Stop-Out AFC.

Stop Out AFC.

Towards the end of the 1973 season, whilst still playing for Gisborne City, I was approached by a rival National League club; Stop Out AFC, from the Hutt Valley area of Wellington.   Stop Out’s representative, Peter Dunn, informed me that the club wanted to appoint me as their Player/Coach for the 1974 season.  Already armed with an English FA Coaching qualification, and a NZFA Full Badge Coaching Certificate, I felt confident that I could make the transition from player to Coach without too much concern.   After visiting the club’s headquarters in Lower Hutt, and meeting the Chairman; Terry Killalea, who negotiated the details of my move, I decided that my immediate future lay in the capital city.

In a double blow for Gisborne City; Alan Vest had also decided to leave to accept the Player/Coaches role at New Brighton in Christchurch.  He was keen to take me with him, but I had made up my mind that I wanted to strike out on my own as a Coach.   I entertained coaching offers from three other National League clubs, including Gisborne, but I felt it would be particularly difficult to take over at Gisborne and make the transition from one of the players to being the ‘boss’.

By now our family had increased to five; our youngest son Craig joining siblings Sharon and Russell after having survived a harrowing six week premature birth, with the subsequent battle to exist in an incubator at Gisborne Hospital.

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Lesley and Craig.

Therefore, it was with some sadness that I left the scenic Poverty Bay area to take up residence in the industrial Hutt Valley.   One might question why I would leave such an idyllic lifestyle that Gisborne offered, but my ambition to progress in the game was the motivating factor behind the move south.

1974 Season.

My debut as a Player/Coach for Stop Out FC could not have started better, with a 2 – 1 away win over the NZ Champions Christchurch United.   This was followed by a resounding 4 – 0 victory over local rivals Wellington Diamond United, before we went down 1 – 0 to register our first defeat of the season, against New Brighton in Christchurch.   We quickly picked ourselves up from this defeat and convincingly scored victories against Wellington City and Eastern Suburbs; placing us on top of the league.   I couldn’t have wished for a healthier start to my Coaching career and although we couldn’t sustain our early season form we finished the season in fourth place (Stop Out’s highest position to date).   We shared same points as New Brighton, and were only one point behind Christchurch United.   Mt Wellington finished the season as worthy champions with a seven point lead over Christchurch.

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I signed Goalkeeper George Flecknor from my old club Gisborne City.   (Gisborne Photo News).

The Stop Out playing squad included the skipper, Mike Jones, Tom and Glen Winter, the veteran; Alan Jeffrery, Bill Harper, Gary Welch, Gary Paddison, Willie Straw, Warren Hosnall, Steve Boyland and Keith Barton.   I brought the Gisborne keeper George Flecknor with me; George wanted to leave Gisborne for personal reasons so I didn’t feel that I was sticking the knife into them by bringing him with me.   Ken Dugdale also joined me from Gisborne later in the season.

Mike Jones in action against North Shore United.

Mike Jones was a wholehearted character who led by example and very rarely gave anything away at the back of the defence.   When he was joined by the uncompromising Ken Dugdale our backline had a very solid look about it.   Tom and Glen Winter were both talented and athletic footballers but could be erratic at times.   They were both quite young and needed time and experience in order to mature into top class players.   Gary Welch was a teenager who possessed good pace; tight dribbling skills and was able to take opponents on and get crosses into the box.   In attack, Gary Paddison was a fleet-footed striker who chipped in with eight goals during the season, and Steve Boyland had the pace and craft to leave defenders in his wake.   Keith Barton was a courageous and tenacious ball winning midfielder who never shirked a tackle, and always looked to play the uncomplicated pass.

1975 – 1976.

During the 1975 and 1976 seasons there were many coming and goings of players at the club which kept Stop Out FC at the forefront of the Wellington football public.   Although much of this was eventful on a week to week basis, the clubs results were inconspicuous in terms of achievement.   From a personal front, I had reverted back to the role of player for the 1976 season, but was recalled to coaching duties late in the season, when the club was in danger of relegation.

As Player/Coach you occasionally need to ‘lay down the law’.

Significant additions to the squad arrived during this period which included, Sam Malcolmson, Derek Gibson-Smith, John Mutimer, Ian Charlton, Maurice Batey, Peter Brown, Graham Storer, David Roxby and Eric James among others.

1977.

Of the six years of my association with Stop Out FC, the 1977 season stood out at the highlight of my coaching career to date, and we were within a whisker of finishing champions.   After avoiding relegation in 1976 (my old club Gisborne finished bottom) there was little to be optimistic about as the 1977 season approached.   However, early in the piece I set about the task of retaining the best players, out of what had become an inflated squad, and I felt optimistic that we could achieve worthwhile results.   The club appointed Kevin Coe as Team Manager and Grant Williams as Assistant Coach, thus allowing me to revert back to my original role as Player/Coach.

 

Stop Out FC in the 1977 season.

As is often the case, successful teams contain assertive and colourful characters who need to be ‘managed’ and there was no doubt in my mind that I had a major job on my hands.   Scotsman Sam Malcolmson had been at the club for two seasons; as a striker, he possessed the mobility, plus the physical presence to, not only to score goals himself, but set up opportunities for others.

Sam Malcolmson times his header to perfection to score his second goal of the game against Blockhouse Bay from an Ian Ormond corner.   Kevin Stratful is in close attendance with Paul Codd and Willie Clark watching on.

Sam’s strike partner, Derrick Gibson-Smith, lacked mobility, but had an intimidating presence, an excellent first touch, and possessed a powerful shot with either foot.   Both Sam and Derrick could ‘hold up’ the ball and were dominant in the air, thus giving the team plenty of attacking options.   In the central mid-field roles, John Mutimer and Keith Barton were a hard working pair who won their tackles and played uncomplicated passes out to the flanks, or up to the strikers.

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Stop Out FC legend Keith Barton; being challenged by a youthful Keith Mckay?

Mutimer was an interesting acquisition; coming from Masterton in the Wairarapa he had an honest, down to earth attitude to his game which endeared him to teammates and supporters alike.   He could be expected to say exactly what was on his mind, particularly when things got ‘tetchy’ at team meetings.   I was able to sign Paul Cameron from Wellington City at centre-back; he dovetailed well alongside Ken Dugdale and between them little was conceded through the middle.   Paul had been on the Wellington football scene for many years, and although his distribution could let him down he was dominant in the air and could read the game intelligently.   The wing back positions were occupied by the Petone youngster Gary Mclean on the left with me on the right.   Gary was still learning the game but he was seldom exposed, had an unflappable temperament and his pace often got him out of trouble.

Barry Pickering

Barry Pickering had a long and distinguished career in NZ Football.

Another local youngster, Barry Pickering took over in goal, making the 1977 season the catalyst for a long and distinguished career, which culminated in his selection for the NZ World Cup squad in 1982.   Barry was an exceptional footballer, who was equally at home as a striker or centre back; he also possessed a calm disposition to complement his wealth of talent.   Gary Welch continued down the flanks, fluctuating between left and right, but the final piece in the jigsaw for me, and the club, was the arrival of Ian Ormond from Blockhouse Bay FC.

Ian Ormond in Auckland colours.

Ian’s company had transferred him to Wellington, therefore, I was quick to capitalize on our friendly relationship, forged during National Team games, with him agreeing to join Stop Out FC.   Ian was a deceptively strong player with tight ball control, illusive body swerve, burst of speed and excellent crosser of the ball.   Along with Gary Welch, Ormond could get behind defences and provide crosses for Malcolmson and Gibson-Smith to ‘gobble up’.   This was borne out by our goal-scoring statistics which showed ‘Smithy’ credited with nineteen and ‘Big Sam’ with eleven; our other eight goals coming from other avenues.

After a slow start to the season we went on a long unbeaten run which put us head to head with North Shore (Hanimex) United at the top of the league.   Despite beating and drawing with the ‘Shore’ we found ourselves one point behind them on the closing game on the season.   We needed to win against relegation threatened Dunedin City, whilst NS (Hanimex) United had to win against Mt Wellington.   Two goals by Gibson-Smith was enough to ensure maximum points for us, however, NS (Hanimex) United also won, thus ensuring themselves the National League title.


1978 – 1979 Seasons.

It was difficult for the club to emulate the team performance of the 1977 season particularly with the defections of players with the experience Sam Malcolmson and Ian Ormond to Auckland.   I was able to add my old Gisborne teammate; Danny Birnie and the talented and experienced Ray Veal from Gisborne but neither move turned out to be a long term solution.   After a few years in England, Danny had lost the spark which saw him such a hit during his teens, and Ray’s talent and ability was still there for everyone to behold, however, commuting from Gisborne, which meant, not training with the squad, just did not work out and we parted on amicable terms.

Malcolm Dunford was a youngster to benefit from early exposure to National League.

The ‘upside’ for the Stop-Out club was the amount of local young players who were drafted into the first team squad over the next two years; Phil Abraham, Kruno and Anton Ivancic, Martyn Philipsen, Graham Binks, Sergio Ritossa, Robbie Tembroeke, Shane Rufer, Peter Moxham, Ian De La Haye and Malcolm Dunford all tasted National League football during this period.   It was most unfortunate that the Stop Out FC club system was not able to capitalize on the fruits of this young talent.

For me, the saddest day of this period was when Ken Dugdale struck referee John Perkins, after being sent off in a local derby game against Wellington Diamond United.   Although Ken was under serious provocation when the incident of his dismissal occurred, the striking of Perkins was inexcusable, and Ken suffered the consequences with a lifelong ban as a player.   This was particularly heartrending for me, as Ken and I were very close friends; we had come through a lot of trying times together, beginning with our days at Gisborne City.   With great credit to him, he continued his vocation in football by earning the necessary coaching badges, carving out a successful career as a coach.   This climaxed with his appointment as NZ National Coach; a position which he held for several years with much success.

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Ken Dugdale in action for Gisborne City (GPN).

With family connections in Auckland, and my eldest children (Sharon and Russell) nearing their college years, I felt that the time was right to leave Stop Out FC, and the Wellington area, to make the move north……