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Class of '66 reunited at Fortress Feethams
12:00pm Sunday 19th January 2003 in News
WHILE most remember 1966 for England's only World Cup win, the party had begun a few months earlier in Darlington.
Thirty-seven years ago in May, Darlington's adoring football public celebrated one of the most glorious seasons in the club's history.
Managed by Lol Morgan, with Jack Watson as his number two, Quakers clinched promotion for the first time in 41 years.
Morgan's men are now regarded by many of the club's supporters as the finest Darlington team to grace Feethams.
And this afternoon the successful 1965-66 team are set for a nostalgic reunion at their old stamping ground, when they are the guests of Mick Tait's class of 2003 during the match with Kidderminster.
There may be rather fewer people at Feethams this afternoon than there were when Morgan's side won promotion in '66.
For the last four home games that year, Darlington enjoyed crowds of over 10,000.
On the last day of the season, nearly 16,500 excited supporters crammed into 'Fortress Feethams' to celebrate glory.
It did not matter one jot that Darlington had only finished as runners-up; what mattered most was that their heroes would be playing Third Division football.
Nowadays not even 10,000 would be allowed into Feethams - hence the move to the new stadium - but it's fair to say that every fan inside the ground today will appreciate just what that squad of '66 did.
Remember Ron Greener, George McGeachie, Bill Hopper, Eric Johnstone, Les O'Neill, Norman Cardew, Jimmy Connor and Ray Yeoman?
If not, how about Brian Keeble, John Peverell, Trevor Atkinson, Tony Moor, Bryan Conlon, Ken Allison, Pat Hughes and Joe Jacques?
This side were expected to win every time they took to the field.
And, even though promotion looked odds-on anyway, Morgan also brought in four more players - Alan Sproates, Bobby Cummings, Don Ratcliffe and Barry Hutchinson - to ensure a top-four place was achieved.
Looking back, it was the capture of Sproates, who made 346 appearances for Darlington, which seems the most unbelievable nowadays.
Sproates, who went on to coach in the United States and still lives there, arrived at the club from Swindon in an exchange deal which saw Jim Lawton move the other way.
What was bizarre about the switch was that Lawton's last game for Darlington saw him score in a 2-1 win over the Robins and then sign for them minutes after full-time.
Sproates became a household name for Morgan's team but so did his other captures, who were expensive buys in the '60s.
Top-scorer Cummings cost £7,000 from Newcastle, Ratcliffe was a £5,000 buy from Middlesbrough and goalscorer Barry Hutchinson cost £5,000 from Lincoln City.
The Darlington Supporters' Trust have tracked down players of the promotion-winning side and one member, Doug Embleton, recalls a top-of-the-table clash with Doncaster on Easter Monday.
Embleton, who witnessed Darlington win 3-2 that day, said: "The game is remembered for Ray Yeoman's crunching early tackle on Alec Jeffrey, one of the youngest England Under-23 caps. Yeoman just about took his ankle off and Jeffrey was just about carried off."
Less than 24 hours later Darlington travelled to Doncaster for a return game and lost 6-3.
Read more about the Quakers here.