During our nine seasons in the top flight from 1959 to 1968, we were always the poor relations. This was despite having the England Captain Johnny Haynes, FIFA World Cup winner George Cohen and several other outstanding players (Alan Mullery, Graham Leggat, Tony Macedo, etc) in our teams.
We were thought to lack the glamour and ambition of the bigger London clubs, and those from Manchester and Liverpool. And nowhere was this perceived lack of top class status more apparent than Craven Cottage itself.
Still, little changed from the Archibald Leitch development of 1905; three sides of the ground were uncovered, only the Stevenage Road stand offered any seating and it was the only (old) First Division club that had no floodlights. Winter games kicked off at 2.15pm and midweek games in the spring and autumn at 6.15pm. Even in 1962, the Cottage had its own mystic charm, but was clearly behind the times.
In the summer of 1962, the board took steps to improve the facilities and agreed to the installation of floodlighting. True to their parsimonious traditions, however, the directors did not pay for the lights. They spent what money they had bringing Bobby Robson back to Craven Cottage and the estimated £25,000 cost of the lights was met by the Supporters Club.
Bad weather caused some delay in completing the work and the original target date of 29th August 1962 for the game against Sheffield United had to be put back to 19th September, when Sheffield Wednesday were the visitors. The 22,625 crowd got full value for turning out on a Wednesday evening.
The season had started badly. Any advantage we had hoped to gain from the return of Robson was soon cancelled out when Haynes was badly injured in a car crash after only two games. He missed virtually the entire season. We had won only one and lost five (including the first game against Wednesday at Hillsborough a week earlier) of our first eight games and were next to bottom of the table. Wednesday, on the other hand, with four wins and two draws from their first eight games, were comfortably placed at seventh.
The form book was turned upside down as the Club switched on a new era and the star of the show was centre forward Maurice Cook. But it was young Stan Brown who claimed the first goal under the new Cottage lights on the half hour. He hit a first time shot on the turn at close range from Tosh Chamberlain’s low centre which gave England goalkeeper Ron Springett no chance.
Then Cook struck. He was on the edge of the penalty area when he fastened onto Johnny Key’s corner kick. His second came two minutes later when he beat Quinn and Megson on the inside and shot hard and low with the outside of his foot into the right hand corner of the net. His third was initially disallowed for offside by the referee but he changed his mind after consulting the linesman. Cook completed his hat-trick early in the second half and it had come in just 10 minutes of playing time.
Cook even hit the bar late in the game, after Wednesday had scored a consolation goal. This was a stinging half volley by centre forward David ‘Bronco’ Layne with 20 minutes remaining. He and two of his Wednesday teammates that evening – centre half Peter Swan and left half Tony Kay – were later banned for life in a match-fixing scandal that rocked football in the mid-1960s. Kay was by then an Everton player, and a member of a championship winning team, and Swan was the current England centre-half.