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Bolton Wanderers Gordon Taylor OBE


Childhood Memories

I was born in a council house estate in Ashton-under-Lyne near Manchester and in the area I lived I was very fortunate really as there were loads of lads who just loved to play football non-stop. The grammar school was nearby and the best place to play was on the cricket pitch as it was like playing at Wembley, but we used to get chased off by the groundsman! Then lower down were the tram sheds and behind the sheds was a great open space where we used to play in the morning, afternoon and at night. We'd actually play football against teams of lads from other areas and I can remember one day, it was a bit like Watership Down really, as the builders came in and so the area we had to play in got smaller and smaller. We kept playing, then one day one of the bricklayers came up and pulled out of his pocket an FA Cup medal and said it was his Dad's. He said he was called Roscamp and that his father had played for Blackburn Rovers in the 1928 Cup Final and scored one of the quickest ever goals. He then said "One day one of you lads could win one of these" and that was always my big ambition.

Needless to say, I played in three semi-finals but never actually made a final, but in those days the Cup Final was so special, they're still special now, but the FA Cup was just brilliant. It was the game where everything stopped, on a May afternoon, with the sun always shining. We didn't have a television at the time but my Dad knew somebody who didand I remember watching in black and white the Stanley Matthews Final in 1953, the first I saw and seen everyone since except 1975 West v Fulham as I was still upset after Fulham beat us in a replay at Maine Road, Manchester.

My Dad went to school in Ashton which was the same school attended by George Taylor, same name but no relation, who had played football for Bolton Wonderers professionally and then became a coach in the days when Bill Ridding was manager. It was the fifties when they played in two Cup Finals. He would take me to Bolton and we would get tickets. The Cup Final of '53, was the very first Cup Final I watched, which was unbelievable as Bolton were winning 3-1, but eventually lost 4-3. I was partly upset because they had lost, but also pleased because it had seemed that the whole world wanted Stanley Matthews to get his FA Cup medal and of course, it was the Matthews Final, despite it being the match when Stan Mortensen scored his hat-trick. That was brilliant. I remember the next year everyone thought the same for Tom Finney when he was there for Preston against West Brom but sadly that didn't work out. Both Sir Stan and Sir Tom are no longer with us, but they were both two football icons that left me with real vivid memories of their special abilities. I'm really pleased that I got to know, through the PFA, Sir Stanley very well and his daughter and her family. I got to know Sir Tom very well too.

Early Career

I'd played for my school, my town and the Lancashire Boys and had a trial for England Boys in 1959/60. My trial for England Boys was the North v North Midlands at Barnsley. In the same game, when you look back it's quite unbelievable how many came through, Barry Fry who was a schoolboy star then as a goalscorer, and now he's done really well in the game as a manager and he's a director at Peterborough, Paul Madeley who played for England, Tommy Smith who played for Liverpool and England, Graham Taylor who went on to manage England, David Pleat who went on to manage Tottenham, Frank Casper who managed Burnley, father of Chris, Len Badger of Sheffield United and Dennis Thwaites of Birmingham City. It’s amazing when you think about it now and those players as when you think these days it's not the same schools for football, it's club academies, and you wonder how today’s young players might miss out on great days at school like that. The clubs came knocking on my door, and one of them was Preston, they invited me, my Dad and my uncle over to watch a game. Cliff Britton was the manager. George Barge was the scout and coach who wanted me to sign for them, so we met the manager and he said "Well would you like to come and meet Sir Tom Finney?" Unbelievably, it was April 1960 and was Sir Tom's very last game against Luton Town, with Allan Brown, Billy Bingham and Ron Baynham. So he came out of the dressing room and was talking about football, and it was just unbelievable. They had to say "Come on Tom, it's your biggest day" it was so emotional. He was a real gentleman and so humble, that was a very special day I’ll never forget.

My favourite player, though, was Nat Lofthouse, the 'Lion of Vienna'. I was a supporter of Bolton with my Dad and we watched every round of the '58 Cup run which unfortunately was the time of the Munich crash. Nevertheless, it was Bolton winning the Cup after '53 and that was due to Nat Lofthouse with two goals and his charge on Harry Gregg. It was the only game we didn't see live! I remember seeing them beat Stoke, York and Wolves 1-0 who had a good team with Bert Williams, Roy Swinbourne, and Eddie Clamp who moved to Stoke later. I watched them play Blackburn Rovers in the semi final at Maine Road . My Dad propped me high up on the slopes of the exit tunnel to watch the game. Lofty didn't play that day, Ralph Gubbins was stand-in as Lofty was injured and Ralph scored two against Blackburn. We didn't manage to go to Wembley for the final, we didn't get tickets. The first Wembley final I saw was Preston North End, including Howard Kendall, who I was later to play with at Birmingham and became a good friend of mine. It was Preston v West Ham 1964 when West Ham had players like Peter Brabrook and John Bond, and Preston had Kendall and Alex Dawson with George Ross at right back, Alan Kelly in goal. Kelly has a great goalkeeping family, he has sons and relations who have been goalkeepers. I went down to Wembley with Dave Lennard who I played with at Bolton. Preston didn't do it then, but West Ham haven't done too badly in Cup Finals. That was the first one I saw live and I've seen nearly every single one since then, apart from when I was too upset to watch it in 1975, after Fulham beat us in the semi final. We drew at Sheffield Wednesday and had a replay in Manchester which I thought was a good omen, but Fulham had Bobby Moore and Allan Mullery and they beat us with a goal by John Mitchell, which was more of ricochet than a goal. It hit the keeper then bounced off Mitchell and bobbled over the line, as Joe Gallagher slipped and couldn't get there. It was terrible, it was really late on in the game. I remember coming out of the ground, and my Dad was there, and the Fulham coach was lit up, Alec Stock was the manager and all the players, like the late great Bobby Moore and Allan Mullery were celebrating, and I was thinking "Oh no" because my Dad wasn't going to be with us for much longer, which was sad.

I went to Bolton as a youth. Manchester United wanted me to sign for them and I went training with them the same time they signed Tony Dunne, their full back. John Aston, who had been a full back for them and was the father of John Aston who played so well for them in the European Final in 1968, he lived locally and wanted me to go down to United. They were a big club in the 1960s, but nothing like the renowned team they are now, albeit they were known as the Busby Babes in the 50’s. It was just two years after Munich. I went to Bolton Wonderers because they had a reputation for bringing through their own players. The team they won the cup with in '58 was Hopkinson, Hartle, Banks, Hennin, Higgins, Edwards, Birch, Stevens, Lofthouse, Parry and Holden. They said their defence was so strong that the SAS refused to play them at five-a-side ! Tommy Banks used to chip wingers across to Roy Hartle and Higgins was a tough lad.

Arsenal also wanted me to sign for them, along with Birmingham and Blackburn. I just felt, knowing Bolton as I did, that those clubs were a bit of a trek from Ashton, I was at the grammar school and myself and another lad there, Malcolm Hulley who also had played for the town team and county used to go over and train on Tuesday and Thursdays in my final year at school. I promised my Mum and Dad, as I'd got into a grammar school and passed my 11 plus that I would carry on my education as I didn't want to waste it, I took my A-Levels at Bolton Tech and then I took a London University external degree. Decades later the London School of Economics had their 150th anniversary and they asked me to go down and speak at it. They had these pictures on the stage of their external students such as Gandhi and top play writes, poets, engineers, then in the centre stage was Nelson Mandela, who had kept studying whilst incarcerated and got a law degree. It was incredible. I felt humbled, to say the least.

First Team Debut

My first team debut at home was great, we played Ipswich. My actual first team debut was at Wolves away in 1963 which wasn't very good as we got beaten 4-0, Peter Broadbent got a hat-trick.At the time the 'old guard' who had won the cup were ageing, so players such as myself and Francis Lee got a chance, Brian Bromley and later they got Wyn Davies. Making my home debut against Ipswich Town, Sir Alf Ramsey had joined England.. Jackie Milburn took over as manager of Ipswich and that was a great night because we won 4-2 and I managed to score twice. I was a little inside forward and they had a 'WM formation'. The 'WM' then moved to '4-2-4' after Brazil in the '58 World Cup won against Sweden, with Sir Alf Ramsey it moved to '4-3-3', then '4-4-2' and then '4-5-1' and there we go! As systems moved to 4-2-4 and 4-3-3 I moved out to the wing.

For my FA Cup debut in 1964, they had drawn at Bath in the third round, and they said they were putting me in the team for the replay because they felt the right-back looked very much ready for retirement, well the words were "the undertakers had got fed up of giving him estimates!" They had a manager who was going to do really well, Malcolm Allison - ex West Ham who used to throw his fur hat, his fedora, up into the air, little did the football world know that he was going to go from Bath, onto Plymouth, to Man City and do so well with Joe Mercer. In those days it was Bath, and he had a right-back who he took with him in the end, from Bath to Plymouth to Man City and this was a player who, I found it hard on the night, switched wings and in the end we did win and I did score, but I thought my career wasn't going to last too long if I couldn't make any progress against somebody who was supposed to be too old to be playing. In fact that was Tony Book, who really proved to be an outstanding veteran, he was footballer of the year a few years later! In that team they had Len Phillips who played for Portsmouth and England, Charlie 'Cannonball' Fleming from Sunderland and Ian Macfarlane who had played with Plymouth, so that was special. Those two home debuts, football league and FA Cup debuts were brilliant, they were great games.

To win promotion with Birmingham in 1972 was special, when Trevor Francis was in the team as a sixteen year old boy wonder, but we needed to win our last game at Leyton Orient otherwise Millwall would have gone up. Millwall had Eamon Dunphy, Harry Cripps, and players like that. I took a corner, Bob Latchford headed it in, the Millwall fans were watching us and wanted us to lose of course, and they invaded the pitch. One threatened me and Alan Campbell with a knife and said we'd get that if we won, but that didn't bother us because we were determined to win, and at the end of the game we were all celebrating in the bath and they said "You've got to get out! We've heard that there's an incendiary device that's going to go off" i.e. a bomb, and we thought "Oh sure a bomb.." and so we stayed in the bath, then the next minute there was a 'boom' and an incendiary device did go off in the stand. The Millwall fans were obviously a bit upset. That was a very special night. Another one was when we had to beat Norwich to stay up and I crossed for Kenny Burns to head in the winner, after that we did a lap of honour!

Match Of The Day

Probably the most famous game was when we played at Liverpool in Division One in 72/73 and it was the Match of the Day game and was featured on the Match of the Days of the Decades. We were at Liverpool and they had the likes of Keegan and Toshack, we had the likes of Bob Latchford, Bobby Hope, Alan Campbell etc and Trevor Francis, Mike Kelly, who has been a coach to Roy Hodgson the England manager, was in our goal. We started off and I cut inside, I hit one, I used to like to cut in from the left and catch it right, and it just touched Chris Lawler's shoulder and it went straight into the back of the net and we were 3-0 up in no time. It went to 3-1, and then suddenly as the game went on they got back to 3-3 and Liverpool were a good side, top of the league then. That would be in about '72/73. It got to three all, and I thought 'I don't want to lose it now', a cross came over and Bob Hatton beat the keeper to it, beat the centre half, put it in the net and the referee, unbelievably, gave a foul on the goalkeeper, honestly it was the centre half, a lad called Trevor Storton who'd bumped into his own keeper, not Bob Hatton. Bob Hatton was a great goal scorer who played for Blackpool, Carlisle, Wolves and Hull. From the free kick, Toshack headed it on for Keegan and we got beaten 4-3. It was a choker but it was one of the most exciting games that I've played in.

Beating Pelé

My best night would be in the summer of '77 when I played for Vancouver Whitecaps in the North American Soccer League, that was when they were trying to boost soccer in the USA, Pelé, Cruyff and George Best were all over there, but New York Cosmos really pushed the boat out. They had Pelé, Beckenbauer, Chinaglia, Carlos Alberto. We had a full house at the Empire Stadium in Vancouver, where you could see the mountains and the Pacific, a beautiful night, we beat them 5-3 and I got Man of the Match. To be in a team that beat Pelé and get Man of the Match was a bit special, it would be hard to top! I was very pleased.

1966

The '66 World Cup Final was a great game because they were mates of mine that were playing. Alan Ball had been a mate of mine since Bolton days, we were at Bolton together before he moved on. Alan wrote off for trials, got on at Blackpool, and then became the first £100,000 player when he moved to Everton. I was at the game, in '66, and I was straight behind the Russian linesman, although I think he was from Kazakhstan, and for anyone wondering Geoff Hurst’s shot was definitely over the line ! I was sat down for the match. Wembley was fantastic. I had taken my fiancée and future wife Catharine to London with me and I promised that we were going to the theatre later on. A play called The Owl and the Pussycat, and then we were going to The Talk of the Town to see Johnny Mathis. There were no mobiles then so when finally Germany equalised and it went into extra time, I realised the theatre would have to be missed out and I couldn't get in touch with Cath. Anyway, we made it to the Talk of the Town later on and London was a buzz with cars driving with horns going 'de de dedede dededede England' all of London was like that. That was a fantastic night for me and for English football !

Gordon Taylor OBE

Chief Executive

Professional Footballers' Association

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