Saturday 13th March 1982
Bristol City 0 Lincoln City 1 (Football League Division Three)
Under manager Colin Murphy Lincoln City had finished the previous season as runners-up in the Fourth Division (now League Two) to return to the third tier after a two-year absence. They had had a mixed start to the current season, not helped by the absences through injury at various times of centre half and skipper Trevor Peake, young midfielder Phil Turner, striker Derek Bell, full back or midfielder Phil Neale and not least Peake’s defensive side-kick Steve Thompson. A poor run of results in the month of October with only five points gained out of a possible 18 had put them just outside the relegation zone. However, the return to action of Thompson and the signing on loan of young full back Wayne Turner from Luton had seen an improvement in results, although the weather then took a hand with only four games able to be played in the months of December and January. Still down in 18th place going into February, the Imps were now just over half way through what would stretch to be an unbeaten run of 16 matches, and following three wins in a row were currently in 5th place.
After several years as an established second tier club Bristol City had won promotion to the top flight in 1976, but were relegated after four seasons. The appointment as manager in September 1980 of Bob Houghton who had led Swedish side Malmö to the European Cup final the year before, assisted by Roy Hodgson who followed him back from Sweden did not prevent a second straight relegation to the third tier for the start of the current season.
The decline on the field had been accompanied by mounting debts off it, partly due to declining attendances consequent upon successive relegations but also not helped by a number of players having been given lengthy contracts – in some cases for up to 10 years – in an unsuccessful attempt to maintain the club’s First Division status. What also didn’t help was the expenditure of £120,000 midway through the previous season to bring in goalkeeper Jan Moller from Malmo and the close season signing of former Imps striker Mick Harford from Newcastle United for £160,000.
By the end of January Bristol City were just days away from going into liquidation and ceasing to exist. The club were £860,000 in the red, losing £4,000 a week, owed the Inland Revenue £100,000, and in addition were still paying for the transfers of Moller and Harford. The solution found was to declare the club bankrupt and form a new club called Bristol City FC (1982) Ltd. with a new board of directors. In order for this to work the players who were on long-term deals were to be asked to tear up their contracts, accept redundancy and receive pay-offs of only part of the amount due on their contracts, otherwise, they were told, the club would cease to exist. These players became known as the ‘Ashton Gate Eight’ and included the likes of midfielder Jimmy Mann, former Chelsea striker Chris Garland, and defender David Rodgers who would join the Imps for a brief spell a couple of weeks after this match. Left with little alternative in the circumstances, the eight players all agreed to this and departed the club immediately.
In addition, in order to raise money Jan Moller was sold for £165,000 straight after the visit of the Imps to Canadian side Toronto Blizzard managed by Bob Houghton who had left the Bristol club in January, while Mick Harford, who was serving the second game of a two-match suspension, played just once more before being sold to Birmingham City for £100,000.
Houghton had left as the club slid into the relegation zone and was succeeded by his assistant Roy Hodgson as caretaker manager. The 34-year-old in his first managerial post in England, although seeing the club suffer only a 1-0 defeat to First Division Aston Villa in the fourth round of the FA Cup had initially been unable to do anything to halt a run of what stretched to nine league games without a win. Three wins in four games had then lifted the Robins briefly out of the bottom four again before defeats away at Oxford and at home to Reading saw them back in 21st position going into the game with Lincoln.
The teams were:
- David Felgate
- David Carr
- Phil Turner
- Glenn Cockerill
- Trevor Peake
- Steve Thompson
- George Shipley
- Wayne Turner
- Gordon Hobson
- Tony Cunningham
- Stuart Hibberd
- David Gilbert
- Jan Moller
- Paul Stevens
- Alan Hay
- Rob Newman
- Aidan McCaffery
- Gary Williams
- Wayne Bray
- Les Carter
- Rick Chandler
- Ray Gooding
- Jon Economou
- Mark Smith
City goalkeeper David Felgate had arrived initially on loan from Bolton Wanderers in the September of the previous season, joining permanently for a fee of £25,000 three months later. After young reserve Stuart Naylor had been given a chance with a brief run of games earlier in the current season Felgate had resumed as first choice keeper.
Full backs were David Carr, and despite wearing the number eight shirt, Wayne Turner. Carr had originally joined from Luton Town for a fee of £20,000 as a midfield player in the summer of 1979 but had played most often in the centre of the defence before being moved to fill what had become something of a problem position at right back a month or so ago. The now 21-year-old Wayne Turner had joined on loan from Luton in October as Colin Murphy looked to strengthen the defence. He had made just four Second Division appearances for the Hatters, and initially featured at full back for the Imps before having a spell in midfield. He had now reverted to left back with Phil Neale out injured.
City’s central defenders Trevor Peake and Steve Thompson had formed a formidable partnership in the latter part of the previous season and this had been resumed following the return of Thompson from injury in early November. The now 26-year-old Thompson had been signed from Boston United at the very end of the 1979/80 season for a fee of £15,000. Peake, a year younger, had joined from Nuneaton Borough in the summer of 1979 for a similar fee and as well as being named in the PFA Fourth Division Team of the Year had also been City’s Player of the Year for the previous two seasons.
The improvement in results in the current season had followed a change from Colin Murphy’s previously favoured 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 formation. The three in midfield comprised the skilful George Shipley who had become City’s record signing midway through the 1979/80 season at a cost of £45,000 from Southampton, and two products of City’s nursery side in Sheffield, both aged 20. Phil Turner had broken through into the first team as a teenager early in 1980, soon becoming a permanent fixture, usually in midfield (although wearing the number three shirt in this match), although he had filled in at right back earlier in the season. The tall and combative Stuart Hibberd had been a slightly later developer than Turner but had won a regular spot in the side following the change to playing three in midfield.
Up front, the power and pace of Glenn Cockerill had been a key factor in City’s improved form following Colin Murphy’s switching him from the midfield role he had occupied since his return from Swindon Town for £40,000 in the summer. City’s second-longest continuously serving player was Gordon Hobson who had broken through into the first team in the days of Willie Bell as manager in 1978. Still only 24, he had top scored for City as they won promotion from the Fourth Division the previous season, but in an injury-hit season he had just 8 goals so far, which included a hat-trick in the previous game against Doncaster. Completing the front three was another of Colin Murphy’s 1979 summer signings from non-league football, Tony Cunningham having joined from Stourbridge for £20,000. He had been ever-present in the season so far and was the current top scorer with 11 goals.
On the bench was former apprentice David Gilbert. The skilful but diminutive 18-year-old had made his debut in the last game of the previous season and had featured fairly regularly wide on the left in the current one until the change in formation saw him begin to make most of his appearances from off the bench.
In goal for Bristol City was giant Swedish international Jan Moller. As mentioned, the 28-year-old had played in a European Cup Final less than three years previously and had been a member of the Sweden squad for the 1978 World Cup finals in Argentina. He had won a total of 11 caps for his country up to just before his joining Bristol in December 1980 but his international career did not resume until 1986 after he had returned to his original club Malmo. This game was to his last for the Robins before he left for Canadian club Toronto Blizzard.
At right back, 21-year-old former Bristol Boys player Paul Stevens had been ever-present in the side in the current season and held down a first team place since the previous February. His partner on the left was Scotsman Alan Hay who had started his career in Dundee’s youth setup before joining Bolton from whom Bristol City had signed him in July 1978, making his Football League debut just over a year later. Central defenders were Aidan McCaffery and Gary Williams. Although still only 24 McCaffery had plenty of experience, having started his career with Newcastle United and appeared in the top flight for both the Magpies and Derby County before Bristol Rovers, then in the Second Division had paid £70,000 for him in August 1980. The Rovers had allowed him to join their local rivals on loan just over a month previously as one of the players signed to replace the departed ‘Ashton Gate Eight’. This game was to be his last for the club before returning across the city and going to play around 200 games for the ‘Gasheads’. 18-year-old Gary Williams had made his league debut at the end of the previous season and held down a regular first team place since November.
Rob Newman in midfield was an 18-year-old brought into the side for his league debut following the departure of the ‘Eight’. He was to go on to have a notable career, playing around 400 games for Bristol City before being sold to Norwich City for £600,000 playing in their side that finished third in the Premier League in 1993 and later having brief spells as manager at Southend and Cambridge. More experienced was Ray Gooding, who at 23 had been signed on loan from First Division Coventry City a week before this match having made about 50 appearances for them. Making up the midfield four were the 17-year-old Wayne Bray and Jon Economou, aged 20, two more players brought into the first team for their league debuts at the same time as Newman.
With Mick Harford suspended for this match the Robins’ two strikers were Les Carter and Ricky Chandler. The 21-year-old Carter had joined from Crystal Palace a few weeks before as another replacement for the ‘eight’ after playing just twice for the club where he had started his career. A 20-year-old, the local born Chandler had made his debut the previous season and was to finish the season as the second-highest scorer with 8 goals.
Substitute, defender Mark Smith, was another 18-year-old called into the first team squad at the beginning of February.
The match programme, whether due to financial constraints or otherwise consisted of just eight pages plus a standard insert of another eight pages on general footballing topics. In his programme notes Roy Hodgson welcomed ’my very good friend Colin Murphy and his Lincoln team’, praising Murphy’s astute management, especially considering ‘the shoestring budget’ on which he had to operate. The two had played together in the past at Southern League Gravesend & Northfleet (the present Ebbsfleet United).
The attendance of 6,341 was the lowest at Ashton Gate for several matches but was an improvement on many games from earlier in the season. Apart from the local derbies with Bristol Rovers and Swindon it was to dip to 3,000 or less by the end of the season.
On a difficult, bumpy pitch the Imps were throughout too strong and well-organised for the largely youthful Bristol City team. In the early stages the home side showed plenty of enthusiasm but were unable to really test David Felgate in the Lincoln goal as he had little to do other than make a low save from the lively Les Carter. The Imps scored the only goal of the game ten minutes before half time when Glenn Cockerill slotted a pass through for left back Wayne Turner to beat his man and move towards goal before pulling the ball back for Tony Cunningham to sweep it first time past Jan Moller.
After taking the lead the City defence merely had to be competent as the home side never looked capable of getting back into the match. In fact, the Imps could have extended their lead in the closing minutes of the game but for a couple of interventions by the experienced Aidan McCaffery and a great double save by Moller following a fierce shot by Cockerill.
It proved to be the last appearance for City by Wayne Turner who was hurriedly recalled by Luton due to an injury crisis, going on to play regularly in midfield for the Hatters before spells with Coventry and Brentford.
The win moved City up to fourth, two points off the third promotion place, and three wins and three draws from the next six games saw them top of the table but having played more games than all but one of the five teams below them. Three defeats in six games saw them back to fourth again, but wins at Chester and at home to Exeter left them needing to win at Fulham in the last game of the season to ensure promotion. However, a draw saw them overtaken by Carlisle as they missed out on promotion by one point.
Bristol City’s young side went on to draw two and lose seven of their next nine games leading to the departure of Roy Hodgson back to Sweden again. Former player and youth team coach Gerry Sharpe took over as caretaker manager at the beginning of May and oversaw an improvement in results but despite only losing one further game they were relegated with four games still to play and were only kept off bottom place by a desperately poor Chester side. The appointment of former England left back Terry Cooper as manager in the summer then saw a change in fortunes and after two years they were back in Division Three.
Photos: Jan Moller – www.worldfootball.net