Chichester City players got £32 each for winning the league - but it meant so much more than that to them

Welcome to the second part of our celebration of the 40th anniversary of a famous Sussex League title win by Chichester City.

Thursday, 7th May 2020, 8:00 am
Terry Vick with the trophy / Picture: Neil Holmes

Yesterday we recalled how City won the title in 1980, having been close to relegation just a year before, and we heard from the manager of the time, Richie Reynolds.

Today we hear the memories of skipper Greg Brown, a number of other players and club stalwart Trevor Wallis. See today's Chichester Observer for a full page devoted to the anniversary.

Skipper Greg Brown tells Neil Holmes his memories of the season

Observer coverage of the champs!

I am born and bred in Chichester and went to St John’s College in Southsea, and played in their football team with Steve Foster – who went on to play for England.

I played for Whyke Villa in Chichester who were effectively Chichester City’s under-16s side run by Oscar Lake. Gary James and I were the only ones who progressed to the Chichester first team.

I remember the day Richie Reynolds arrived as Chichester City manager.

We were training on a Tuesday night, it was chucking it down with rain and a very smart brown Ford Capri turned up and a figure started walking towards us. In those days the floodlights were rubbish and you couldn’t see anything, but as he got closer to us we realised by his distinctive walk that it was Richie Reynolds.

The champions, Chichester City

For me, as a Pompey fan since 1967, it was unbelievable. He was only about 30 and had just had his career cut short by a knee injury. He had a few words with us and took training and of course we were hanging on his every word.

At that time City were in danger of being relegated having failed to win their last nine games, but the effect was immediate.

His first game in charge was East Grinstead away, it was raining heavily and on a marshmallow pitch we won 4-1 – and although we were half-decent footballers he inspired us and brought a professional edge to our approach to the game.

He coached us in what were then much more modern ways, we hardly did anything without a football at our feet, except in pre-season when you would run up hills. But even then it would be kept to a minimum. He made me captain at 20 years old, basically because I talked a lot!

Neal Holder gets his hands on the trophy again

City then went on an amazing run; in 15 months they were only beaten six times in 40 league games and went from the relegation zone to County League champions in 1980.

He brought in a few lads to complement what we had who had played at a higher level, like Duncan Clough a big booming Yorkshire lad who had played in the Isthmian South, and a couple of ex-Pompey youth players Nicky Sillence and Gary Wheatcroft, and Tony Grundy, who was the MD at Radio Victory, was a decent left-back.

We had a reasonable start to the season and momentum started to build. We had a good run in the FA Vase and other cups, but that meant a massive fixture backlog.

It seemed like we were playing sometimes three times a week, but we only lost once in that run, it was tiring but we got through it.

The season came down to the last game, at Southwick, with City two points clear and needing a draw, while Southwick could also win the title if they won, due to their superior goal difference.

The game had been planned for March but had been postponed due to the weather. So we played it on a Tuesday night under the floodlights at the beginning of May 1980. The crowd was 1250 which was probably the biggest gate we had played in front of.

I played at right back instead of my customary midfield position. We hit the post, and Southwick had a goal ruled out which to me looked a good one, but it was heading for a 0-0 draw which suited us.

Then Richie conceded a contentious penalty. Richie used to be in the referee’s ear a lot and having played at a high level some of them would listen to him and give him decisions.

But after a while these comments could have a detrimental effect with fouls given for nothing, or obvious fouls not given to us. I suspect this could have played a part in the ref’s decision to give the penalty which we all thought was harsh.

But Mick Edmonds, who was one of the County League’s most prolific scorers, and that season’s top scorer ,hit the post and we thought our name must be on the trophy.

We had to endure five extra minutes before the referee blew for full-time and the celebrations could start. We received the coveted Sussex County League trophy and our medals from John O’Hara, and this was the fifth time Chichester City had won the trophy.

We got a £32 win bonus for winning the league, which in today’s money is worth £134, although that didn’t matter to me because winning the league for my home club was enough for me. I think Richie asked the cash-strapped committee to reward us for our efforts quite forcefully and they paid out!

I had to relocate to Milton Keynes because of my job, and I played in the United Counties league, which was quite a decent standard. I played for Newport Pagnell Town for two seasons.

I moved back south to live in Shoreham, but I didn’t rejoin City immediately and was approached by Grahame Vick (an old friend and CCFC title winner himself in 1973) who was manager of Portfield. I played there for a season, but jumped at the chance to rejoin Richie Reynolds at City for his second spell in charge. We didn’t replicate past successes and, after Richie had again moved on, even got relegated to division two.

In 1991 after many years playing I decided to call it a day, having played nearly 300 games for my hometown club, which is something I’m very proud of. I was really looking forward to meeting up again in April with Richie, team-mates, committee members and supporters connected with our 1980 Championship win, but it will have to wait. It should be some occasion!

The recollections of Neal Holder

When City won the league in 1980, I was only 18 and I thought this is how football is going to be from now on, of course it wasn’t.

If you look at that side we had a fantastic mix of youth and experience, we had Dave Egleton and myself at 18, Greg Brown was 20, Terry Vick and Gary James weren’t much older, if at all.

Then you had the more experienced players like Richie Reynolds, Duncan Clough, Tony Grundy and Alan Hunt. We had a great team spirit and there were no cliques.

We had a few drinkers, nothing stupid, but that was how football was in those days, we had a strong bond and you could go and talk to anyone. Also, when the older guys suggested we tried things a certain way, we always listened to their advice.

I sat on the bench a lot, at a time when teams didn’t use subs. But I made 10 appearances that season, I think I had the most assists for a substitute, usually as cover for Duncan Clough.

If after 20 minutes things weren’t going well for the team Richie would say ‘Noddy go and get stretched’, so I would go and run up and down the line then the team would score and I’d sit down again.

At the end of the season the team got a bonus based on appearances made and I received a tenner, but that didn’t bother me, I was just happy to win the league.

Richie Reynolds was an ex-pro footballer and I was 17 when he arrived at the club, I just wanted to learn from him. He was very hands-on he didn’t say to us ‘you’re not good enough, go and play in the reserves’, he was very supportive of the young players. Mix that with us wanting to learn and it made us better players.

He was also a good man manager, he knew exactly the right time to pick you up and encourage you to go out and be better, but also if you needed a rocket, he’d give you that too. He knew how to look after players.

I also played for Richie at Fareham Town when Chi didn’t have a game, mainly midweek games as a dual signed player.

I think at the time the club weren’t ready for Richie’s ideas, there just wasn’t the cash available, the only money generated was I think through the bar and most of the bills were paid by individuals in the club.

Richie actually showed me plans of how he wanted to turn the pitch round and for it to be a plastic pitch just like QPR. The plastic pitches in the 80s were the prototypes of the artificial surfaces we have today, but were notorious for giving you bad skin burns, and injuries to your heels and knees, so I wasn’t too sure about that.

Terry Vick looks back

In the 1979-80 season, we still had that squad of players and we didn’t start that well. In the first five games we had two wins, two defeats and a draw.

Richie Reynolds drafted in a few players from the Portsmouth area, Nick Sillence, Gary Ashton, Gary Wheatcroft, and that just pieced us together and we went on a run. After those first five games, we won most of the games we played, and also did well in the cups.

We just had a great team spirit; we had the right balance. We also scored a lot of goals, Gary James and I got 21 and 20, and Richie got 13 so that helped.

Towards the end of the season we lost 1-0 away at Burgess Hill, they were the only side that season to beat us twice. I know a few of the lads in their side from my Sussex Youth days, and they were telling me we would never catch Southwick and I said not necessarily, if we can keep winning’.

We carried on and kept winning, we had a great win at Arundel, Duncan Clough got sent off when it was 1-1, we were really upset that it was very harsh and we upped the performance four gears after that and won 3-1. We beat Portfield on Easter Monday 4-1, which was nice!

Next we had a Monday night game against Horsham YMCA at Oaklands Park, and I remember it was really gloomy and this was in the days before floodlights, and I didn’t wear contact lenses then, so I’m sure I couldn’t see half the things going on around me. Gary James popped up with the winner in the last minute, rounding the keeper and slotting into an empty net.

We then had two games left, Shoreham away on the Saturday, and Southwick away on the Tuesday. On the Saturday we stupidly were talking about what we would do when we won the league that day, where we would go out, because if we won that game we would win the league, and it would make the Southwick game academic.

But Shoreham had been playing well at the time and I know we went 1-0 down early on, and we didn’t play that well. Then near the end we came back into it, and Richie scored an equaliser with a header.

The last piece of action from the game, there was a cross from the left and I got my head on it and it was heading for the top corner, when Shoreham’s keeper Chris Porter, who I’d played with at Sussex tipped it round the post. We couldn’t believe it, we just stood there with our hands-on top of our head starring at each other in disbelief.

We had to go to Southwick on the Tuesday night, they needed to win as they were two points behind with a better goal difference, and a draw was good enough for us.

When we came out onto the pitch, some of Southwick officials were saying that we didn’t look up for it and that we looked nervous, trying to get into our heads. It wasn’t a particularly good game and there weren’t many chances.

Then Mick Edmonds had a goal disallowed, and with 10 minutes left the referee gave a penalty against Richie Reynolds. Mick Edmonds, who played for Sussex and was probably the best centre-forward in the country, hit the post and their chance was gone.

From then on, we took it into the corners to waste a bit of time, and I remember getting kicked and being roughed up a bit, so much so my legs were black and blue!

The whistle blew and we basically hugged the nearest white shirt, it was great but a little anti-climactic because it was at Southwick and not at home in front of our supporters, although we did have quite a lot of supporters in the 1200 crowd that night.

Tony Grundy’s 1980 memories

I had come to work for Radio Victory in Portsmouth, it was the first year of Victory and I was doing sports commentary, I was only playing Sunday league football and a few charity games, when someone suggested I go and play for Chichester City as a joke.

I started going there for training and the rest is history. The season I first played I played left-back, but we weren’t doing well. We had some good lads in the team, but we needed to win games, and fast. Dave Luke our manager, had said he was going to stop, and the club started looking for a replacement

I had met Richie Reynolds at one of the charity games and I thought he would be ideal. I set up a meeting with John Hutter and he became manager in February 1979, and Richie turned things around, enough to stay up which was pretty useful bearing in mind what happened the following year.

Richie was a very experienced player and brought that competitive professional edge we needed, and also was very modest about what he had achieved in football. He had only stopped playing because he had trouble with his knees, but at our level he could play when his knees allowed.

He’d done a lot in the game – that doesn’t necessarily mean you can be a good coach, but Richie was. He worked with every member of the team on organization and fitness, and their rolls in the game, and that’s what you need to win.

Richie was good at organising set pieces, which is common place now, but in those days teams didn’t do that sort of thing, and we scored a lot of goals from them. And he taught us what to do in certain situations, like if we were 1-0 up with five minutes to go he’d be saying take it in the corners, and we’d see the game out. So, he really brought something to Chichester that was very useful, and that translated to the next season when we won the championship.

Up until January we had a good run in the FA Vase and had played a lot of cup games, but in the league, we were way behind because of that. We had been winning in the league and had only lost a couple but had only played a few games and had a lot of games to catch up.

At that time Richie really believed that we could win it, and actually said that to us before one of the games, that if we put a run of wins together, our confidence would grow and it would catch teams out because nobody would rate us as we were so far behind. Of course, we weren’t that convinced and said no way, but he was dead right, because that’s how it played out.

We had a good mix of experience and young players, and we all liked each other. A lot of teams don’t like each other and that impacts on the performance, but we mixed socially and in the team and again that was very much down to Richie management style.

When we reached the latter games and the pressure starts to build, because you start to realise that its possible to win the league, we handled the pressure well and kept winning prior to going to the pressure-cooker last game at Southwick. But we were certainly up for the scrap.

It was a large crowd and we did get a lot of mind games stuff from the crowd but I didn’t mind that, I think playing games in the north-west help me with the comments and I just concentrated on playing the game and getting stuck in.

I remember the game being really tough, and nobody taking any prisoners because there was so much at stake. It was 0-0 with 10 minutes to go and we conceded a penalty which I thought was very harsh, but whatever we thought the referee wasn’t going to change his mind, and the Southwick forward Mick Edmonds lined up to take it.

I remember he hit it left-footed so hard that it hit the inside of the post and went out for a throw on the other side. None of us had time to move for the kick, but after that it made us more determined to see the game though and win the league.

We were very happy with the achievement, we had the second best defensive record, only conceding 30 goals (Southwick had the best defence with 25 goals) but we were also top scorers in the league with 66 goals, most of which were scored by Terry Vick and Gary James. The team also had the ability to score at key times, which helped us grind out games when we needed to.

I had won championships in the north-west, but by the time I came to Chichester I thought those times had passed me by, so to win the title with City was absolutely brilliant. I was part of the committee of the club, so I knew what it meant to the players and the people behind the scenes as well.

Trevor Wallis – who has served as City chairman, secretary and treasurer – recalls the title triumph

In the 1978-79 season, City were in real danger of being relegated to the second division. In February of 1979, City only had eight points and were seemingly heading for relegation.

Richie Reynolds came in as manager and stopped the rot with a win in his first game, and in ten games we won seven and drew three. I think Richie got them a lot fitter than they had been, and they seemed to know what to do with the ball.

I don’t remember the side being particularly entertaining, but they were very strong at the back and the pairing of Duncan Clough and Neil O’Boyle had a big impact on this.

Duncan had just moved to the area and literally turned up at the club one day asking if Chi needed any players. He had played at a higher level, so Ernie Stevens, club secretary at the time, signed him about three weeks before Richie Reynolds’ arrival.

Neil O’Boyle played very well as a sweeper behind the centre-back and was a handy distributer. Dave Egleton also impressed me, he had a great range of skills and could play in a lot of positions.

The team certainly had good match engines, especially the younger players who did lots of tireless running for 90 minutes, and the ability and stamina to grind out results when they needed to. They also had a great habit of nicking late goals.

I was there for the title decider. Tony Hall’s Southwick side, who were great rivals of City through the years, both original members of the Sussex County League in 1920, were full of County FA players and were odds on to win the league, while City were not really fancied at all, probably due to their league position the previous year.

I remember standing at the Southwick end, and watching the action from afar, which was mostly in the City half, it was like a siege in the City goalmouth.

It was a credit to the team’s defensive resilience that they soaked up everything that was thrown at them.

Then came the defining moment: Richie Reynolds conceded a late penalty and my heart sank. The kick was to be taken by Mick Edmonds, who was the league’s top goal scorer with 30 goals, 45 goals in all competitions.

He took the kick and drove it hard into the corner, but it came back of the post! He hit it so hard, I could plainly hear the sound at the opposite end as if he had taken it at my end.

It was a big relief when the final whistle blew, and we could then celebrate a great achievement.