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Former team mates meet up after 52 years

Len Vallard, 71 and George Buck, 70 last saw each other when George  Reading to join Stockport County in 1960. They had made 42 and 32 appearances respectively for the Biscuitmen.The emotional reunion took place at Royals match with Leeds on Good Friday and the pair soon began exchanging memories. Along with goalkeeper George Marks they had shared digs at the home of long serving groundsman Bill Smith in St Georges Road.Mr Vallard said: “Mrs Smith would wake us in the mornings with a cup tea and biscuits and our meals were always ready on the table whenever we returned from training or a night out.“We had some great times together but it was all very innocent. After training most of us players would walk down the Kensington Road to the Gainsborough Cafe, next to the Curzon club on the Oxford Road for nothing more than a pot of tea and a round of sandwiches. “In fact, that’s where I met my wife Bobbie and where her mum Maureen was the manageress.” Wednesday’s was our time off and the club would bus us up to Goring and Streatley Golf club where we would enjoy a couple of rounds of Golf.” Mr Buck's memories were equally fond. He said: “Bill was a great man. The only problem was that, if he was still up when returned home late at night, he always insisted that you play him at a game of cards before you could go to bed!” Both formed part of manager Harry Johnstone’s youth policy of introducing mainly home-grown young players into the squad which included local youngsters Maurice Evans, Dick Spiers, Gordon Neate, Douggie Webb, Ray Reeves and Ray Hudson.Mr Buck said: “Harry Johnston was a great influence on me. He would always speak to me before games and encourage me. One day he introduced me to the great England legend Tom Finney and said to Tom 'watch this boy, he’ll play for England one day'. “The club were desperate for money at the time and the chairman Jimmy Carter wanted to sell me. Johnston stepped in, went against the chairman’s wishes and refused to let me go.” Another influence on Mr Buck was the senior player and captain, Johnny Walker. He said: “I remember we were having a training run around Prospect Park, and Johnny told me we should take up the rear. As we were half-way through the first lap, Johnny pulled me back and we dived into the bushes where he lit up a cigarette and enjoyed a smoke. “As the players came round for the second lap, we rejoined the end of the group to finish the run.” On another occasion the team was driven to Goring and left to run back to Elm Park but managed to get a lift most of the way.Both men are now retired with Mr Vallard living with his wife Bobbie in Tilehurst and Mr Buck recently widowed, living in Abingdon, Oxfordshire.

20 April 2012

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