The High School’s best football season of the Modern Era

Overall, it must be said, the football team at the High School since 1968 has not really had a great deal of success. The exception to this, though, was the 1980-1981 season which was easily the most successful of the modern era. By the time the School Magazine, the Nottinghamian, was published, the team were undefeated in twelve matches. This record was extended to the very last game of the season which was a most unfortunate defeat at home by High Pavement Second XI who managed to score two goals without reply.

Here is the team photograph:

first eleven DAS BETTER Bxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

(back row) Dr.D.A.Slack, Norman Garden, Robert Crisp, Richard Mousley, Jon Bullock, Simon Derrick, John Ellis

(front row) Rob Persey, Raich Growdridge, Chris Peers, Neil McLachlan, Nick Cope, Chris Ingle

The team’s goalkeeper was Richard Mousley, whom the school magazine described as “reliable, agile, and when needed, very courageous.”


They continued with the rest of the team:

In defence Richard Townsend was the left full back, replaced occasionally by Norman Garden. Both of them were deemed to be “consistently good players, and very determined in the tackle.” On the opposite side as right full back was Nick Cope, equally determined, and occasionally over-enthusiastic in the tackle:

Alas, Richard Townsend did not attend the team photograph on that coldish but fairly bright day in the Summer Term of 1981.

The central defenders included Raich Growdridge who was both team captain and sweeper. Raich was very skilful, with total commitment and a tenacious tackle. He was always capable of lifting the side when things were going against them. Raich had a trial with Derby County’s A team during the Spring Term, and is believed to have played perhaps three games for them. I was told by the Derby coach that had he not been over 18 years of age, they would have signed him for the club:


The other central defender was Jon Bullock who was extremely commanding in defence and particularly useful when attacking at corners. He actually scored a hat-trick at Bilborough, an extremely unusual feat for a defender:

JONNN BULLOCKxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

In midfield, Tim Little was hard working and consistent. He also scored some very useful and well taken goals when he moved into a more attacking role:


Rob Persey was a tireless player, and a very determined tackler who possessed a great deal of skill when coming forward into attack. He was not the strongest defensive player, however:


John Ellis played on the right, and scored a number of remarkable, even unbelievable goals, from between fifteen and thirty yards out:


Chris Peers was a fine left footed player, who could dribble well past a succession of opponents. He was a particularly skilful taker of corner kicks:


Among the forwards,  Simon Derrick  was perhaps rather small, but very aggressive as a centre forward, with a lot of skill on the ground:


Chris Ingle was an excellent finisher, with tremendous pace. In the author’s humble opinion, he was the fastest High School forward of the modern era, with the possible exception of Leo Fisher. Chris scored nine goals in the season, with a hat-trick against St Hugh’s College, in Tollerton:


Other players to have figured in the squad included Neil McLachlan, who occasionally lacked total commitment, but had sufficient skill to play well as a replacement both in defence, midfield or attack. A veritable “Jack of All Positions”, the Nottinghamian called him and a valuable asset to the group!

NEIL MACxxxxxxxx33333333xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Robert Crisp, universally known as “Bert” was a skilful midfielder, who never let the side down when called upon:


Both Ken Blecher and Chris Turner also played in the team:

Overall, the side played seventeen games and won eleven of them. Five games were drawn, and there was a single defeat, by 0-2, in controversial circumstances, if I remember correctly, against High Pavement 2nd XI. It is interesting to notice how many of these schools no longer exist nowadays, thirty four years later. The team’s victories came over Brunts of Mansfield (twice), Becket(twice), Bluecoat(twice), Forest Fields 2nd XI (twice), High Pavement 2nd XI, Bramcote, Bilborough and St Hugh’s College in Tollerton. Drawn games came against Bilborough, West Bridgford, Bramcote and twice against Trent Polytechnic.

The team’s goals were scored by Ingle 9, Ellis 8, Derrick 6, Bullock 3, Little 2, Persey 2, McLachlan 1 and two own goals.

The football report in the Nottinghamian paid the fullest tribute, and rightly so, to the endless support given to High School football by Tony Slack, who was retiring at the end of this splendid season:

TONY SLACKKKxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

He in turn generously praised the team’s achievements, despite the limitations of selecting a team from a very small number of players. Set against this, however, was the players’ commitment to the game, their willingness to work for each other, and their high level of team work, which, on many occasions, enabled them to defeat opponents who were, technically, far more skilled than they.

Nowadays, these young men will be in their early fifties. It would be interesting to find out where any of them are now, perhaps with a message in the “Comments” section?



Filed under Derby County, Football, History, Humour, Nottingham, The High School

22 responses to “The High School’s best football season of the Modern Era

  1. For a defender to pull off a hat-trick he certainly was good! Did Jon go pro?

  2. A good run through. I would be interested in the reasons why so many schools no longer exist.

    • Well, until people arrived in their millions from the EC, we actually had a falling birth rate, so there were literally no kids to teach and many schools were amalgamated to save money. Now the problem is having to find places for large numbers of children who all have the legal right to be educated here. That is one of the main reasons, along with the loss of menial jobs, that persuaded millions of working class Britons to vote for the first time ever in the recent referendum, and to vote to leave the EC.

  3. Oh the fashions of the eighties. One of them looks remarkably like one of my own friends from school, sadly we didn’t go to Nottingham though. It would be interesting to see what happened to them.

    • One of them, I think, is a doctor, but the rest, I just don’t know. I did see the captain of the team from four years later though. It was on satellite TV and he was the scientist in the laboratory in Minnesota analysing the unknown hair’s DNA to see if it was BIgfoot or not. As always it was “inconclusive”…. which hopefully means a repeat customer.

  4. Was football played in all Nottingham schools. I went to school in Rugby where it was considered a game for pansies and everyone was obliged to play Rugby.

    • Football was only played by Sixth Formers who were not good enough to play rugby. The school gave up football in 1914. A little ironic perhaps, because we had produced six or seven England players by then. Nowadays, Burnley’s Patrick Bamford is one of our old boys.

  5. Chris Peers is a doctor in Leeds. Tim Little sells shoes to rock stars on the King’s Road. Chris Turner was at the Bank of England. Ken Blecher attended the 500th anniversary reunion of the Class of ’81 in 2013. I saw Jonny Bullock and Rob Persey a couple of years ago. BTW I wasn’t good enough to get into this team!

    • Thanks very much, Julian.I hope you are well and everything is OK. Hopefully, some others will write in with news of some of the other players. By the way, the Second XI will follow in due course.

  6. I’m very happy that the Nottinghamians shared this blog. I feel that many of the old boys hold their time at the High School very closely (me being one of them), and the older I get, the more sentimental. Fascinating to read this (and your other pages, John). Football was where I ended up in the 6th form, albeit in the 2nd XI…and mainly on the bench (impact sub?). We had a relatively short season I think in 1999/2000 where we went unbeaten for the whole season of 8 or 9 games, only drawing against The Becket (who I believed refused penalties to decide the match). Great times and very fond memories.

    • Thanks very much for your reply, Matthew. I think it’s fair to say that the football players at the High School all thought the long wait to play was worthwhile. I myself would say that in my 38 years there, the best thing I ever did was to run the football. We had such wonderful times. I never ever thought to myself “Oh no, it’s Games again”. Quite the contrary.

  7. Richard Townsend

    As the oldest, least talented and certainly least fit member of this illustrious team, it is surprising and rather touching to see my name in this article.

    In the autumn of 1980 I was studying for the seventh term Oxford entrance exam. My good friend Mark Shardlow (now of BBC East Midlands fame) had kept me out of the first team during our A level years and I had played centre back for the second team. Low points of this spell included going in at half time five-nil down and coach Knifton saying we need to switch to six at the back. Highlights were seeing Chris Peers score not once but twice directly from corner kicks.

    If I contributed anything to the 80-81 team’s success it was a bit of experience which allowed me to read the game and get into positions that pure pace, or lack of it, would not have allowed. A lot of the credit for the team’s performance goes to our very own Clough & Taylor, Messrs Slack and Knifton who were among the best coaches I ever worked with.

    I left school at Christmas 1980, missing the second half of the season, so by the time the team photo was taken I was doing a summer job on a campsite in France. At college I played football and was persuaded to play in goal for the hockey team because I could use my feet. I never got into rowing although I was cheer leader for the college ladies eight (go figure). I’m ashamed to admit that I cannot remember the last time I played football.

    I’ve now clocked up over 30 years at the BBC, working in our Westminster studios since 1997. I’m the person behind the glass when the likes of Norman Smith, Martha Kearney and John Pienaar are on the radio, and I’m now onto my fifth Prime Minister. Basically I push buttons for a living but have hung around long enough to be in charge of the team.

    A year older than the class of 81, I wasn’t that close to the rest of the team off the pitch. Norman Garden’s elder brother Richard was one of my mates and the aforementioned Mark Shardlow remains my closest friend from schooldays. A group of us including Mark Dillon and Simon Maxwell (who was by the way the star of the playground football matches) got together for the 500th reunion a few years back.

    Sorry for going on so, but thank you for bringing back so many happy memories.

    • Thank you so much for this wonderful contribution and for saying such kind things about Dr Slack and myself. Both of us were certainly very keen for you to win games and do well, although not to the extent of being unable to accept defeat on the very, very rare occasions that it happened. Talking of low points, mine came a lot later when we were playing Bilborough and losing`1-4. About fifteen minutes from the end, though, I hadn’t used any of the four subs so I put them all on at once telling them that I hadn’t got a clue where they should play and they could all do whatever they thought best. Magic. 1-4 became 2-4 and then 3-4 and then 4-4. We should have won but we didn’t. Mighty Bilborough though, were forced to time waste rather than be defeated. And that after picking their 11 from 1,500 and we picked ours from 35. Golden days!!

  8. Norman Garden

    Pretty weird when making one of your occasional forays onto Facebook to be met by your 16 year old self staring back at you. And also pretty weird that the description of my contribution to the team appears not to include the word “fulcrum.” Criminal oversight.

    Loved playing in this team. Raich was really the element which raised it above the mediocrity of all other years. Incredibly skillful, with a fierce will to win – I remember numerous “mistimed” tackles on any player who had the temerity to beat him, and also, on the first occasion that I shared a defensive wall with him, being threatened with extreme physical violence if I dared to flinch. Did the trick. Proper player.

    That year we also won the Notts Schools 7-a-side trophy, on penalties, which went to sudden death, with the winner being scored by….. well, modesty forbids. (Although it clearly doesn’t). All downhill since then, mind.

    All overseen by Dr. Slack in his (as I remember it) laconic and usually unimpressed style. But he had the mark of greatness – could Shankly, Ferguson et al have got me through Chemistry ‘O’ level? Unlikely.

    To add a bit of further colour, I believe one of the team missed the first few games of the season having been stabbed in the leg – though that may be apocryphal – and the only member of the team that I have seen since leaving NHS visited me at university and drank a whole bottle of sherry with the meal that I had so carefully prepared. And then we went out.

    I have many memories of that season, and the following season (the first of “The Knifton Era”) which I feel is testament to how much I loved playing football at NHS. Not quite the beautiful game, more like the beautiful game’s best friend – not as pretty, maybe even a little bit plain, but a lot more fun.

    • Thank you so much for these kind words. You have made an old man very happy. I did in fact take Raich Growdridge to Derby County and he certainly had a trial with them. I think he may have played for their ‘A’ Team as they called it then on three occasions. They didn’t sign him, telling me that they would have done, but for his age. He could, apparently, only be signed as a full time professional, and they didn’t want to take the chance that he wouldn’t make the grade. You are right about “the beautiful game’s best friend”. Those games, on pitches nowadays built over in many cases, were a source of constant delight to teachers and players alike. The Games People wouldn’t let us have the best boys from the sporting point of view, but somehow that made it so much better. It was good to give more moderate people a chance. Not that you were ever moderate, of course. I always used to think that Roy Keane was jolly lucky that you didn’t continue with your football.

  9. Pingback: Staff cricket : the Golden Years (4) | John Knifton

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