I’ve been writing up a game for Sunday, a Plymouth and Lincoln encounter from the past, and as I did, I was drawn to the name Tommy Tynan. Tommy is one of the players who joined the club before I was born, and left after, but as such, I’ve only ever heard a bit about him.
There are some facts that are indisputable, so that were a little blurred. Whenever his name is mentioned, those who were around in 1978 say ‘ah, Taxi Tommy’, but what is that all about? How did we go from record signing to selling him to the division below in such quick time? You’re about to find out.
On September 29th, 1978, City were struggling. We’d taken three points from nine matches, and remained rooted to the bottom of the Third Division. We’d scored six goals all season, and just a fortnight earlier had been humbled 5-0 at the Bank by Graham Taylor’s Watford. Willie Bell was losing the crowd, and he’d blasted supporters who finished that game by cheering Taylor, Dennis Booth and Sam Ellis. To try to retain his grasp on things, the former Leeds man went on a spending spree.
He brought in Graham Watson for £15,000 from Cambridge, but then made a bid for Tommy Tynan. He was a Liverpool-born striker, not yet 23, with a record for scoring goals. His story was a unique one – to get an apprenticeship with the Reds he collected tokens, handed out in the local area. If you collected enough, you got a trial, and from there, he got an apprenticehsip. Whilst on loan from his boyhood team, Liverpool, he hit six in six for Swansea. He moved to Len Ashurst’s Sheffield Wednesday and scored a modest 31 goals in 91 outings for thr Owls. Still, the next Owls manager, Jack Charlton, wanted to sell, and we were going head-to-head with Tranmere Rovers. They had bid £30,000, but Bell was not to be put off, and he came in with £33,000, exactly double our previous record, paid to West Ham for Peter Grotier.
Tynan travelled to our game with Walsall on the 29th and signed at half time, watching from the stands as John Ward ended a one-year goal drought to earn us a rare point. Their goal had been scored by Steve Waddington, a £40,000 signing of their own. To get anywhere, it appeared you had to spend, and that meant Tynan was on his way to Lincoln.
He was due to make a debut in the Lincs Senior Cup a couple of days later, and the Echo proclaimed he could add some flavour to the encounter. The next day, it was revealed he would NOT be playing, instead making his debut on Saturday. “He has been travelling daily from Sheffield for training, and has to clear up his affairs in Sheffield before City set off for Blackpool,” was the reason given. City lost 2-0.
So, onto Blackpool, and a chance to get a glimpse of the new record signing. Or not. As the Imps signed a loan keeper, Chris Turner, a call from the FA to confirm he was registered revealed Tynan was not. We’d got the forms in for a loan player, brought in after Tynan, but not our record signing. That meant no outing at Blackpool. “Because of inefficiency, I cannot play a player who cost this club £33,000,” raged Bell, who fans might feel knew a bit about being inefficient. “This sort of thing can cost people their job. If the league had not been on to us this morning to tell us Turner’s forms had been accepted, we could have played Tynan tomorrow and then found ourselves losing two points through playing an ineligble player.’
City lost 2-0.
Finally, on Friday 13th, the unlucky Tynan made his debut, a fortnight after joining the club. The game was dour, with no efforts either way, but Maurice Burton liked what he saw in the young striker. “New signing Tommy Tynan was soon showing the Lincoln fans why the club paid £33,000 for his servcies, and with a bit more luck at vital moments, his City debut would have been a scoring one”. It seemed to bode well for the future. Wrongly.
City got goals in his next game, two of them, but conceded four at Gillingham. Tynan fired over from 20 yards early doors, and was caight offside late on, but there was no enthusing about him this time. His third appearance in a City shirt saw us lose 3-0 to Swindon, at home. The performance was branded as pathetic, not just his, but the whole team. Enough was enough, Bell was sacked with Tynan’s Lincoln career barely underway. Or, to put it another way, 33.3% completed. All the threes.
The bad luck seemed to continue – after Bell’s sacking, Tynan caught the flu and missed the encouraging, if not fruitless 2-0 defeat at Southend. He made his comeback, a goalscoring one, for the stiffs as we turned over Grimsby Reserves 5-3. Bobby Cumming bagged a brace, but Tynan doubled that achievement, hitting four goals. “Tynan was always a handful for the Grimsby defence,” wrote John Spalding. “He linked well with Alan Jones and David Sunley to cause the Mariners no end of problems in the second half.”
Appetite whetted for his return to the first team.
His return was a 1-0 defeat at Mansfield, where he had a ‘quiet game’. Of course he did. Against his former club, Sheffield Wednesday, where he’d been the leading scorer in the previous season, he had another poor afternoon. Ditto the game against Plymouth on November 18th, which you can read about later this week. City scored three, but Tynan didn’t get one. That was game number six of nine, and as yet there had been little from him – a booking, some offside decisions and a couple of missed chances.
Enter Colin Murphy. He took over the team prior to the Plymouth game and had a big message for his young striker. It seems Murph knew what the craic was pretty early on. On November 21st, he spoke a seeking ‘cup goals’ from his striker. “At Sheffield, he always scored goals,” siad Murph. “I remember him as a Liverpool reserve when he was always a problem to opposing defences.” Stating how he should get 14 goals for the Imps, our new manager added “If he can get those 14 goals, he will be a big asset to us.” If, if, if. Perhaps, if he’d started in the cup against Blackpool, he might have scored. He didn’t, he missed out through injury. Curoiusly, his brother Bobby also sat the game out for Blackpool.
That happened against a backdrop of the Echo reporting £9,000 losses for the Imps. It was front-page news, a sign of trouble ahead, and yet the big name striker who cost us three-and-a-half times that was yet to notch a goal. Pressure must have been mounting, especially as Murphy was the third manager Tynan had turned out for, including caretaker Jim McCalliog, and the third with different ideas on how the game should be played.
Still, the gaffer kept faith with the striker, and was rewarded with a rarity – a goal. Sadly, this rarest of moments was not reported by the Echo – they couldn’t cover the game. It was the opener in a game against Oxford, a game in which City led 2-0 with 20 minutes left, but that we ultimately drew 2-2. It’s a goal remembered, probably, only by a handful of the 2,995 in attendance.
The great British winter put paid to matches after that, but on Christman Eve, the Imps entertained Chesterfield, losing 1-0, and Tynan was anonymous. A couple of days after the festive fun, there was utter joy – a first win since the opening day of the season. City beat Peterborough 1-0, with Bell’s signing grabbing the only goal. Sadly, it was not Tynan, but Graham Watson. No, Tynan was taken off on 70 minutes, replaced by Glenn Cockerill. His performance had been labelled as ‘disappointing’, and in a game that brought such short-term joy, that was a big statement.
City played four times through the new year and into Jauary 1979, losing all four matches. Tynan didn’t appear at all, seemingly dropped, or injured, nbews on that is scarce. With so few games, news of how he was getting on was sparse, but then Murph dropped a bombshell. As it seemed the record signing was just settling in, the Echo screamed how his time at the club was no more.
“It is important that I don’t allow anything, or anyone to stand in the way of success for our supporters, the rest of my players, myself or my staff,” said Murph. “It must not be forgotten that we have players here who are fighting hard and doing their best to get the club out of trouble, and they must be given every consideration and every chance to suceed,” he added. I’m sure there’s a subtext there, I’ll let you read into it what you will.
Nine games, one goal, and the Lincoln City career of Tommy Tynan was done and dusted. With games called off as the snow fell, rumours began to spread. Newport County, the ambitious Fourth Division side, wanted to spend a record for that level on Tynan. Murph refused to confirm the rumours, but with Len Ashurst in charge, the manager who took Tynan from Liverpool to Sheffield, the deal was almsot certain to complete. After a week of wrangling, a deal was struck, a reported £20,000, with add-ons. Tynan admitted the move to Lincoln had been a mistake, and in a Sports Echo interview a couple of days later, Murphy suggested Tynan had not been committed to the cause, and paid the price. However, despite history reporting it as a negative deal for City, there was actually enough clauses in there to ensure we made our money back.
So, where did Taxi Tynan come from? It appears that during his time with Lincoln, he was under the impression the club would pay for him to take a taxi back to Sheffield, something the club were not onboard with.
Of course, a player departing the Imps is always keen to do well against us, and in fairness to Tynan he went on to become absolutely lethal at Newport. He scored regularly against Lincoln, including a 1983 hattrick at Sincil Bank. When he wasn’t scoring, he was helping set up Rotherham’s winner against us in 1985, or a late Torquay consolation in a 3-2 victory in 1991. He just loved playing against the Imps. That was apart from one game, a 2-2 draw in 1983/84, when he was sent off after just seven minutes for spitting at Alan Walker.
He formed a lethal partnership with John Aldridge at Somerton Park, helping Newport to a Welsh Cup win, and bagging twice in the Cup Winner’s Cup Quarter Final for them as well. He then moved to Monday’s opponents, Plymouth, where he became a cult figure, helping them reach the 1984 FA Cup semi-final. In 1985 he was joint top scorer in the entrie Football League, and he was described by Graham Taylor as “one of the best natural finishers” he had ever seen.
He’s still revered as a hero in Plymouth and Newport, but in Lincoln he will always be remebered as Taxi Tommy. Which is ironic, given that in 2017, he was working as a cabbie in the Plymouth area.