Fifty-seven years-old IAN CRANSON is in fine fettle. It is exactly a quarter of a century this month since the ever-popular, ever-classy centre-half last played for Stoke City. I expected to be greeted with the unmissable limp of a middle-aged man mountain. But today, he would put to shame many a man half his age. Those billowing shirts and baggy shorts of the 1990s clearly hid a physique much slimmer and wirier than it seemed form the back of the old Boothen. Mind you, those wide stripes of 92/93 and 95/96 might have made even Peter Crouch appear a tad stocky. He’s on good form too, beating me to the bar to order the coffees. The beers will come later as I guide him down memory lane.
A native of Stone since the late 1980s, it’s there we head – the monstrous bowl that is the Crown Wharf boozer to be precise. Joule’s flagship Brewery Tap is a fair old size indoors and looms over the nearby Trent and Mersey Canal. It eventually opened its doors in July after a long delay caused by you know what.
Being in the company of Cranny for a few hours is a joy. He is just as you’d imagine him to be: straight-talking, self-effacing, friendly and perceptive. He speaks about the game as well as he once read it from command centre, alongside skipper Vinny Overson. What shines through most though is his natural humility. In many ways, he typifies what Macari’s silverware soldiers were about: playing beneath their true abilities in the third tier, but fighting for the badge week-in, week-out like it meant the world to them.
In another era and with fewer injury problems, he could have become a millionaire and might even have had an outside shot at a senior cap for his country. But the Ian Cranson story ran its own course, and the main man is in not the type to dwell on what-might-have-beens. He seems happy with life, entirely comfortable in his own skin and more than willing to reflect on a fifteen-year professional career.
How are the knees these days?
You’re asking on a good day! They feel okay now I’m not running around like a madman chasing fast lads around a huge football pitch every Saturday! Maybe a beer next, and the legs will loosen them up a bit more. I loved playing, but I don’t miss those couple of mornings after a game when I felt like the tinman.
And the pandemic… has life altered for you in the last eighteen months?
I like keeping busy and in some ways I’ve been busier than ever because of Covid. I’m a Hermes delivery driver – and as we all know that’s an industry with more demand now than ever. I have my own local round in Stone through the company.
I have my own little van and I enjoy it. Stone isn’t massive, but the town is split between ten couriers so that shows how delivery drivers have taken over. I do an early shift which leaves me time to do some football coaching in the afternoon – at local schools these days. So, the coaching side of it took a hit and I had a bit more time on my hands at home, but I’ve been fine.
I don’t like to sit twiddling my thumbs, but it could have been worse. It’s not been much fun for many folks, so I‘ve been lucky. Things are getting back to normal slowly, so I do sessions for after school clubs around the area ,as well as a regular stint at a private school in Burton. I left Wolves a while ago, but I still enjoy it.
Back to the beginnings… how was life as a young lad in the North East?
It’s the same old story for lads of my generation. You won’t be surprised to hear I was sports mad – cricket in the summer and football the rest of the time. Backstreets, fields, parks, anywhere we could play.
I grew up in Blackhall Colliery – a village on the coast of County Durham. I still have a sister and brother up there, so I pop up once or twice a year. Most boys there were football crazy. The whole areas was and I was no different. Typical working class mining community, really.
I was alright at school, but I was always sports obsessed. Academically, I was doing okay until I signed forms for Ipswich and knew I had a chance of making a career in the game. I was a Sunderland fan and went a lot during the1970s. My next door neighbour often had a spare season ticket and he used to take me. We sat in the Main Stand, away from the Roker Roar in the Fulwell End,and I loved it the atmosphere. I didn’t go to Wembley when they won the cup in73 but I knew it meant the world to people.
A bus from our village went to every home game. I wouldn’t say I watched games with my heart set on becoming a footballer, but like most lads, you dream about it don’t you?
Did you stand out as a young lad?
There was always plenty of attention once I reached a certain age.
I played in every outfield position – I even scored 30 goals one year. Over time I went in reverse – attack, midfield and then at 13, finally to centre-half. That’s when the attention became more serious. Newcastle were sniffing around and Leeds had been monitoring me for years, so I knew I was decent. Our district team got to the last 32 of a national schoolboy tournament– not bad considering we were East Durham playing against big city sides like Carlisle and Bradford. We had several scouts at some of those games. They were big local events – 2-3000 would turn out to watch us on a Saturday morning. It was brilliant as a young lad. Wow! A fair few lads from that team went on to forge lower league or good non-league careers
How did the big break come about?
Ipswich had a really good scouting set up, with a dedicated Northern scout – I presume Bobby Robson set that up with his knowledge of the hotbed of talent up there. After one game, this scout found out who my old man was and pulled him aside for a chat. It went from there. At a half-term holiday, soon after, I was on a coach to Suffolk along with a load of other teenage trialists. Lads had come down from Scotland and all over the borders to jump on this old coach at South Shields ready for the long journey down south.
Things were different then. Not as organised or as regional as the academy set-up. I learned that 275 miles is some distance! I’m still mates with one of the lads I met that week – we ended up in digs together. He ended up leaving Notts County some time later to start up a very successful business.
Ipswich looked after us. They treated us well, putting us up in their own bed and breakfast just 5 minutes walk from the ground. All meals were taken care of so that was nice. We played on the Portman Road pitch and Bobby would be watching as well as loads of first teamers, so it felt like a massive thing to be part of. It felt really special at that age. Bobby spoke to us plenty of times – he was a lovely man. He told us to enjoy it, to express ourselves, and to believe in ourselves because there must be a reason we were selected in the first place.
Bobby signed me up just before he ended up leaving the club to manage England. He must have liked my accent! Then again, if I remember me rightly, he actually screwed me over for a few quid on that contract ha ha!
Tell us about your debut…
1983 it was. It was my Dad’s birthday and we lost 4 nil at Villa. We were two of the top teams in Europe in some ways or had been in recent years. Obviously, it was a step up and bit of a shock with the pace of the game. Dad didn’t go because he’d had a heart attack, so he stayed at home. He used to get carried away at games – the type to give the ref pelters….Paul Mariner scored an own goal to put them 1 up but apparently it was reported on the radio that I’d scored it – so Dad didn’t need that shock! Afterwards, he said it nearly brought on a second attack!
Ipswich seemed to lose their way after Bobby left…
I think it was coming. After getting into Europe for so many consecutive seasons, I think the board got a bit complacent. It was the time of the first big short sponsorship deals and we had Pioneer on our shirts. The money was used to add a tier on the main stand rather than on players, so when Fergie’s Aberdeen knocked us out of the UEFA Cup early one year, the budget went down the pan. Big name players were leaving never to be replaced.
You played 5 times for England Under 21s........
I played with some top players – many household names. Taking a look at those team sheets now… Waddle, Hodge, Cottee, Seaman, Parker… it would be easy to talk about having regrets about not reaching such heights, but honestly, I don’t see it that way. Injuries took their toll on me and who knows if things could have been even better?
I think I lost a yard of pace, but listen, I still had a great career. My England debut was in Waddle’s only game at that level – he scored twice vs Finland then got moved up to the Seniors – he was out of this world. Then it was off to Tel Aviv – I scored a header vs Israel despite the keeper trying to punch my head off. I bet there’s no footage of that on YouTube!
I’ll never forget Romania away – a depressing place. There were massive flags and banners everywhere of their communist leaders. The weather was dismal. In our hotel, you had to pre-book phone calls home. A line could come through at any time – ours were 2am on the night before game – the crafty sods! I rang my missus at 3.30am. I met her in those early days and I’m still with her so it’s a good job I managed to get through! We also drew with Italy in a group game at Swindon.
Obviously, it was a proud time and a good learning curve.
You moved to Sheffield Wednesday – how did life at Hillsborough compare?
Howard Wilkinson was in charge and I knew he had instigated Lilleshall along with Bobby Robson. They were basically trying to make an elite academy of players for England. Howard modernised it and took financial pressure off FA by trying to make it regional with big clubs taking charge of separate areas. That vision never took off because each individual club wanted a piece of the \\action.
As a man, Howard was pleasant enough. He always seemed very deep in thought so sometimes he would walk straight past you as if you didn’t exist! Asa manager, he was very complex and could be quite philosophical. He was labelled a long ball man, but he told me it was a pragmatic response to the players/finances at his disposal. He did his homework on players – he knew more about my career than I did!
They are a big club – huge old ground and they would have some great times in the 1990s. But after a season and a half, my first ACL injury happened with a partial tear. Mark Bright landed on my knee in a Mercantile Credit Centenary Trophy game. Soon after joining Stoke of course, the thing became a complete rupture.
Tell us about the move to Stoke……..
Big Ron Atkinson replaced Wilkinson after he went to manage Leeds. Ron never seemed to rate me that highly – he wanted Nigel Pearson and Peter Shirtliff to play which was fair enough, but I thought he could have been a bit more straight with me at times. I went on holiday to Jersey in the summer of1989 and on the way back, we called in at my wife’s parents.
My mother in-law told me that Mick Mills had ruing trying to get hold of me. I knew Mick from Ipswich of course. He phoned again the next day and told me of Stoke’s interest. He also told me Ron was happy to sell me – which was not the nicest way to find out. I rejected Mick at first because I didn’t want to drop down to the second tier. I wanted to speak to Ron, He was in Bermuda topping up his tan, but I managed to call him! He wasn’t too bothered about keeping me, so that left me with a big decision to make.
A mate of mine at the time said he thought I should sign for Stoke because I hated not playing on a Saturday and he was right.
I’d played at Stoke previously. It reminded me of Hillsborough. Old fashioned ground near terraced streets and all that, which I liked. I remember the fans near the tunnel giving you stick as you entered the pitch. I knew they’d been a big club with potential so I went for it. The Butler Street executive boxes were just about to open for the first time and Mick talked of a club set for good times. But he also warned me that the pressure was on – he knew this season would be make or break.
For many years under Mills, we were a nearly team and then eventually, we really struggled. What went wrong?
Before I came, we missed out on the play offs a few times, so there was always a feeling of – just adding two more good players could make the difference.
The Chairman backed his man with a million to spend in the summer of 89but that’s not really how it was, looking back. After me, Derek Statham, Ian Scott and Bertie Biggins came in, it wasn’t long before we sold Peter Beagrie to Everton for 750k, which didn’t help. We’d had a poor start in terms of results but I felt we were playing okay early on. We only won one in the first dozen or so games and the fans were getting restless. I remember dominating games but only drawing after missing chances galore.
Millsy was a nice feller and I felt Alan Ball coming in as his assistant was a strange decision. I don’t know whose call that was?
Bally was a decent coach, but I sensed he fancied the hotseat for himself. I wasn’t hopeful when he got the job after Mick’s sacking because I never saw Bally as a manager. He was probably too close to the players – in the pubs, but also on a daily basis in and around the dressing-room or training ground. The drinking culture was heavy at the time and no one seemed to mind. I was brought up differently at Ipswich, so that never interested me, other than a few drinks on a Saturday night.
I think that squad needed more discipline and more distance from their manger. He wasn’t my cup of tea, to be honest. I was told he’d said things about my performance after injury which were unfair and then it seemed at one point he was keen to loan me back to Ipswich, dressed up as a favour to me to save the club some money.
I was working my balls off every day in order to get fit. That injury in November against Bournemouth was horrible – so early on in my Stoke career. So, I was keen to go off on loan just to play and get fit. Then never came off and I sometimes wonder how things might have turned out if I’d gone. Anyway, it never did and I sensed Ball wouldn’t last long because the whole place needed more organisation and authority in my opinion…...
Lou Macari’s arrival must have provided quite a contrast then…
Lou’s reputation arrived before he did. Most of the players knew what to expect – he was a tea-totaller who demanded a highly fit squad. The best thing was – he didn’t even have to say that much – certainly no grand speeches. He just expected and demanded us to be professional.
I was out of contract at the time and was offered a salary equivalent to just 30% of my previous deal. My wife was seeing a medical specialist at the time and I liked Stone so I was reluctant to leave, but I was obviously hoping for more. Dunfermline, Hearts and Plymouth were interested in me but I didn’t fancy moving so far away, so I decided to keep at it and hope better terms would come along. I’d become a virtual ever-present over the next 3 years, and even though the money never followed, the good times on the pitch certainly did.
What was it like playing under Lou?
He kept things simple. He was human but he was tough on us as well. There were fewer days off. After midweek games, we’d be in training the next day which shocked some of the lads as you can imagine. Even the day before the odd game, he was at it – before Grimsby away on the Saturday once, he had us sprinting around the Vic on a Friday morning.
Lou took no shirkers though and I respected that. Even me and Vinny had to keep up. I was the fittest I’d ever been. Lou wasn’t flexible though. Doctors advised him to go easy on my training schedule, but that was never going to happen! I only missed a session if my knee was the size of my head after a match! Once, I was dragged in to play just one week after a cartilage operation. One week! And I had to mark a young Trevor Sinclair at Blackpool –that wasn’t easy. So, it was often a case of draining the knee the day before a game and just get on with it. It might have saved a few years off my career, who knows? That was the downside to it all.
Lou was clever with us, I think. I used to moan at him – ‘are you taking the piss or what man?’ after yet another run. But he just laughed and enjoyed watching us suffer! Lou’s recruitment was exceptional. He was so through and he travelled everywhere watching game after game searching for that diamond in the rough. He was great at spotting older players capable of one last fresh start and tougher players in need of a boost. And apart from Keith Scott, he always signed great lads as well!
There was little done on shape and tactics until Mike Pejic joined him years later. Lou just focused on putting out the right mix of players with good attitudes.
That was great night for the club. It put us back on the map. I enjoyed the header at the Kop of course. There was a small crowd that night but a huge Stoke following, but it was still Ian Rush and co and it was still a draw at Anfield. That night made the players realise what we could do, and you needed defining moments like that.
In 92, we missed out on promotion but enjoyed our day out at Wembley – did you feel then we would go on to seal the deal the following season?
Winning the Autoglass wasn’t success to me. It was a lovely day and I knew it meant a lot to the fans who’d been through some tough times. But it was a consolation when it should have been the icing on a cake.
But it was a starting-point of what followed. We should have gone up in the play-offs but we just cracked. We might have run out of steam, who knows? Was it exhaustion, nerves or inexperience? I’m not sure. Many of us played 50-odd games for the first time in our careers. Bertie was fitter than ever and Carl Beeston put a run of games together as well.
The 92/93 season will never be forgotten by supporters…
It was slow start. I expected us to fly out of the traps but it took awhile. And because of that, even the 25-match unbeaten run wasn’t enough to guarantee promotion. The 4-3 win over West Brom was a turning-point – I enjoyed that header by the way. That win restored belief I think. The crowds flocked back and the away followings were something else. Something was really growing by then. It’s a good job really, because I can’t imagine how the players with that fitness schedule would cope with being cut adrift at the bottom as well! Winning games makes everything easier.
Vale away was brilliant – what a goal thanks to Butler and Steiny – that was my favourite goal that season. Apart from my own against West Brom, Vale and Huddersfield at home ha ha!
Plymouth at home was the big one. The nerves were set in, fearing a repeat on the previous season’s collapse. But it was such a relief to get over the line. Even I went out up to Maxims that night! It meant a lot to us – we were a close bunch. The next two games were the only time Lou allowed us to ease up a bit. We only dropped it 5 or 10%, but that’s all it takes at that level. We lost at Bolton and drew with Burnley but Lou said he could ask no more of us. That made a nice change!
Did the big contract offer not come along then?
In the March before we won the league, it came to a head. Lou was doing his best to sort me out with bonuses and so on – he was good like that and always stayed in touch with you. But the board weren’t budging until Lou had a genius idea. He said that if we got to Wembley in the Autoglass again, the extra money would convince the board to up my salary by £10k. So… we just had to beat the Vale at our place. Robin Van der Laan’s winner was tough enough to take as it was! I lived near to Vale defender, big Peter Swann, at the time and we had a good laugh about it the next day. ‘You bastards cost me 10 grand last night’ I said to him.
To be fair, we had a good crack with the Vale lads in those days. They had a good team and I thought they should have finished second behind us. Swanny was a good lad – and a big lad. He used to make me laugh because he had this Great Dane with a dodgy heart. He’d often walk it down the street but after 200 yards would have to return, struggling and sweating, holding it over his shoulder because its ticker had given up. What a sight that was!
You must have enjoyed being part of THAT back four?
Yes definitely. We played consistently over time and knew each other’s game inside out. Lou getting the three big lads fit was key, but Johnny Butler was already a mobile player. I think Buts was very underrated. He could have played even higher. He was underrated off the pitch too – swallowing knives at Christmas parties would you believe! Great lad, John. He was always close to Beest – Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum we used to call them.
It’s a shame only Sandy made it for the anniversary night in 2018 – I was on holiday in Bali but I don’t know about Buts or Vinny. I’m sure Lee enjoyed a beer with Bertie like the old days. Me and Vinny were solid together – I’ve lost touch with the big man in recent years, which is a shame. I last saw him on a coaching course a few years back. He used to text every Christmas but it died off.
We started well in the new division and then came the departures of Macari and Stein…
We were doing ok, scoring plenty of goals as we were finding our feet. We were certainly holding our own. There was a sense that we were comfortable in a higher league and let’s just enjoy the ride, see where it takes us. The big change that came was frustrating because we’ll never know how far we’d have taken that team on the back of that momentum we carried over. I think we were only one or two additions away, maybe in midfield, from really challenging the top teams.
How did you findplaying under Joe Jordan?
Joe was fine with me on a personal level – he even asked my opinions about the tactics several times. But he was a dour man and he took everything very seriously. There was no time for a laugh to lighten the mood and the whole set up was so regimented. Joe was always more about consolidation than Lou, who liked to go for it a bit more.
We finished 10th or so, which wasn’t bad on paper but the away from was terrible and I felt we were too negative, particularly against the weaker teams who we should have steamrolled. To be fair to Joe though, replacing the goals of Mark Stein was a big task for any manger. But it was a culture change to spend so much time on shape in training– I think it became less enjoyable for the players.
When John Clark came in and Vinny was dropped, that didn’t go down well. It seemed to set the tone for what followed. John struggled with his weight at Stoke and Lou wouldn’t have stood for that. I got Player of the season that year and I felt in good nick, so personally it was fine, but the team was a bit stifled and that filters through to the supporters over time.
So, were the players pleased when he was sacked?
It’s never a nice situation and because the team was losing badly, there were no celebrations. The squad were too professional for that. But it seemed inevitable – with the combination of bad form and Lou’s availability. I’d been sent off in the last game of the93/ 94 season so I was suspended for the first couple of the new season. I watched the Bolton defeat at their place from the stands and it was horrible.
On the Monday, a meeting was called and Joe opened it up. Everyone had their say. I explained how were just not competitive enough and how we rarely went near their area. I don’t know how my comments went down, but there was nothing to be gained by staying quiet and we had just been battered 4 nil. John Dreyer came in and while he was a talented footballer, he was the only centre half I ever struggled to form a partnership with – he was too eager to move around and leave his position. He also wanted to play the offside trap which we’d never done, so the team was vulnerable, without that solidity.
After that meeting, nothing seemed to change and that’s when I expected the board to act.
Lou received a largely warm welcome back but the 94/ 95 season was probably the most uneventful of the whole decade...
The players were not looking forward to the running, but we knew results could only get better! Ultimately, those Stein goals had not being replaced so in tight games, we often lost points when previously we’d have nicked wins late on. Our away form remained poor and at one point, it did get a bit panicky with a bad run pushing us towards the bottom end. Personally, I was just carrying on as I’d always done – this was my fourth season in a row with a really good appearance record.
The 95/96 season took most people surprise, especially with the unrest behind the scenes…
That was the summer of the contract issues – seasoned pros who had done well for the club were offered reduced terms and pay as you play-type deals, so the atmosphere wasn’t the best. But having said that, when it came to training and matches, I’d like to think you wouldn’t have seen a lack of professionalism.
For most footballers, the competitive edge kicks in when you cross the line. The off-field stuff is dealt with later. Reaching the play-offs in the circumstances and with a very thin squad was a great achievement – probably better that winning the league in 93 in many ways – we had a small squad and were up against some top teams with big money. What said it all, was the deadline day sale of Paul Peschisolido – no club in the top 6 with proper promotion ambitions does that, do they?
Pesch was a livewire and always had an impact – even if it was off the bench. There were rumours flying around – I don’t know how true they were - about the club were desperate to get some money in. We heard it was either sell Pesch or Lee Sandford to Sheffield United – which did happen eventually.
Your injury troubles resurfaced – what were you like watching from the sidelines?
The injury carried over from late the previous season. I didn’t play until the November, just before Mike Sheron came in who obviously made a huge difference. We’d had a slow start but form was picking up and we were about to go on a very good run where we kept nicking games. We were strong at the back – I’d struck up a good understanding with Larus Sigurdsson – we complemented each other well with his raw pace and athleticism and my experience. Sturridge was banging them in alongside Sheron and we got some momentum. Ray Wallace and Gleghorn were fantastic in midfield every week – they brought out the best of each other. Then I got injured again– against Grimsby, April time and that was frustrating with us so close to the business end.
Justin Whittle came in and did well though – he was a fit lad who loved defending. Watching the Leicester games wasn’t easy. Had Graham Potter scored at Filbert Street, it might have been different. We’d beaten them home and away so we knew we were capable but by then they had spent money to bring in reinforcements whereas we had weakened ourselves.
The home game was such a flat occasion. I sat in the player’s box in the Boothen and you such sensed it wasn’t going to be our night. The first-half wasn’t what we needed - we never got a head of steam up and were outnumbered in midfield. I knew half-time would be important. I wasn’t in the dressing-room but I was praying things would change.
Of course, soon after, Garry Parker scores and that sinking feeling came over everyone. It knocked the stuffing out of the whole ground. It reminded me of the Stockport home leg in the 92 play-offs when they scored after 5 minutes. It’s hard to recover. Afterwards I went down to see the players, to remind them how well we’d done in the circumstances. They were quiet. It’s a massive blow to get so close after9/10 months graft, believe me. I told them we’d done well against more fancied squads with more money and all that – we’d overachieved, no doubt.
Such a shame though –imagine Premier League games at the Vic. Several of us were getting on a bit by then – me Sandy, Gleggy, Keen, Beeston, Vinny…. so it felt like the end on an era as well.
96/ 97: The last season at the Vic was also your last in football – but it didn’t last long…
We started that season really well so there were hopes that we could challenging again. We even won when I had to go in goal at Oldham! Sheron was on fire then – making the difference that Stein used to make in those games that could go either way.
After beating Bally’s City at our place, I remember playing really well with Larus at home to Bradford –we won 1 nil with a late penalty but we were solid and the clean sheet was pleasing. At that moment, I expected the season to go well. Then came Barnsley away – we never had much luck at Oakwell did we?
The knee just felt sore –and very painful. Afterwards, I could barely get myself into the shower. It was so bad that I knew it was serious. The knee blew up and that was me done. I did try a couple of reserve run-outs but I couldn’t shake it off. Lou gave me sometime off to attend a family funeral in the North East and I had the chance to think it all over. I saw a top surgeon down in Cambridge - he’d worked on Shearer’s ACL injuries – and he confirmed it was time to retire or do too much damage. The days of draining the knee/playing with the pain were over.
Stoke paid up the final 6months of my contract which gave me some thinking time. Then came the testimonial against Everton which was lovely – a good crowd. I actually gave big Duncan Ferguson a bit of a kicking at one point – luckily he was in good spirits and took it in the right way!
How did you find retirement?
I was determined to get away from football at first. I often thought coaches were frustrated ex-players trying to make up for the past. A friend was just getting into the mobile phone business and I got involved. It wasn’t for me if I’m honest. Business boomed in the following years by the way – he did very well for himself without me in the way! After some time out, I did get into the coaching and I’ve enjoyed it over the years at various levels.
You returned to Stoke working in the youth set-up at a turbulent time for the club. Why didn’t things work out under Brian Little?
I think the club felt very different once we’d moved to the Brit. It was a big change. It was as if the club was trying to establish a new identity but was struggling. Little and his coaching team – Tony McAndrew and Alun Evans - were very professional and at that level, it was all set up for Stoke to bounce back. They mapped out every single session weeks in advance – I’d not seen a vision like that before. Their standards and methods were outstanding – it was an eye-opener.
Results went well at first and then it started to unravel. I don’t have any 100% reliable explanations – I can only say what I heard from others at the time. Brian was struggling…..the intensity and organisation began to slip. Strange decisions were being made –they were training in muddy pitches at Keele during the winter, for instance. I presume that filtered through to the players? It was a shock to see things go badly wrong – especially when Little came in with such a good reputation.
You became first team coach under Gudjon Thordarsson – what was it like being part of a promotion team from that position?
It was great – you never lose that hunger – especially on big nights like the play-off game at Cardiff. Moments like that – that’s why you are in the game, really. Dave Kevan was assistant manager so I was in the background a bit to be honest. Gudjon had his ways – a bit mad and unpredictable at times, but he was passionate and he knew the game well in all fairness.
It had all come full circle for me – all that work we’d put in to get up to the second tier and we’d gone through it all again. But achievements like that are satisfying and they send you into the summer on a real high. It’s nice to be working around any place with a winning vibe – the whole club feels more motivated and together.
Do you miss any of it?
I’m not one for looking back to be honest, but I do often reflect on the big occasions – the big night games at the Vic in particular – Plymouth for example. You can’t replace that sense of occasion. When the Vic was noisy and packed, you felt 10 feet tall. The Man United game was the highlight. What an atmosphere. My brother travelled down from the North East with loads of his mates – they were Sunderland mad and said they were amazed by the noise from the Boothen that night. You never forget nights like that. I’m glad I was part of it.