Vic Keeble remains one of the greatest centre forwards ever to have played for Colchester United - even though he last kicked a ball for the U's almost a half-a-century ago.

He was a Layer Road legend in every sense of the word. Place the crosses on big Vic's head and 99 out of 100 of them finished up in the back of the net.

Vic's scoring prowess was so good that north east giants Newcastle United snatched him away - long before £2.25 million U's wonder boy Lomana Tresor Lua Lua was even a twinkle in his father's eye.

Six years with the legendary Jackie Milburn at St James' Park and an FA Cup winners medal later, Vic was on his way south again when he linked up with his old Colchester boss Ted Fenton and won a Second Division championship medal with West Ham before his pro career was cut short by a back injury at the tender age of just 29.

Still going strong in his 71st year and now happily retired to his Earls Colne home which he shares with his wife and son Chris - a modern day U's professional - Vic enthusiastically recalled his many footballing memories.

"My big strength was heading the ball," he said. "But now, sadly, there isn't a big guy like me at the far post anywhere in the country.

"A big ratio of my goals were scored with my head and in my day we had the wingers in the game, wingers like the great Scottish international Bobby Mitchell at Newcastle, to swing over the crosses"

Thrust into the Layer Road limelight from local amatuers Colchester Casuals by then U's boss Ted Fenton as a raw 16-year-old, Vic immediately carved out a big reputation for himself in the Eastern Counties League, Southern League and the Football League's old Division Three South.

"They were brilliant days, wonderful days. There were a lot of super people involved with Colchester United then," said Vic.

He bounced on to the U's First team scene with a hat-trick in a 5-1 Southern League win at Bedford on the opening day of the historic 1947-48 season - the epic season giant-killing Colchester went all the way to the FA Cup fifth round before they were knocked out by First Division Blackpool.

"I was around, but didn't get to play in any of those cup matches," said Vic, who went on to score four goals in an 8-0 home win over Kidderminster two seasons later before hitting the U's first ever League hat-trick in a 3-0 home win over Plymouth Argyle in 1951.

In the club's last Southern League season he missed only one of their 51 league and cup games, scoring 43 goals along the way.

And before moving on to Newcastle for a giveaway £15,000 in January 1952 he had in total netted 85 goals - including two more hat-tricks against Bristol City and Chelmsford.

"They were great times," said Vic as he recalled his cloak and dagger transfer at a London railway station after his last game for the U's at Shrewsbury Town.

He said: "By then I was two years into my national service and we were coming home from Shrewsbury when Jimmy Allen, who was by then the U's manager, asked me if I fancied a move to Newcastle.

"I knew Newcastle and a few other clubs were interested in me so I travelled up to Charing Cross from my Basingstoke Army base four days later and completed the transfer without any fuss."

A fine all-round sportsman who made his mark at rugby union, cricket and table tennis while at Colchester Royal Grammar School, Vic loved his six-and-half-seasons at Newcastle.

During his spell there he won an FA Cup winner's medal in the 3-1 win over Manchester City before 100,000 fans at Wembley in the 1955 final.

"The support up at Newcastle was massive even in those days," he said. "Having already beaten Blackpool and Arsenal in Wembley finals two or three years earlier it was just great to go there and win again.

"Newcastle had some magnificent players at the time and it was great being a part of the set-up with them."

His move to West Ham when they were fourth from bottom of the Division Two table in October 1958 coincided with an incredible undefeated run of 24 games which took them on to the title - his last major honour before he was forced to quit a further six years later.

Further jobs in football with Colchester and Chelmsford followed a short spell in the newspaper business with a local paper before he retired to the comfort of his home in Earls Colne.

"Football had taken up most of my life," he said. "And I loved it. I have never puffed a cigarette and didn't have a drink until I was 40 - now I like nothing more than to relax in front of my TV with a nice bottle of wine."

Cherished memories - Vic Keeble, now retired, shows off his FA Cup and Second Division winners' medals.

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