As promised yesterday, today we bring you an article from issue 10 of WIE (August 1994). It’s from the pen (as it was in those days) of Tim who, even then, had established himself as our lead feature writer. Which, almost certainly, isn’t a role he set out to achieve but one we were more than happy to bestow upon him.
And, you will see that with the last sentence, Tim was somewhat prophetic. For Steve Barnes and Danny Smith read their teammate Steve Finnan who also (somehow) played for the Republic of Ireland at the 2002 World Cup. But that’s another story.
Anyway, here it is in its full glory…
The World Cup 94; WIE Style
Sick of the World Cup? You’ve read the magazines, you’ve watched the matches, you’ve read the papers, you’ve listened to the pundits. You’ve been bored to death by the opinions of your non-football watching mates. Well, tough luck! Because here it is. The story of “Welling United and USA 94”.
Admittedly, trying to link world class football to the fortunes of a mediocre Conference side has been pretty tricky. But success has at last been achieved, now you too can irritate people you know in true John Motson fashion by showing them the proof that two of the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup squad were former Welling players. Below is reprinted the team sheet from the FA Youth Cup 1st Round tie of 1st November 1978. And there they are, at numbers 8 and 9; Andy Townsend and Tony Cascarino.
What odds could you have got in 1978 on the likelihood of Welling producing two such players? The conversation at the bookies would have been a good one:
Punter: Good morning, my fine young bookmaker.
Bookmaker: Good morning Sir. How can I help you?
Punter: Well, so impressed was I by the performance of the brave young colts of Welling United last night in their unfortunate 1-0 defeat at the hands of Gillingham, that I am prepared to place a small wager.
BM: Indeed, sir.
Punter: The goodly sum of £5 says that two of those players will represent their country 16 years hence in the World Cup finals.
BM (coughing): Really sir?
Punter: Yes, really. One will be that Italian one who got himself sent off for fighting.
BM: And he will play for Italy?
Punter: No, the Republic of Ireland.
BM (incredulous): The Republic of Ireland?
Punter: Most certainly. And the other will be that Townsend fellow.
BM: And he will play for England?
Punter: No. No. No. England won’t even qualify. No, Townsend will play for Ireland too. Although he is, in fact, English.
BM: I see, sir.
Punter: And the finals themselves will be in America.
Punter: So, what odds, my good man?
BM: Well, let me see. Two Welling players playing in the World Cup for the Republic of Ireland. In America. And England don’t even qualify. Now, if it hadn’t been for the fact that you said England will fail to qualify I would have assumed that all this was just a mad fantasy, such as that of people betting that the earth is flat, or that Welling will one day have a covered end. But with you revealing that England won’t qualify I can only assume that you have some inside information and can offer you no better than 5-1.
Punter: 5-1? Bollocks to that. I’m off.
It is well known that Andy Townsend spent five years here at Park View Road, whereas Tony Cascarino is less well known as a Welling player. And that is how it should be, for Townsend is a good player, whereas the name “Cascarino” tends to make fans of certain clubs (Chelsea, Aston Villa, Celtic) crawl away in embarrassment. Indeed, it is almost possible for Welling to disown Cascarino altogether. Because he never appeared in the Wings first team, making instead just a handful of appearances at Youth team level. In season 78/79, when the above game was played, Welling were not running a regular youth side, playing just in the FA Youth and Kent Youth Cups, together with the odd friendly. To fulfil these fixtures Welling put out a side containing a mixture of first team fringe players and lads borrowed from a local side who were given the use of Park View Road on Sunday mornings (a team which included Cascarino). So, technically, Cascarino could be said to be a loan player, rather than a fully-fledged Wing, and thus we, too, can laugh at him for being swapped for a set of tracksuits when moving from Crockenhill to Gillingham.
Looking down the Welling team sheet; Dave Walton played regularly for our first team in the Spartan and Athenian Leagues, before breaking his leg and being replaced by that great comedian, Kevin Everitt. John Hope never became more than a fringe player and disappeared off to Alma Swanley. Townsend can be said to have made it, the jury is still out on Cascarino, and nothing is known of the others (they weren’t in the Wings’ youth team the following season).
On the Gillingham side, at number 2 is Colin Ford, who moved to the Wings and became our regular right back for several years. At 13 is Micky Adams, who is still playing professional football after a career at Leeds, Coventry and Southampton, and the S. Bruce at number 4 is Steve Bruce, who has, apparently, gone on to play on a larger stage than Park View Road. And, again, the whereabouts of the others are unknown.
Sixteen years have gone by, and we have another youth team. What odds will you give me for Steve Barnes and Danny Smith playing for Wales in the year 2010?