IT IS hard today to be a non-league club in London given the massive distractions that people have in the metropolis. Competing with Football League clubs is a tough task for non-leaguers and Hendon have always had to contend with Arsenal and Tottenham to name but two. The club has, sadly, been in decline for some time, a condition not helped by the loss of their Claremont Road home. Better times may be ahead for the club that once stood astride non-league football as they have moved into a new ground at Silver Jubilee Park.
Formerly known as Hampstead Town and Golders Green, the club adopted its current name after the second world war. The first golden spell came in the 1950s, three Athenian League titles between 1952 and 1961 and the FA Amateur Cup in 1960. Success was almost ongoing, for in the mid-1960s, Hendon reached two more Amateur Cup finals and between 1954-55 and 1971-72, they played five times at Wembley Stadium, winning on three occasions.
In 1963, Hendon joined the Isthmian League along with a number of other non-league notables. They finished runners-up in their debut campaign, finishing six points behind Wimbledon, who promptly turned professional and defected to the Southern League.
Hendon were coached by Ronnie Burgess, the former Tottenham and Wales player. He was the captain of Spurs’ famous “push and run” team of the early 1950s that won the Football League Championship. Burgess had a very attack-minded approach and this was reflected in Hendon’s output. In 1963-64, Hendon scored 124 goals in 38 Isthmian League games, 37 more than champions Wimbledon.
In 1964-65, Hendon not only won the Isthmian League, but were triumphant at Wembley in the FA Amateur Cup final. They also reached the FA Cup first round, narrowly losing to Port Vale after beating Leyton, Ford United, Leytonstone and Slough.
The Isthmian League title was secured after a play-off with Enfield. The two sides ended on 53 points apiece and under the league rules, they had to meet to decide top place. Hendon won 4-1 at Dulwich Hamlet. They netted 123 goals in their 38 league games and their only three defeats came away from home.
It was a Hendon team packed with talent and flair. John Swannell, the goalkeeper, won 61 England caps and was widely regarded as amateur football’s top custodian. Goals came from centre forward Peter Slade, England international inside right David Hyde, who possessed a powerful shot, inside left Jimmy Quail, a Northern Ireland international with perceptive passing skills, and winger Danny Lakey. The skipper was Bobby Cantwell, who also played for Barnet and Enfield. Roy Sleap, who had previously been with Barnet, represented Great Britain in the Olympics. Roy Drake was another with experience of Barnet and could occasionally produce spectacular goals. Defender John Evans was a Welsh international.
Six days before winning the league, Hendon won the FA Amateur Cup for the second time in their history. Their cup run started just two days into 1965 at Sutton. They came from a goal down to win 2-1 at Gander Green Lane, thanks to second half goals from Peter Slade and David Hyde. On a heavy pitch, Hendon won through the second round by 5-1 against Leytonstone, who only a few weeks earlier had beaten Hendon 6-3. They hit five again in the next round, this time against Carshalton Athletic. Then came a trip north to Whitley Bay with 600 Hendon fans travelling up for the quarter-final tie. Their team played magnificently and won 3-1, with Hyde (2) and Slade on the scoresheet.
The semi-final, at Highbury, was a local derby with Athenian League side Finchley. Hendon cruised to the final, winning 4-1 – Hendon would face Whitby Town of the Northern League at Wembley.
Played in front of 45,000 people, Hendon were firm favourites and when Whitby’s key man, Maurice Crosthwaite was injured early on, victory seemed inevitable. To counter this setback, Whitby played a very negative game and held on to half-time. Hendon had constantly been caught offside but they worked it out at the interval and scored after 48 minutes through Hyde. Nine minutes later, Quail added a second before Whitby pulled one back. Right near the end, after both teams had struck the woodwork, Hendon added a third, Hyde grabbing his second goal.
Hendon were certainly the top side in amateur football in 1965 and they went so close to repeating the trick in 1966. They lost out in the Isthmian League by just two points, despite scoring another 111 goals, and were runners-up in the FA Amateur Cup final, losing 3-1 to Wealdstone. Hendon won the cup again in 1972, but Claremont Road regulars have rarely had it as good as they did in the mid-1960s when their forward line was one to be feared…