WIGAN ATHLETIC – SATURDAY 10th DECEMBER 2011.
After Albion’s hard fought point in West London against Queens Park Rangers last Saturday, they will be glad to get back onto home turf, and try to get something from their home clash with Wigan Athletic. The ‘Latics’ are just one of the sides ‘the Baggies’ need to beat in order to maintain a healthy League position. Sharing ‘duties’ in the various suites this week are F.A.Cup winner John ‘Yorkie’ Kaye, who is joined by ‘the man they converted from goal-keeper to full-back’ Gordon Nisbet. Gordon joined the club as a junior in August 1968, making his debut a year later in the first team as a ‘keeper against Coventry City. Successfully converted to right back, Gordon went on to amass 167 appearances for Albion, before moving on in 1976.
I was extremely grateful to Gordon, for allowing me to chat to him in the build up to the Wigan game, and of course, to ask about ‘that’ conversion!
Firstly, I asked him for his views on the clash with ‘the Latics’
“I’m just looking forward to it Laurie. It’s one of those games you are looking for Albion to win. First and foremost they have got to beat sides like that. I think Wigan are a little bit unfortunate to be where they are. The manager does try and play football, but at the end of the day you can’t feel sorry for them, and I’m looking forward to Albion winning to be honest.”
“And you will be re-united with your old team mate, and of course your old manager at Hull City, John Kaye” I reminded the former Albion defender.
“Yes, obviously John bought me when I left the Albion and went to Hull. I followed him up there, and we’ve got a good history between us, and he is a very good friend. I am really grateful that he bought me, because at that time, I was pretty low. I was out of the first team and to be fair it was time to move on, unfortunately.”
Gordon continued. “Yorkie left Albion before I got into the first team. He went to Hull as a player when I first broke into the first team. At that time I was being converted to right back and Graham Williams was helping me virtually every day. I was back in the afternoons with Graham and Albert McPherson, because the manager, Don Howe wanted me converted to full back.”
1969-Sunderland albion youth final-Nisbet in goal
“They put a lot of time and effort into me, and John was playing with me in the reserves at that time, just before he left. He obviously thought I was reasonable, because he wouldn’t have bought me later on, after he left. I was really grateful to him because I had four good years in the first team at Hull.”
“How did the conversion come about Gordon. It’s quite a big step from ‘keeper to full back, isn’t it.” I asked
“I played in a couple of pre-season friend-lies, when I was playing up front. We played against Stafford Rangers and I scored a couple of goals, playing alongside none other than Jeff Astle, believe it or not. Don Howe called me in on the Thursday, and I thought to myself ‘I might be getting a chance here! But in short he told me, I was never going to be a forward. He said, “You charge around tackling everybody” and then he said, “ Have you ever played full back. You are quick, you tackle well, and I want you to play full back.”
Gordon continued. “I remember I said “I’ll play wherever you want me to play.” He told me, they were going to work on me, and I would have to come back and do extra work, but, he said “ I’ll turn you into a full back,” and he did. To be honest I found it a nice transition and I enjoyed playing there, and the one big difference is, ‘You don’t get blamed for everything!”
Gordon reflected. “I used to get told to come off my line to get more crosses, and when I did, I would be ‘looking at the dirt’ because ‘big Jim’ Holton had smashed me into the ground when he was clearing the ball. Quite frankly you couldn’t win. The fact was Jim won everything anyway, so I thought, I would just stay on my line and let him carry on. To be fair, I wasn’t a bad shot stopper Laurie, but I was never going to make it as a top flight keeper.”
“Had you always played in goal as a youngster?” I asked Gordon
“I played for my boys club side in goal. I played for my school and town side as a mid-field player. However, the school and town needed a goalkeeper, and it just so happened, the County picked me as a goal-keeper. I always played both in goal and out, but I actually came on trial to Albion as a midfield player. They said they wanted to sign me in that position and I was delighted. Then, in between the end of that season and the beginning of the 1968/9 season, there was a Grammar Schools tournament at Bognor Regis. The Goalkeeper was injured in the first game, and I had gone there as reserve ‘keeper. I was only 16, playing in an under 18 tournament, and I played out of my skin in two games.”
Gordon continued, “ Of course the Albion scout saw me, reported back, and by the time I got to the club, they said, “We want you as goalkeeper now!” I couldn’t really argue could I. I was a young lad away from home, and the manager of the cup winning side Alan Ashman tells you, “ We think you will be better in goal, and I’m just thinking to myself ‘Lord no’! But never mind, it all turned out well in the end, as they say. In my first season we got to the Youth Cup final, and lost unfortunately to Sunderland, but I got into the first team for one of my first and only games against Coventry City, and then they signed Jimmy Cumbes!”
1973-Gordon Nisbet clears his lines at Ipswich
“It all started to change then. I was playing out, and sharing a berth with big Peter Latchford, and Jimmy Dunn said to me, “Look this is silly, I want you to play ‘out’ anyway” and I was glad to ‘get out’, because playing in goal wasn’t my cup of tea to be honest, either. Five feet eleven inches is not big enough is it? I’m a firm believer that your goalkeeper needs to have some stature about him. You only have to look at the size of big John Osborne, Jimmy Cumbes and Peter Latchford. All six two and sturdy with it.”
“So, in truth you have a lot to thank Don Howe for.” I suggested.
“Yes, I do. I’m a big fan of Don Howe, because if it hadn’t have been for him, I wouldn’t have had the career that I had, the life in the game that I had, it was all down to Don, and I certainly have no axe to grind with him.”
Gordon reflected back, “ I must admit I have met him since, and he wasn’t the cheerful Don Howe I thought he was going to be. Mind you, I had just scored against them, (Arsenal) and I only went in to see him and thank him for what he did for me and my career. I had scored against Arsenal here at Plymouth in the League Cup, but I just wanted to thank him, and all he could say was “You miss-hit that!!” I just looked at him and said, “Well it wasn’t a bad miss-hit from 25 yards!! Pat Jennings didn’t think I miss-hit it, because it flew past him into the net!” I just turned around and walked out, and haven’t really seen him since. Mind, I have to say, he was great to me, he really was really good to me.”
“He’ll always be a legend at Albion, and we don’t see him enough. I believe he has some bitter memories as well as good ones with the club.”
“I didn’t want to leave either Laurie, but that’s football. It’s a fabulous club, and you just get over it don’t you. Life is too short to bear grudges isn’t it.”
“So, you left Albion, and joined Yorkie at Hull, how did that go for you?” I asked
“I had four good years at Hull. The first couple were great, the third wasn’t too bad, but then it started to fall apart a little bit. I could see where the club was going, and after John was sacked we had Ken Houghton, Bobby Collins and finally Mike Smith, and none of them were as successful as John was. He certainly should never have been sacked. I didn’t rate the manager at the time, and I wasn’t wrong, they went straight into the fourth Division, and I said “I’m not going down with you. I don’t need this at this time of my career”. Bobby Saxton signed me down here at Plymouth, and I stayed here. I could have left, but I like it here, it’s a nice place to live.”
Gordon summed up the remainder of his career. “I had six good years down at Plymouth from 1981 to 1987. We got to the Semi-final of the cup and things like that. It was good fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had some great times down here. It’s a great shame that things are not too good at Plymouth at the moment, and it will be nothing short of a disaster if they go out of the league. There are a lot of sides that have gone out of the league and haven’t got back. Grimsby Town and a few others. They could even go to the wall, with the size of the ground they have here, but fair play to the fans, they get five or six thousand, which is good considering where they are. Hopefully they can keep in the league, and push on.”
Gordon Nisbet/Laurie Rampling – December 2011
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