I was reminded, as Rory McIlroy won the British Open today, about an interview Fred Eyre and myself did for our book “What a Game” back in 1983 with that silky commentator who makes Golf seem so easy from the sidelines, PETER ALLISS.
Peter is now 83 years old, born the son of a professional golfer at one of Berlin’s plushest golf clubs with the family quite settled in Germany into the outbreak of the Second World War, when the Allis family needed to make a break back to England, then playing the golf clubs of Dorset.
There, Peter became an avid football fan of Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic as they were then known. Generally playing in the Third Division South in 1957 they were elevated to the back pages of all the sports papers as they embarked on a cup run which saw them defeat two of the games ’Big guns’, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur. This produced a sixth round tie between Bournemouth and high flying Manchester United, the famous Busby Babes on the edge of a possible treble. Leading the league as defending champions, in the semi final of the new European Cup where they were to meet the previous season’s first winners, Real Madrid and in the quarter finals of the FA Cup.
A full house of 28,799 record crowd, crammed into Dean Court hoping the locals could reach the semi final for the first time in their history. Naturally, young golfer Peter Allis was ‘wedged’ in amongst them. He remembered the times. “The whole town was gripped by cup fever, the excitement in the town was something I’d never seen before, all the shops decked out in red and white with everybody sporting the club’s colours.”
Every season a personality seemed to emerge in the FA Cup run, in 1957 it was Bournemouth’s inside forward Ollie Norris who made himself a right nuisance by jumping up and down at throw in’s. His antics seemed to unsettle the young United side, who were not helped by losing centre half Mark Jones after ten minutes, which with no substitutes in those days made it eleven against ten.
Peter remembered what happened next. “With it being against ten men United I thought this could be one of those amazing turn ups which made the cup. When our centre forward Bedford scored just before half time and straight away we missed a sitter it looked as though this could really be one of them.”
Matt Busby got his side organised at half time, Duncan Edwards going to centre half in place of Jones, and the team powered forward. Outside Right Johnny Berry was a magnificent player, older than most of the side, and it was him who equalised. With a replay looking on the cards, it was Berry again who stepped up to score a vital penalty which put this fantastic Manchester United side into the semi finals of the FA Cup.
It left a lasting effect on Peter Allis. “Living in the Bournemouth area I rarely got to see the top players, but you could see the class of this fabulous side. After this tie, I adopted Manchester United as my favourite ‘big time team’ although Bournemouth is always my local side. I went a lot to Old Trafford, the skill of Crerand, the electrifying dashes of Law and his cheerful arrogance, the power of Charlton, the terrier like activities of Stiles and of course, Best… whose skills were quite magical.”
“He had that indefinable something that is given to very few. In my world of golf Sevvy Ballesteros was blessed with it, whilst certainly Jack Nicklaus had that mentality. It is something only the very great have and allied to it is a deep desire to win.”
Peter Allis is a man above whom more than any other brought golf into the home. His relaxed and thoroughly professional manner has increased the games popularity and enhanced his reputation as a television personality in his own right.
As one of his colleagues at the BBC told me,”Peter Allis looks as though he’s spent all his life with a microphone in his hand… not a golf club.”
I could not have ‘putt’ it better myself!
Manchester United’s side v Bournemouth FA Cup 6th round March 1957; WOOD, FOULKES, BYRNE, COLMAN, JONES, McGUINNESS, BERRY, WHELAN, EDWARDS, VIOLLET and PEGG.