1978-79 RECORD: 38/1
How much of a help was it to have your older brother Martin at the club when you were signed having been playing for Croydon Schools?
I was three years behind Martin in our playing days and I wanted to be like him, and I played for the district teams and county teams as he had done. The setup was a lot different then, you didn’t go to clubs until you were 14 unlike now. Martin was in the reserves when I first joined and then reached the first-team, so once again it left me wanting to do what my brother had done. Growing up with someone in front of me gave me motivation and helped me a hell of a lot.
You moved to right-back having started at the club as a forward, how did that come about?
At the beginning of 1976 Malcolm Allison said to me that he felt I had the ability to be a player but he wasn’t sure it was going to be as a centre-forward, so I started playing right-back. Allan Harris was there coaching part-time during that period and he used to work with me a couple of days a week to learn the position and go through the fundamentals needed to play in that role.
A lot of people may say I was not very good as a striker but I scored four goals in around 18 games, and compared to some of the strikers these days it is not too bad! Looking back though, I was certainly a more successful right-back than I ever would have been as a centre-forward.
Having been at the club for a while before 1978/79, could you sense something exciting was brewing?
I can remember going to watch the FA Youth Cup finals at Selhurst Park with the likes of Billy Gilbert, Jerry Murphy, Vince Hilarie and Ian Walsh playing and you could see we were going to be a good side. Those finals left you in no doubt that you would have to be at the top of your game to be a part of it.
It was just the right time and the right place. We had a great manager and an excellent group of young kids all coming through together with great team spirit. Terry Venables believed in what the players were capable of and they grasped the opportunity. Personally I just feel lucky that I had the chance to be part of it.
There were only four defeats and 24 goals conceded that season, what was the secret to the success?
I played in 31 of the league games and only played in one defeat. Winning is a habit, you just get that confidence. If you are trailing or on level terms, you feel you just need that one chance and believe you will get something from the game. One stat that is interesting from that season is that if the games were 40 minutes long we would have been a mid-table side, but we scored so many goals late in halves. We always believed that we could get something if we kept going.
During your time with Palace you were nicknamed Doris as well as Fish, why was that?
When I first started I used to take a lot of unwarranted abuse from the crowd and Doris was a derogatory term. I didn’t like it and I think it was something which drove me on and made me think ‘I want to show these people I can play’. Fish was from when I was in the youth team and our coach Ernie Walley thought he would give us all animal-related nicknames. I used to eat quite well in those days and he said the way I ate meat was like a piranha, so that just stuck!
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