John McCormick writes: It was an easy walk from our house to the railway bridge where, if you timed it right, you could be enveloped by the steam emitted from the likes of the Flying Scotsman and the Mallard as they thundered up and down the line between London and Newcastle (our thoughts never went further north). Only now, while looking for material to embellish this tale, have I found out what class of engine they were.

Pete Sixsmith, of course, knew. Is there nothing this man cannot turn his hand to?


I suppose the first time I ever saw Peterborough United’s London Road ground was in 1958 when I may have glimpsed it from the carriage window as I made my first visit to that there London.

My father had been down there on a training course for his then employers, the Regent Oil Company and he had stayed over and met my mother, me and my two siblings at London Kings Cross, then a smoky, dirty station, totally different from the Harry Bloody Potter themed shopping mall with a few trains attached that it is now. We had left Leeds Central Station on a train pulled by an A3 class engine and I vaguely remember that being the greatest disappointment of my life (up until then) as I was banking on the locomotive being one of Sir Nigel Gresley’s magnificent A4s or streaks as they were known to train spotters of my age.

London Road would have been passed two hours out of Leeds. It was then the home of a Midland League club, it may have had floodlights, but it was of absolutely zero interest to me as it had low posts and nets rather than the tall, vertical sticks that signified a rugby league ground.

The Moys (not him) End at the ABAX (Richard Humphrey)

Over the years, I must have passed London Road more than any other ground in the country as I expanded on my inaugural trip to the nations capital, and I have seen the stadium develop from a collection of cowsheds with corrugated iron roofs and traditional tall floodlights into what is now The ABAX Stadium and which looks very similar to many other redeveloped traditional grounds.

We have played there three times and have won two and lost one. Our first ever visit to the city that claims Catherine of Aragon as one of its own (she is buried in the Cathedral) was on the 7th November, 1992 a season which almost saw us fall into the third level under Malcolm Crosby and then Terry Butcher.

Malcolm was in charge when we travelled down the A1 on what was a typical November day. We had reached the FA Cup final the previous season but had not strengthened the team. Shaun Cunnington, Jeremy Robson’s bête noir par excellence, had arrived from Grimsby for somewhere in the region of £800,000 and Terry Butcher had been brought in after an inauspicious stint as manager at Coventry City.

And that was it. The likes of Anton Rogan and David Rush were still turning out along with the nucleus of the teams that had got us back into Division One twice. Throw in Don Goodman, a decent player and a more than decent pundit (far better than Mr Anodyne aka Jermaine Jenas who seemed bored by the City v Spurs game on Wednesday) and there was a decent side trying to get out of the poor choices that Malcolm Crosby made on a weekly basis.

For this game we lined up thus;

Tim Carter; John Kay, Anton Rogan, Dickie Ord, Gary Owers; Brian Atkinson, Kevin Ball, Shaun Cunnington, Gordon Armstrong; Don Goodman, Peter Davenport. Subs; Terry Butcher (for Rogan 62); David Rush (for Cunnington 67)

The Posh’s team was;

Ian Bennett; Darren Bradshaw, Lee Howarth, Steve Welsh, Ronnie Robinson; Worrell Sterling, Mick Halsall, Gary Cooper, Marcus Ebdon; Tony Adcock, Tony Philliskirk sub; Noel Luke (for Bradshaw 64); Dominic Iorfa (for Philiskirk, 74).

Tony Philliskirk: playing career

Philliskirk was a Sunderland lad. His father had been a teacher in the city and was heavily involved with Sunderland Schools FA but Tony was not picked up by what passed for our scouting system in those days and went to Sheffield United where he scored an average of a goal every four games. He moved around a fair bit; Peterborough was his sixth club and the first one outside of the north of England. He had done well at Bolton Wanderers and did well enough on the edge of the Fens to earn moves to Burnley and Cardiff City – although both clubs were considerably lower than their current exalted status.

He did us once in this game, early in the second half after Peter Davenport’s 50th minute penalty cancelled out Tony Adcock’s early opener for United.

It might have been better if Dav had missed that one as it stung Peterborough into action as they realised that our defenders were not the quickest and that our central defenders were susceptible to both pace and power.

Philliskirk restored the lead in the 57th minute, Adcock made it 3 a minute later and Gary Cooper, fresh from High Noon, wrapped the game up on the hour. David Rush, on for the perpetually disappointing Cunnington gave a glimmer of hope when he made it 4-2 in the 77th minute, only for Philliskirk’s replacement, Dominic Iorfa to make it 5-2 immediately from the restart.

Poor old Malcolm didn’t last long after that, departing in January after a dreadful home defeat to Watford and he was replaced by Terry Butcher who did his best to take us down as we stayed up on the last day despite losing at Notts County.

I travelled that day in my new Renault Clio, a car that had a radio that you could flick through and an immobiliser that made it harder to steal. I went with the much-missed Stephen Wilson and (maybe) his brother Nigel and nephew Paul. Paul’s own son, Oliver, is following in the Wilson family tradition and wears the red and white proudly.

I have since been there a number of times.

I was there in 20012 when Martin O’Neill’s team had a comfortable win in the FA Cup, thanks to goals from Seb Larsson and James McClean and I have also seen non-league games in the city and used it as a base for groundhopping weekends.

I remember a couple of good weekends there, which always seemed to end up in The Coal Heavers Arms (a pub, not a sexual conquest) which is a ten minute walk from the ground. It is highly recommended if a little difficult to find, tucked away as it is. There is also a barge on the river that dispenses proper beer and I got quite drunk in there one night; my pal Steve Williams, die-hard Tranmere Rovers fan – even more so, as he walked three miles to get back to his hotel, which was only ten minutes away. Bloody ring roads!!!

This was written before the Doncaster game, which was our most important game of the season. Having won that one, the Peterborough game takes on that mantle. And if that is a win, the title goes to the Portsmouth game. And so on, and so on…….

Ha’way The Lads.

James McLean goal posted on Youtube by Emma Donnelly, Jan 2012. Train video posted on Youtube by Engine Porn,  Jan 2015. Coalheavers  Arms ©Google (follow link for permissions). ABAX photo  of the Moys End at the ABAX by Richard Humphrey, creative commons. Regent oil logo found at http://www.craglobalaff.org/Pictures/Row014B/LogoLegacyA.htm. If there is any copyright claim on the video or images used in this post answered by “fair comment”, not please let us know and we will acknowledge or remove as requested.

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Salut! Sunderland is written, illustrated and edited by - and principally for - supporters of Sunderland AFC. The site aims to be sufficiently literate and entertaining to appeal to people who do not follow SAFC but enjoy good football writing.

2 Responses to “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Ground: Peterborough United, London Road and the ABAX stadium” Subscribe

  1. John Mac April 21, 2019 at 8:36 am #

    The original train video on this post turned out not to be the one I expeceted. I updated the video approx 9.35 BST.

    What is happening to me????

  2. Wrinkly Pete April 23, 2019 at 8:16 am #

    When posh equalised yesterday I looked down and there was more steam coming out of Pete’s head than came out of an A4! Lovely writing. Thank you.

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