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Torridge Cup medals and memories for Rae

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: June 27, 2013

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FEW people in North Devon football can say they have earned three different medals from three Torridge Cup finals across 30 years.

As a former player and referee, Rae Francis achieved that unusual treble.

Having won the competition as a tough tackling midfielder with Morwenstow in 1973, he then secured a second medal as a linesman in 1998.

The hat-trick was completed in 2003 when he was appointed referee for the final between Torrington and Shamwickshire Rovers.

Rae recently attended a reunion for the Morwenstow team which caused a surprise by winning the competition as a Kingsley League side 40 years ago.

The Cornish club beat Bideford Blues 5-2 at Vicarage Field and, although he didn't know it at the time, Rae lined up against the man who would later be his colleague during 18 years as a referee.

Mickey Stevens, who died this year, is fondly remembered for his work as the referee appointments officer and before that, a goalkeeper.

"Mickey played in goal for Bideford Blues," said Rae.

"And when we had referees meetings I would always rub it in that a Kingsley League side beat Bideford Blues.

"I said to him, that's when his back problems started, after bending to pick the ball out of the net five times. I always got on well with Michael."

In that 1973 final, Rae's brothers clinched the win for Morwenstow with Keith scoring a hat-trick and Robin, only 15, getting a goal, along with John Clark.

"I remember a fair old crowd there," said Rae. "It was the 50th anniversary of the competition and they gave us lovely silver tankards.

"You didn't see any one of them hanging up down the Bush Inn. Every one of us kept them at home in our metal cabinets."

The 1972-73 season was one of the most successful in Morwenstow's history as the village team won the Kingsley League, Torridge Cup, Holman Cup, Hutchings Cup and Pickard Cup.

Using the pace and power of Robin and Keith up front, they stuck to a simple game plan.

"We turned up every week and there was no team talk or tactics," said Rae. "It was a case of put your kit on, go out and we'll score more goals than the opposition.

"If I got the ball I knew I could lump it down the middle for Robin to run on to, or play it out on the right wing for Keith, or the left wing for Arthur Bryant.

"I was in midfield trying to stop the centre halves from kicking Robin up in the air.

"He was just a youngster really but we knew he was something different."

Having made his debut for Morwenstow in 1966, Rae was known for his total commitment to the cause.

"I'd be sick before a game, just getting wound up about it," he said.

"I was a sore loser, I don't mind saying that." Finally, Rae hung his boots up in 1980.

"I couldn't afford the fines any more," he said.

Later he decided to put something back into the game by training as a referee.

"Mickey Stevens said 'you are a poacher turned game keeper'. He said 'you know all the tricks and what they get up to so you know what to look for when you're refereeing'.

"I loved it," said Rae.

"I was privileged enough to play in 1973 and when I started refereeing in local football, the three cup finals I thought I'd like to referee were the Pickard Cup, the Torridge Cup and the Brayford Cup."

He has fond memories of refereeing the 1998 Torridge Cup semi-final when Holsworthy beat Dolton 3-2 in torrential rain.

Rae recalls the moment the Holsworthy goalkeeper Adrian Lamerton deliberately stepped aside and let a free kick go in.

While Dolton wheeled away to celebrate a goal, Lamerton confidently pointed out the referee's hand was raised to indicate the kick was indirect.

In 2003, Rae fulfilled his ambition when he was appointed as referee for the Torridge Cup final, with Andy Bennett and Colin Lewis, his assistants.

Shamwickshire, the North Devon League premier division champions, were unable to cause an upset as Torrington, the host club, then in the Western League, won 5-2.

Although Rae hung up his whistle a few years later, he has remained a fan of local football and was a keen follower of Bideford when his son Rob had spells there as a player and assistant manager.

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