Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Is Dave Whelan right when he accuses Norman Deeley of ending his first class football career?

The following is taken from THE FA CUP - 50 years on, published by SPORTSBOOKS in April 2010.
Author - Mark Metcalf 

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan  claims that his first class career was ended by a reckless 42nd minute challenge at the 1960 FA Cup Final. But does the evidence support him?

According to Alan Hoby’s next day report in the Sunday Express the tragedy happened “when the tormenting hard-dribbling Norman Deeley clashed and collided with Blackburn’s left back Dave Whelan. They struck shins, Deeley spun away like a black and gold top – but amid a strained silence Whelan lay motionless, a sad prostrate blue and white figure.

“For two minutes Whelan lay ominously still while the St John Ambulance men and stretcher-bearers fussed about him. Then tenderly they tied his feet together and laid him with delicate care on the stretcher. DAVE WHELAN HAD FRACTURED HIS RIGHT SHIN.’

Hoby got it wrong. Whelan had broken his left leg.

Dave Whelan remains angry at what he feels was a bad tackle by Norman Deeley. Forty-five years later, several newspapers quoted him after a reckless challenge by Chelsea’s Michael Essien on Liverpool’s Dietmar Hamann during a European Champions League game in December 2005  “ the worst tackle I’ve seen for a long time. You can’t go over the top like that. It was so dangerous. It has no place in football. How Hamann didn’t break his leg, I’ll never know.

“Essien’s tackle was like the one that broke my leg in the Cup Final in 1960. Norman Deeley went over the top, but it was different then, there were no TV replays. The referee didn’t even give a foul, but it absolutely finished me. It was a nasty tackle.”

Writing in his autobiography - Dave Whelan: Playing to Win in 2009, the Wigan chairman, who went on to build a successful business empire after retiring from playing, admits he was intent on intimidating Deeley from the off, and “After about twenty minutes I got him a tackle and I really hurt him. He was getting away from me, so I just clogged him, perhaps a little unfairly but not by the standards of the day. ‘He’s finished for the rest of the game, he won’t bother me now,’ I thought.

“In the 42nd minute a 50:50 ball came in between me and Norman Deeley. I thought he would still be trying to get there ahead of me, even after the crunch I’d just given him. He was that type of player. So I set off, determined to win the ball.

“And I did. I got there seconds before Deeley. But that was when I realised he had no intention at all of racing me for that ball. He was going for me. As I was running I heard a loud crack and felt my knee suddenly burn with pain. ……I was in agony and I knew I was out of the game. Norman Deeley had got me good and proper. ”

Dave Whelan’s career at the top level had come to an end, because whilst he was able to play professionally again it was in Fourth Division at Crewe.
He never played for the Rovers first team again and moved to Gresty Road in January 1963. His problems might have been even worse as only the swift intervention of a hospital doctor in advising him to have the plaster removed
stopped the spread of gangrene.

Dave Whelan is correct that today the incident would be replayed numerous times on television. This wasn’t the case in 1960 - there were just four BBC cameras covering the match - and it was not until many years later that a DVD of the game was released. This shows Whelan taking out Deeley early in the match, but when it moves to showing the incident that left the fill back out of the game it appears to show no more than two keenly committed players going honestly for the ball, with, if anything, Whelan slightly late. It was Deeley who got to the ball first.  Whelan’s views, not surprisingly, has brought a response from players and fans on both sides.

After Whelan’s comments in 2005. Steve Gordos, Wolverhampton fan and former Sports Editor at the Wolverhampton Express and Star. wrote to him. “ I don't recall any blame being attached to Deeley. Whelan even appears to wave to Deeley as he is stretchered off to say it was 'no problem.'

“I've replayed a DVD of the game, which shows clearly that Deeley got to the ball first while Whelan comes careering in with his left leg at an awkward angle. Deeley could not avoid tripping over the leg. I believe if Mr Whelan viewed the incident again, he would see that his memory is wrong. He has done great disservice to Norman Deeley, who always played fairly."

Gordos asked Whelan to retract his comments on Deeley but did not receive a reply.

Gordos is also angry at Whelan for the comments in his autobiography: “I was incensed by Whelan’s comments suggesting that Norman made a two-footed tackle on Whelan. He compared it to a bad tackle by Essien of Chelsea, which was ridiculous. I wrote to Whelan about this and called on him to watch the DVD of the game and then he would surely apologise. I also wrote to the Daily Mail, who had carried the article quoting Whelan, and they published my letter asking him to take a look at DVD that is now.

“Whelan never had the decency to write back, which seems most out of character as he always comes across as a fair-minded fellow. What he said was most unfair to Norman Deeley, who was one the game's gentlemen. If you look at the incident it's clear that Whelan's version is totally wrong. Repeating his comments four years later is out of order.”

Deeley’s old teammates are also concerned. Keeper’ Malcolm Finlayson says: “I am a bit upset to be honest, because at the time and afterwards Ronnie Clayton, the Rovers captain, a very sporting man who shook our hands afterwards as we waited to go and collect our medals, acknowledged it was an accident.”

Wolves captain Bill Slater: “I seem to remember the referee didn’t even award a free kick against Norman Deeley who was a tiny chap. I am aware that Whelan has suggested recently he was deliberately fouled but I thought he just sort of fell over with both players going honestly for the ball”

Wolves full-back George Showell “I was at school with Norman Deeley and any idea he did anything to harm Dave Whelan deliberately is nonsense.” 

Whelan’s teammate Bryan Douglas meanwhile admits he’s “not sure about Dave’s injury, I just think he went with his wrong leg. He was a right footer but played on the left. I have heard bits that Dave thought he’d gone over the top but I met Norman Deeley later and I think he’s a genuine guy.”

Deeley, who died in 2007, had this to say on the incident many years later in an article in a book ‘Match of My Life - Wolves’: “The ball was knocked out towards me as I ran inside off the wing. It was a bit short and so tempted Dave Whelan into the tackle. I might only be short, but I could tackle as well as any Wolves player, because I’d started out as a half back. Dave and I went for this ball and we arrived at speed pretty much together. Crunch. I heard this crack as we collided and I thought ‘That’s my leg.’ When I looked down in my dazed state there was a duck-egg shaped bump already forming on my shins. Then I looked across at Dave’s leg and there was no flesh on it for about four or five inches…………I had a few questions afterwards about the incident by the press but generally it was accepted as an accident.”  

While writing THE FA Cup - 50 Years on I made attempts to interview Dave Whelan and only bad weather prevented the first meeting. When it later became increasingly difficult to contact him I wrote asking for an interview but never received a reply.

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