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Players and fans pay respects to a footballing great

Nearly 20,000 fans stood for a minute's silence before the New Year's Day clash between Fulham and Watford at Craven Cottage.

They were paying tribute to a man who had starred as an old fashioned centre forward for both teams during his heydays in the 1950s and 1960s.

Fittingly, perhaps, the result was a 0-0 draw.

The man they mourned was Maurice Cook, born in Hemel Hempstead and who died in the town's hospital on New Year's Eve. He was 75.

Maurice lived in Potten End during his youth and started his playing career with non-leaguers Berkhamsted Town, joining Watford in October 1952.

During his six years at Vicarage Road he made more than 200 league appearances and scored 68 goals.

Maurice had several claims to fame but Watford fans will recall that when he was transferred to Fulham in 1958 he attracted the club's then biggest ever transfer fee - 15,000.

Another claim to fame was that he scored the first ever goal in the history of the League Cup competition when Fulham met Bristol Rovers in 1960.

But Rovers scored twice and Fulham became victims of the first League Cup giant killing Maurice's time at Watford was long before the days when footballers picked up weekly pay packets filled with thousands of pounds and sat behind the wheels of expensive motor cars.

Maurice's winter time pay packet contained 6 – with a 2 bonus if Watford won. A draw meant a bonus of 1 and during the summer players were on a 4 a week wage and had to find part time jobs until the resumption.

An item on the Watford FC website describes Maurice as being 'commonly considered Watford's best player in the mid-1950s'.

When he moved to Fulham his weekly pay packet almost doubled.

The transfer was completed with such secrecy that it prompted a newspaper cartoonist to depict Maurice wrapped in a sack being handed over to the Fulham chairman, the comedian and showbiz personality Tommy Trinder. The caption read: "Don't unwrap him until you get to Craven Cottage, Mr Trinder".

But it was at Craven Cottage that Maurice played with – and against - some of the greats of his day.

At Fulham with him were Alan Mullery who captained England on one occasion and had the distinction of being the first England player to be sent off; Roy Bentley who won 12 caps for England; George Cohen, a star of England's World Cup winning side of 1966 and Jimmy Hill, who went on to find fame as a TV pundit and hosted the BBC's Match of the Day programme.

Jimmy was also important to his profession becoming chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association and a leading campaigner to raise the level of footballers' pay.

The maximum wage for a professional footballer in those days was 20 a week, but that ceiling was smashed in 1961.

Among the beneficiaries of that campaign was England and Fulham star - and great pal of Maurice - Johnny Haynes, who won 54 caps for England.

Johnny became the first footballer to earn 100 a week. He signed a new contract a day after the abolition of the 20 maximum.

Another contemporary of those days was Bobby Robson, later to become manager of England.

And among those against whom Maurice played was Sir Stanley Matthews and that giant of Tyneside football, Newcastle Utd's Jackie Milburn.

A recent newspaper review of Maurice's Fulham team of all stars of that time describes Maurice as "a big, old fashioned centre forward who banged in some classic goals in his time".

He scored 89 League goals for Fulham in seven years, and made the score list on his debut when Fulham beat Grimsby Town 6-0.

He got 17 goals in the following season when Fulham won promotion.

After his playing days at Fulham, Maurice moved to Reading in 1965.

And when he finally hung up his boots Maurice and his wife, Joan, took over the old White Hart, Berkhamsted, (now the site of a supermarket), then they moved to the Oddfellows in Apsley and finally the Prince's Arms (now a restaurant) in Boxmoor.

In retirement Maurice ended his days living in Candlefield Close, Bennetts End.

He is survived by Joan. He was predeceased by a son, Malcolm.

The funeral service is to be held at 11.30am on Tuesday, January 16, at Holy Trinity Church, Potten End.

 
 
 

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