Derby County home testimonial games

Derby County home testimonial games

The Derby County v Derby County Legends match in March 2016, for Shaun Barker’s testimonial, was the latest of many home games involving the Rams to pay tribute to a loyal player, or to one whose career was ended by injury. One of the first examples of this type of fixture was Derby’s home league match against Everton on 9 December 1905 where Steve Bloomer and Ben Warren split the gate money between them, amounting to around £100 each. Bloomer had put in over 13 years’ service since making his debut at the age of 18 in September 1892 at Stoke. In contrast, Warren had only played for the Rams since his debut in March 1899 aged 17, coincidentally also against Stoke. According to Bloomer’s biography Destroying Angel by Peter Seddon, he also benefited from a national subscription benefit match organised by the FA to mark his record breaking 21st cap for England in April 1905, the first time this gesture had been sanctioned for any player.

Testimonials involving Derby players were common in the 1970s, the first being for Ron Webster against Coventry City on 24 March 1971. In the match programme, Gerald Mortimer described Webster as ‘one of most pleasant individuals anyone could wish to meet. Quiet, modest to a fault and devoted to his home life and family.’ However, he recalls one occasion where Webster almost lost his temper in a fourth-round cup-tie against Wolves. Webster became involved in a running battle with David Wagstaffe but ‘Ron won that one, because he remembered what Wagstaffe forgot, that you have to go on playing football as well as looking out for the man you intend to crunch’. Webster was converted from a wing half to a right back under Brian Clough, going on to play under 8 different managers. He continued to play for the Rams until 1978 making 535 appearances, a club record at the time, and in 2009 was voted the greatest right back in Derby history.

Alan Durban’s testimonial was against Nottingham Forest on 26 September 1973. Durban had recently moved into management as assistant to Maurice Evans at Shrewsbury Town after playing 404 times for the Rams and scoring 110 goals between 1963-1973. In the programme, Brian Clough described Durban as unpopular when he arrived as he ‘could do nothing right for the supporters.’ Clough and Taylor used his abilities so Willie Carlin, Dave MacKay and Roy McFarland could win the ball for him and played to his strengths of flair and skill. Clough went on to say that Durban was a credit to his profession, and he only stepped out of line once. After being out of the side, Durban came back at number 4. When asked by the press why he had been played there, Durban replied that everyone else had been tried except him and the groundsman. That comment cost him £10 in fines. Peter Taylor wrote Durban had put as much into the game as Bobby Charlton, with his longevity due to being a good listener who was prepared to change his ways and put tactics into practice after the management duo had arrived at the Baseball Ground in 1967. Dave MacKay, who had just taken over as Forest manager and is named in the team line up, regarded Durban as a lucky player to have on his side along with Willie Carlin, saying ‘sometimes, when we lost at Derby, I would look around and think: “Well, there’s no Alan, no Willie. No wonder we were beaten.”’

Terry Hennessey is one of Derby County’s players who was awarded a testimonial after being forced to retire through injury rather than for long service to the club. He only played 63 times for the Rams but made over 400 career appearances overall as well as representing Wales on 39 occasions, many of those as captain. The match programme against Spartak Moscow, played on 25 February 1974, looks at Hennessey’s career. Signed by Brian Clough for £100,000 in February 1970, Hennessey was in peak form and helped the Rams move from tenth in the league to fourth by the end of the season, winning 8 and drawing four of the last 12 games. This was Derby’s best finish in Division 1 since 1948/49 and a place in the UEFA Cup was achieved, but a FA League commission banned Derby from European competition for administrative irregularities. Hennessey recalls how he first became seriously injured in a pre-season friendly against Port Vale where a boot cracked his knee during a slide tackle and his cartilage had gone. He returned to the side after a few months, but another cartilage injury struck and the jinx never left him. Gerald Mortimer wrote about Hennessey’s man of the match performance at Benfica in the second leg of the 1972/73 European Cup: ‘Benfica, 3-0 down, threw everything at Derby and, in those crucial early stages, the unmistakable head of Hennessey was there time and again to clear.’

In his tribute, Derby Manager Dave Mackay commented that when Hennessey was brought in by Clough to replace him, his attitude was ‘nobody can replace me’. Over time though, MacKay came to admit that Hennessey was an excellent sweeper, better in the position than he was. Bobby Charlton wrote that he faced Hennessey in games against Forest, Derby and Wales and admits when he finished playing, he was glad he didn’t have to play against him again. Charlton had a reputation for keeping a cool head, but Hennessey came as near as anyone to making him mad as he was frustrated at not being able to do what he wanted to do. Ironically, according to the programme, Hennessey had a thorough medical before signing for Derby with the specialist saying he was one of the fittest men he had ever seen.

Stoke City were the visitors to the Baseball Ground for Colin Boulton’s testimonial on 21 April 1975. In the testimonial brochure, Gerald Mortimer wrote that Boulton signed for Derby in 1964 when he was almost 19 after being sacked from his police cadetship for playing too much cricket and football. He played the last six matches of the 1964/65 season, deputising for Reg Matthews in goal, but did not force his way into the first team until January 1971 after Les Green’s loss of form. Boulton’s temperament seemed ideal, but the player himself admitted he would be booked in every game if he played outfield. An incident against Airdrie in the second leg of the Texaco Cup Final at the Baseball Ground in April 1972 seems to confirm this when Boulton went unpunished by referee, Jack Taylor, for punching Drew Jarvie in the penalty area. Bob Wilson pays tribute to Boulton’s competitiveness, concentration, confidence, courage, consistency and composure, saying his successful career was down to these traits developed spending years as number two without giving up hope. Francis Lee described him as a quiet keeper and not a ‘glamour keeper’ as he did not hurl himself about and do the ‘spectacular things’. When Lee heard of rumours of Clough going for Peter Shilton, he couldn’t see how he could have been much improvement on Boulton. His opinion was that goalkeeper is the most important man in a team as what he does affects the moral of 10 other players on his own team, and 11 in the opposition. Roy McFarland was not impressed by Colin (known as Bernie to his team mates) in his early days at the club, not in terms of his goalkeeping but rather his attitude. To Roy, Colin was ‘idling in training, not putting his lot in and not trying to better himself’. He thought he had a chip on his shoulder and told him so which led to some violent arguments and ‘more than once Col and I nearly went outside the dressing room to fight. I’m glad it didn’t happen, because I punch so strongly I might have robbed Derby County of a fine goalkeeper.’ Colin Boulton wrote that when he arrived at the club in 1964, his aim was to play for England in the 1966 World Cup. As he was only 29 at the time of his testimonial, his aim then was to win as many trophies as possible, as soon as possible but did not see himself playing for England at that stage. Boulton also wanted to win a FA Cup final at Wembley as every schoolboy then dreamed of that. He admitted to being nervous during games and it was only if the Rams were 3-0 up that he could enjoy playing as he knew one mistake by him wouldn’t change everything. His most memorable match was against Benfica in Lisbon as he had never known a crowd make as much noise as the Portuguese did that night in the Stadium of Light. Brian Clough wrote that Boulton’s clangers could be counted on the fingers of one hand and admits he should have been in the side sooner. ‘There wasn’t and isn’t another goalkeeper anywhere I’d sooner have than Colin. Even Shilton, who has made keeping goal a fine art, lets in more sloppy ones than him and some blokes with international careers do well to go five weeks without giving the other side a gift.’ Boulton was the only player to take part in all 84-league games during Derby’s two Championship winning seasons, playing a total of 272 games overall.

Gerald Mortimer described Peter Daniel as ‘The Perfect Clubman’ in his testimonial programme for the match against a Don Revie International XI on 5 April 1976. Daniel survived sweeping changes over the years and played in the shadows of the Central League. His image was that of a reliable reserve who could do a good job for two or three games. When Roy McFarland was injured with an Achilles tendon problem sustained whilst away on international duty with England in May 1974, word was at start of the 1974/75 season he would be out until Christmas and the centre half spot was between Daniel and Rod Thomas. Thomas was injured on a pre-season tour which gave Peter Daniel his chance. Mortimer recalls how he improved and added new dimensions to his game as confidence increased, illustrated by his goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge: ‘Peter kept going from the edge of his own penalty area and when John Phillips could not hold a cross shot from Roger Davies, Peter was there to propel the ball into the net – an effective rather than a spectacular finish, the fact he was there at all was significant’. McFarland was not fit until April and by then Daniel had been playing in great pain for some weeks, a pelvic injury meant he needed pain killing drugs before games and he was often unable to sleep during the week, but he played on and was one of the best centre-halves in the First Division. Peter Daniel won the Player of the Year trophy as well as a championship medal that season. Mortimer continues: ‘Whether he is facing Juventus at a packed Baseball Ground – surely his finest hour – or Bury Reserves in front of a few hundred people, the level of his effort and performance never falters.’ Derby captain at the time, Archie Gemmill, did not think McFarland could have done a better job and believed that the Rams would not have won the 1974/75 title without Peter Daniel as there were a lot of games Derby struggled in which he helped the team pick up a point. Roy McFarland said Daniel seemed almost too kind and pleasant to be a footballer, which was part of the reason why he surprised many – neither the fans, nor his own team mates realised how tough and ruthless Daniel could be on the field. The Revie International X1 included some notable players such as Gordon Banks, John Robson, Billy Bremner, Tony Currie, Gerry Francis and Duncan McKenzie. Peter Daniel played 195 times for Derby County, scoring 7 goals.

Alan Hinton spent eight seasons with the Rams making over 300 appearances and scoring 83 goals from the left wing. His testimonial was played on October 9 1976 against a Great Britain XI. Sam Longson writes in the programme for this game of his sorrow that Hinton had run into such bad luck in the previous year, with business worries followed by the death of his son Matthew from a rare form of cancer. Many team mates and managers, past and present, paid tribute with their memories of Hinton. Brian Clough wrote that ‘If Alan Hinton wants me to stand in Derby marketplace and sell his testimonial tickets, he only has to pick up a telephone and ask. It’s not the kind of thing I would do for most players but I always like to reward loyalty.’ On signing Hinton in September 1967 from Nottingham Forest for £30,000, Clough added that ‘one of the first things I did after signing Alan was to sling him in the reserves for a few weeks. He must have realised it was for his own good because he developed into an outstanding player.’ Peter Taylor commented that Hinton had a gift he had only seen in the occasional Brazilian and one European – former Real Madrid star Gento: ‘what appeared to be a driven cross would hang and create chaos in the box for opposition defences’. Bob Wilson recalled one of the worst games in his career as a goalkeeper, a 5-0 defeat in November 1972 at the Baseball Ground on his return to Arsenal’s goal after 9 months out with serious injury. Wilson had forgotten the goalscorers but ‘not the architect’. Hinton and Wilson ‘were supposed to be pals’ as they had been teammates for Wolves Reserves and third teams between 1960-1963. ‘Surely he knew my injured knee was making me struggle on crosses’ lamented Wilson. ‘To set up 2 or 3 goals would have been enough – but 5. Oh, God!’

Roy McFarland admits that at the start he was irritated by Alan’s inability to tackle back but learned to look at the things he did better than anybody else in the game. ‘We had a marvellous understanding at dead-ball kicks and mine was the easy part. Provided I timed my run properly, the ball would come across from Alan just right for me. I have never seen anybody who could cross the ball with such accuracy’. Alan Durban shared a similar view, recalling that ‘a lot of people had spent a lot of time telling both of us about the things we couldn’t do on a football field. Then we found ourselves in a situation in which emphasis was placed on the things which we could do. As a result, we had a more important part to play in the team and Alan’s popularity with the crowd changed overnight.’

Gerald Mortimer wrote: ‘because Alan Hinton’s football was based upon skill, memories of him induce a warm glow of pleasure. Leighton James has recalled how he gaped when he played against Bury Reserves at Derby. Alan slung a pass from one touchline to the other and it dropped at his successor’s feet like a partridge.’ Des Anderson, then assistant manager, remembered Hinton’s time and interest for everybody in the club, right down to the newest apprentice. ‘He was genuinely interested in people and their welfare and made suggestions in a gentle way instead of telling young players how to do it’.

Derby played Nottingham Forest on 9 May 1977 for Kevin Hector’s testimonial match. In the programme, Sam Longson says in his time as chairman he signed only one player – Hector. His rule was not to interfere and believed signings were the job of the manager. Longson watched Hector 5 times when he was with Bradford Park Avenue and told the directors that ‘he is a player we must have’. Longson claimed that Tim Ward, manager at the time, disagreed but the deal went ahead anyway for £35,000 and as Rams fans are well aware Hector went on to make a record 589 appearances and scored 201 goals spread over 16 years.

Roy McFarland played in the same side as Hector for 10 years and described the striker as ‘the quiet man of the team and it takes a lot to get him going’. Jimmy Scoular, who brought Hector to League football as player-manager of Bradford Park Avenue, wrote that Hector’s tremendous pace in possession, acceleration and balance when he had the ball made him stand out from other players. When Scoular moved to Cardiff he tried several times to take Hector to Ninian Park but Bradford wouldn’t sell. If they had, things could have worked out very differently for Hector and the Rams.

Hector wrote of his memories at Derby, ‘of all the things which happened, winning the Second Division in 1969 was the most exciting.’ Some of the goals Hector remembered most vividly were in the European Cup: ‘two against Spartak Trnava which got the team through the home leg after losing 1-0 in Czechoslovakia. I finished up swinging on the bar, I was so excited’. After scoring against Juventus in Turin to make the score 1-1, he recalled Brian Clough talking him into playing against Benfica at the Baseball Ground despite being very unwell, and didn’t think anyone else could have done that as he had been unable to get out of bed the morning before.

FC Bruges were the opponents for Roy McFarland’s testimonial on 9 November 1977. In the programme, Brian Clough wrote that McFarland gave Derby County ‘total loyalty, effort, dedication, pure talent, complete professionalism.’ Clough thought that he and Peter Taylor had watched him around four times when he was with Tranmere and was staggered that another club had not recognised his talent. Signed for £24,000 in August 1967 at the age of 19, McFarland went on to play 530 times for the Rams, scoring 48 goals. Charlie George commented that ‘Roy must be one of the best footballing centre-halves ever. So many central defenders just whack the ball anywhere, but not Roy. He has tremendous close control and even under the greatest pressure has this wonderful ability to play himself out of trouble’. In contrast, Kevin Hector described how he ‘never had any trouble playing against Roy McFarland’ when he was at Bradford playing Tranmere. ‘He played like a real novice, and I scored two goals. He made no impression on me – I did not even notice he was playing.’ Alan Hinton roomed with McFarland on many away trips and tells a story of a time in Egypt when Roy couldn’t understand why he always stayed up longer than he did: ‘Every morning when Roy woke he would tell me how much trouble he had the previous night swotting mosquitoes. He never realised that is why I went to bed later as by the time I got upstairs the mosquitoes had had their fill on his body. I didn’t get a bite the whole trip’.

A match against Nottingham Forest was arranged for Henry Newton’s Benefit at the Baseball Ground on 3 April 1978. Newton, a midfielder who was part of the 1974/75 title winning team, had been suffering from a hip injury and moved to Walsall before retiring after playing 16 games. He was signed by Brian Clough in 1973 for £100,000 and made 156 appearances for Derby, scoring 6 goals. Clough wrote in the programme for the game that he had failed to sign Newton for Derby earlier because Tony Wood, Nottingham Forest chairman at the time, refused to let another player leave for the Baseball Ground so he went to Everton instead. Alan Durban, then manager of Stoke, said ‘every side needs someone in the middle of the park to win the ball…and that’s where Henry was at his best. He was mobile, quick witted and on form he used to stifle the opposition schemers, make them play it before they had time to study the options. A great destroyer, and by no means without craft and a good right foot.’

Harry Brown describes the impact Newton had in the 1974/75 season. Derby had finished third the season before and didn’t start the new season with the look of expectant champions. At Christmas Derby were six points behind leaders Everton in 9th but then Newton was given a regular place in the line-up and his ‘strength, vision and sheer class’ helped the Rams to a tremendous late run to win the title. Many Derby players in the side said they owed their medals to the way Newton played in the closing weeks.

On 3 December 1979, Derby County played a Derby Championship Select at the Baseball Ground for David Nish’s testimonial game. Nish had decided to join Alan Hinton at Tulsa Roughnecks and become a coach. In the programme, left-back Nish described his first selection as a first team player as substitute for Leicester to play at Leeds. His father phoned him at school to tell him and he had to take the Saturday morning off school in order to play. He made his debut in a First Division match against Stoke in 1966 in a team that included Gordon Banks and Derek Dougan, scoring the team’s third goal, ‘a thunderbolt past Harry Gregg’. He was then carried off with severe cramp in both legs down to nervous exhaustion. In his next game against Spurs, Nish recalled being dumped on his backside in the first minute by Dave Mackay who said ‘Sorry lad, you beat me well, there!’ In August 1972 Nish signed for Derby for a then British record fee of £225,000 but he was wondering how he could fit into the side crowned champions the previous season. He made his debut at Norwich and recalled walking out to inspect the pitch and being greeted by loud whistling and jeers due to the size of his fee. Nish captained the side against Juventus in the absence of McFarland and Gemmill, both ruled out through ‘dubious bookings’. Nish played for England in the game at Wembley where McFarland tore his Achilles tendon. The defence that day was Shilton, Nish, Todd, McFarland and Pejic – a defence Brian Clough was rumoured to have wanted at Derby.

Nish describes the ‘turning point’ of his career being in 1975 when he was injured scoring a goal against Sheffield United with it hurting more watching the incident on TV the next day than at the time. He continued to play until the Rams were knocked out of the FA Cup in the semi-final against Manchester United before having three knee operations. Gordon Guthrie ‘bullied him back to fitness’ after each operation by making Nish carry him on his back up and down the steps of the Baseball Ground stands.

Roy McFarland pays tribute in the programme, writing ‘in terms of technique, David is one of the most talented players I have ever seen. And I’ve never seen another full back to match his skill. He had the lot. He pulled the ball down and his distribution was brilliant. He had this marvellous ability to drop his shoulder and send dummies all over the place. In that aspect of the game, he could be compared with the likes of Bobby Charlton, George Best and Denis Law.’ Henry Newton added that Nish ‘played the game with a smile, could see the funny side of incidents on the field and didn’t kick people. A lot of opponents thought they could take him on, but most found he was a better defender than they ever imagined.’ David Nish played 237 times for Derby, scoring 14 goals.

A Ram newspaper was issued for Steve Powell’s testimonial against Nottingham Forest on 11 October 1983. Powell made his debut at the age of 16 years and 33 days against Stoke City in the Texaco Cup in October 1971, at the time the youngest ever player to make a first team appearance for Derby (a record now held by Mason Bennett who made his full debut at the age of 15 years and 99 days, starting in a defeat at Middlesbrough on 22 October 2011).

Gerald Mortimer wrote in the Ram about how on his debut Powell was already on terms with the other players both in skill and physique. On one occasion Powell came across to take a throw in that was about to be taken by Terry Hennessey, captain of Wales, and was told to ‘leave it, Terry son.’ In the final game of the 1971/72 season against Liverpool, Ron Webster was injured so Powell came in at right back. Mortimer recalled ‘an imperishable image is of him flicking the ball over Emlyn Hughes and running round the England international to play it away upfield’.

Brian Clough wrote that ‘when I wanted to sign Steve, his headmaster at Bemrose School, Dr W. R. C. Chapman, was dead against one of his most brilliant students joining a professional football club. He told me that Steve was a fine scholar who would almost certainly go to university. I told Dr Chapman that if Steve signed for me, then he would be going to a kind of university and that I would look after him. Dr Chapman took a lot of persuading from myself, Steve and his dad before he eventually agreed.’

Steve Powell didn’t remember seeing his father, Tommy, play for the Rams as winger/inside forward between 1948-1961 but did have a ‘dim memory of him playing against Blackpool reserves at the end of his career’. He revealed that his dad put no pressure on him and the decision to play professional football was entirely his. He was told he was playing against Liverpool in the final game of the 1971/72 season only a few hours before the game so he didn’t have time to get nervous: ‘with great players like McFarland and Todd in the side, how could I go wrong?’ Powell said. Powell was at technical college studying A levels when the rest of the players were sunning themselves by the pool, but his studies ‘fell by the wayside’ the next season when Derby were playing in Europe. He would have loved to have won a full England cap but had no complaints saying ‘if you’re not good enough, you just have to admit it to yourself’. Under Dave Mackay, Powell lost his place for a time then under Tommy Docherty it appeared he had no future with the team, but he won his place back on both occasions so didn’t have to make a decision to move. Powell rated George Best as the greatest player he played against, saying ‘most players need to get in close to beat you but he could do it from a couple of yards away’. Steve Powell played 420 times for Derby and scored 21 goals between 1971 and 1984.

This article was first printed in issues 13 & 14 of Derby County Memories magazine (June/September 2016). If you enjoyed reading it, copies of the magazine are available from eBay at

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