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


Sunday, 22 May 2016

Total Football Part 13

Shock news from the other side of the River Mel - Rocky Race is to be the new manager of Melboro! Meanwhile Rovers face in-form Portdean in the Premier League...

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Opponents No.14 - Kingsbay Part 2

Steve Marks, a tall, strong and mobile striker was an instant hit. At the end of the 1979/80 season, Steve's goals meant Kingsbay qualified for the UEFA Cup. Wally Turnball recognised the need to strengthen his squad if 'Bay were to challenge at home as well as in Europe. He signed forward Mickey Jordan for £700,000 from Fourth Division Mudport United, a massive gamble on a teenager who raised himself in the African jungle. But the youngster settled into top-flight football with ease, quickly becoming a key player and regular goalscorer.

Jordan's arrival unsettled an injured Steve Marks. Convinced that the big money signing would replace him in the side, Marks confronted Turnball. Steve was assured of his place as first-choice and that he would not be sold under any circumstance. However the crafty Matt Johnson, boss of Holverton had other ideas. While scouting at Stockbridge Town, Johnson bumped into Steve who was watching his brother Terry in action for Town. The eccentric Holverton manager tricked Steve into believing that Kingsbay had accepted a bid from big spending Stambridge City, the striker was furious again clashing with Turnball. For a while it looked like Johnson would get his man, but thanks to Terry's suspicion and the help of a local journalist friend, the plot was exposed and Steve return to the first team.

'Bay's league form did suffer from the strain of competing for two titles, but their poor position did allow full focus on the UEFA Cup matches. Dusselburg and Havanger were swept aside, before an epic quarter-final victory over holders Racing Blue from Belgium.

McCaffrey flicks on for Payne to net vs Racing BlueCaptain Nigel Payne had had a difficult season, injuries and loss of form. Young Ray Noble was given a chance to press his claim, but a series of inadequate displays, particularly against the tricky England international Kenny Johnson of Redstoke, forced Turnball to look elsewhere. After trying Steve Marks in the number 5 jersey, the boss eventually returned to the transfer market after Payne suffered yet another injury, his target none other than Steve Marks' younger brother Terry of Fourth Division high-fliers Stockbridge Town. Racing Blue were also interested, but Terry would not turn down the chance of teaming up with his brother and signed on in time for the Second Leg of the UEFA Cup Semi-Final in Germany versus Marnheim.

The First Leg ended goalless, but Kingsbay had lost Payne again to injury (this one would end his career) and targetman Joe McCaffrey was sent-off after a moment of madness. McCaffrey and Steve Marks had developed a wonderful partnership up front. The big Scotland international was rarely beaten in the air, Steve would thrive on his knockdowns scoring many a snapshot in a crowded and confused penalty box.

But the two strikers would not have had all the glory without the unsung efforts of creators Alan Jennings (on the left wing) and midfielder/winger Ian Turner. The side was incredibly well balanced, with Mickey Jordan the fulcrum, drifting between attack and midfield. In fact it is probably harsh to insist on Steve Marks being the star of the side.

In the Rhineland for the Second Leg against Marnheim in front of 80,000 spectators, reserve striker Johnny Harris with given the chance of replacing McCaffrey. Harris would have a storming end to season. While not a tall or strong as "Big Joe", Harris was fast, had a good leap and powerful shot. It was his goal that took 'Bay to the Final and shock the German supporters.

The UEFA Cup Final against recently crowned Dutch Champions Spartadam was another classic, 2-0 down from the first leg and still without suspended striker Joe McCaffrey; the odds were well against a Kingsbay victory over the team of eleven internationals. But Mickey Jordan fired in a spectacular volley and Steve Marks buried a loose ball to level the tie. Going into the final minutes, with extra-time looming, Harris again lost his marker, he shot, off the bar and away, no! The referee consults his linesman, Harris begs for the goal - it's given Kingsbay have won the 1981 UEFA Cup!

Kingsbay UEFA Cup Winners 1981

Line-up (as above) - Back row: Dave Ellis, Ray Bailey, Terry Marks, Ian Turner, Joe McCaffrey, Johnny Harris (sub). Front row: Paul Bryant, Peter MacDonald, Mickey Jordan, Steve Marks (captain), Steve Dawson, Alan Jennings.

G - Bailey, Donnelly
D - Ellis, Dawson, Payne, Noble, Terry Marks
M- Turner, Bryant, MacDonald
F - Steve Marks, Jordan, McCaffrey, Harris, Clarke, Parsons, Jennings

Kingsbay 80/81 season stats

- In pre-season St Estelle of France were described as UEFA Cup winners perhaps they won it the year before
- I'm missing a few issues so don't have scores for some of the matches shown in the spreadsheet - help if you can!
- The formation is very fluid - almost a 3-2-5 (Ellis RB, Marks/Payne CH, Dawson LB; Bryant LH, MacDonald RH; Turner RW, Marks CF, McCaffrey CF, Jordan FW, Jennings LW)

Kingsbay vs Spartadam UEFA Cup Final 1981

Steve Marks alongside his brother Terry leads Kingsbay to victory over Dutch giants Spartadam...

Kingsbay vs Spartadam UEFA Cup Final 1981
Kingsbay vs Spartadam UEFA Cup Final 1981
Kingsbay vs Spartadam UEFA Cup Final 1981
Kingsbay vs Spartadam UEFA Cup Final 1981

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Opponents No.14 - Kingsbay Part 1

Many football fans won't look beyond the Marks Brothers when thinking about Kingsbay, but 'Bay had great success and some great players before and after their glory period of the early 80s.

Melchester Rovers followers first had reason to notice Kingsbay in the mid-60s. With school teacher left-half Lofty Peak the stand out player, the men from the south coast began to form a side able to match and beat England's very best. During a match in December 1968, Peak would have an amazing battle with Rovers' new signing Geoff Giles. With long-serving half Buster Brown retiring, Ben Galloway was on the look-out for a ready made replacement. Peak certainly impressed the Guvnor who soon promptly snapped up the man affectionately known as the "Gentle Giant."

Duncan Blair showing his skills 1977/78But Kingsbay would not feel his loss; by 1970/71 they were ready to concentrate their efforts fully on winning the League Championship. Despite lacking a top-class centre-forward, Kingsbay led at the midway point of the season, inspired by club legends Harry Robbins and Sammy Jessop. Shocking rumours circulated of an audacious bid to sign Roy Race, the move never materialised, but Kingsbay's intent was clear to all and the title was won!

In their search for that 30 goal a season striker, Kingsbay turned to Roger Dixon. Dixon had a phenomenal strike rate, but lacked stamina. But he had his role, a natural goalscorer, Dixon was suited to the increasingly popular role of "super-sub". Roy Race sensed potential in the target man and snapped him up for a bargain £60,000.

Eric Barton nets vs Rovers 79/80
Kingsbay had by now turned to a forward three of Ron Grainger, Johnny Hodges and Eric Barton. Wally Turnball was manager, he preferred old-fashioned attacking tactics, three forwards as well as two wide men. Barton was the focal point of the attack, Hodges and Grainger his lively side-kicks. Future England international Duncan Blair a star on the wing. The combination worked and Kingsbay finished the 1976/77 season in a very good third place.

Turnball was a revelation, his tactics a throwback to his playing days - it was all out attack, almost the old 2-3-5 formation, but a little more defensive. Soon, the captain, Barton, moved on, centre-half Nigel Payne taking over as skipper, but it would be Barton's replacement up front who would fire Kingsbay back to the very top.

Part 2 next week - The Marks Brothers

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Total Football - Part 12

In the summer Johan Seegrun refused to honour the contract offered to Declan McKaffree by former boss Roy Race. McKaffree was free to join Walford Rovers, the FA Cup holders. Up and coming manager Kenny Davenport had worked miracles with the West London club, Walford Rovers were surprise leaders of the Premier League...

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Opponents No.13 - North Vale & Rotherton

North Vale

Welsh side North Vale have always punched above their weight. Vale's presence in the top flight is usually something of a surprise.

But remarkably the Welshmen featured in the First Division continuously for nearly a decade from the mid-70s and returned in the early 90s for the first few years of the Premier League.

One match that Melchester Rovers fans will recall really sums up the determination of the side from the Valleys. The FA Cup 5th Round tie in 1977 saw Mel Park shrouded in thick fog. Vale adapted best as Race's side seemed distracted by the conditions. Rovers supporters would argue that the fog was an unfair leveler, but the press would disagree. Vale won well 3-2, to advance to the quarter-finals. While Rovers were hammered on the back pages: "Racey's men fogbound!" and "Rovers lose their way in fog!" the pick of the headlines.

What this performance showed, was Vale's ability to raise their game and fight for their club, perhaps a result of being the only Welsh club at the top end of English football. North Vale weren't just representing a town and a club, but a footballing nation.

With a small ground and limited finances, Vale were dependent on their own youth system. Perhaps one of their greatest ever players, Gary Walker the lightning fast, blond haired forward, is symbolic of North Vale's position in the soccer world.

Walker made headlines in the early 80s, his unbelievable goalscoring record also attracting the attention of the big clubs. Incredibly fast, a natural finisher, with a great leap, Walker led the line in the First Division while still in his teens. But the very top clubs were reluctant to take a chance, maybe thinking he was just a flash in the pan.

It took a shocking injury to another star teenage forward, Billy Kramer of Tynefield City, to force a move. City, newly promoted to the First Division, were struggling badly. Kramer's broken leg, sustained falling from a roof-top, after being substituted during a poor performance against Walker's North Vale, forced the Reds into the transfer market.

Walker had impressed scoring a fabulous header past Gordon Stewart that afternoon and a £500,000 record transfer fee was soon agreed.

But as always, Vale would take the money, move on and continue to mix it with the big boys!

Frankie Jones scores vs Rovers in 1977
East Midlanders Rotherton are another club famed for producing their own top quality talent. The Reds have spent the majority of their history in the Second Division, albeit regularly challenging for promotion and enjoying many short spells in the First Division.

The late 70s were Rotherton's most successful period, with an atypical extended run in the First Division. An attractive side, Rotherton played attacking football and produced some outstanding forwards.

Rotherton and Rovers fans on the pitch (1977/78)First the double centre forward pairing of Frankie Jones and Alfie Stone kept The Reds away from relegation. While they never challenged at the top, Rotherton were still involved in a number of entertaining matches, mostly ending up as the losing side. in 1976/77 reigning European Champions Blackport Rovers thrashed them 6-0. In 1977/78 the point gained from a draw at League Champions Melchester Rovers was celebrated like a FA Cup win. Unfortunately that match was marred by crowd trouble as Rotherton fans contributed to a mass pitch invasion.
Rotherton tackle Rob Richards in 1983/84

The early 80s saw Rotherton yo-yo between the top two divisions. But fans will fondly recall the goalscoring phenomenon that was Peter Acton, probably the Forest's greatest ever player. He would fire Rotherton to promotion, but found the First Division tougher. He still scored for fun, but his goals alone were never enough to secure a safe position in the top flight.

Rotherton vs Melchester Rovers in 1991/92The yo-yoing would continue, relegation in 1985/86 followed promotion in 1983/84. Acton was a class above the Second Division where a weak defence was not fatal. An immediate return was inevitable and this time Rotherton would find a way of surviving. A side supplemented and improved with the addition of a number the 1983/84 FA Youth Cup runners-up squad. Mike Watson, a centre-half and captain of that youth side, easily made the transition to first-grade football and was a fixture in the Rotherton defence for many years.

However without making any real impact in the top-flight, relegation eventually occurred in the mid-90s and it would be a long time before the team famed for their attacking football and great strikers would feature at the top of English football again.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Opponents No.12 - Eastgate

Eastgate are the side of the East End of London. Traditionally one of the strongest of the London sides, since the mid-80s Eastgate have struggled to have any impact at the top end of English football.

Their story begins in the mid-60s with promotion to the First Division. However Eastgate fail to establish themselves and end up fighting against relegation. A fourth bottom finish in 1966/67 would be a familiar feeling for Eastgate fans through the 70s. But that feeling of relief would not save the Eastenders again, relegation could not be avoided and the Eastgate spent the next few years in the Second Division.

Eastgate in home red colours 1975/76
Manager Bert Naylor formed a strong side and by 1975/76 Eastgate were considered one of the more powerful teams in the country. Three players stood out; Jim Bowker in goal, Joe Riley as the defensive midfielder and Peter Telford on the right wing. But it was a squad light on overall quality, constantly battling away at the wrong end of the First Division.

Naylor had found a way of surviving, but Eastgate lacked the depth to progress.The board backed their manager and the big money signing of striker Steve Holland followed. Holland was on the verge of a call-up to the England squad, very highly rated. Naylor hoped his goals would help Eastgate challenge, but it was not to be. Even the introduction of future England international Andy Watson in goal did not help. Eastgate again found themselves narrowly avoiding the drop. The 1976/77 season would be Bert Naylor's last in charge.

Neil Hammond was appointed and given the task of reaching leading his side to the top. Eastgate fans demanded success, they were sick of scrapping at the bottom, attendances were up and away support phenomenal. Everything seemed in place, surely Eastgate, with Holland partnered by rising stars John Rogers and Raich Williams up front were a team to be reckoned with.

Eastgate players celebrate a draw at Mel Park (1977/78)For a famous encounter at Mel Park, over 10,000 Eastgate fans made the journey up from London. Such fabulous support showed how high expectations were, but the players themselves were still not pulling their weight. Fans were quite embarrassed by the on-pitch celebrations that followed the 1-1 draw. Hooligans in the travelling support later caused chaos in Melchester city centre. Like many clubs, Eastgate had a significant hooligan following in the late 70s, they were out in force in Melchester that day.

Hammond's side played attractive football, but again the results did not come. The top players in the side were as frustrated as the supporters, as the only achievement, for the third year in a row, was avoiding relegation.

Raich Williams of Eastgate in action in 1979/80Andy Watson, now a superb goalkeeper, was almost single-handedly keeping Eastgate in the First Division. Two seasons of consistently top-class performances began to alert the big clubs. Until finally in February 1979 Viktor Boskovic of Second Division Danefield United mad his move. A massive bid of £350,000 was enough to secure the star goalie. Watson would win promotion and eventually the title and a European Cup, as well as many England caps. His quick transition to superstar summed up the failings of his first club - Eastgate just could not find a winning formula, on paper the side was strong, perhaps the biggest failing lay in the manager's office.

Watson's departure stalled all progress in the East End and relegation was inevitable. But recovery was swift and a return to the First Division was soon secure. But the side had not evolved, Williams and Rogers as a partnership had gone stale. There was little money to strengthen and the old unwanted relegation battles were back.

By the 1984/85 season the side's defensive weakness saw Eastgate well adrift at the bottom. Scotland international Jock McNab was identified as the man to fix the problem and what a signing he proved to be. McNab was quick and immensely strong, his presence lifted the team and results improved dramatically. Even Roy Race had no answer to the Scot's defensive abilities, as he was marked out of the game, before substituting himself.

McNab helped Eastgate clear of the drop-zone, but his one man effort would only delay the inevitable. Eastgate were soon back in Division 2 and this time there would be no quick return.

Eastgate are an interesting team, the side of the late-70s had undoubted potential. Skilled observers like Roy Race and Tynefield City's coach Hoots MacLaren recognised the ability of their forward players. However the team always lacked that something special. While often described as powerful and punishing, the word most associated with Eastgate will always be "ordinary".

- In Hard Man there are two Eastgates - Rovers and Albion
- Eastgate appear regularly in all the universe stories until the early 80s
- The last mention of Eastgate was in the 1986 ROTR Annual