Gisborne City (part 2).

Season 1972.

My second season at Gisborne City promised much more than the first; this could mainly be attributed to the influence of our Player/Coach Alan Vest.   Vest was able to galvanise proceedings both on and off the field of play, giving guidance to the hard working committee on the direction that he wanted the club to take.  Importantly, due to his contacts in UK, he began a player recruitment policy which was to pay handsome dividends over the next two seasons.

Alan Vest contests the ball with Tom Randles in a Gisborne v Christchurch clash. (Gisborne Photo News).

Alan Vest’s early season signings included Phil Balcombe, Eddie Simpson and Kevin Fallon.   Balcombe was a tall ‘target man’ who arrived from Nelson; he contributed much by top scoring in his first season at the club.   Irishman, Simpson had arrived after a season in Hong Kong, where he claimed that he featured in a match against the great Pele.   According to Eddie he had marked Pele out of the game, we were all a bit sceptical about this claim, however, he was a hard working mid-fielder who would outrun everyone proving to be a definite asset.   Fallon, had previous spells at his hometown club Rotherham United, and had played first division football in Ireland.  He was a strong powerful centre back who would dominate in the air, could play constructively off either foot and had a high level of fitness.   Unfortunately for both Kevin, and the club, he sustained serious knee injuries which limited his performances during the time that I remain with Gisborne.  Even though he recovered, and carried on playing for several seasons after I left, I felt he never reproduced the enormous playing potential that he showed during those early Gisborne days.

Kevin Fallon in action during his time at Nelson United.

Another notable recruit, as the season progressed, was Ken Dugdale from Wigan Athletic.  Ken hailed from a recognized footballing family, his uncle Jimmy had featured for Aston Villa and his younger brother, Alan, at the time featured in the first division in England, at Coventry City.   Ken played at the back of the defence and although lacking in height and pace, he timed his headers to perfection and was seldom beaten in the air by taller opponents.  He made up for his lack of pace by his excellent reading of the game, using the ball intelligently when in possession.

Gisborne Ken Dugdale

Ken Dugdale in action in front of another sizable Gisborne crowd. (GPN).

As in the previous season we started slowly, with only a win against Stop Out and a 4-4 draw at New Brighton, to show for our efforts, after seven games had been played.   However, things picked up dramatically in the second half of the season, where we were unbeaten except for defeats against the Auckland giants, Eastern Suburbs and Mt Wellington.   As a team we were a tightly knit unit and Alan Vest, in the role of player/coach, could get the best out of us with his abrasive on the field attitude, which was in total contrast to his sanguine disposition off the field.   Although it could be argued that we finished in the same fifth placing on the league table, as in the previous season, we were definitely improving as a unit.   Another factor to take into account was that the overall standard of the Rothmans Soccer League (as it was known) was improving, with clubs importing players from overseas, and the best of the local Kiwi boys stepping up into the top level.  This was evident in prominent newcomers to the league, players such as Ian Park and Alan Marley at Christchurch; Mike Farac at Blockhouse Bay; Brian Turner and Dave Taylor at Mt Wellington; Graham Storer and Alex Smith at New Brighton.   These among several others, all added an extra dimension to the quality of football on offer.

I’m in action against Mt Wellington with Earle Thomas and Les Todd watching on.

Season 1973.

For my third season with Gisborne City, Alan Vest had assembled a squad good enough to make a genuine assault on both the National League title and also the Chatham Cup.   A dominating goalkeeper in the form of George Flecknor had been signed, John Warrington and Malcolm Knox had playing credentials from Coventry City, Colin Milne had arrived on our doorstep from Scotland forcing himself into the reckoning at left back.   Steven Grout, a former apprentice professional from Ipswich Town, was also pushing for a place in the starting line-up, with local youngsters Terry Parkin and John Whitley also bolstering the playing numbers.   The only dark cloud on the horizon was the uncertainty around the fitness of Kevin Fallon; with Fallon fully fit we could have felt more than confident of gaining honours but unfortunately he was not to figure very often.

As predicted, we were always amongst the frontrunners throughout the season and though we were disappointed with our final placing of fourth on the final table, we were only one point adrift of second and third place getters Mt Wellington and Blockhouse Bay.   Christchurch United finished worthy champions; topping the table by a clear eight points.   Once again Alan Vest’s policy of attacking football won us many friends, ensuring that our home games were always well attended by the local Gisborne public.

Local boy Lenny Cudd was a tremendeous asset to the club during in my time at Gisborne. (GPN).

Several players featured as goal-scorers, with the honest hard working Lenny Cudd not only scoring goals himself but also creating opportunities for others.   The irrepressible Danny Birnie was always likely to put his name on the score-sheet and Vest himself was composed in front of goal and could put them away.   John Warrington was one of the finds of the season, he could ghost past opponents, set up chances with his cultured left foot, and also netted on several occasions.

Gisborne City 1973.

Although our league form was good it was our Chatham Cup exploits which really captured the imagination of the Gisborne public.   This culminated in a semi-final tie at Childers Rd against Mt Wellington, a game that we felt confident of winning and reaching the final for the first time in the club’s history.   Unfortunately we went down 2 – 3, the Mt Wellington winner, a hotly disputed penalty in the last minute of extra time which left a ‘bitter taste in the mouth’ for Gisborne players and supporters alike.   The game was packed with incidents, not least when Les Todd threw an uppercut which left John Houghton sprawled out in our six yard box, somehow Toddy remained on the field (the game was much tougher in those days).   The largest crowd of my three seasons at the club witnessed the game, and even though we felt badly done by, in fairness to Mt Wellington Brian Turner, Dave Taylor and Ronnie Armstrong were at the peak of their form; playing some classy and creative football enabling the Mount to reach the Chatham Cup final.

Brian Turner in action for the ‘All Whites.”

On a personal level the 1973 season signalled significant achievements in my football life.   In addition to my continued selection to the New Zealand National team, I was also awarded Sportswriters ‘Player of the Year,’ and NZFA’s ‘Player of the Year’.   These were tremendous personal honours and I hoped that they reflected back on the football environment in Poverty Bay, which had given me so many wonderful memories during my three seasons at Gisborne City FC….

Receiving the 1973 NZ Football Writers Player of the Year Trophy from Ian Ormond.