During the summer, although retained by City Branston was placed on the transfer list, as he was reported as not wanting to live in Lincoln. However, the situation was evidently resolved by the start of the new season as with Ray Harford and Jim Grummett both leaving the club he was now definitely first choice centre half, initially partnered by Trevor Meath. However, six games into the season Meath was moved to his true position in midfield in place of the injured Nobby Lawton and Branston now formed a very effective partnership with utility man Derek Trevis.
After going out of the League Cup in the Third Round to Second Division Queens Park Rangers some consistent home form saw City up to 7th place by mid-October. Injured in a 1-1 draw at Southport Branston then had to miss four games, initially being replaced by former Leeds United youngster David Kennedy. Manager David Herd then turned to experience with the signing of former Colchester United man John Kurila who had been with Branston at Northampton. Partnered by his old team-mate on his return to the starting eleven on New Year’s Day Branston then had another new defender alongside him in the next game, the signing of Tom Spencer allowing Kurila to provide strength in midfield. A draw at fellow promotion challengers Grimsby moved City up to 5th place amid rumours that Branston was set to return to Northampton, but he remained at Sincil Bank and an unbeaten run of 11 games saw City established in 3rd place. A top of the table clash with Scunthorpe saw a man of the match performance from Branston as a 1-0 win moved City up to second.
However, with points beginning to be dropped at home City finished in 5th place to deprive Branston of another promotion honour as he ended the season with a total of 46 appearances in all competitions. He did have the consolation of being voted Player of the Season by the supporters in a turn-around of what many peoples’ opinion of him had been when he first joined the club
At the start of the 1972/73 season hopes were high that City could go one better and achieve the long-awaited promotion, but with Branston’s central defensive partner Tom Spencer missing the first game due to injury City began with a home defeat by Hartlepool. Although he was back for a League Cup exit to Mansfield and a draw at Darlington Spencer then fell victim to an injury that was to disrupt his season. Branston himself appeared to have had his mobility affected following a summer cartilage operation and was dropped for a visit to Darlington and then found new signing from Notts County, 22-year-old Terry Cooper partnering Derek Trevis in defence for the visit of Aldershot, another home defeat.
Restored to the side with Cooper moved into midfield things then began to look up for City. After missing a visit to Peterborough with a bruised foot Branston resumed his partnership with Trevis to continue an unbeaten run for City that stretched to 10 games and saw them up to 3rd place. However, failings in midfield then began to catch up with the Imps starting with a defeat at Chester following which Branston was replaced in the side by the fit-again Spencer. He returned for a visit to Stockport surprisingly wearing the no. 11 shirt for possibly the first time in his career. However, anyone expecting to see him haring down the left wing would have been disappointed as he played as one of three centre backs in an ultra-defensive formation. However, this tactic failed with a 2-1 defeat and with Spencer injured yet again Branston was back alongside Trevis. But after a run of only one win in 10 games which saw City down to 9th place he was replaced again by Spencer for a game at Bradford City. This brought a 3-1 defeat which was followed by the departure of David Herd as manager. For his successor the directors looked within the club, with Derek Trevis in the running along with Branston, but the post was given to the club’s player-coach Graham Taylor, six years Branston’s junior, making him the youngest manager in the Football League.
The new boss immediately restored Branston to the side and he responded with a man of the match performance which however couldn’t prevent a 2-1 home defeat by Barnsley. The run of draws and defeats continued under the new manager, with the still Rugby-based Branston missing four of them and being placed on the transfer list due to Taylor’s policy of wanting all his players to live locally. However, after 11 matches without a win it was Branston, restored to the side in place of the once again unfit Spencer who arguably saved the future England manager’s career, heading the only game of the game in the 88th minute against Darlington to produce a classic headline in the Lincolnshire Chronicle.
Graham Taylor had now made a start on building his team for City’s future, moving Terry Cooper into the centre of defence and signing centre half John Cottam on loan from Nottingham Forest. However, with Cottam recalled to the City Ground after only one game Branston was back in the side as City began to put together a run of results to climb away from the fringes of the re-election zone. He remained in the side until suffering an injury in the second half of a 1-0 victory against Peterborough United at Sincil Bank on Good Friday and this proved to be his last appearance for the club. He finished the season with 36 appearances in all competitions with the goal against Darlington being the only one he ever scored for Lincoln.
At the age of 35, and with Graham Taylor having shown his intentions with the intended loan of Cottam it was clear that Terry Branston did not figure in his future plans, this being confirmed with the signing of Sam Ellis in the summer. However, Branston remained on the club’s books being allowed to go out on loan, first spending two months with Midland League side Long Eaton then for the rest of the season playing for leading Southern League side Nuneaton Borough. In the summer of 1974, he became manager of Leicestershire side Enderby Town, then in the lower division of the Southern League before also having a spell in charge of his local side VS Rugby in the West Midlands League. He was in his mid-forties when he finally finished playing with works side AEI Rugby.
In a question and answer session in a City match programme Branston gave one of his dislikes as ‘bad driving’, so that may possibly have had something to do with him becoming a driving instructor in Rugby where one of his pupils was former Northamptonshire and England cricketer Colin Milburn. Branston would occasionally watch Luton Town matches and became a season ticket holder with Northampton Town. He died of brain cancer in December 2010 in Coventry at the age of 72.
Terry Branston’s Football League record totalled 447 appearances with 12 goals scored
Thanks to Gary Parle for providing some of the information contained in this article.