Hemel Lads or Hemelads?

Soccer memories from Hemel Hempstead 1972-1974

This post deals with my soccer years. If you have any memories of the team players, games, or additional pictures, etc., please leave a comment, use the contact form, or get in touch. I’m truly disappointed I don’t have a picture of the Highfield School teams. You can click on any of the pictures to see a larger version and save them. Enjoy.

As far as I recall, I was playing on school teams and Sunday league teams from the age of eight until I was nearly seventeen. I played for Highfield Junior, Highfield Senior School, Dagsdell FC, Hemelads FC, and the Hemel Hempstead Town team and reserves. I was also fortunate enough to get selected for the West Herts school team, the Hertfordshire county team, and played one game for the South East Counties team.

In the spring of 1975, we received a letter from Dario Gradi, then assistant coach at Chelsea, to attend a tryout/coaching session. Sadly, I never made it; that summer, I injured my knee in a game in Berkhamsted. While I went on to play soccer again, and injured my knee again, I never got another invitation to Chelsea. In 1978, I had a motorcycle crash, in which I suffered a compound fracture of my right tib/fib as well as a concussion. I spent two weeks in a medically induced coma, including my 21st birthday, while the doctors tried to work out how to save my leg. Just before that, I played for Borehamwood and scored a couple of goals.

My soccer career came to an inglorious end in 1984/85. Playing indoor soccer for Shep Messing’s Soccer World in New York, I was involved in an ice hockey-style bench-clearing brawl. After the game, I realized that at age 26/27, married with a daughter, this just wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore.

I have not looked in the boxes of my youth memorabilia for a very long time. The main, team picture was just posted to Instagram by my childhood friend Mike Gillespie, asking if I knew who the other team members were.

I can do much better than that; I have two copies of the actual match program and a press report cutting from the April 26th, 1974 issue of the Hemel Gazette, Page 13. At the time, I was playing for the Under-16 Hemel Lads team on Sundays, the Hemel Hempstead Reserve team on Saturday afternoons, and our school team, Highfield Secondary, on Saturday mornings. It’s exhausting now even to think about doing that much activity. Micky Harris, who was between Steve Woolfrey (holding the cup) and me, played for the Mountbatten school team and the other teams with me. Micky was the best striker I played with.

Under-16, Highfield S.C. 1 Hemelads 7

Hemelads had an early chance of scoring when a shot was cleared off the line by Martin Hewitt. Hemelads pressure soon told when Chris Nash scored (2) and Mike Ham’s[Harris] (1). In The second half Chris Nash scored a hat-trick and Steve Woolfrey (1) bringing Hemelads total to seven goals. A few minutes from full-time, Robert Piper scored Highfield’s solitary goal.

Hemel Hempstead Gazette, April 26th, 1974
Backrow, left - unsure, unsure, unsure, Colin French, Paul Stewart(goal keeper), Dave Pullen, Chris Nash,
Frontrow, left - unsure, Steve Bryant, Steve Woolfrey, Micky Harris, Mark Cathcart

Which leaves, Martin Barkley, Kevin Sanderson, John Richardson, Mark Patterson(left backrow?), Steve Brownsell.

Hemelads Open Day 1974 – End of An Era

These pictures were for a later open day for the club to celebrate the season. They were taken at the club’s ground just south of the “magic roundabout” near the Grand Union Canal. The final picture of the three has the team manager, Steve Woolfrey’s dad.

Chaulden Activities?

The press clippings here shows the team name Chaulden Activitists/Activities, my dad has written the match date on it, 13th December, 1974. I really don’t recall ever playing for Chaulden Activists. I can only assume that since Hemelads only had teams to Under-16, Steve’s dad kept us together as a team to play in an adult league.

In addition to the program, press cutting, and the pictures from the Hemel Gazette, I still have the medals I won that season. I’ve had a box with all this stuff in for 40+ years in moves from the UK to New York(1983); back to the UK(1986); UK to New York(2004); New York to Austin Texas(2006) and Austin to Louisville, Colorado 2015. They were all corporate moves, except 1986, and 2015 otherwise I’m sure I would have jettisoned the box years ago.

Winner, HHML U16 1973-4 Season; Presidents Cup Winners 1973-4; HHML Representative 1974

Hemelads Represent England in Scottish Competition 1973

Bravely, Hemelads took a couple of coach loads of kids up to Scotland to play in the Tudor Cup in the summer of 1972. As far as I recall we stayed in peoples homes, I remember being in a 1950’s terraced house on a slope in Glasgow. I don’t have any pictures from that trip, but I do have the tournament program.

West Herts Schoolboys Team

Hertfordshire Schools Team

If I remember correctly, I didn’t get invited to tryouts for the Hertfordshire Schoolboy team, but Adey Wilson from our school did. I skipped school that afternoon, or the tryouts were after school. Adey’s dad drove us to the tryout/practice and the first our PhysEd/Soccer Coach Mr. (Pat) Smith knew about it was when this letter arrived. He was both angry and pleased.

Hemel Hempstead (Reserves) 1973, 1974, 1975

As far as I recall, I didn’t play for the full Hemel Town FC. However, it’s not clear from these programs and cuttings which were full team games and which were reserves. I find it hard to believe now that as a 15-16 year old, I’d have been playing against full-grown men, possibly twice my age.


I remember taking part in school’s athletic competitions, or as the Americans call them “meets”. I seem to recall doing High Jump and 400m, and maybe 100m. I came close to winning the district high jump competition a couple of times, but was always beaten by Ray Parker (not the Ghostbusters’ Ray Parker).

‘Up The Blues’

My Grandad had a disabled pass that got him into Watford and Chelsea games. We used to go as a family—Grandad, Uncle Bill, Cousin Ian, Billy, my dad, and me. It was a great time to be both a Chelsea and Watford fan. That’s another whole box of stuff.

5 thoughts on “Hemel Lads or Hemelads?

    1. Ha! Who knew?

      Did you mean the Red and Black XL250R CKX 571T? I had three, the 250 Yellow/Balck, and the 125SL silver/black.The 125/250

  1. Hemel lads had a good team in late 70’s most of which played for The Halsey school football team. Great memories

    1. Yes we ( hemel lads and Halsey school ) had a very good team in the late 70’s about 9 played for Halsey school and Hemel lads with the exception of a prolific number 9 from Hemel school named Paul ….. fantastic memories….

      1. Indeed, good times. My knees are not doing so well, but 50-years on I still have both the originals which is unbelievable really. Going to get the right one replaced this year though…

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