Saturday, 30 July 2016

Opponents No.15 - Melboro'

To borrow a modern football phrase, Melboro' have become Melchester Rovers' "noisy neighbours". Decades spent in the shadow of Britain's most successful football club, meant Melboro' fans always hated Rovers with a passion that wasn't really reciprocated.

Legendary Melboro' boss Andy Jackson
Like most soccer rivalries the intensity grew in the late 70s as tribalism replaced the general football community. No longer did fans enjoy matches every weekend attending local teams and having a favourite. Now, in Melchester you were a Red or a Blue and one man did more than most to feed the hate between the two clubs; legendary Melboro' manager Andy Jackson.

Jackson bleeds blue and expected his players to fight for his club, to make up for a lack of ability with heart and desire. Melboro', under Jackson, fought above their weight class; team spirit compensating for a lack of resources and investment.

Bill Bennett scores a brilliant long ranger (79/80)
Having never truly established themselves in the First Division, Andy Jackson created a legacy which began in the mid-70s with promotion. A team of few stars, 'Boro built from a solid base, Bill Bennett the classy sweeper led the side. Bennett played with a continental flair, a neat passer who often found himself on the scoresheet. Including a spectacular volley in the derby (left).

The balding defender would be the foundation of Melboro's success. Moulding a team of journeyman, without a genuine goal threat; Jackson's tactical nous led the Blues into Europe for the first time in their history with back to back UEFA Cup campaigns in 1977/78 and 1978/79. But one thing would continue to bug the great manager, his inability to defeat Roy Race and Melchester Rovers. Too often for his liking the River Mel Derby would end in heavy defeat (5-0 in 77/78 and 4-1 in 79/80) and a glut of Race goals.

But come 1980/81 - Jackson would have his revenge!

Geoff Giles had fallen out of favour at Rovers after the emergence of Vic Guthrie and Steve Naylor and was itching for a new challenge. Remarkably, Jackson pulled off one of the most shocking transfers ever, somehow persuading Race to break the unwritten rule of not transferring players between the two rivals. Giles signed for Melboro' along with Rovers' unsettled 'Super-Sub' Roger Dixon.

Geoff Giles the first Rovers and Boro' playerRoy would later admit that he had made an error letting Giles go as the England international found a new lease of life across the river. Jackson made Giles the attacking focus and new captain of his team, a role which he relished.

With Rovers struggling in the league, Giles destroyed his former club in the derby at Mel Park, scoring twice past debutant goalie Walter Williams. The Rovers fans were amazed at how their cast-off, defensive minded Giles dominated in an attacking midfield position. Boro' won 2-1 and Rovers were relegated later that season. For the third time in four seasons Melboro' finished above their great rivals, but of course Rovers had claimed the title in 1979/80, something Melboro' were still to achieve.

Roy Race of Walford nets vs Melboro' in change stripHowever, Geoff Giles' rejuvenation would prove the highlight of the next few years. Danefield United, Kingsbay, Carford City and Portdean proving too strong for Jackson's triers. From the highs of the late 70s, Melboro' were back in mid-table, behind big spenders Stambridge City, Highboro' United, Walford Rovers and resurgent Melchester and Blackport. Roy Race even had time during his brief spell at Walford to thrash Melboro' 7-1, scoring four times (1983/84). Andy Jackson was not amused!

Johnny Telford scores for Melboro'But his reign would go on for four more years.

Fittingly Rovers' second league match after the Basran Tragedy would be the derby. A match that began with solemn reflection soon turned into a blood and thunder derby. Jackson had his players and the crowd pumped up, the patched up Rovers couldn't handle them and a referee who melted in the hostile atmosphere. In a ding-dong battle Melboro' ran out 3-2 winners, Johnny Telford scoring for a side featuring new signing, Scottish striker John MacVay.

Viv Hamilton gives Boro' the lead (88/89)With Melboro' no closer to the league title Jackson left, with fiery young Walford boss Jack Cassidy chosen to replace him part-way through the 1988/89 season. In his first derby, Cassidy had the chance to write his name into history and relegate Melchester Rovers. But the young Rovers team fought back from an early Viv Hamilton goal to nick a 3-1 win and safety.

Livewire Billy Malcolm nets vs Rovers (92/93)Cassidy, however, was soon tossed aside, with the charismatic Ralph "Flash" Gordon seen by the board as the new Andy Jackson. Gordon was a firm believer in all-out-attacking football and played a fluid 4-2-4 system with defenders encouraged to charge forward. Crowds grew and a growing television audience appreciated the entertainment provided by Gordon's cavalier approach.

Dynamic forward Billy Malcolm provided the pace essential to the system, but again Boro' were still lacking in stars. However, Gordon had found some much needed consistency, guiding the club to top ten finishes in all three of his seasons in charge. Yet, while certainly an attractive side, Melboro' still could not find that extra something to challenge for trophies.

Ralph "Flash" Gordon, colourful managerRalph Gordon's reputation had grown, now regarded as one of the top bosses in the game, talked about in the media in the same breath as Rudi Marik, Derek Mason and Mario Tachi. And when Roy Race shockingly resigned as Melchester Rovers manager in October 1992, Flash was the only realistic applicant. Rovers had poached their boss and the Melboro' fans seemed set for another long period of watching their bitter rivals lifting cup after cup.

But, the first few years of Premiership football were anything but predictable. Two tragedies befell Melchester Rovers, both having a tremendous knock-on effect on fortunes across the river.

Firstly, Roy Race's helicopter crash, retirement and appointment as manager of AC Monza, left the Rovers without their talisman. Melboro' found themselves top dogs in the Midlands thanks to the decline of Rovers rather than their own improvements.

Penny Race's death in Italy, our second tragedy, sent Roy's son, Rocky, off the rails. The supremely talented, yet temperamental, forward had already scored the winner in the 1994 FA Cup Final, but was also immature and lacking self-control on the field. Midway through the 1995/96 season, days after his mother's death, Rocky was sent-off after striking former team-mate Matthew Croker. He wanted out and Melboro' provided that option.

Rocky Race nets the winner for Melboro' at Wembley In the eyes of their fans, Melboro' had gotten one over their old foes and in taking a Race, had they changed the balance of power forever? It would seem so! On his return to Mel Park in the 4th Round of the FA Cup (1996/97) Rocky would knock out his old club with his version of Racey's Rocket. Rocky's goals took them all the way to Wembley, where he scored a cracking overhead volley to win the Cup (right)!

Many spectacular goals followed, including a brilliant solo strike against his returned father's Rovers in 3rd Round of the League Cup (1997/98). But the discipline problems had never gone away and Rocky was sent-off for fighting with his captain Peter Beck, a situation deemed untenable by Beck, his manager and the board. It was the third red of his short career and as personal issues with his father subsided, Rocky returned to Mel Park in a swap deal for Craig Foster.
Craig Foster of Melboro'
By the end of that season, it seemed Boro' had the better of the deal, as Foster netted against his former club in the F.A. Cup Semi-Final to send Melboro' back to Wembley. Although their defence would end in disappointment, the Blues had a new hero and Craig Foster was well on his way to international honours.

Melboro' were not only competing with Rovers in the transfer market, now they were a genuine force on the field. Foster's signing critical in establishing them well and truly as more than just "noisy neighbours!"

- For Melchester Rovers' main rivals there are very few players named
- I have not listed anything from Milboro' or Millborough above, although there is plenty of evidence to suggest they are the same teams
- Melboro' are never called Melborough Town in ROTR, but it is printed on the side of the stadium once. Melboro' Town also feature in Twisty in the Bullet comic.

List of players:
G - Kennedy
D - Baxter, Bill Bennett, Dawson, Ellson, Rogers
M - Peter Beck, Bishop, Britten, Geoff Giles, Viv Hamilton, Lacey, Johnny Telford, Thomas
F - Roger Dixon, Craig Foster, Ted Hedges, John MacVay, Billy Malcolm, Rocky Race

Monday, 25 July 2016

NEW The Men of Castlemere Colliery

In the early 60s, Castlemere FC were not the famous club they are today. Known as Castlemere Colliery Welfare AFC, the team played in the Northern League, the premier competition for amateur clubs in the North of England. Most of Cas's players were miners, tough and strong lads, but also talented footballers...
The Men of Castlemere Colliery
The Men of Castlemere Colliery
The Men of Castlemere Colliery

Thursday, 14 July 2016

1970/71 Season Review



G - Morton, Scott
D - Millar, Cooper, Giles, Peak, Baxter
M - Croydon, Eager, Dylan, Meek
F - Race, West, Gray, Trudgeon, Eliot, White

- Rovers win the Cup Winners Cup
- Rythoven Olympic are described as "unknown continentals" no country is given
- The formation is difficult to plot - the diagram above could easily be a wingless 4-4-2 similar to England's 1966 style: Morton; Millar, Giles, Peak, Cooper; West, Croydon, Trudgeon, Eliot; Race, Gray. However the full-backs rarely attack like Cohen and Wilson did.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Roy and Blackie's Euro 84 - Part 2

Roy Race and Blackie Gray are keen spectators at the Euro '84 match between West Germany and Portugal. Roy is hoping to spot a new player to help Melchester Rovers regain the Football League title. Tonight, a young Portuguese forward impresses...

Roy & Blackie's Euro 84 Part 2
Roy & Blackie's Euro 84 Part 2
Roy & Blackie's Euro 84 Part 2
Roy & Blackie's Euro 84 Part 2

Monday, 20 June 2016

Roy and Blackie's Euro 84

Back in the summer of 1984 Melchester Rovers fans were celebrating the return of Roy Race and an F.A. Cup win! But England supporters had little to cheer as the national side failed to qualify for the European Championships in France. After a end of season charity match, the Rovers were travelling back to Melchester by coach, listening keenly to radio coverage from the opening match in France...

Roy and Blackie's Euro 84
Roy and Blackie's Euro 84
Roy and Blackie's Euro 84
Roy and Blackie's Euro 84

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Opponents No.14 - Kingsbay Part 4

Kingsbay had thrown the Championship away, manager Wally Turnball searched for answers. But at the start of the 1982/83 season he had more pressing concerns; Steve Marks was still in Australia recovering from a serious head injury sustained on a pre-season tour with a Football League XI.

Joe McCaffrey and Jim Duke together 1982/83Leigh Parsons, still young and somewhat raw, was given another chance claim a place in the side. But he certainly didn't impress and as the fans grew impatient, the boss knew it was time for something different. Knowing Steve would be back soon, Turnball chose Jim Duke, a tall and tough striker from Second Division Westbury Town as a short-term fix. However Duke and regular targetman Joe McCaffrey could not and then simply would not play together.

This was not Turnball's only problem; Steve Dawson's lack of pace and mobility at left-back was readily exploited by the North Vale wide men. He was a weak link, his shortcomings obvious now to his manager, but no suitable replacement could be found. On an hunch the master tactician Turnball switched Duke to left-back, the fiery striker was not amused. Turnball late admitted that he only chose Duke to move back to break up "a lousy partnership", it was not some great stroke of tactical genius. But with Steve back and Duke surprising even himself with his displays at full-back, Kingsbay's form surely should improve.
Geoff Sullivan in action in Larissia
However another disastrous result in the UEFA Cup was looming. Larissia, a team of part-timers from Cyprus, claiming a shock win. Terry Marks was dropped, Knight injured, goals wouldn't come. It was a mini-crisis only averted by good performances in the FA Cup.

Two Steve Marks goals gained some revenge over Portdean in the Semi-Final. But the camp was not a happy one. Terry had been loaned to Castleburn City, who promptly thrashed Kingsbay 5-0. Turnball believed Geoff Sullivan to be a better option at centre-half, certain members of the squad found this difficult to believe. Terry was missed, but Turnball was not for swaying, only a freak injury to Sullivan, forced the boss to recall the younger Marks brother.

Western Villa were the opponents at a sunny Wembley in May and Wally Turnball, other than Sullivan, had a fully fit squad to choose from. A dramatic match went the full distance, turning one way then the other. In extra-time Steve Marks grabbed his second goal, the winner, Kingsbay had won the F.A. Cup 4-3!

Stan Draper of Kingsbay 1984/85This was the end of the Marks Brothers era at the great giants of English football, Kingsbay. Wally Turnball was gone too, along with other stalwarts, McCaffrey, Ian Turner, Alan Jennings. New manager Terry Lake, brought fresh ideas and new faces. Stan Draper, an aggressive striker replaced McCaffrey, his all action style earning him an England call-up in 1984/85. Martin McKeown forced his way into the first-team in midfield. But Lake's new players would never match up to the dynasty that was born of Wally Turnball. Kingsbay would fade from glory into also-rans, First Division was no longer a given, the 'Bay were now among the scrappers, fighting for survival rather than trophies.

1982/83 Squad:
G - Knight, Donnelly, Jenson
D - Ellis, Duke, Terry Marks, Gilbert, Norton, Sullivan, Fisher
M - Bryant, MacDonald, Turner, Stein, McKeown
F - Steve Marks, Jordan, McCaffrey, Harris, Clarke, Dolan

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Opponents No.14 - Kingsbay Part 3

Wally Turnball had a settled side, able to attack with flair and defend with vigour - it was time for an all out assault on the First Division. 1981/82 was all set up to be Kingsbay's season. With Melchester Rovers in Division 2 and champions Danefield concentrating on the European Cup, it was as open a league as anyone could remember.

Joe McCaffrey with a typical header vs NaastrichtPortdean emerged as early pacesetters, with 'Bay also flying; four straight wins to open the season without conceding a goal. But the UEFA Cup defence ended in Round 1, a 5-0 thrashing in Naastricht proving just too big a lead to overturn, as a 6-1 win in the home leg saw the men from the Low Countries progress thanks to the away goal. Steve Marks was missing from the away leg, as young Irish boy Gerry Dolan debuted up front. While on career started in Holland one had to end. The big defeat marked the final appearance of goalkeeper Ray Bailey's Kingsbay career. He was dropped after a calamitous display and granted the transfer he requested. With inadequate cover, with Nick Donnelly and youth Peter 'Oscar' Freeman nowhere near ready to be first choice; Turnball returned to neighbours Stockbridge Town for young goalie Paul Knight.

Knight was another great signing and Kingsbay's league challenge was still strong. The big wins of the early season, however, were gone, 'Bay were scrapping, unsettled by the news that Steve Marks would be joining Italian giants Morino. The move collapsed, but momentum had shifted, draws with Eastgate and Stambridge keeping Portdean in the race. The title would be decided on the final day in a shoot-out at Dean Park.

In front of a sell out crowd of 40,000, Portdean chose to play it rough. Mickey Jordan was targeted, having passed a pre-match fitness test. For the youngster the treatment was too much and he was substituted at half-time, Leigh Parsons coming on.

Steve Marks takes on Oldfield 1981/82Early in the second half, the best chance of the match fell to Steve Marks. Parsons out the striker away down the left-wing, Marks cut in an curled a beauty. But it wouldn't bend enough, striking the post. Portdean countered like lightning, a hoof over the 'Bay defence, the forward made no mistake - 1-0 to the team in second.

Kingbay's response was immediate, Steve rallied his troops. Pete Clarke hit the bar with a powerful header, Steve missed a glorious chance, firing into the side netting from a tight angle. With seconds left, Steve chipped a close-range free-kick towards the top corner, but Butt in the 'Dean goal somehow flicked it away and pounced on the loose ball, before Terry could bury an equaliser. The last kick of the match - full time! Portdean win and thousands of fans flood onto the pitch.

Kingsbay had been denied their first Championship since 1970/71. The long run in showed a side perhaps going stale, still over-reliant on the goals of Steve Marks. Perhaps it was time for Turnball to remove some of the dead wood...

Part 4 next week...

Stats 1981/82 season:

Kingsbay stats 1981/82

G - Bailey, Donnelly, Freeman, Knight
D - Ellis, Dawson, Terry Marks, Gilbert, Sullivan, Norton
M - Bryant, MacDonald, Turner, Jennings
F - Steve Marks, Jordan, McCaffrey, Harris, Clarke, Parsons, Dolan

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Sensible World of Soccer 96/97 - Roy of the Rovers Edition (PC)

One of my favourite ever football video games, spent many hours in career mode, updating teams and running custom seasons. So the next stage was to get a ROTR version ready. This one is far superior to the Mega Drive version that was released a while ago. As well as "classic" custom teams from the fictional football world, now you can enjoy career and season mode in the ROTR universe - featuring 100s of teams and over a 1000 ROTR players - can you take Rovers back to the top?

There is a readme included in the file, please read this if you are unfamiliar with DosBox or need installation instructions