Winning the Anglo-scottish Cup 1980-81

An article from1999

For just another year, m'friend, for just another year.

With our run in the FA Cup still in most peoples’ memories, it is easy to forget Chesterfield's last success in a major cup competition.  By major I mean one which is listed in the Playfair Football Annual list of honours.  It was a competition in which we beat a club that has qualified for Europe every other year for the past thirty-five years.  This was a knock-out competition which they realised could never be surpassed and so we are the current holders of the trophy.  It graces our cabinet along with a replica of the Canon League Division Four trophy and the Littlewoods Giant Killer award.  Perhaps it is a good job for the FA that we didn't win their cup a few years ago- precedent suggests they might never have got it back.

The 'Scottie'

The Anglo-Scottish Cup was a competition founded in 1970 using the name of the first domestic sponsors of football- Texaco.  After being won by teams such as Derby, Wolves and Ipswich (who beat Norwich in front of over 60,000) the oil crisis meant that the sponsors pulled out and the competition was renamed 'The Anglo-Scottish Cup'.  This was a joint enterprise between the two leagues and without sponsors became a pre-season event for mainly lower division clubs, the winners of English regional groups being invited to play Scottish clubs in an eight team knock-out.  The reigning champions were St. Mirren when the Spireites made this one and only excursion into European football.

Better late than never

By rights Chesterfield should not have been in the competition at all but top flight Sunderland pulled out at the last minute and the lure of a pre-season skirmish with Sheffield Utd prompted Town to take their place.  The opening stage was a four team group with just one to qualify.  We fielded a full strength side against Sheffield United including new signing Danny Wilson.  A Bonnyman goal watched by the seven thousand at Saltergate saw a victory notched against our closest rivals in this mid-summer contest.  A three-all draw at Grimsby, champions of our division the season before, gave us two points!  One for the result and a second for the three goals scored by Moss and Salmons(2).  This meant that a one-all home draw against Hull was sufficient for us to top the group with the Birch penalty being decisive.

Out of the hat

All these matches took place before the end of the first week in August.  The draw for the quarter-finals was made before the league season started:

  • Notts County v Morton
  • Blackpool v Kilmarnock
  • Bury v Airdrieonians
  • Chesterfield v Rangers

It was some eight weeks before the formalities of a victory by the winners of seventy domestic titles over the 1969/70 fourth division champions could be arranged.  Such are the problems of being such a major international force (and we had to consider Rangers' plans too).  The first leg was at Ibrox Stadium in front of 11700 bemused Scotsmen, and some 300 Spireites, some of whom travelled by aeroplane.  Phil Walker scored one of only 13 away goals at Ibrox that year direct from a corner, (the 'keeper was Scottish after all) even an equaliser for Scottish Cup-winners hardly hid their embarrassment.

Back home

There was always the second leg; here surely the might of Scotland would put little Chesterfield in their place.  John Greig, the Ranger manager, certainly thought so.  In the press he was confident to the extent of a patronising arrogance.  He described Colin Tartt as the worst full-back in Europe.  What the condescending Scottish press did not realise was that this was probably the best Chesterfield side in the last forty years and that it was playing at it's peak.  It was also losing £300,000 a year due to its wage bills.  We were, after all, top of the league and since the first leg we had scored three goals away at both Reading and Blackpool.  The fact that we had then lost, for the first time that season at Saltergate, against Walsall, did not stem local confidence.  What followed exceeded all Chesterfield dreams and stunned the press in England as well as Scotland.

Whoops Scottie!

There were officially just under 14,000 at the match but the ground was as full as I have known it in 25 years.  Anyone counting on a drink before or after found the town-centre closed.  The several thousand Scottish fans present saw Rangers humiliated.  Phil Bonnyman, born in Glasgow and released by the Rangers, hit a brace while Ernie Moss got the third.  John Turner then saved a late penalty.  The full team was: Turner, Tartt, Pollard, Wilson, Green, Ridley, Birch, Moss, Bonnyman, Salmons and Walker.  Prior to last season's FA Cup run I considered this match to be the third best in my 25 years watching the Spireites. (The play-off win over Mansfield was number two)  Next time I will explain why, prior to Old Trafford, a match in this Cup was my most memorable in a quarter of a century.

We come to bury Bury...

In the two-legged semi-final tie Chesterfield were drawn against Bury from a division below.The confidence around Saltergate ought to have been tempered a little by the fact that the Lancashire team beat Airdrieonians in the quarter-final.  The Scottish team went on to finish seventh in the Premier Division that year.  The first match was at Gigg Lane and produced a comfortable 2-1 victory for Chesterfield with Danny Wilson and Alan Crawford scoring.  The return should have been a walk-over but it did not work out that way.  Our previous match had been a 3-0 win over Millwall!  This was covered by YTV from the new camera platform.  (We had been on Match of the Day for the first time earlier that season).  Bury, however, pushed us all the way and the six-and-a-half thousand crowd had to rely on John Stirk's first goal for Town to produce a 1-1 draw.

Tied in Notts

The other semi-final saw Notts County beat Kilmarnock 7-3 on aggregate.  Our southern neighbours were top of the old second division and would be promoted to the top flight that year.  There had been some bad weather that year, and this combined with Chesterfield reaching the third round of the FA Cup meant finding a suitable date for the final was difficult.  At one point an obvious if never serious solution arose.  Chesterfield drew with fourth division Peterborough at London Road and then came out of the bag paired with Notts County.  Expecting that we would beat the lower division side at home a combined one-off winner-take-all match was suggested.  No one consulted Peterborough, however, and they came and beat us 2-1 at Saltergate.  Even then we wondered when we would ever have a cup run.  In this busy season, we played 65 competitive matches!  Even so, a date was finally set and the competition that had started in July would end on the last day of March.

First leg over

Over ten thousand turned up to see us play Notts County in the first leg at Saltergate.  I do not remember this match at all.  Checking the records I can tell you that Ernie Moss scored the only goal and that we put out a normal line-up of: Turner, Stirk, O'Neill, Wilson, Green, Ridley, Birch, Moss, Bonnyman, Salmons, Walker, Tartt and Crawford.  The last two were substitutes.  It was another five years before you were allowed two subs in league matches but this rule allowed Notts County to have a second goalkeeper.  His name was Mick Leonard.  The only other names of note in the County side were: Don Masson, the Scottish International; Eddie Kelly, ex-Arsenal star; and Brian Kilcline, then just seventeen.

Football special

It was a week later that we travelled the 26 miles down the M1 to play the second-leg.  In fact most, me included, did not travel by road.  There was not one but two football specials that left from platform 3 at Chesterfield railway station.  Thousands of Chesterfield fans duly turned up in Nottingham where luckily the Nottinghamshire Constabulary was waiting to guide them to the ground with jolly quips like, "If one more of you b*st*rds steps off that pavement I will arrest the lot of you!"  At that time Meadow Lane had just become a three sided ground.  The 'Kop' end was split so that about a third of it could be used for away fans.  It was obvious that a fair few Spireites were expected because some of the capacity to the left of the Kop had already been taken by our fans.  It was the arrival of that second train that forced the police to set up a human barrier to allow Chesterfield fans to stand in a part of the ground intended for the County fans.  The crowd was 12,951 but around six thousand of that number were from Chesterfield.  When recently have we taken that number to an away, not neutral, match?

For just another year...

As the teams lined up came news that first choice 'keeper John Turner was injured.  Unfortunately second choice Phil Tingay had picked-up a cartilage injury and was also unavailable.  Paul Gregory had travelled expecting only to watch, he had never played for the first team.  In the dressing room before the match he learned he was playing.  The performance of this goalkeeper is one of my great memories of that night.  Defending the one goal advantage, Gregory repelled attack after attack. The full team was: Gregory, Stirk, O'Neill, Kowalski, Green, Ridley, Birch, Moss, Bonneyman, Salmons, Walker, Tartt and Crawford.(The last two substitutes.)  As I remember it we weren't really in the match.  It was obvious that we could not hang on and mid-way through the second half County scored.  In our heads if not our hearts we thought that it was probably all over but against the odds we reached extra-time.  County were still the better side but the number of important games for each side had taken the edge off the football and a penalty shoot-out seemed inevitable.

Heel be remembered for this

Eight minutes from time Alan Crawford became probably Chesterfield's first ever second substitute.  In injury time of extra time he scored the goal that meant that Notts County had to score twice to win.  I remember it this way, but I stand to be corrected if anyone can provide television footage:  With Chesterfield attacking the Kop, Walker received a throw on the right-wing.  He crossed to Alan Crawford who, unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box, back-heeled the ball passed the goalkeeper and his defender into the net. The Spireites went mad.  Next to me was the brother of one of my class-mates, he had a plaster-cast on his leg up to the hip.  I hugged Gerry's brother and we tumbled down the terraces to end in a pile of Spireites up against the fence at the bottom.  Only then, as supporters piled over the fence on to the pitch, did my companion remember that he had a broken leg.

Should Auld Acquaintance...

One of my other great memories of that night came as we clambered back up the terraces to see the final seconds of Chesterfield's only national cup win.  The Kop area had been split between Chesterfield and County fans.  This arrangement had not always been terribly social, I checked to see what the County fans had made of our last minute winner.  The memorable thing was that there were no County fans.  Half the ground had emptied and as the final whistle was blown by the referee only Spireites remained to acclaim the victory.

Ghost train

It was obvious, as the cup was presented by the President of the Football League, that no lap of honour was to be possible.  There were too many people on the pitch.  With the exception of the '85 Championship I have never invaded the pitch but this is one of the few occasions and I regretted it.  After the cup was presented I just ran back to the station to climb aboard that first train back.  That train was silent.  It was full of Chesterfield supporters but there was none of the atmosphere that you expect after the big event.  It was almost as if no one could believe what had happened.  I sat in stunned silence and read my programme.

Out on the town

When we arrived back in Chesterfield I ran up Corporation Street expecting that the whole town would be celebrating.  I feel that the pubs shut at 10.30 then and I had missed last orders.  The streets were empty.  I do not remember what the Derbyshire Times made of the match but The Chesterfield Star had a great write-up.  I was eighteen and about leave home, this match meant a lot to me.  It also saw the most important last minute equaliser for Chesterfield until a recent effort bettered it.  Jamie Hewitt was a Spireite but only thirteen at the time.  I don't know whether he was at the match or what inspiration he might have drawn Crawford's flick-in.