Ancient Fish – Number Three: 1955-56: Out of the Backwaters
For just short of fifty years following the formation of Fisher Athletic, the side made few waves, knocking about in the local district leagues of Rotherhithe, Peckham, Brockley and finally the Dulwich Amateur League. However by the mid-fifties a more ambitious approach was taken with manager Billy Owen at the helm. Having flown through the Dulwich League set up in the early fifties culminating in winning the Premier Division during the preceding season, a more challenging set of fixtures and opposition was sought and application to join the South West District League was made. The application as successful and Fisher were duly elected as members of Division One for the 1955-1956 season.
If tougher opposition had been the order of the day, it was clear promotion from Division One would be needed as sides were quickly swept aside by Fisher’s free scoring football. An opening day 5-0 victory against Panthers set the tone. It was score line that would be repeated in the first four league games as Chelsea Central, Fulham Park Rangers and Spencer Athletic were all comprehensively beaten by the same score. Leading the line was the formidable Ronnie Parnell, with defences across the league struggling to cope with the prolific centre forward.
The return match with Fulham Park Rangers saw Fisher hit double figures during an 11-1 victory with Parnell notching six that afternoon. A further hat trick in the first game of the New Year saw Fisher almost hit double figures again, just ending a goal shy in a 9-0 win against Hartsbury. Only Fulham RAF Association had remotely pushed the strong Fisher side in the first half of the season and even then goals from Keech, Morris and Dixon had earned Fisher the points with a 3-1 win.
The League Cup saw Fisher finally have the chance to compete against sides from the Premier Division. After divisional compatriots Spencer Athletic were dispatched in the first round by the now familiar sounding 5-0 score line, top flight outfit Philips and Tacey came out the hat as second round opposition. A mighty battle was fought out in a three all draw with Morris, Joe Moore and Patsy Burgess all on the scoresheet, before Fisher came out on top 5-2 in the replay. In the quarter final, Parnell’s scoring feats were for once eclipsed his brace beaten by a Lockton hat trick which eased Fisher to an 8-1 win over Division Two side Hamptonians. Fellow divisional side Fulham RAF Association were semi-final opponents, but proved no match as Parnell again netted a hat trick in a 4-0 win. Putney Athletic, also from Fisher’s own division, battled through the other half of the draw to become cup final opponents. For once Parnell was shut out by the Putney defence, but goals from Morris and Joe Moore were enough to give Fisher a two nil win and capture the South West League Cup at the first attempt.
Three victories in a week at the end of season against Fulham Orient, Panthers and Danes United, with Fisher scoring thirteen without reply saw the inaugural South West District League campaign wrapped up with the Division One title having been won at a canter. Skipper and full back Freddie Clampitt, Joe Moore, Patsy Burgess and goalkeeper Wallis all represented the league in various representative fixtures, along with, unsurprisingly, hot shot Ronnie Parnell. The unity of the side had been key feature of the season Jim Wakeling, Dixon and Keech were also regulars on the scoresheet, all of whom were to go on to provide the backbone of the squad over the next few seasons. In these days before substitutes it was a small squad with same eleven often playing week to week.
As a result of the switch to the South West District League, Fisher had become eligible to enter the London Junior Cup. With this was an opportunity to test the side against opponents further afield. Grove Athletic, rivals from the past seasons in the Dulwich League were comfortable dispatched in the opening round with a Parnell brace the main difference between the sides in the 3-0 win. By the semi-final Fisher were seen as a side to be avoided and it was the previously un-encountered Claremont and District FC who were paired with the Dockers. Morris Dixon and that man Parnell were on hand to supply the goals to see Fisher into the final on the back of a 4-1 win.
Curiously given the opposition in the final were the Isle of Dogs based side Millwall Albion, the final was held at in South West London at Kingstonian FC. A healthy contingent of supporters ventured to the Richmond Road ground and returned in good spirits and the London Junior Cup trophy in tow, after a single strike from Mahoney gave Fisher a 1-0 victory.
After years in the backwaters The Fish were now becoming a name known across the London amateur football scene both North and South of the river.