The man who kept the wine flowing

IT could be said that David Rose, who is retiring as secretary of Ipswich Town Football Club after 45 years on the staff, was personally responsible for ensuring that there was "never a crisis at Portman Road" during the Cobbold era.

By Tony Garnett

IT could be said that David Rose, who is retiring as secretary of Ipswich Town Football Club after 45 years on the staff, was personally responsible for ensuring that there was "never a crisis at Portman Road" during the Cobbold era.

"It was one of my jobs to make sure the board room was always adequately stocked with drink," he recalled.

It has become one of the best-known quotes in Ipswich Town history when chairman John Cobbold issued the oft-repeated words: "There will never be a crisis at Ipswich Town unless the white wine runs out in the board room."

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The changes at the ground have been staggering since a 15-year-old David Rose, still a pupil at Westbourne School, was offered a three-month trial as an office boy by secretary-manager Alf Ramsey.

"There was an announcement at school assembly that there was a job going at Portman Road. Even though I was planning to become an apprentice engineer with Reavells, I decided to apply. After a chat with Alf I was taken on the staff.

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"The minutes of the board meetings in those days are in Alf Ramsey's hand-writing. Wally Gray was next senior in the office with Pat Godbold acting as secretary to both of them.

"Before I arrived apprentice players worked in the office in the afternoon. The last one was Russell Pelling.

"I'd make the tea but would also have to place cups and saucers to catch the drips where there were leaks in the roof of the wooden hut that included the manager's office and the board room.

"There were bullet holes at the back. The Army had used the ground for training during the Second World War.

"It's hard to believe that Ipswich Town became champions of England in the 1961-62 season with such a slender staff, other than the players.

"The groundsmen were Freddie Blake and Stanley Prendergast, who looked after both pitches, but also cleaned up the entire ground after matches. Jimmy Forsyth and Charlie Cowie were the first-team and reserve-team trainers. They looked after the treatment room (the magic sponge rather than new technology), the kit, the boots and the laundry other than the first-team shirts, which were sent to the nearby Ipswich Steam Laundry in Alderman Road.

"There was no commercial department and no advertisements around the ground. Any extra money was raised by Ipswich Town Supporters' Association."

It cost 2s and 2s 6d to stand and 6s 6d for a seat. Season-tickets cost around £6.

In those days the directors sat in the wooden Portman Stand and walked across the pitch at the end to the board room. This happened until the building of the West Stand.

The old dressing room had previously served as a cricket pavilion. Although there was lino on the floor of the dressing rooms, the rest was bare wood which was full of splinters after being roughed up by studded cricket boots for so many years.

In those early days the young Rose discovered one Alf Ramsey's most closely-guarded secrets.

"He enjoyed a crafty cigarette but didn't want anyone to know that he smoked! It was not until Vicky, his wife, came to the ground one day and said she was going to pinch a cigarette from his jacket pocket that we all found out."

Working for the Cobbolds, unorthodox and eccentric employers, was quite an experience. John Cobbold enjoyed practical jokes. "One afternoon he went out onto the centre of the practice pitch with some fireworks and a dustbin lid. He lit the fuse, put the dustbin lit on top, and then ran away as fast as he could. I always remember it. He wasn't a very athletic person.

"There was an enormous bang, the dustbin lid flew high into the air, and Freddie Blake thought a bomb had exploded."

In those days John Cobbold lived at Capel Hall, near Felixstowe. There was nothing he liked better than a good party and the annual Felixstowe tennis tournament was always quite an occasion.

He invited the players, many of whom were house guests for the week, and organised music on the lawn, often provided by Barry Dye and the Sonics. When it came to supplying the drink he's say: "Order double what we actually used last year. That means we won't run out!"

The Cobbold philosophy about football was simple and consistent. "Once a game was over he insisted that he wanted to hear no more about it. He demanded that there was no post-mortem in the board room and no recriminations about any referee. He'd say 'let's get on with the rest of the day.'

"When Ipswich were playing away, opposition clubs would ring up in advance to find out if the Cobbold brothers were travelling. They were very popular visitors, but the board room's drinks cabinet needed to be extra well stocked."

What did David Rose think of the managers he worked under before his appointment as club secretary in 1975?

Alf Ramsey: "He was a quiet, reserved fellow who never said much. His results were exceptional."

Jackie Milburn: "Perhaps he was too nice to be a football manager. He had only a short spell in charge."

Bill McGarry: "He was totally different to what Ipswich had been used to. John Cobbold introduced him to the players. After the chairman left the room McGarry said: 'And that's the last time you'll see him in the dressing room.' McGarry was the first manager who insisted that he should be called "boss" by the players.

Bobby Robson: "He had a rough time at first with the crowd shouting for his head. John Cobbold summoned him to the brewery and Bobby must have been half expecting the sack. Instead he was told he was doing a great job and must carry on. That proved to be an inspired decision."

One of the highlights of David Rose's career was the 1978 FA Cup final against Arsenal. He had been club secretary for three years and was faced with the headache of ticket distribution for Wembley.

"All of a sudden we had 35,000 regular fans! We had to keep the address of everyone who purchased a ticket.

"I think supporters rather enjoyed the experienced of queuing up. It was part and parcel of the event and was all good-humoured.

"I went up to Wembley on the morning of the match in a coach for staff and players' wives and families. We all went to the Royal Garden Hotel in London on the Saturday night before an open-top coach ride round Ipswich on the Sunday."

Regular football in Europe brought many memorable moments, but there was one occasion when John Cobbold's insistence that he looked at the Cresta Run from the air almost made Bobby Robson late for a match.

"Mr John hired a light aircraft to fly below the peaks of the Alps. It was a fantastic experience. The problem was that fog delayed the take-off. By the time we returned to the hotel the team coach was just about to leave. It was a close call."

Town manager John Duncan hit the headlines when he brought Sergei Baltacha to Ipswich Town from Dynamo Kiev. He was the first Soviet player to play in Britain.

His son Sergei followed father's footsteps and became a professional footballer. Daughter Elena is now a top British tennis player. David Rose feels that he played a significant part in starting her off on her career on court.

"We were all having lunch with David Sheepshanks. Elena was about five years old and we knocked a few balls around on his tennis court.

"Then I organised it so that Elena could play short tennis at East Bergholt. Her career developed from there."

What now for Mr Rose, after a lifetime of service at Portman Road? It will not exactly be a clean break from professional football.

"I'll be working 100 days a year and stay in charge of match-day organisation at Portman Road. I'll attend pre-match meetings and will remain club licensee."

He'll be a busy fellow because he has been elected as an independent member of the Babergh District Council representing Holbrook and Harkstead. He is chairman of the Holbrook Village Hall and is currently working to secure a Lottery grant for improvements to the toilets and the entrance.

He is non-playing captain of Suffolk men's county tennis team and serves on the Suffolk LTA Council.

Any spare time after that is spent in the garage renovating two vintage MG cars. He has a 1975 MGB, which now starts first time, and a 1960 MG Midget, which has been in a lock-up for 27 years and needs plenty of attention.

"I am very lucky to have had a job I have enjoyed doing. I have worked with some great people."

His career turned out to be very different, and far more exciting, than being an engineer.

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