retirement at the age of 50.

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