|Tuesday, 29 July 2008 19:52|
Angus Macpherson Drennen was born in the western Melbourne suburb of Sunshine in December 1924.
His father had immigrated to Australia from Scotland in 1922 and began piece work at HV Mackay, a large manufacturer based in Sunshine. His mother and eldest sister came out a year later in 1923.
Angus was brought up in a strong family, proud of their Scottish heritage - and through his father's influence, soccer was the foremost game. His father also played with Sunshine United.
He recalls first playing soccer as young 11 year old on a field in Sunshine called MacKays ground. This later became known as Chaplin Reserve, home to Sunshine George Cross.
"We ended up playing a practice game against someone from Footscray....Hyde St School I think it was. Anyway they gave us a belting and we never went on with it."
At Sunshine Primary school, Angus was able to fit in a game of aussie rules, in the schoolyard during lunchtime, while at weekends, he would partake in his true love, football. He was a member of the Albion School boys, an under 14 team of boys from around the area, playing on Saturday mornings, against the likes of University High school, who at 16, were bigger and stronger.
"When we first started, we played University High school. By comparison we were 12 years of age, they were 15 and 16. We played at Middle Park. They were much older than we were."
The team suffered a few hidings along the way, but after a few seasons together, the team had grown in size and stature, and were soon feared.
"In 1937, a fellow named Bill Bowman rounded us all up and got the Albion School boys started and we played up at Albion then. We used the summer sheds in the primary school to get changed and then we went go across to the ground. Bill was involved in Nobels, I think he was their secretary. He was supported by a chap named George Clayton. We used to go all over Melbourne in the schoolboys, with either Bill or George, we went by train as far as Preston. It was a regular thing to go into other suburbs. We were winning more trophies then, as we were getting older and bigger."
From Albion, Angus joined Nobels Juniors / Nettlefolds, while taking up a most sort after apprenticeship with the Victorian Railways at the age of 15, earning 17 shillings a week. Angus sporting talents soon came to the fore, when he, at 15, earned third place in the Aussie Rules competition best and fairest for the Railways against the likes of fellow goverment insitutions, such as the SEC. The next year, at 16, he had won a place in Nobels senior soccer team.
"I played in the Nobel senior team, thats because the competition was becoming weak because of the war. I played a game out at Moreland with the seniors. They were short and I was out there with the juniors. I scored a couple of goals and was kept in the senior team for the rest of the season. There was only 3 or 4 clubs running at that stage. It virtually stopped."
At 19, he was on Sunshine train station on his way to sign with Brighton. It was there he met Harry Taylor, who persuaded him to come down to Prahan instead.
"I was running down at Maribynong and there was another good runner called Don Bingham who played soccer with Brighton. He asked me to come down there and play, and seeing that there was no senior team in Sunshine, I thought I'd go out there. I met someone on the railway station, who said what are you going out to Brighton for??. I'm going to Prahan, come with me, it's only half the distance and i'm sure you'll get a game out there in the reserve team. Anyway, so I changed my ticket, and went to Prahan and I got a game in the seniors and the other chap, Harry Taylor was his name, got a game in the reserves!"
Angus enjoyed 3 great years at Prahan, culminating in the 1946 Dockerty Cup victory.
With the completion of the war, and the return of organised senior football, Angus was being hounded into returning to Sunshine to play with United. In the end, he felt an overwhelming obligation to return and in 1947 he did. Sunshine United were almost unstoppable in winning the Victorian title that year. The 1st division was divided into 2 sections, with the winner of each playing off in a Grand Final to decide the League Champion.
United started the season with an 11-0 away win over Heidelberg Rangers and followed that up with a 10-0 home win over Ringwood. In round 10, they beat Heidelberg in the return match, 21-0, with Angus netting 8 times. Sunshine United lost only one match that season, losing to rival Prahan 4-1. However they finished on top and took on Moreland in the final, which they won 6-2.
In the same year, Angus was made a reserve for the Victorian team.
The following year (1948), Angus was selected, along with fellow Victorians Alan Gravell and Eric Heath, to tour New Zealand as part of the Australian squad. It was a highly successful tour, with the Australians, featuring greats Joe Marston, Cec Drummond, Bob Lawrie and Frank Parsons easily defeating the New Zealanders in a 3 game series, 7-0, 4-0, 8-1. Australia played 15 games while on tour and Angus played in 14 of them. The players were paid a weekly wage of 3 pounds.
"We got a notice from the Association to say we've been selected to go up to Newcastle for trials. So we went to Newcastle, Alan Gravell, a goalkeeper from Box Hill and myself and there was a lad from Moreland, he was an Englishman, we were both aussies. I mean the Australian team, that was eventually selected, everyone was born in Australia. Anyhow he didn't make the team. I played well in the game and scored two goals."
"I got a letter from Joe Marstons's team, Leichardt Annandale, congratulating me on being selected. I think there may have been some adverse publicity in the papers up there, and they had asked me to go up there and play at one stage a couple of years earlier. They congratualted me and they were sure i would fit the bill, which was quite decent of them."
"I played in 14 of the 15 matches. It was well organised, both of the managers were Victorian, Harry Armstrong and Wiltshire. Wiltshire took no nonsense, I remember him checking us out of hotel because he wasnt happy with the accomodations. He was a businessman, I think he ran a nail manufacturing plant in Port Melbourne."
"We all had our own rooms. We got a blazer, some shorts and a couple of playing tops. Everyone got along with each other. There was only 2 Victorians, maybe if there had of been 4 or 5, things may have been different (laughing). There was one South Australian, two Victorians and the rest were from Queensland and New South Wales. I knew the Leichardt-Annandale players, because I had played against them for Prahan when we went up there. We played Leichardt on their home ground and went to the South Coast to take on Woonoona-Bulli."
"We had a wondefrul time over there. Everyone was wonderful, even the newspapers. We were treated well and even had a farewell gathering for when we were to leave."
Sunshine United were runners up in 1948 to Box Hill.
"In 1948 I went to New Zealand, and we were something like 14 points clear in the league and we got beat into second place!"
Angus won the Association best and fairest in 1949 and Sunshine United secured the title again in 1950. During this year, he was selected to take part in the Australian team's tour of New Caledonia, in a 4 match series.
In 1951, Angus was selected to play for Victoria against the visiting English team. The Victorians took on the English twice in 4 days, and despite their best efforts were no match for the professionals, losing 5-0 and 7-0 in games at the MCG. In the 2nd game, English forward Jack Sewell scored all of his teams 7 goals.
Sunshine United's glory period was slowly ending and they were relegated in 1952.
"It was looking like they were going to have a tough old trot and I probably wasn't going to be able to play. The way I looked at it, if I could get a half-days wage playing football instead of working on Saturday afternoon. I was happy. If I could have earned more money working, then I probably wouldn't have played at all."
"They gradually dropped down the league. They lost a couple of players to a team in Footscray, a works team I think. So they lost more than just me. We had always been an offshoot of ICI, and from memory the fellow that was the driving force behind the club, Bill Bowman, I think he went back to ICI."
Angus was an integral part of the Victorian team which won the 1952 Interstate Carnival held at Toorak Park. The Victorian team, a mix of locals and newly arrived immigrants, surprised the more fancied NSW team, defeating them 3-1 in a spiteful encounter. NSW forward Frank Parsons was sent off for an incident involving Sergio Bassi and it continued on the bus, after the game, when Victorian Joe Lachmann went on board to wish the New South Welshman well, he was involved in an altercation with Parsons.
Angus was approached by JUST officials, an emerging club for newly arrived Yugoslavian immigrants. He and his wife Frances were invited to attend a weekend in Healsville by the JUST President and a deal was worked out.
"In 1952 there were two or three JUST players in the Victorian team that played in Interstate Carnival and I got to know them. I was approached by their president and I met him when the Yugoslavs (Hajduk) came out here to play. I would have been approached by them because of the State Carnival. I had a good carnival.
JUST offered Angus 60 pounds signing on fee and a weekly wage of 4 pounds. This was his first ever wage in senior football. The signing on fee was well spent, a washing machine for his wife, Frances. He was made captain of this predominately Yugoslavian side.
"Yeah they made me the captain because i had been in the Victorian team in 1952. I always remember, there was a inside forward, who had played in the Yugoslav professional league and i told him to take the penalty kick. We had another guy, Steve Zakomorak, inside forward, tall, lanky bloke. He was incensed that i have given it to the other bloke because he always took the penalties. I didn't know, I mean it was the first day i had ever played with them. So he (Zakomorak) ran in and belted the ball over the corner flag. And that was my introduction."
Despite having a good season with JUST, he was not offered a contract for the next season.
"I stayed there only one year. In the summertime, I went off working in the country as a sub-contractor. And I suppose in this way I never got close to them. My work was always my main source of income. We, as a team, never trained, I trained on my own."
The next season he moved to Brighton, not far from his bayside home in Beaumaris.
"Brighton, incomparison to Sunshine, were a wealthy club. They had a lot to do with the Association. I think Don Bingham's father was involved."
In 1955 he moved again, this time to Moreland. Players, at the time, were only able to sign yearly contracts.
In 1956, he changed teams again, this time signing with the legendary Hakoah club.
"There was law that there had to be one Jew in the team. At the time I played, there was a whole mix of players from different backgrounds. I always remember the President wanting us to do well against Wilhelmina, because their chief was also a big businessman."
Also during this year, the Victoria Soccer Association asked Angus to be a representative in the Olympic Torch relay.
He stayed at Hakoah until 1957, where he took a player/coaching role with the Victorian Colts side, under the leadership of legendary English coach Len Young.
"All the clubs were invited to send their promising players down there, and because of the coach and the fact that he was an englishman, the majority of players were from such background. I don't remember JUST sending anyone down, but Juventus sent down a couple of players."
"By comparison to me ofcourse, they were kids. I played at the back. Because of our fitness and playing in the lower grades, it was quite amazing. They (the opposition) didn't know which way we went. In those lower grades, they didn't train at all. We had this tremendous advantage in fitness. I helped out with the coaching, I used to take the circuit training. Just exercises such as sit-ups and elbows-to-knees. The training was setup to give your cardio-vascular system a work out."
"We were in the second division. We always went close to winning it, but just fell short. We had some good victories though."
In 1959, he left the Victorian Colts set up and moved to Box Hill, where he won the Argus Medal, the equivalent of the Brownlow medal, as a playing coach.
"We were struggling all the time. No, it would be unfair to say anything else. We avoided relegation both times, but we were never front runners. They appointed Len Young as coach after his tenure with the Vic Colts finished. Len was a good coach, he knew the game much better than what I did."
After 2 seasons with the Hillmen, he moved to the University of Melbourne side, where he played for the next 16 seasons, retiring in 1978, 41 years after first pulling on the boots for the Albion School Boys.
"We used to train in the gym in the grounds of the University. I think they have demolished that building now. I did it because I had 2 or 3 good friends there. By the time I finished, we were in the 3rds. You had to be careful, because they get them 'crazies' down in those lower grades. I had one guy mark me all match, and I was in defence."
"One of the guys I played with ran for England in the Olympic Games. You could imagine, in the 4th Division, having a guy that ran for England, playing on the wing, whose best time was 10.2 for the 100 yards. Royce Sanstrom, he was a physical education lecturer at the Uni."
Angus played 20 games for Australia, from 1948 - 1953, and was a member of the Victorian State team on numerous occasions. He won the Association Best and Fairest in 1949, the Argus Medal in 1950, 2 Dockerty Cups and 2 State Championships.
"Whilst I was playing I never considered myself to be a good player. I was lucky enough to be playing with men (Nobels) as a young boy of 16. I think that makes a big difference. I never had any fancy ideas about myself. I think it's best to keep it low key."