We've mentioned Workington a few times in the past and I suspect the idea of us ever playing them in the Football League must appear preposterous to a few people. Not to be disrespectful in any way but, good grief, it was almost like Barnstaple having a team in the Football League.
Hang on, that's unfair to Workington; a small town which, for many years, managed to support both professional football and rugby league. And, indeed, the football club still has a toehold on the sixth tier of English football where - like those years in the 1970s - they're facing Stockport County once again.
I rather fancy there was talk of a few of us sixth formers going to that Sunday game in 1974. Unfortunately fate intervened and we didn't make it. Forty years later I can't remember if that was due to insufficient numbers on the supporters' coach or a sudden outbreak of excuses based around the forthcoming A levels. Maybe, of course, the knowledge of Wallace Arnold's coach drivers didn't extend beyond Keswick and the seven-day fully-inclusive "Lakes and Fells Tour".
Run-of-the-mill programmes for the most part I guess; a mixture of low-budget 1970s design and dullish content that was stuck in the immediate past. The name of the local journo Ivor Broadis stands out - "the North's Leading Sportswriter" indeed. That's the proper "North" as in the way the Newcastle media usually speaks of the North East (Southerners begin at Darlington don't you know). Broadis had played for England, managed Carlisle and had also appeared for both Manchester clubs, Newcastle and Sunderland. Not bad for a boy who, Wiki records, was born on the Isle of Dogs.
a mixture of low-budget 1970s design and dullish content that was stuck in the immediate past.
Barton finds the perfect words to describe the selection of cars being exported from behind the Iron Curtain in the mid 1970's. If you did decide to buy there was always the suspicion that you might be over charged as the Graham family did seem to have a stranglehold over car sales in the Workington area at the time. While J.R Graham catered for the patriotic Brit willing to take a chance on something rolling off Leyland's production line on a Friday afternoon, a teenage Felix would require something more ideologically sound, and so would have to head out towards Aspatria way, and call in at Ron's 'Prospect Garage'.
£640 for a 1972 Wartburg Knight ? One careful Borough Park season ticket holding owner no doubt, but it's still a lot of cash to part with. The Wartburg 353 was known as the 'Knight' in certain export markets including Britain, and if you were struggling to beat Ron down to below £600, there was always the thought that maintenance costs shouldn't be too steep.
'The Wartburg 353 was the creation of the former German BMW production facilities (called EMW under Soviet occupation). It was based on a 1938 design, and powered by an engine with only seven major moving parts, crankshaft included. Popular saying among owners hence that one drives a car but only maintains a motorcycle'. WIKI.
Used extensively as Stasi staff cars back at home, a surprising number of Knight's found their way to the British Isles.
'However, for all of the 353's apparent modernity – independent suspension with telescopic torsion bars and a floor-mounted gear lever, no less – its chassis was still reassuringly pre-war, its transmission initially remained three-speed, and its engine was still guaranteed to belch out clouds of blue smoke in time-honoured two-stroke fashion.
But for the UK market at which the Wartburg Knight was aimed, these anachronisms barely counted. For less than £700 – or the price of a fairly sparsely equipped Ford Anglia or Vauxhall Viva – the proud Wartburg- owner gained a five-seater Cortina-sized car, complete with two-speed wipers, a cigar lighter, reversing lamps, reclining front seats, and many other items of standard equipment with which to wow suburbia.
At a time when less than 10 per cent of all new cars on British roads were imported, the apparent value for money offered by the Knight was enough to counter any accusations of being unpatriotic – and in any case, there was a certain cachet in owning a car with a name your neighbours couldn't pronounce'.
However, if you did walk away from Ron's forecourt telling yourself you'd prefer to save up for a brand new 'Knight' instead, you'd have to be quick about it, and maybe have to sacrifice trips to watch Workington and handing over your pennies to the Borough Park turnstile men, as imports of the Wartburg Knight came to an end in 1976.
Ah Wartburgs and Aspatria. That sounds a heady mix to me and I now have a picture in my mind of that small Cumberland town acting as the Stasi's UK nerve centre. I suspect this activity may have been conducted through the channels of the Aspatria Agricultural Co-operative Society. A red front, surely?
So what happened to that second-hand East German import on Ron's forecourt? With forthcoming away trips to Brentford and Newport County I'd not be surprised if the "Aspatria Reds" (in the footballing sense) wanted a new car for their leisurely tour of the Southern counties and Welsh borders. I bet there's a picture somewhere of it parked in front of Tintern Abbey.
Or maybe Stuart Boyd, featured in that programme and fan of Tommy Smith (another notorious red enforcer), fell for Ron's sales patter and saw a snazzy motor from the DDR as the perfect fit with his new image as "Man About Workington". Sadly for Stuart, who never wanted to be anything other than a footballer, his Football League career only amounted to a handful of games for Workington. In which case his beloved "szocialista autók" was probably back on the forecourt within a few months.