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Fred Morris Magazine Article

Fred Morris

Feature article of our time spent with Tonbridge Angels oldest living player.

On Friday evening, Tonbridge Angels will be celebrating 75 years as a professional football club with a special event in which players, managers and staff through the years will be welcomed and celebrated as Legends.

One face will sadly be missing, that of Fred Morris who is unable to attend the evening through ill health. Fred, a fleet-of-foot left winger, is the oldest surviving ex-player that we have been able locate. Fred is now 89 years old and still lives here in Tonbridge.

To make sure Fred was duly acknowledged we went along to his home to reminisce with him and he had some stories to tell!

As a youngster, he spent his time as a competitive sportsman at Tonbridge Boys’ Club on Shipbourne Road, where he played football, table tennis and boxed to a high standard winning the Kent Boys Club title for four successive years.

In 1953 he joined the RAF but, as he had entered a boxing tournament, his father wrote to the Air Force asking if his call up could be deferred. They agreed and he duly won the tournament.

When he returned to Tonbridge in 1955, he played for Ramblers in the Tonbridge and District League alongside Paddy Leonard, who was also to represent Tonbridge Football Club.

Fred was asked to trial at the Angel Ground and played in a Probables v Possibles game that were a feature of pre-season in the 1950’s. He duly impressed and was asked to sign by then manager Douglas Hunt. He scored in one of his opening games for the Reserves, laying the ball on a plate for Ashton, who duly passed it back to him and told Fred to put it in the net!

He played alongside many names that decorate the Angels history. Fred recalled the time when goalkeeper Tommy Bickerstaff was injured during a Metropolitan League match at Windsor & Eton and had to play as a passenger outfield, whilst Norman Hooper took over between the sticks. Fred scored four times, in what was his 100th appearance, and the Angels romped home 5-2.

Other names tripped of the tongue, Bobby Hailstones, Harry Robshaw who had arrived from Spurs and the legendary Jimmy Constantine. There were enormously long distance away games in the days before motorways existed, but long trips to Hereford and Weymouth brought his first Southern League goals. There was one trip to Merthyr Tydfil that lives in Fred’s memory as an eight hour journey ended only to find the game was postponed.

In his second season with Tonbridge, he was joined in the squad by Ron Saunders. “Powerful man, he was always destined to go on, which he did at Portsmouth”. Also in that squad, was Dougie Reid, “ah, bow-legged Dougie” he joked. “Great half-back though, so strong.”

Freddie remembered players such as Cliff Payton and Jimmy Boswell. He also recounted the sad story of Jack Tresadern, who died on Boxing Day 1959, the players only finding out as they arrived at Didcot Town for a Metropolitan League fixture.

On his departure from the Angel Ground at the end of season 1959/60 he was working in London, when his boss asked him if he would join Ilford, but he found the travelling to and from training and matches too tiring and decided to leave at the end of the season.

He joined Bromley before moving on to Herne Bay, where four of the squad were from Orpington where Fred lived at the time. 

He went on to play for Tunbridge Wells United, then playing at the Old Showground, which is now the housing estate at Ramslye. During his time at the Wells, he played against Jackie Milburn, the legendary ex-Newcastle United centre forward, who was playing for Yiewsley.

He ended his career at Eastbourne in 1968 where he suffered a cruciate injury that was to end his playing days after an entanglement with an opposing goalkeeper.

Away from football, cricket has been a lasting passion. A slow, left arm spinner he played for Tunbridge Wells Cricket Club, but his lasting impression on the willow and leather game is with the Heffle Cuckoos, a touring cricket club that has toured Devon continuously since 1947, that’s one year longer than the Football Club we are celebrating on Friday!

Fred was the prime organiser of the tour each year covering fixtures, hotel accommodation and secretarial work with only one other person as Treasurer. In more recent years, he has been relieved of his operational duties, but remains as the President of the Club.

Fred has recorded a message on video to be shown at the Legends Evening, in which he wishes everybody a lovely evening and we wish you the best possible health for the future, Fred.

Published Wednesday 22nd November 2023