Saturday, 26 March 2016

Opponents No.4 - Oldfield

The Northern team of Oldfield first emerged as a Rovers rival in the mid-70s; the deadly strike partnership of Carver and Robson breaking Rovers hearts in the 1976 F.A. Cup Final. A strong defence marshaled by the solid Sam Nolan holding out despite the intense Rovers pressure to claim a 1-0 win on Roy Race's wedding day. Local rivals Tynecaster United had won the league, so the Championship and the F.A. Cup would spend the year in the North-East.

Rovers would gain some revenge on the opening day of the 1976/77 season; Oldfield going down 3-1.

Oldfield's Nat Gosden won 47 England CapsIn 1977/78 wearing their famous red and white stripes, Oldfield held defending league champions Rovers to a 1-1 draw. Oldfield were building a formidable side around England international Nat Gosden. Then in 1978/79 Oldfield would become pioneers, Sandor Kovac, the Hungarian international was signed for a "colossal transfer fee." Kovac would score five goals in his first five matches, including two in the FA Cup defeat of a strong Portdean. Other foreign stars would follow Kovac to the First Division notably Spanish wizard Paco Diaz (to Rovers) and German Kaiser Kurt Gruber (to Carford).
Oldfield's Johnny Barret

Kovac was the star of probably Oldfield's strongest ever side. Johnny Barret, a one time Melchester Rovers target and Terry Brand provided the foil for Kovac. Mel Jeffries and young captain Dave Henning offered energy and go forward. While the centre-back pair of Lenny Pearce and Arthur Mason kept things tight at the back. With Gosden a calming presence in his deep-lying midfield role.

Perhaps a top quality goalkeeper and genuine target man could have led Oldfield to trophies. But attendances were up and Oldfield could consider themselves genuine contenders at the top end of English football.

The 80s would be a quiet decade as Henning's side suffered from the transfers of Gosden to Melchester Rovers and Barret to Weston Villa. Kovac too would move on and the great Oldfield side had not really achieved anything.

But the one thing Oldfield could always count on was the hostile atmosphere created every other week by over 40,000 fanatical supporters.

Oldfield's famous ground with over 40,000 fanatical supporters

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Season Review 1999/2000

Roy Race started the season hoping that the F.A. Cup win of 1999 could inspire Melchester Rovers onto greater things. Per Enqvist and long term target David Gates were signed to strengthen a thin squad that would have to fight in Europe as well as at home this campaign.

League Champions, Western Villa were defeated at Wembley in the Charity Shield, but early season form was patchy. Rovers made hard work despatching French opponents in the UEFA Cup, needing a Declan McKaffree away goal to progress.

Dec wasn't getting as many first-team chances as he would like, mainly thanks to the goalscoring form of Rocky Race. But just as things were looking up for Rovers and a title challenge emerging, Rocky's bad luck struck again. Away at Gatesfield, Rocky suffered serious ligament damage turning for the ball. It was a bad one.

Of course poor form followed, with just one point gained from the four matches without Rocky. More injuries hindered Roy's tactical changes, Keith Durham and Anton Gronvold both ruled out for long periods. But Roy inspired his young side, Per Enqvist and David Gates coming into the team and playing superbly.

However, it wouldn't be enough to prevent defeat in Europe. It was Karl Bruckner's UEFA Cup holders Rassburg turn to benefit from the away goals rule and put Rovers out.

But Premier League form was solid and the gap to Western Villa at the top was slowly eroded. In typical Roy of the Rovers fashion, Rocky would return from injury to fire the winner against Castlemere to keep Rovers in the title race. Not even Dion Templeton's injury gained scoring the winner at Melborough was enough to derail the Rovers train.

It would all go down to the last match against Champions and leaders Western Villa. Back in the starting line up, Rocky, of course grabbed the winner and his first league title!

1999/2000 Melchester Rovers line-up, players


1999/2000 Melchester Rovers line-up, players

G - Cooper, Marshall
D - Marcello, Wootten, Nash, Kerrigan, Lawrence, Gates
M - Gronvold, Bracken, Durham, Evans, Enqvist, Argent
F - Race, Templeton, McKaffree, Bishop

There's a lot of assumptions made in compiling the team elevens as so few images are given for the matches. However, Roy gives lots of hints about key players and injuries, so with the small squad it can be pieced together. Roy also names his entire squad in the 2000 Annual which is a great help.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Pak Soon's Story

Pak Soon, the Vietnamese Boat Boy, was one of the most popular Roy of the Rovers characters of the late 80s. Here's his story;

Roy of the Rovers - Pak Soon's Story
Roy of the Rovers - Pak Soon's Story
Roy of the Rovers - Pak Soon's Story
Roy of the Rovers - Pak Soon's Story
Roy of the Rovers - Pak Soon's Story
Roy of the Rovers - Pak Soon's Story

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Opponents No.3 - Portdean

Portdean Duncan McKay 1975/76The longest running of Melchester Rovers' opponents, Portdean first appeared in 1956/57, finishing third, one place above Rovers, before bettering that position by one, as runners up in 1959/60.

Up to the mid-70s Portdean wore striking yellow and blue shirts, before transforming their look to the powerful white and blue combination that football fans now recognise.

Permanent challengers at the top of Division 1, 'Dean would secure their first title in 1969/70.
Legendary defender Duncan McKay was the star, but his sale to Rovers early in the 1975/76 significantly weakened side and the 70s would be a quiet decade, with a peak performance in 1976/77 of second behind the all powerful Melchester side. However, things would change dramatically in the early 80s!

Portdean 1978Another second place behind Melchester in 1979/80 led to a change of luck. Under the passionate captaincy of Richie Gunn, Portdean established their greatest ever side. Bruce "Pancho" Miller the dynamic Scot partnered one-time Rovers target Terry Martin and Paul Rawson in midfield, with England international striker Danny Farrel banging in the goals up front. And with long-term spoilers Melchester Rovers relegated and out of the picture, Portdean finally got their hands on another League Championship.

That 1981/82 season went right to the wire, Portdean battling with UEFA Cup holders Kingsbay. This time it was the dynamic duo of Sammy Williams and Johnny Baron providing the vital goals. Williams could be a devastating player, but suffered with indiscipline. On his day he was one of the most dangerous strikers in the country, but it wasn't just his shooting that could cause damage, his elbows and rough style often rubbed defenders up the wrong way. 'Dean eventually secured first place thanks to a final day victory over Kingsbay and the title heading to Dean Park.

To boost their European Cup challenge, top West German forward Rudi Gruber was signed and Portdean now possessed Europe's most deadly finisher. Gruber's goals had fired the Germans to the World Cup Final in Italy and he was expected to take Portdean to another level. However it was a big money gamble that ultimately failed.
Portdean Rudi Gruber 1982/83

Portdean's success didn't go unnoticed; Gruber soon returned home and Pancho Miller left for Serie A. Roy Race passed on the chance to sign Paul Rawson, who joined German giants Stroberg. The championship winning side was dismantled and title challenges became a thing of the past.

In 1988 Richie Gunn was named manager, the club rebranding in white and green stripes with a focus on developing their own young talent. Winger Ryan Cook was a regular for England, Dave Rogers a tidy finisher and captain Ted Rosier, a tough and uncompromising defender. Gunn had built solid foundations and if the youth system could produce one or two gems Portdean would be in a strong position to again challenge for the title.

And what a gem they did find; Richie's own son, Gary, a supremely talented yet volatile forward. However Portdean would not benefit from Gary Gunn's talent. After a pre-season tournament in Greece, where Richie had set up an academy, Roy Race made his move, poaching (although with his
Portdean Cope 1989/90
father's blessing) the final piece in Richie Gunn's title winning jigsaw.

By 1991/92 Richie Gunn had reestablished Portdean as one of the top teams in England. Having returned to their lucky white and blue colours, 'Dean finished third, pushing a Melchester Rovers side featuring Gary Gunn and Tynecaster United all the way. Portdean were back! The England international forward pairing of Brian Venner and Mike Watson tucked away chances created by Welsh midfielder Ivor Hughes.

In the '90s trophies didn't come, but Portdean continued to battle away with the best of the Premier League. New foreign star Ricaro helping his team push Tynecaster all the way in 2000/01. Did they do it and win their third league title?
Portdean 2000/01 Ricaro

Notable players:
Duncan McKay, Richie Gunn, Bruce "Pancho" Miller, Rudi Gruber, Terry Martin, Danny Farrel, Ryan Cook, Ted Rosier, Bill Evans, Dave Rogers, Brian Venner, Mike Watson, Ivor Hughes, Brian Carey, Paul Rawson, Derek Hobson, Rex Stewart, Chris Vallard

League Champions: 1969/70, 1981/82
Runners-up: 1976/77, 1979/80

The green/white colours of the late 80s appear to be a confusion between Burndean and Portdean.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Total Football Part 11

Melchester Rovers continue their fine form with a good win in the League Cup Quarter Final. While Roy joins Rocky in the States with the rest of the family before the MLS Cup Final. It's not all roses though as Rocky reminds Roy of the story of Pak Soon...