30 Years Ago: Part Six

Back in June I said that the look back at events of 30 years ago wouldn’t end with the coverage of the teams return from the FA Trophy final, simply because there was another notable event in Mossley AFC’s history during 1980.

On the 22nd of November (three decades ago to this very day in fact) the Lilywhites claimed their first, and so far only, Football League scalp in the FA Cup when they beat Fourth Division Crewe Alexandra 1-0 in the first round of that season’s competition.

Unfortunately, unlike the Trophy games, my memories of this famous victory for the club are practically non-existent because I wasn’t able to attend the game. Having spent the best part of the week leading up to the match in Manchester Royal Infirmary having had an operation to try and improve my hearing, I was under strict doctor’s orders not to leave the house for two weeks. And as welcome as a fortnight off school was, it didn’t come close to making up for the bitter disappointment ofnot making it to this game.

What I precisely did miss can be read about in the following report on the match which appeared in the Mossley & Saddleworth Reporter:

It was a game also memorable for being Mike Summerbee’s last ever game of competitive football having come out of retirement (and off the back of playing alongside Pele, Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone in Vichy France) as a favour to Mossley’s then manager, Bob Murphy. With it being his last game the fixture does get a lengthy mention in his autobiography and what follows are a few selected extracts:

My professional career had been over for eighteen months when I agreed to help out an old friend and shirt customer, Bob Murphy, who was the manager of non-League club Mossley. A couple of months earlier Bob had said he was short of players: would I turn out in an emergency if required? I said I would, not thinking he would ever be that desperate. Well, Mossley reached the first round of the FA Cup and there was Bob on the phone asking me to play against Crewe Alexandra. He registered me as an official footballer once more – and I had to find some boots again.

Michael Crawford was staying with us at the time and he took Tina (Summerbee’s wife) along to watch the game; I told him not to start laughing or anything. I had to do the best I could. I got to the ground at about 12:30pm, far earlier than I ever used to in my career, but I knew I had to warm up gradually. I was out on the pitch, gently preparing for more than an hour, and then came into the changing room.

‘I’m going to make you the substitute, Mike,’ said Murphy as I went in.

‘You can’t do that,’ I said and it wasn’t ego talking. ‘You have to put me on now, otherwise I won’t be able to play at all. It’s taken me an hour to warm up on the pitch. Put me on from the start.’

As he was doing the team talk I kept walking round all the time, kept moving. I couldn’t afford to stand still for a moment. Then it was out for the game and a fella in the crowd shouted: ‘What are you doing out on the pitch, you b*****d, Summerbee?’

‘How does five hundred quid sound?’ I said to shut him up. Actually, I was playing for nothing. For the first time in my life I was an amateur.

The Mossley pitch had a slope and we played down hill in the first half. I stayed out on the wing and just clipped a few balls in when I had the chance and jogged back to keep the team shape. At half-time it was 0-0 and I had to keep moving through the break. I could already feel the stiffness creeping into my body. In the second half we were going up the slope and to me it felt like climbing Kilimanjiro. Behind me at full-back was was a young lad who kept overtaking me and I was really struggling, sucking air up my rear end. I could hardly move but I kept going. A minute from time there was a corner on the left hand side. I went over and took it, and the centre forward, who was a big fella, rose up and, boom, the ball was in the back of the net. 1-0. We’d won the game and there were all the wide-eyed celebrations you get when a minnow wins an FA Cup tie against a League side.

The Mossley chairman came in afterwards and looked straight over at me and said: ‘You’ll be playing in the next round.’

‘No I won’t,’ was my instant reply. ‘I can’t. It will take me three weeks just to walk properly again.’

And I’ll tell you how stiff I was. I dropped the soap in the shower and I couldn’t even bend down to get it. One of the young lads had to pick it up for me. Outside I found Tina and Michael and they were laughing their heads off. That was it. Finished. Job done. It was the last match I played. The boots went in the skip again.

There are a couple of inaccuracies (the time of the goal and the centre forward didn’t score as intimated) but nothing compared to those in Neil Warnock’s book.

Some more clippings from the Mossley & Saddleworth Reporter:

The reward for this 'giant-killing' was a second round tie against more Football League opposition - Mansfield Town. And it's that game which will make up the seventh and final 30 year trip down memory lane in three weeks time.