THE 1959 FA Amateur Cup final at Wembley stadium 60 years ago this week was billed as a clash between the experience of Crook Town and the youthful exuberance of Barnet.

The Londoners had six teenagers in their team, from the 19-year-old goalkeeper, Brian Goymer, through to the 18-year-old centre forward, Bobby Brown, and their two appearances in the final had been more than a decade earlier.

By contrast, Crook had won the cup as recently as 1954, when they beat Bishop Auckland in an epic final which ran to two replays watched by more than 200,000 people. In fact, they had three players who had played in those games: Bert Steward and Jimmy McMillan, plus the incomparable Seamus O'Connell, who had been in the Bishop side.

O'Connell, a cattle dealer from Carlisle, was an enigma. He’d made his English Football League debut for Middlesbrough on Boxing Day 1953, when he’d scored against Newcastle. He’d joined Chelsea the following season, scored a hat-trick on his debut, and had gone on to play 16 matches for the Blues that season, scoring 11 goals, as they won their first title.

But money had enticed him back to the amateur game, first with Bishop Auckland, and now in 1959 with Crook, in whose victory that day 60 years ago he played a major role.

The young Barnet side settled down quickly and immediately had Crook on the back foot, but, with ten minutes gone, O'Connell stroked a perfectly weighted ball through to Mike Tracey, who held off a challenge before shooting past Goymer to put Crook 1-0 ahead.

Yet Barnet were made of stern stuff, and on 30 minutes young Brown received a long pass from his defence, coolly brushed aside Bainbridge, the Crook number give, and cracked a 20-yarder past Ray Snowball into the Crook net.

It was 1-1 at half-time, and Barnet must have thought they had a chance as they sipped their tea – not only had they equalised, but they had hit the bar and forced two fine saves out of Snowball.

However they’d forgotten about O'Connell, who, seven minutes into the second period, slipped the ball to Coates on the right wing and Arnold sent over the kind of cross which centre forwards dream about. Brian 'Buster' Keating was no dreamer, though, and he leapt high to thump his head down on the ball which flew into the Barnet goal. Crook fans celebrated.

They celebrated again when O'Connell chased what looked like a lost cause, as the astute number eight had seen an opportunity that nobody else had spotted. He stopped the ball rolling out of play, looked up, saw Tracey in the box and fed the ball to him. Tracey did the rest and Crook were 3-1 up.

In the dying moments of the game, Brown went on a solo run which took him past several Crook defenders before once more putting the ball past Snowball into the Crook net.

Barnet were strongest in those last few minutes, but when the final whistle blew, they were beaten, and the Crook players celebrated winning the Amateur Cup for the third time.

“Crook’s experience undoubtedly was the deciding factor, particularly at inside forward,” said the match report in The Guardian. “Only the best players can look good when they are not in possession, and Tracey and O’Connell seldom were out of the picture with or without the ball.”

Ray Snowball

RAY SNOWBALL made 325 appearances for Crook Town in a playing career at the Millfield that spanned from 1953 to 1967, when he was the club coach.

Out of all those appearances, Ray reckons he reserved his best performance for the 1959 final at Wembley.

"Every footballer wants to play at Wembley and every cricketer at Lords," he says. "At Wembley in 1959, everything just seemed to fall into place for me - I had my best game and we won the cup as well.

"When we arrived at Wembley stadium our team bus actually drove into the large tunnel and parked outside the changing rooms. The whole final was timed to the minute. The teams lined up side by side in the tunnel and were led out at the correct pace by an FA official into the blaze of light and huge cheering from the semi-darkness of the tunnel.

“The line-up on the field was choreographed, and the Duke of Gloucester was met by the Crook chairman, Bill Parkin, who introduced him to the team captain, Bert Steward, and he in turn introduced the duke to the players.

“The duke then crossed over to meet the Barnet chairman and players. Last in line to meet him were the match officials.

“The playing surface at Wembley was soft, like a thick carpet, and your studs got a real grip which would account for many of the injuries in previous finals there. The ball, though, came off the turf fast and true with no awkward bounces.

"The match is a bit of a blur. Time passed so quickly, then we were up the steps for the presentation.

“It was somewhat strange afterwards, a feeling of anti-climax, end of battle from the first round at Ferryhill in the snow, to the final in the sun at Wembley.

“Of course, there were still memorable experiences to come, the lap of honour for the job completed, the evening celebratory reception and that memorable welcome by the fans at the Millfield on the Sunday.

“I felt this was the strongest and happiest side in which I played. We were from a mixture of backgrounds but got on really well with each other. No one was a misfit. It was a pity that we couldn't hold on to that team for the following season.

“The forward line in particular was one of the strongest I've ever known with four amateur internationals, and a centre forward, Brian Keating, who just couldn't stop scoring goals – he had nine goals in the cup before the final, then another goal in the final.

“Seamus O'Connell and Mike Tracey both played with professional clubs as amateurs while wingers Arnold Coates and Jim McMillan were fast, tricky and goalscorers too.

“Midfield changes were forced on us when Bill Jeffs was injured and replacing him proved to be difficult. George Masters played in the semi-final and then Derek Carr was brought in for the final from nowhere. Ray Wilkie was just Ray Wilkie, a one-off, a real character and a better player than he was given credit for.

"I was well protected by the three stalwarts in front of me, left back Bert Steward who was strong, reliable and a good captain, right back Derek Gardener was the same with that extra bit of class that gained him international honours, while Colin Bainbridge at centre half was strong, commanding in the air, and tough as old boots."

Ray went played in another two amateur cup finals at Wembley with Crook, in 1962 against Hounslow and in 1964 against Enfield, and finished with three winners medals, joining legends like Bobby Hardisty, Harry Sharratt, Derek Lewin, Jimmy Nimmins, Dave Marshall, Benny Edwards who all won three winners medals with Bishop Auckland and Seamus O'Connell who won two winners medals with Bishop Auckland and his third with Crook in 1959.