The Week That Was: 1985 – Latchford Under Fire, Manager Under Pressure

The first ‘week that was’ article went down well, so today, I’m going to try another, going back to my birthday week in 1985.

There’s nothing special about it, but plenty was happening at the Bank, and you might see a few parallels. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget whole eras can be determined by certain games, moments that get lost in history. Week commencing November 18th was one such week, with hints of what was to come, and early rumblings of some opinion which has since become established fact in City’s history.

I’ve always been fascinated by the seasons between Murphy’s first and second spell. It might be because it’s the period that led to me starting as a fan or because the programme from the Imps and Brentford game that year was one Dad gave to me to read after my first game a year later, meaning I felt like I knew that team even though I didn’t. Anyway, I’m going to indulge myself by looking at a week that happened less than a year before I stepped foot in Sincil Bank.

We start today’s week that was with the Imps in a familiar position – suffering FA Cup First Round agony.

Monday, November 18th

Monday morning in manager John Pickering’s office was doubtless the debrief from the 1-0 FA Cup defeat at home against Blackpool. The Imps were on a tough run, with heavy league defeats against Derby (7-0) and Blackpool (3-0) fresh in their minds. Still, the FA Cup game had been an improvement in performance, with an own goal from Gary West the difference between the teams.

“I knew I had to get a touch as there was a Blackpool player right behind me,” said West. “I tried to flick it wide of the post, but instead, it went in. I’m desperately disappointed.” Chairman John Reames was also likely disappointed – the second-round draw handed the Tangerines Altrincham at home, a winnable tie. We’d have to wait four more years before they humbled us in the cup – they beat Blackpool in round two, then First Division Birmingham City in a huge shock, before going out to York.

“I thought we deserved a replay,” said Pickering, oblivious to the fact Altrincham would likely have done to us what Telford had the year before. The club were in the grip of an injury crisis, and a loss of form. West and Mark McCarrick were both played despite not being 100% fit, whilst Steve Richards failed to make the game with his own problems.

According to Echo reporter David Whaley, the issue was not at the back, where the Imps looked more composed. Instead, it was up top, where he noted an inside forward to feed off Bob Latchford was required. “John McGinley is not the answer,” he wrote. “He has lost confidence in front of goal.” He also laid into Gordon Mair, whom he claimed was the most disappointing, wasting good possession and delivering poor crosses.

He pulled no punches David Whaley, but with the Imps having won once since September 21st, there’s no surprise.

Tuesday, November 19th

As Jasper Carrott performed on stage at the Ritz, John Reames was forced to perform for the media, denying George Kerr was being primed to take over at the club. Kerr, who was being primed to take over at the club, had been seen in the stands at a handful of matches, including the FA Cup defeat against Blackpool. “We are not looking to change our manager at the present time,” said Reames. The Imps were still outside the bottom four in the division and seemingly had little reason to panic too much. “When a team goes through a bad run, people start to talk,” he added, something that remains true to this day. “That’s all it is with names like George Kerr, talk.” Within a month, Kerr would be the Imps manager.

That wasn’t the only order of business on my seventh birthday. Steve Collins, who had played excellently in pre-season, was the subject of a loan bid by Peterborough United in the Fourth Division. Pickering knocked the offer back, claiming Collins was a part of his plans. The full-back had been sent off during a 3-3 draw with Doncaster earlier in the season, and given a torrid time in the Milk Cup defeats against York City but returned to face Blackpool in the FA Cup.

He appeared two more times before leaving the Imps. For Peterborough.

My seventh birthday wasn’t a day for honest statements in the press!

Wednesday, November 20th

Ian Measham had been on loan with the Imps, joining from Huddersfield Town, but he was unwilling to extend his time at the club. The 20-year-old refused to stay for another month, despite Pickering agreeing on a deal with the Terriers boss Mick Buxton. The report suggests Measham wanted to move to the club permanently, but Pickering was having none of it. “I looked at the squad, and with eight players who can play at the back if needed, I felt I could spend the money in other places,” he said, before an injury crisis meant playing unfit players at the back days later.

Measham left the club and turned up on loan with Rochdale, before joining Cambridge permanently in 1986/87. He later won the Fourth Division as a Burnley player.

Bobby McNeil was also on his way. He joined on a short-term deal after being released by Hull City, appearing four times. His final appearance came in the 7-0 thumping against Derby, and he was also released, joining Preston North End. Both players played against the Imps for their respective clubs the following season in Division Four, as we were relegated out of the Football League.