A school football team dubbed the ‘champion losers’ for ending their 1973 season without a win have kept up the losing streak at a reunion match half a century on.
Ageing members of the original squad overcame aches and pains to play against a team largely made up of their children – and lost 6-2. The result will not have come as a surprise to the players.
The former Downham Feoffees Primary School Under-10s team have met up to play every ten years since their ignominious record became national news in their youth. They have yet to taste victory.
Speaking of the latest defeat, organiser and midfielder Keith Missin, 60, said: ‘I think we were given the goals. The ref was on our side, he was the brother of one of our players.
‘We’re all about 60. I could see the ball coming over and I wanted to run – I had it in my mind what I wanted to do but I just couldn’t do it.’
The former Downham Feoffees Primary School Under-10s team have met up to play every team years since their ignomious record became national news in their youth
The team reunited 50 years later and posed for another photo ahead of their latest match
The team met up again in 1983, 10 years after their infamous winless season, only to keep their losing streak going with a 7-5 defeat
In 1993 the team lost 4-2 as their rotten luck continued (pictured). In 2003 they fell to a 5-4 defeat while they were beaten 4-1 in 2013
Despite their very long winless streak as youths, the players (pictured here in 1973) seemed to enjoy playing the game
Another player, Brian King, joked: ‘We are very consistent.’
Mr King, who travelled from Seattle to take part, added: ‘I’ve always loved coming back and I’m grateful to have been able to combine playing with seeing some family.’
The team were originally put together by Tony Hurlin, headmaster of the primary school in the Cambridgeshire village of Little Downham.
They played around a dozen matches in their green and white striped shirts but got thrashed every time, even though their enthusiasm remained undiminished.
‘Our school was so small that we didn’t have enough ten-year-olds, so we had to use nine-year-olds and eight-year-olds.
That’s why I’m 60 but my friend who came from Seattle is 58,’ said Mr Missin, a plumber.
‘We never thought, ‘What’s the point?’ It was about playing and running around and enjoying ourselves. Our hearts were in it all the time. We went out expecting to win but never did.’
As the team bravely soldiered on they came to national attention and the starstruck boys were handed replica England squad strips and offered tickets to an old First Division match between Arsenal and Manchester City.
They were also invited to take on other youth teams outside their area – repeatedly losing.
Keith Missin runs with the ball during the latest reunion match, where their winless streak continued with a 6-2 loss
The two captains stand on the centre circle as the coin is flipped to decide which team will kick off first
The players shake hands with the opposition after the game which was held on Saturday, November 4, in Little Downham, Cambridgeshire
Some players travelled from far afield to make the game, with one determined athlete coming from Seattle in the United States
Despite their advancing years there is already talk of a 2033 reunion when most of the team would be 70 year’s old
Mr Missin said he enjoyed getting together with friends and set up the first reunion match in 1983 as an excuse to relive the old times. They lost 7-5, with scorelines of 4-2 in 1993, a tantalisingly close-run 5-4 in 2003, and 4-1 in 2013.
Mr Missin, a married father-of-two, still lives in the village where he regularly received a drubbing on the school pitch, as well as at away matches, while other players travelled from places including Oxfordshire and Yorkshire.
One participant in Saturday’s game on a recreation ground next to the school bravely shook off ‘grogginess’ following a hospital visit for a perforated eardrum, only to pull a leg muscle shortly into the game.
Neither of Mr Missin’s sons took part – one lives in Hungary, while the other refused because he was worried he would ‘end up hurting me’.
Despite the advancing years, there is already talk of a 2033 reunion, when everyone will be around 70 – even though Mr Missin predicted his squad would have the agility of ‘Subbuteo players’.
‘I’m thinking I’ve got some grandchildren and they’ll be about 16 when we next play,’ he added. ‘We’ll make it happen – God bless we’re all still alive.’