War blighted Colin Collindridge’s career – but not his spirit

  • October 12, 2018 11:02
  • Jon Henderson

Eighty years ago he joined Sheffield United and at 97 is still as forthright in his views as he was bold as a player.

 

Colin Collindridge, a redoubtable Yorkshireman who will be 98 next month, is a remarkable man who, had he been born in another era, would have made a very tidy living as a professional footballer. As it was he had the misfortune of playing when wages were pegged – less than ten quid a week when he started out – and when the world was at war.

He was, though – and still is – a most resilient and appealing character. He does admit to having some resentment that the Second World War butted in when he should have been making a name for himself as a speedy left-winger, and occasional centre forward, with a bullet shot, but says also that he counts himself lucky.

‘A local lad, Ernest England, was captured by the Germans at Dunkirk. He’d worked down the coalmine at Woolley and when he was taken prisoner they stuck him down a coalmine in Germany.

‘He came home and he’d been back for a week when he died. I’m not sure what he died of, but what happened to me was nothing compared to that.’

When I go to see Collindridge he starts by telling me he was born at Cawthorne Basin. In case I should wonder where exacty this is, which I do, he adds that it’s down the bottom of the hill a quarter of a mile from Barugh Green, the first village out of Barnsley on the Huddersfield road.

‘Half the relations of mine lived in Barugh Green and there were about 40 of them. I still love that place and Barugh Greeners, though I was quite young when we moved to Wombwell, on the other side of Barnsley, where my dad got a council house.

‘I couldn’t have been born any better really. I was working-class Yorkshire, south Yorkshire, where most people were skint. Some of them had got work at the colliery and some hadn’t and it was the mine owners who ruled – but the one thing they didn’t do was dare fight my dad.’

Having been a good schoolboy player, Collindridge went on to play for Wombwell Main, a strong team in the Barnsley Association League, who were once good enough to compete in the FA Cup. ‘There was one League match,’ Collindridge says, ‘where we played a team from Hoyland who were useless and we beat them 22-0 – and I scored eight.’

As a result he was given a trial with Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Cadbury’s chocolate ground near Birmingham. He scored a couple of goals and thought, ‘I’ve done all right here.’

But it wasn’t to be after he felt he was unfairly disposed of by the Wolves manager Major Frank Buckley.

‘Maybe I wasn’t good enough but what Buckley did was a poor way of showing respect. I wasn’t brought up like that. My father had brought me up that if anybody uses bad manners, son, or swears badly in front of your mother give ’em that [he raises his right fist] and, if you can’t, give ’em that [he raises his left boot]. And you’re not bad with the left clog.’

Collindridge says that anyway Buckley made a mistake and backs his claim by quoting something that the Sheffield journalist Fred Walters wrote about his playing ability. The article appeared in the Green ’Un sports paper when Collindridge was playing for Sheffield United, which he did either side of the Second World War.

‘Walters was the ace, king, queen and jack of football as a journalist in Sheffield,’ Collindridge says, ‘and he said I should be playing for England.’

He had signed for Sheffield United in 1938 when the Yorkshire club were heading for promotion to the First Division as the 1938-39 Second Division runners-up behind Blackburn Rovers (and one point ahead of Sheffield Wednesday).

In October of the following season Collindridge, aged 18, made his first-team debut. By then, though, war had broken out and the match just down the road against Huddersfield that launched Collindridge’s football career was only a friendly.

The Football League was suspended while wartime leagues were organised and although the professional game kept going – to keep up a pretence of normality and provide entertainment for an embattled nation – inevitably it had an unreal, makeshift feel to it.

To accommodate players’ postings they were allowed to flit between clubs and games were not permitted to be staged in areas that were in danger of being bombed.

So the years that should have been the prime of Collindridge’s footballing life were twilight years for football and footballers.

After the war Collindridge made well over 100 appearances for Sheffield United, but they were a fraction of the number this popular player would have played had it not been for the lost years, 1939-45.

He says one reason why he left United was because Jimmy Hagan was stripped of the captaincy after falling out with the directors. He, Collindridge, was then offered the captain’s role but says he turned it down out of loyalty to Hagan, whom he regarded ‘as the classiest footballer I ever played with or against. And I was lucky because he made me look a good footballer.

‘What made Jimmy so outstanding was that he had a brain, for a start. And he could be in a room no bigger than this one with three other people’ – we are seated in his small front room – ‘and, with the ball at his feet, he’d dribble round the lot of them.’

There was a drawback to playing alongside Hagan, though: ‘Opponents wouldn’t be able to get the ball off him and I’d stand watching him in amazement and then wouldn’t be ready when he passed the ball to me.’

But Collindridge and Hagan did perfect one double act: ‘After the war Jimmy and I had a routine going that appealed to Jimmy because it meant using his brain.

‘A German bomb had landed on the Bramall Lane pitch and where the crater had been filled in the surface was always a bit soft. I’d manoeuvre my fullback so he was standing on this bit of ground and when he was properly bogged down Jimmy would slip the ball past him for me to run on to.’

Collindridge moved from Sheffield United to Nottingham Forest (1950-54) before finishing his Football League career at Coventry City (1954-56). He than had a season with Bath City.

 

This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing.

Permalink


Jimmy Greaves, probably the best goalscorer England have ever had

  • October 11, 2018 12:32
  • Jon Henderson

It’s 58 years ago this month that he scored the first of his six international hat-tricks, a record that still stands.

 

Jimmy Greaves, I would hazard, is the footballer who most closely resembles our image of how we would want our brilliant player who made measly money in the era when players’ wages were capped: a chirpy chappy who revelled in going to matches on public transport with the fans, who ungrudgingly accepted being unable to buy his own house even after his transfer to Tottenham in 1961 for £99,999 – and who appeared far less impressed than just about everybody else by his dazzlingly intuitive skills as a goalscorer.

He was still only 19 and playing for his first club, Chelsea, when he dazzled Gordon Milne in a match at Preston in December 1959.

Milne remembers it well. The Preston manager, Cliff Britton took him aside before kick-off: ‘Milne, your job today is to be within one foot of Jimmy Greaves. Where he goes you go. Don’t worry about anything else. If he drops off, you drop off; if he goes wide, you go wide. He’s clever but generally he’s in or around the box. Stay close to him.’

‘As you get more experienced,’ Milne says, ‘you realise to do this is not that easy. Especially if you’ve got a bit of imagination yourself you tend to wander off.’

The result: Preston North End four Chelsea five with all the visitors’ goals scored by Greaves.

‘I don’t think I was ever further from him than I am from you now [a couple of feet]. But remember Jimmy with his side-footers? He’d come across you in the six-yard box, just get a touch and it was in.

‘None of his goals were scored from outside the box, none of the goals was a rocket. One was a little glancing header. He was just in front of me and glanced it in.

‘I can remember the dressing room afterwards and I’m looking round and I can see Tom Finney there and Tommy Thompson – Tommy scored three that day… Christ! I can’t remember what Cliff Britton said to me, I don’t think he needed to say anything.

‘I played against Greavsie later in life. I played with him for England. He was just something else. He was great, quite compassionate. He laughed and joked about it afterwards. That was what Jimmy was like, “They were all flukes…”.’

Greaves, 17 years old when he made his Chelsea debut in 1957 – when players could earn no more than £17 a week – scored 124 First Division goals for the club in just four seasons before being sold to AC Milan in 1961. It was a flow that never really slackened with his record of being top scorer in the First Division in six seasons is still unsurpassed.

Also still unsurpassed is his six hat-tricks for England, the first of which he scored 58 years ago this month in a World Cup qualifier in Luxembourg. He added a fourth goal on two of these six occasions and in all he scored 44 goals in just 57 international appearances.

But the match he would have most liked to score a goal in, the 1966 World Cup final, he didn’t. He wasn’t picked having been injured earlier in the tournament.

Greaves’s missing out on the big one at Wembley has tended to overshadow his phenomenal record as a goalscorer.

 

This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing.

Permalink


Former Old Trafford boss speaks frankly about his long footballing life

  • October 09, 2018 13:50
  • Jon Henderson

Frank O’Farrell lives quietly in retirement these days after an eventful career in football that lasted nearly 40 years.

 

Frank O’Farrell’s football career seemed to be ebbing to a peaceful conclusion in 1961. As a hard-working midfielder he had played for 13 years in the Football League, first with West Ham and then Preston North End, and had represented the Republic of Ireland. He was now approaching his thirty-fourth birthday. A second cartilage had recently been removed.

‘It was then that Weymouth came in for me to be player-manager,’ O’Farrell says,  and the image is, irresistibly, of a life slowing down to a soundtrack of distant seagulls and the gentle wash of surf.

‘I asked one or two people about Weymouth and they said it was a good club,’ he says. ‘It was a non-League side, of course, but they always did well and got decent gates. So I went down for an interview and was given the job.’

Apart from anything else, the economics made sense. ‘I was on £20 a week at Preston as a First Division player,’ O’Farrell says. ‘I went down to Weymouth where I got £25 a week and, being the manager, a club car and a club house. So I was better off in Southern League football than being a First Division player. That’s the way it was.’

And that’s the way O’Farrell himself thought it would stay. ‘I wasn’t seeking after things,’ he says.

But he had not reckoned with others seeking him out, which is what happened after O’Farrell, within a year of joining Weymouth, guided the Dorset club to the fourth round of the FA Cup for the first time.

Weymouth actually went into the fifth-round draw after their tie at O’Farrell’s old club Preston was abandoned after 14 minutes because of bad weather and rescheduled for two days later. With the prospect of playing Liverpool in the next round as an incentive, Weymouth failed to respond and lost the delayed match 2-0. But their Cup run had reflected well on their young manager.

‘It meant that journalists from London were now ringing me up for stories,’ O’Farrell says, ‘and I was getting talked about in the national papers.’

In 1965 he took his first manager’s job in the Football League at Fourth Division Torquay. ‘I brought a lot of First Division players down from London,’ he says, ‘which was easier then because the difference in wages between the divisions wasn’t as great as it is now.’

Specifically, he raided West Ham’s larder of veterans with whom he had once played, players such as John Bond and Ken Brown. They would travel down to the Devon resort at weekends while continuing to live and train in London.

The arrangement worked well. Torquay won promotion straightway and O’Farrell, again a target for larger clubs, moved to Leicester City in December 1968.

His stay at Leicester started eventfully. In the space of a few days at the end of his first season Leicester were relegated and appeared in the FA Cup final, which they lost 1-0 to Manchester City. But they were only briefly in the Second Division, O’Farrell taking them back up in 1971.

‘Once again this got me noticed,’ he says. ‘Next thing Matt Busby came and asked me if I’d go to Manchester United.’

At the time Busby was still a towering figure in English football. He had been Mancheser United’s manager from 1945-69, during which he was badly injured in the 1958 Munich plane crash, and since December 1970 had been temporarily back in charge while United sought a new manager.

O’Farrell’s version of his 18 months – June 1971 to December 1972 – at Old Trafford goes like this:

‘It was a difficult time to go there because the club needed rebuilding and Matt hadn’t done anything. He was very loyal to his players, including those who came through Munich with him, and I could understand that. But it meant it was a job that whoever it was who succeeded him was going to have to do. I happened to be the first one and then there were three more after me before things kind of settled down.

‘It was a difficult job, changing players, dropping someone like Bobby Charlton who then went around with a long face, but these are things you have to do as a manager.

‘And, yes, it did upset me when they got rid of me. Matt had admitted that he’d let things go and that it might take me a while to sort things out and, no, I don’t think they gave me that time.

‘One time I had a bit of an altercation with him. The club used to have an annual function, a dinner, which the players and directors went to. Ann and I went while we were there and coming back in the car Ann said to me, “Matt had a word with me.”

‘I said, “Oh, what did he say?”

‘She said that Matt had told her, “Your husband is an independent sod, Ann. Why don’t you get him to come and talk to me?”

‘I was bloody angry really. I saw him most days if he wanted to see me. He could come into my office; he knew where I was. But to go through my wife, involve my wife, when it was nothing to do with her…

‘So I waited deliberately until he was in after the weekend. I invited him into my office and said, “Matt, Ann says you told her I was an independent sod and that she should get me to come and talk to you. Here I am. What have you got to say?”

‘So he said, “I don’t think you should have dropped Bobby Charlton.”

‘He was interfering, so I stated my case and he went away.

‘But then in December 1972 we lost heavily at Crystal Palace [5-0] and the club had a board meeting on the Tuesday and they called me in. They sacked Malcolm Musgrove, my coach, as well as me and also John Aston, the chief scout. I don’t know what he had to do with the team getting beaten. He’d been a player there and came through the Munich disaster.

‘I said, “What reason are you sacking me for?”

‘The chairman, Louis Edwards, used to mumble a bit although he was all right really. Matt had him in his pocket. He said, “W… w… we’re bottom of the league.”

‘I said, “Well, we’re not bottom actually, we’re third from bottom.”

‘But that was the reason they gave, which I needed to know because I had to go to see a solicitor now and hire him because they were awkward. And they were awkward – they didn’t pay me for nine months. They stopped my money and they wouldn’t give me the remainder of my contract that was I entitled to.

‘Things dragged on and on and on and then eventually before it came to court they settled. About £17,000 I think I got.’

Other versions of this story exist and Matt Busby, or Sir Matt as he had been since United won the European Cup in 1968, is still held in the highest esteem by very many for what he achieved at Old Trafford and how he achieved it.

For Frank O’Farrell, his long journey through football would end without further ado.

‘I went down to Cardiff City for a while, before Iran came in for me to manage the national team. I enjoyed that. Then it was back to Torquay.’

And this is where he still is when I visit him. His quiet, courteous manner and contented air place him as a stereotypical Torquay retiree. The stories he has to tell, though, instantly place him outside the circle of pensioned-off bank managers and accountants who are his neighbours in the clifftop homes overlooking the English Channel.

The rancour of the manner of his parting from Old Trafford has clearly survived, but loses much of its venom when delivered in Frank O’Farrell’s sotto voce Irish brogue.

 

This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing.

Permalink


BITEBACK TO PUBLISH BERNIE SANDERS

  • October 08, 2018 11:06
  • Biteback Publishing

Biteback Publishing has acquired UK and Commonwealth rights to former US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ forthcoming call to arms, Where We Go from Here.

One of the most recognisable and popular figures in recent American politics, and whose first book Our Revolution was a New York Times bestseller, Senator Sanders will explain what he's been doing to oppose the Trump agenda and strengthen the progressive movement since the 2016 election.

Sanders came to the world’s attention when he campaigned to become the Democratic Party’s candidate for the 2016 US presidential election. Though he eventually lost out to Hillary Clinton, he ran a campaign that energised a generation and gained him a huge grassroots following. In the shadow of the most reactionary presidency in American history, Sanders continues to call for an unprecedented political movement to stand up to the greed of wealthy corporations and the cynicism of politicians, with a message which resonates globally.

James Stephens bought UK and Commonwealth rights from Chris Scheina at St Martin’s Press. Stephens said: ‘At a time when many liberal and progressive voters the world over are frustrated about politics, Senator Bernie Sanders stands out as a beacon of light. This is a hugely important book, reiterating the core values of the movement he started two years ago and showing us how to turn them into actions that will transform the world. Biteback is delighted to be publishing it.’

Where We Go from Here: Two Years in the Resistance by Bernie Sanders will be published in hardback by Biteback Publishing on 27 November 2018.

 

For more information please contact:
isabelle.ralphs@bitebackpublishing.com or call 020 7091 1260

Permalink


Brian Clough: great player – even greater manager

  • October 05, 2018 10:04
  • Jon Henderson

A terrible knee injury in 1962 ended Clough’s career as a free-scoring striker, but it released him at the age of 30 to become a legendary manager

 

Brian Clough is sometimes underestimated as a player because so much emphasis is placed on his many managerial successes. But as a goalscorer he was up there with the best, even bearing in mind that only one of his League goals was scored in the First Division.

He scored 197 League goals in 213 appearances for Middlesbrough and 54 in 61 for Sunderland. This is a better strike rate than the great Jimmy Greaves’s but maintained over a shorter period when Clough was in his prime.

Stan Anderson, who played alongside Clough at Sunderland – and also, incidentally, was worthy of more than the two England caps he was awarded – is in no doubt about Clough’s quality as a potent striker.

‘People either liked or disliked Brian Clough and I admit that when he first came along I thought what a pain in the arse he was,’ Anderson says. ‘And when he said things like, “If you get it and knock it in the box, I’ll stick it in the net for you,” you’d think, “Is he bloody kidding or what?”

‘But then you got to know the bloke and that’s what he did. A number of times playing alongside Brian I used to think, “What the hell’s he going there for?” ’

Anderson cites an occasion during a Sunderland match when he pushed a pass down down the line for Harry Hooper to run after. ‘Harry then hit this ball that struck the fullback, came out, hit somebody else and there was Brian standing three yards out and sidefooted it into the net. I was thinking, “How the hell did you manage to be in the right place for that one”.

‘It’s a knack, I suppose, being in the right place at the right time even though it looks as though it’s the wrong place. Somehow the ball seemed to fall to him and he knocked it in.’

Anderson was injured and sitting in the stand when on Boxing Day1962 Clough, who at the time ‘was scoring goals for fun’, received the injury that effectively ended his career. The match  was against Bury at Roker Park.

‘The match wouldn’t have been played if it was today,’ Anderson says. ‘There was ice all over the pitch.

‘Chris Harker, the Bury goalkeeper, came out and went down for the ball. No problem at all. But because Cloughie couldn’t stop he went over the top of Harker and tore all his knee ligaments. That was the end of his career and cost us promotion. We’d have walked promotion if Cloughie had played the rest of that season.’

Sunderland would miss out on goal average to Chelsea.

Surgeons operated on Clough’s knee soon afterwards to repair the torn medial and cruciate ligaments – and it is hard to argue with the likely accuracy of thoughts attributed to Clough by David Peace in his novel The Damned United:

But no one tells you anything, anything you don’t already know –

That this is bloody bad. This is very fucking bad –

The worst day of your life.

Clough did play again but only a handful of games before retiring as a player aged 29. ‘But football is a life of disappointments really,’ Anderson says.

Anderson also knew Clough well as a fellow manager. ‘He used to make me laugh,’ Anderson says, ‘but eventually things would get to the point where I’d say, “Now look Brian, don’t try to kid me because I know you”.’

When they were players together, the kidding was just that, inconsequential. It was when they were managers with opposing interests that Anderson was glad to be forewarned of the kind of antics in which Clough specialised.

When manager of the Fourth Division club Doncaster in the mid Seventies, Anderson had in his charge a young player called Terry Curran. He describes Curran as a good footballer but one who had difficulty doing what his manager wanted despite being told this was the only way he’d make the most of his talent.

‘Then one day,’ Anderson says, ‘this lad John Quigley, who was my coach, said, “Guess who I’ve seen coming into the ground? Peter Taylor [Brian Clough’s assistant at Nottingham Forest]. He was wearing a big scarf, a hat and dark glasses.’

‘How do you know it was Peter Taylor?’ Anderson said.

‘I know Peter Taylor,’ Quigley said.

Anderson already knew that Clough and Taylor were interested in buying Terry Curran and had been manoeuvring to get him as cheaply as possible. It was no surprise when, not long after the poorly disguised Taylor had been spotted by Quigley, Anderson took a call from Clough.

‘Hi Stan, how are you keeping?’

‘Fine, Brian. Kept them out of the bottom four and we’re pushing for promotion.’

‘They tell me you’ve got a lad called Curran there.’

‘Well you should know because Peter Taylor was here on Saturday.’

‘No he wasn’t.’

‘Brian,’ Anderson said, ‘he was here on Saturday because two or three people saw him. Don’t kid me, because that’s what you’re doing.’

Caught out by Anderson, Clough pressed on, unabashed.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘I’d heard of him before and I think that I’d like to sign him.’

‘OK,’ Anderson said, ‘but he’ll cost you quite a bit of money because he’s only young.’

‘Aye,’ he said, ‘come down and we’ll talk.’

Anderson had planned to go down to Nottingham on his own, but Ben Rayner, the Doncaster chairman, insisted on coming too. Anderson was not happy: ‘I knew Cloughie would tie Rayner around his little finger.’

After they arrived at Forest’s City Ground there was a brief exchanage of pleasantries before Clough came straight to the point: ‘How much do you want for him, Stan?’

‘Seventy-five grand.’

‘A bit high that.’

‘How about this, Brian: would you sell me Ian Miller and Dennis Peacock as part of the deal?’

‘Aye, 30 grand.’

‘Come on,’ Anderson said. ‘For a start neither of them is playing in your first team.’

‘Look,’ Clough said, ‘we’ll make it £55,000 for Curran plus you get Miller and Peacock.’

The two managers shook hands on it, before Rayner piped up: ‘Oh no, we want £60,000. I can’t go back to the board and say we’ve only got £55,000 for him.’

Anderson pointed out: ‘You’ve got two other players as a well, Mr Rayner. The deal is 75 grand and I’ve knocked him down to 20 grand for Miller and Peacock.’

He wouldn’t listen, Anderson says, and in the revised deal Clough confused Rayner by agreeing to pay more for Curran but wanting more in return for Miller and Peacock.

‘Going back in the car,’ Anderson says, ‘Rayner said to me, “By, good deal that. Good deal.” I said, “Do you realise you’ve just cost the club thousands.”

‘After I’d explained it to him he didn’t know what to say. Cloughie had pulled a fast one on him. He was brilliant.’

Quite how brilliant the football world was soon to find out as, in particular, fans of Derby County and Nottingham Forest remember with special fondness.

 

This is an edited extract from When Footballers Were Skint by Jon Henderson / @hendojon published by Biteback Publishing.

Permalink