Wednesday, 5 January 2022

A lifelong football man and coach to the stars: Roy Massey


 This book will be released on 1 March 2023 

A lifelong football man and coach to the stars: Roy Massey

In 1998 the biggest change yet in the history of the development of young footballers transformed Roy Massey’s life. Inspired by Howard Wilkinson, one of Massey’s opponents as a player, the FA agreed to facilitate the creation of an Academy system that would allow clubs to attract and train children from eight years upwards.

Chosen to oversee this radical initiative at Highbury, club legend and Head of Youth Development, Liam Brady, was quick to choose Massey as his assistant academy manager.

In these pages we learn how the structure was designed from scratch and plans laid, and later refined, to discover and help develop a rich vein of young talent capable of making it to the first team at one of the world’s greatest clubs.

In a highly competitive field, Massey explains why certain young players such as Wilshere and Sako made it at and, why he, wrongly as it transpired on occasions, allowed others to leave. There are also heartbreaking stories of youngsters who had their careers snatched from them by career-ending injuries.

Roy Massey's own story is that of a dedicated and lifelong football man whose 50 years in the professional game spanned the full gamut of the sport's dramatic and evolutionary change. Here is a man, unlucky with injuries as a player, but always respected enough for his knowledge and experience, that he was never short of an important role in the game he would always love.

Massey scored goals for his hometown club Rotherham United, followed by spells at Orient and Colchester United, before a serious injury brought his 15-year playing career to an early end at an age at which most players are nearing their peak.

He then combined working as a PE teacher and managing in non-League football with behind-the-scenes work to discover and nurture young talent at Colchester United.

Massey, who was brought up on tales of great games by his grandfather Jimmy, an FA Cup winner with Sheffield Wednesday in 1896, recalls what it was like playing football in the lower leagues just after the end of the maximum wage and in a decade when England won the World Cup.

He explains why he turned down the opportunity to sign a professional contract with, among others, Arsenal and Aston Villa, in the early '60s. He also recalls the inspiration he felt when Colchester United manager Dick Graham asked him to revive the Essex club’s youth system and how his eye for talent, organisation, training methods and motivational skills aided the development of many youngsters into successful players.

Little wonder then, in the wake of the launch of the Premier League in 1992, that Norwich City asked Roy Massey to join them as they moved to revolutionise their own youth programme.

His success at Carrow Road didn't go unnoticed and when Liam Brady asked Massey to join him at Arsenal it was the start of a flourishing 16-year partnership.

Even after leaving the Gunners in 2014, Massey remained in football well into his 70s, with spells scouting for three Premier League clubs.

Throughout the book, Massey’s love for football is never far from the surface as from an early age it was always, like most of us, what he dreamed he would do for a living.

Ipswich Town AFC statues at Portman Road


Sir Bobby Robson 

Sir Alf Ramsey 

Kevin Beattie 

Photographs taken prior to Ipswich Town v Sunderland game on 18 December 2021

Not to be used without permission 

Sean McGovern: A dedicated trade union champion for disabled people’s rights


Sean McGovern 

A dedicated trade union champion for disabled people’s rights

As Sean McGovern (1957-2020) was a unique character it is entirely appropriate that what will be the  first ever booklet on a disabled trade unionist is about him.

This work follows a very simple format in that it consists of Sean’s own words accompanied by interviews with some of his family and great friends.

January 5th - the work has been sent for laying out. 

Unique book – ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL, John Goodall, 1898


Unique book – ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL, John Goodall, 1898

William Blackwood and Sons was a Scottish publishing house and printer found by William Blackwood in 1804. It published many important authors including John Buchan, George Eliot, Margaret Oliphant and Joseph Conrad. The company commissioned John Goodall, with the assistance of S. Archibald De Bear, to write an instructional book in 1898 for aspiring footballers in which the rules of the game are listed along with how to develop the skills needed to successfully play in various positions as part of a team.

ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL by John Goodall, then of Derby County, cost 1 shilling/5p today. It is a unique publication.  It was dedicated to G.O. Smith who the author describes as ‘The Best Centre-Forward in my time.’

Goodall begins by stressing that whilst much can be gained ‘from observation and advice, patience, practice, and enthusiasm must do more… one cannot hope to become a good player without very hard work.’

Once the technicalities of the game are mastered, players should be guided by instinct, ‘which in this case means quickness of thought.’ Players must know each other’s play, as was the case at Preston where he played between 1885 and 1889.

Goodall had experienced the game when there were virtually no laws. In the years since then dribbling had been replaced by scientific football in which passing or combination play was king. Goodall noted that ‘in earlier days very little was known about training.’ He also offered advice about diet on match-days stating that ‘footballers should have a good square meal about three hours before the start of the match.’

Goodall, who during his career played in most positions, including goalkeeper, also uses the examples of great players in their respective roles to explain to readers who are keen to improve their own game what skills they need to work on.

Of those playing in the half back line up he states that ‘they have the most difficult position on the field. They have to join in both attack and in defence….’ According to Goodall, Ernest Needham was the best half back.

Whilst Goodall contends that football can be played by men of all sizes he believed that ‘a good big man is always preferable to a good little one.’ Up front he believed that ‘the collective style is preferable’ being superior to the employment of two wide men with three men inside waiting for centres or two pairs playing together with the centre forward waiting for the ball. In this ‘Sunderland in their prime came very near perfections. Their passing was admirable, and the players were well balanced.’

Goodall advises players to respect the referee, keep their temper under control and to not heed any advice from spectators. In his experience ‘it is matches away from home that the best mental qualities of the footballer are brought to play. He has few friends among the spectators….the footballer must be indifferent alike to jeers and cheers.’

The art of passing, states Goodall ‘lies in the placing or rolling of the ball so that the player who is to have control of it shall lose no time in proceeding. In fact, there should be a continuity in the progress of the ball, even though several players are touching it.’ It was ‘the Scotch.. who originated short passing and collective attack, and showed how successful the game could be made.’

Goodall believed that ‘a good footballer ought to shine more or less in any position.’ Compared to books today aimed at young aspiring footballers seeking to improve their skills then Goodall’s book is very basic – as by way of example he proposes keeping the players away from the ball during training as this will make them more hungry for it during matches at the weekend - but it is a sign of how the ageing footballer was regarded at the time that he was chosen to write it.

Sadly, Goodall was never asked to write a book about his own football story. Some footballers from his era were interviewed by their local newspapers after their careers had ended. The articles were generally published in a series, some in the Saturday Football Specials, over a number of weeks. They included the remembrances of Archie Hunter, the famous Aston Villa captain who led his side to FA Cup glory in 1887, which were published in the Birmingham Weekly Mercury in 1890.  

Mark Metcalf is writing a biography of John Goodall.





Tuesday, 4 January 2022

Standing at Premier League matches - Fulham 2001-02 and Sunderland 1996/7

 Despite what Match-of-the-Day said the Chelsea v Liverpool on 2 January 2022 was not the first time there was official standing at Premier League match. 

In August 2001 I stood on the paddock terraces at Craven Cottage as newly promoted Fulham beat Sunderland 2-0.  

In 1996/7, Sunderland played at Roker Park in the Premier League and the ground capacity of around 21,000 was largely made up of terracing including both the Fulwell and Roker Ends. 

Monday, 3 January 2022

Clarks shoes staff strike a success Fire and hire practices enabled by government


Clarks shoes staff strike a success

Fire and hire practices enabled by government

Big Issue North magazine Christmas Issue 5

A ten-week all-out strike by 100 long-serving warehouse workers has forced their employer to abandon plans to use controversial “fire and rehire” practices to significantly reduce their pay and conditions.

Clarks employees in the village of Street, Somerset, reached an agreement with the footwear company following mediation but other groups of workers have been less fortunate when faced with similar situations. Just recently the government blocked attempts to outlaw some aspects of fire and rehire in Parliament.

 Once termed “dismissal and re-engagement”, fire and rehire is when an employer, that would generally seek to negotiate an agreement with trade unions or workers’ representatives dismisses employees but immediately re-offers them their old roles on much less favourable terms.

Cuts to pay and benefits

Clarks has been hit badly during the pandemic. The company suffered a 44 per cent sales drop and a £172 million loss last year. The Clark family, owners of the business for nearly 200 years, sold a majority stake in March to the Hong Kong private equity group Lion Rock Capital, which has cut hundreds of jobs and imposed poorer terms and conditions for new employees including at its distribution centre in Street.

Among planned reductions for established warehouse staff at Street was a 15 per cent drop in basic pay from £11.16 an hour to £9.50. Overtime rates, sick pay benefits accrued over many years, paid lunch and tea breaks, and redundancy terms were also set to be cut dramatically. A Clarks spokesperson said: “It is crucial that Clarks achieves sustainable employment cost.”

According to Trevor Stephens, a Clarks employee for 17 years and an elected Community union representative, the decision to move towards taking strike action was “the result of being told to sign a new contract or be fired. Everyone was given four weeks to sign and if not then an eight-week notice period was to be imposed before workers were to be shown the door.”

When Community then failed to get Clarks to agree to mediation with dispute resolution body Acas, there was a union members’ ballot and strike action began on 4 October. “

We had no option as they were taking so much away from us,” Stephens said. “In my case I was unsure if I would have been able to afford to rent my property. If not then I would have had no place for my children to stay with me when they visit. Other strikers also faced being unable to afford their mortgages and losing their family homes.”

Resolution reached

 Strikers mounted a daily picket line that was crossed by temporary workers desperate for permanent work. Stephens, the picket organiser, worked hard to ensure abuse was kept to a minimum and strikers rejected claims by the company that there were threats of violence towards strike breakers.

The Clarks strike, the first all-out strike in Somerset since a print workers dispute in 1986, was boosted by the largest trade union march this century in the county on 13 November in Street. Delegations came from across England and Wales.

Just before the event, Clarks gave strikers only a few hours to consider a new pay offer of £10.03 an hour, which was rejected.

Now, following Acas brokered negotiations, Clarks has adopted a change of approach and will maintain the £11.16 hourly rates. New contract staff have also had their pay rates increased by 5.4 per cent. The company has also accepted that it will be the norm in the future for it to engage in collective bargaining with the union on all terms and conditions.

In a joint statement, Community and Clarks said: “We are pleased that a resolution has been reached that works in everybody’s interests, protects Community members’ livelihoods, and recognises their loyalty to Clarks”.

Normal working has resumed.

 The outcome at Clarks will be a boost to engineering members of the union Unite striking at Weetabix factories in Kettering and Corby. The union contends that the cereal producer’s cuts to pay terms and conditions are an example of fire and rehire. The company disputes this. Some 80 engineers originally took two days’ action each week but are now engaged in four-day walkouts.

Other attempts at strike action over fire and rehire have produced mixed results. The 44 days of strikes undertaken by 7,000 British Gas employees were unable to prevent job losses and severe cuts in pay and conditions. At Go North West in Manchester, bus workers in Unite took 85 days of action and forced the company to withdraw its fire and rehire tactic but did experience cuts to some terms and conditions.

Earlier this year transport union RMT carriage cleaner members at Stadler Rail UK on Merseyrail unanimously rejected the company’s plans to cut pay by 13 per cent, make large reductions in shift allowances and cut annual leave.

According to RMT regional officer John Tilley: “The company then went over the union’s heads and started individual consultations, and the contract that they sent to staff was worse than the one they had just rejected.”

The RMT wrote, without success, to metro mayor Steve Rotheram, who has partial control of Merseyrail, urging him to take its cleaners back in house to ensure their working conditions were protected. Staff were balloted for strike action.

Some 52 RMT members voted for action, with 21 against. However, under the Trade Union Act 2016, at least 50 per cent of all eligible members must vote and the Stadler ballot was three votes short. The RMT advised its members to sign the new contracts.

“It’s the latest Tory antitrade union laws that are proving to be a real obstacle in so many disputes now,” said Tilley. “We are not ‘building back better’ from Covid-19. The reality for many low paid, vulnerable workers is that we are going backwards. In the case of these Stadler train cleaners that means going back to 1981.”


The government does not collect statistics on fire and rehire but according to a poll of 2,000 employers by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development more than 22 per cent have made changes to their employees’ contracts during the coronavirus crisis. Of those, one in seven companies – 3 per cent of all employers – have used fire and rehire tactics.

Those who back the process claim companies with genuine and pressing business needs that cannot reach agreements with employees must be able to act quickly. But the TUC, which represents the majority of unions in England and Wales, has calculated that 70 per cent of companies that have used fire and rehire are enjoying profits.

 The use of fire and rehire has been called “unacceptable” by Boris Johnson and the leader of the Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has said companies should know “better than to behave in this way”.

Prior to the 2019 general election the government promised it would bring forward a new employment bill to improve people’s workplace rights but there is currently no sign of the legislation.

On 22 October, the government also used parliamentary procedures to “talk out” Labour MP Barry Gardiner’s private member’s bill on fire and rehire. Had it been passed, the bill would not have prohibited the practice, but would have forced all except those companies facing collapse to fully consult with employees first, encouraging “both employers and workers to reach the best outcome and discourage bad employers from threatening fire and rehire, where there is not a legitimate threat to the business that demands it,” the MP for Brent North said.

Business minister Paul Scully, speaking for 40 minutes for the government, criticised fire and rehire but said: “I do not believe that this bill as it stands – even if it’s amended, as I do not believe we need that primary legislation to achieve its ends – will actually have the effect… What we need to do is make sure that we can address these situations. We’ll legislate if we need to, but we’ll do it as a last resort.”

The government has asked Acas to produce more detailed guidance on when fire and rehire can be used.

Recently Unite general secretary Sharon Graham criticised the government, saying: “They have colluded to stand on the side of bullying bosses and against the interests of workers.”


SEARCH FOR HALIFAX MAN GOES ON Martin Rhodes went missing while climbing



Martin Rhodes went missing while climbing

25-31 October 2021 in the Big Issue North magazine

Search team vows to keep looking for him

Friends and family of an experienced walker who went missing in the Scottish Highlands over two years ago have praised the continuing efforts of the local mountain rescue team to find his body.

Early on a bright morning in May 2019, Martin Rhodes, 46, from Halifax, was seen walking near Kinlochewe. When he did not return to his hotel after a sudden change in the weather brought heavy snow, he was reported missing that evening.

Far-reaching search

Extensive searches over the following week by specialist police officers, mountain rescue volunteers, RAF teams, the Search Rescue Dogs Association and an HM Coastguard helicopter found no trace of Rhodes. Appeals to residents to check sheds or anywhere a person might have sought shelter also proved unproductive.

Before travelling north, Rhodes, who had delayed his journey until he was confident of better weather, had told his close friend Steve Brown that he had hoped to climb five Munros in a day, including the “Fisherfield three” of Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearachair, Sgurr Ban and Beinn Tarsuuin.

“Martin’s house was full of walking boots, magazines and maps. He talked continuously about the trip. He had already climbed 80 Munros,” said Brown, a musician. “He was really looking forward to the challenge. He texted me to tell me of his safe arrival later that day.”

The Munros are 282 Scottish mountains over 3,000 feet named after Sir Hugh T Munro, who surveyed them in 1891. The highest is Ben Nevis. Rhodes’s aim was to join over 6,000 people who have climbed them all.

 In mid-May 2019, 30 of Rhodes’s friends, including Halifax MP Holly Lynch, held a vigil at his home. A social event, at which Brown performed, was organised by Halifax Labour Party, of which Rhodes was a member, to raise funds for the Dundonell Mountain Rescue Team (DMRT). Around £500 was collected.

From the start, Police Scotland asked DMRT to search for Rhodes. The team attends around 40 rescues a year and thankfully, according to team leader Donald Macrae, “in many cases missing people are found. In Martin’s case, this is different.”

When Rhodes did not return to his accommodation, Macrae asked four mountain rescue teams – around 60 people plus four search dogs and two helicopters – to look for Rhodes. The search area in the remote north-west Highlands was massive, equivalent to 2,500 football pitches in an area of wild mountainous country with no houses or roads. The mountains they climbed exceeded 1,000 metres and snow still fell on the high tops.

Part of the search area 

Dedicated team

Searches took place every day for a week before the DRMT moved to weekend searching for a few months. When winter arrived, the searches had to end but in 2020 the rescuers again looked for Rhodes. There was still no luck. Last month, 12 volunteers were back out. They had to camp as it is a day’s walking to get to the locations where Rhodes’s body might be found.

According to Macrae the searches will continue. “People and families matter to us,” he said. “They are always on our minds and so for the foreseeable future we will devote time each year to search.”

DMRT, which has about 50 members, is a charity run by volunteers who are expected to be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Employers allow staff to leave work to attend rescues.

 Macrae himself is a deputy headteacher. Other members include engineers and self-employed joiners. Team members can often miss important birthdays or events. “Rescues can take up many hours of a person’s life,” said Macrae. “We also attend training sessions once or twice a month. We have a strong team ethic and through training together we know how each of us works, so we take care of each other. Keeping safe is vital to our success.”

Dundonell Mountain Rescue Team 

Fundraising effort

Brown and Rhodes’s mother, Kathleen, are full of praise for the DMRT and other organisations that have tried to find him. “Police Scotland and the Halifax police relayed important information when Martin was lost and both were very sympathetic and understanding,” said Brown. “DMRT are marvellous for still trying to find Martin. They are heroic volunteers who risk their lives to try and save others.”

“I miss Martin a lot and often wonder what happened,” said Kathleen. “He still had a lot of life in him, including walking on the Scottish mountains, which he loved. After being unemployed he had found work and his life was much better. It is very sad what has happened.

“If the DMRT, who, along with all the other organisations involved I would like to pay tribute to, can find Martin it would bring an end to some of the sorrow for myself, other family members and his many friends.”

At the vigil Brown sang Tom Paxton’s Rambling Boy. “I’ve never forgotten him. Keep rambling, Martin,” said a tearful Brown. The DRMT relies heavily on donations for its £40,000 annual costs. Police Scotland makes an annual grant payment of £13,000 but the rest must be fundraised. It is currently fundraising for a new team base.


The fee for this article was donated by myself to the DMRT. If you’d like to make a donation go to

Just Giving: Dundonnell Mountain Rescue Team - JustGiving

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