MANAGING Bridlington Town at Wembley in 1990 was the pinnacle of John Reed’s legendary Non League managerial career.
Reed, whose success with Hatfield Main, Denaby United, Goole, Harrogate Town and a host of other clubs puts him in a league of his own, was a one-season wonder for Bridlington, but by golly, it was a spectacular year.
Chairman Ken Richardson had lured Reed from Hatfield in 1989 to replace Colin Appleton, and with large financial resources Brid cantered to the NCEL Premier Division title, reached the FA Vase final, the East Riding Senior Cup final and the NCEL League Cup final.
Reed had a host of star Non League names at his disposal including Bob Gauden, remembered for being Neil Warnock’s first signing at Burton Albion, Steve Brentano, Wayne Noteman, Darol Pugh and Clive Freeman.
In his interview with Non League Yorkshire, Reed shares his memories of his Bridlington team and the Vase final at Wembley against Yeading and subsequent replay at Elland Road.
Saturday 5th May 1990
Bridlington Town 0-0 Yeading – Wembley
Monday 14th May 1990
Yeading 1-0 Bridlington Town – Elland Road
“I started my management career at such a young age as I was appointed player/manager of Denaby United when I was 26 and I’m now 68 so I had had three or four jobs before the Brid job came along.
“I think that came about because I was looking after Hatfield Main who sadly no longer exist and we pipped Bridlington to the runners-up spot (in the 1988/89 season). We had a budget of £200 a week, whereas Bridlington was about £1600 a week because they had a multi-millionaire as chairman.
“Cut a long story short at the end of the (1988-89) season, (chairman) Ken Richardson rang me and we met and I took over at Brid. It was an amazing opportunity. I went from having to sometimes scratch around for players at my previous clubs to being kid in the sweetshop at Brid. Without a shadow of doubt. I was giving £10 to lads at Hatfield and now I was paying lads at Brid £150 to play. In 1990 it was a lot of money. Brid was my first big club by a country mile. I never had to go looking for players. I think all the players I signed at Brid, they all rang me and said ‘Reedy, I’d love to play for you now you’re going there’.
“A lot of the team were already there. I think there was one player from the East Riding there when I arrived and I obviously brought in players who I knew from other parts of Yorkshire. We had a magnificent season as we won the NCEL Premier Division title by six points to get promoted into the Northern Premier League for the first time. We got to two other Cup Finals, as well as the Vase Final which went to two games. It went to a replay as in 1990 there were no such thing as penalty shootouts after the first final. It was extra-time then a replay.
“The replay was held at Elland Road and as you can imagine both the Wembley game and the replay were two unbelievably magical days that any manager could ever had. I would have never dreamt of leading a team out at Wembley when I started out at Denaby. It was an incredible experience. We were disappointed we didn’t put them away at Wembley, and at Elland Road even thought we lost 1-0, we should have won about 5-1. But if’s and but’s don’t win football matches.
“The team was full of characters. One of them was Clive Freeman, who went to Swansea. Myself and Clive obviously worked together much later as a manager and assistant manager for nearly 12 years (Buxton, Goole and Ossett Town). I might upset a few lads now, but Clive was by a country mile was the best lad I ever had in my career. Wayne Noteman was absolutely great lad for the dressing room. He was so funny and I don’t know where to start on characters because we had so many. Even my assistant manager John Kirk, he was one of the biggest characters going. When the lads went out, everyone went together. But Clive and Wayne stick out massively.
“I brought a few players to the club like Ian Taylor the goalkeeper who played for me at Hatfield. He went to play for Carlisle and he was a gem. Darol Pugh who played quite a lot of games in the league for Rotherham United and Doncaster Rovers, I was signed him. I brought ‘Ginga (Bob) Gauden) who was a terrifically prolific goal-scorer – he had played for Neil Warnock at Burton Albion and had been at Wembley before (with Burton). I brought Dave Whiteman in. He had scored 20 goals for me at Hatfield in the year before.
“The players who were there before included Steve Brentano, the captain, and the Hull City player. He was a brilliant person and captain. The team was full of real quality players and it just needed someone just to say ‘right, ok, this is the way we are going to play’. Back in the 90s, everyone played 4-4-2 and we did. 4-4-2 is like any set-up, you have to know how to play it and we had wingers like Gary Brattan (father of Australian footballer Luke) who went to Australia. I am still in touch with Gary and I speak to him every year and he was a fantastic left-winger – absolutely out of his world. Clive Freeman was behind him at left-back and I’ve never seen anyone hit a ball like he did. If you ever want to watch him do it, go on YouTube and watch the Altrincham-Chester FA Cup replay. Oh my god, it is an unbelievable goal. But it was nothing for him. The players we had made it is easy for me. Bobby McNeil, another ex-Hull City man, he was with us and I think between a lot of the players I think they had something ridiculous like a 1000 League games between them. A lot of them were at their prime age which I call 28 as well. Some like Clive and Dave Whiteman were a bit younger.
“We trained in Doncaster because a lot of our lads came from South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire. We had a car with a few lads coming from Hull. Certainly in pre-season we went through to Brid and we sometimes we trained on the beach and the lads used to love it.
“On match-days, we used to have a minibus travelling to Brid from Doncaster because there used to me, John Kirk, Dave Whiteman, ‘Ginga’ Gauden, Mickey Downing, Darol Pugh, Gary Lockwood, Ian Taylor who lived that way. Everyone apart from ‘Ginga’ Gauden and Darol Pugh, they all played for me at Hatfield.
“I didn’t need a big squad. I think I only used 19 players all season and look at what we did. It is quite unique as we lost three cup finals, but we did the two major things that Ken never thought we’d do. That was win the league to get up to the NPL and go to Wembley. We never had Wembley in our focus (until we went through the rounds).
“I always remember people saying ‘oh, you won’t last two minutes with Ken Richardson’. I enjoyed working for Ken, but it was hard because he was a hard taskmaster. Sometimes he used to question my team selections and we’d won 3-0. I don’t know if he did it with everyone, but he kept me on my toes. I remember my first meeting with him and I said ‘I have been having a lot of discussions with players and they are all saying I won’t last two minutes, but I know you’ll never sack me because you won’t need to. The wage bill you’re giving me, I can tell you now will allow us to have the league more-or-less stitched up by January’. And it was because we only lost three games all season.
“One of them was 1-0 to Belper at home, the last league game of the season and the week before Wembley. I said to John Kirk that I was going to start and I missed the most easiest sitter because I hit the post from about six-yards out. We lost 1-0 at Armthorpe Welfare and 3-2 to Sheffield FC and they were the only defeats we had all season. That team we had was what would be a Conference North team now, there was no question about that.
“Of the FA Vase run, I think Hucknall Town in the fifth round was the hardest game we had. We ended up winning 5-2, but we were 1-0 down and then 2-1 down. There was a massive crowd. I would say in my opinion that was the game which had me on my guard all day long. They were a good side and to put five past them was unbelievable.
“Billericay, who we played in the quarter-finals, were the favourites and we travelled down there on the Friday as Ken made it easy for the lads as he put us in some amazing hotels. When we went to Wembley we were in the same hotel as Manchester City who were playing Crystal Palace on the same day. But as I say we went to Billericay and ‘Ginga’ Gauden scored an absolute bullet header with about six minutes to go and we won 1-0.
“Then we had Guiseley in a two-leg semi-final and I can tell you a story about before the semi-final first leg. I still keep in touch with the lads and we talk about it all the time. We went to Guiseley and we were in the dressing room. I can’t tell you the full story, but can you remember the TV series Boon? It was about a guy on a motorbike. The joke was on John Kirk and Clive Freeman and Wayne Noteman hid in the shower and they both had a leather head cap on with goggles on and big leather gloves on like people used to wear on motorbikes in the olden days. When John Kirk walked in, they came out of the shower and everyone was singing the Boon theme song. I’m not kidding, the dressing room was a sea of laughter and it was that loud and long because when I went to do an interview for one of the TV corridors they asked me ‘what was going off there’. It did the trick for us. Guiseley were really nervous whereas I just said ‘get out and enjoy it’ and we won 3-0. We then beat them 1-0 in the second leg in front of 2000 people at Brid.
“The whole experience of Wembley was unbelievable. I wasn’t nervous and I didn’t have time to be. We went down on the Thursday and stayed in the most luxurious hotel. Do you know what one of the biggest thrills was? On the Friday, Yeading went in the morning and we went in the afternoon, but you had all afternoon to walk round Wembley. We walked on the pitch, up the steps where you got the Cup. I got as much as a thrill out doing that as I did actually leading the team out. I can’t really describe it. People always say it must have been the best experience of my football career. Of course it was. Here I was, someone from Hatfield, a pit village and here I was at 39 leading a team out at Wembley. It isn’t heard of. Nothing ever comes to close to going to Wembley, not even the replay.
“We know there were a lot of Scarborough fans who came to watch us as they were still in the league then, but there were over 7000 Brid fans there and we used to get 150 for home games – that’s even when we were winning the league. To take that amount was staggering – there’s no other word for it.
“The Wembley game as a football match it was quite dull. There were only two chances in the game and both fell for us in the first half. Wayne Noteman. I thought he should have scored, but he put it just over the bar from the edge of the box. Dave Whiteman missed one in the second half. Ian Taylor was never ever tested.
“If there was anything you were going to say that disappointed you, you’d say as a football match I would have liked to have seen more goal-mouth action from both teams. Credit to Yeading. They set their stall out and they had seen us play like we had seen them. Out of ten attempts, we’d have beaten them nine times.
“To play the replay at Elland Road was brilliant, especially for Clive Freeman who was from Leeds, Wayne Noteman from Leeds. We trained beforehand and (Howard Wilkinson’s assistant at Leeds United) Mick Henigan, I let him run the session. He put a full session on in the morning and we were so tuned for it. Unfortunately we didn’t have our shooting boots on.
“Yeading scored a wonder goal after 20 minutes, a superb volley from their centre-forward which Ian Taylor had no chance of stopping. All they did was shut up shop and we couldn’t break them down. If we had equalised I think we’d have won 5-1 or 6-1. That’s how daft it was. We peppered them and it was wave after wave of attack. We hit the crossbar, had shots cleared off-the-line. Their goalkeeper had a worldie and I think he got man of the match. I was deflated at the end. We were all gutted. People said ‘well at least you’ve got a great record because you’ve been to Wembley and never lost’. I was like ‘yeah we’ve been to Wembley and never won either’. It was so disappointing for me. I never liked losing football matches and I still don’t.
“The Yeading replay was the last game of the season and it was my last game in charge of Bridlington as I resigned after it. I knew it was going to be. I felt it had been a tough year and I took time off and I did. You’ll laugh, but I was 39 and went back playing for Pilkington in Division Two of the NCEL. I then got the Harrogate Town job for the first time.
“Even though I was only there for one season, people still remember me in Bridlington. My god they do. I go to the East Coast all the time and when I’m walking around, there is always someone who says ‘ey up Reedy’. All the photos from Wembley are still up in the clubhouse. I love going there and sometimes I go up just to watch a match. It says something that considering I was only manager of Bridlington for one season 30 years ago that people still remember me. It makes me feel very proud.
“I have a files for all the clubs I have managed so I can access my photos from Wembley easily, but the good thing is that I have the DVD of the Vase finals. I watch the games quite a lot to be honest.”
John Reed was interviewed by James Grayson