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Official News

Girton's Greatest Footballer
Posted by Andrew Dunn
Dec 31, 2018, 16:31

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As Cambridge City prepare to host Peterborough Sports tomorrow, Club Historian Neil Harvey looks back at the career of Vic Watson. Vic played for Cambridge Town and Brotherhood's Works who later became Peterborough Sports. He then went on to become a West Ham United legend.

At the start of the 1919-1920 season a 21-year-old called Victor Watson made his debut for Cambridge Town. Prior to this it is believed that Vic had played for Girton United, but with reports of organised football in the first post war 1918-1919 season being somewhat sketchy this hasn’t been confirmed in the local press. Vic scored six goals in his 2nd game for Town, a 12-0 thrashing of Ely City played on Jesus Grove, within the grounds of Jesus College. By the time Town had played their Christmas friendlies Vic had scored 23 goals in 16 games and his talents were getting noticed. Vic travelled to Peterborough to make his debut for Brotherhood’s Works on 3rd January 1920. Peterborough Sports are the direct descendants of Brotherhood’s, who played at what was then known at The White Hart ground in New England. The White Hart public house has gone, but the ground where Vic Watson made his Brotherhood’s debut against Kettering Town 99 years ago is the same one where Sports currently play, just off the Lincoln Road. Vic was playing for the top team in the Northamptonshire Senior League, which in those days was one of dozens of semi-professional leagues up and down the country sitting below the Football League (only two divisions at that time) and The Southern League (one division) in the football hierarchy. Vic didn’t score that day for Works and he played for Cambridge Town for the rest of January. Vic signed off for Cambridge Town with a hat-trick against Sudbury Town and returned to Brotherhood's in February 1920. His first goals came at Raunds Town, and the last in his brief spell at Brotherhood’s came at London Road when he helped his team beat City rivals Fletton United in the Peterborough Senior Cup Semi Final. By the beginning of March Vic had signed for Division Two side West Ham United, appearing for their reserves for the remainder of the 1919-20 season including an appearance at Trinity New Field for the Hammers when Cambridge Town beat a West Ham XI 3-0.

Vic made his first team debut in September 1920 and remains to this day a West Ham United legend, being the club’s all-time leading scorer. After a 15-year career at The Boleyn Ground, Vic had a season with Southampton before moving back to Girton. He then began a long association with Cambridge Town as trainer for the club and managed to make two further appearances for Town in the 1936-37 season. Now it may be a coincidence, but Cambridge Town played Brotherhood’s Works a few times during World War Two, and I reckon Vic’s connection with both clubs would have helped these games happen. This seems to be borne out by how the wartime Peterborough press were keen to highlight the West Ham connection when announcing him as the Cambridge Town trainer when the teams met at The White Hart Ground in April 1942. Overall Town played Brotherhood’s Works five times between 1942 and 1945, winning four and drawing one.  

Vic was among the guests of honour when Cambridge City opened their floodlights against West Ham United in February 1959, a night when 11,000 people packed into Milton Road. Vic died in 1988 aged 90. His link to his home village of Girton was marked in 2010 when Girton resident and West Ham United fan Chris Horton arranged for a commemorative plaque to be placed on the wall of the Sports Pavilion at Girton Rec.

As a footnote most sources on the internet state that Vic Watson joined West Ham United from Wellingborough Town. This seems to be incorrect as a report in the Peterborough press from March 1920 states that Brotherhood’s supporters “will be both sorry and glad to hear that Watson, the brilliant inside-left, signed on for West Ham on Monday.” This seems to be the 1st March 1920. The report goes on to mention that Vic had played for Cambridge Town and that a number of local clubs were trying to sign him from Cambridge but “Brotherhood’s were the lucky club.”
A plaque remembering Vic at Girton pavilion

A picture of Vic from the 1940's

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