In Wes Maughan's eyes
Did Reading really demand a refund on some of the transfer fee they had paid Southampton for Wes Maughan because his eyesight was defective? In a look back at his football career, the United forward of the mid-1960s – the club's first ever substitute – sets the record straight.
I made my League debut for Southampton away at Reading in 1956. Their team included Peter Shreeves who, I think I’m right in saying, was making his League debut in the same match. Peter of course went on to manage Tottenham; I played with him at Reading and Chelmsford City, and we still keep in touch.
Ted Bates was quite a good manager – he was keen and energetic and I always got on well with him. That’s not to say everyone did, but that may have been because he didn’t tolerate those who didn’t give 100 per cent.
His energy and love for the game served him and the club well. Southampton was quite a well organised club from the first team down to youth level, and that was largely due to Ted and the team he assembled. The success the club had in moving from the old Third Division to the First Division inside six years in the 1960s was evidence of this.
I guess you would say the stars at the club during my time were the wingers Terry Paine and John Sydenham (I keep in touch with both; they live in South Africa and Australia respectively). Terry was a member of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning squad and John played for England B. They provided a lot of chances for the two strikers George O’Brian and Derek Reeves, along with Tommy Mulgrew, a ball-playing inside left.
That forward line of Paine, O’Brian, Reeves, Mulgrew and Sydenham was a settled group who seemed hardly ever to get injured, depriving upstarts like me of a chance. Eventually I sought a move to get more first-team opportunities, and Harry Johnston signed me for Reading.
Not long into my spell at Elm Park I developed a niggling groin injury. I tried to play on but that made it worse and it affected my form. A specialist said the injury was quite serious and would take some months to clear up.
It’s a long story but, in a nutshell, Reading thought they could get back some of the transfer fee they had paid Southampton and took the latter to the Football League under the pretence that I had bad eyesight and they should have been told of this before the transfer (I was slightly short-sighted and wore glasses for driving).
At a rather farcical hearing the case was thrown out and at the end of the season Reading didn't offer me a new contract. I never felt my slight short-sightedness affected my play in any way.
Having connections with the city, I was pleased to receive an offer from Chelmsford City for the following season, as long as I signed a clause stating that, should I not be able to shake off the groin injury, the contract would be cancelled.
A good, restful close season enabled me to clear the injury up. Chelmsford was a full-time professional club, as were Cambridge United, and between the two clubs I had four successful seasons of full-time football.
After my two years with Chelmsford there was unrest in the club and the manager, Billy Frith, left. Although I had had two successful seasons, I refused reduced terms and signed for Cambridge United. I knew they were a good club and had a good team.
Roy Kirk was a players’ man and a good motivator but, like many non-League managers in those days, he was not really a great coach.
I didn’t realise I was United's first ever substitute. I never liked being sub as you never knew if you would get game time and how much. Fortunately, it didn’t happen too much.
When I signed pro in 1957,
I was released by Bill Leivers in the summer of 1967 mainly because non-League managers in those days were signing better players from the Football League. Players like Rodney Slack and Jackie Scurr stayed some years at United but I was ready to move to part-time football and focus on another career.
The Maughan fact file
1939: born Sholing, Southampton
1956: signed from Cowes by Ted Bates after scoring four goals for Isle of Wight Youths against Southampton
1957: scored twice at Old Trafford in FA Youth Cup semi-final; signed first pro contract
1959: first-team debut; made six appearances and scored one goal
1962: signed by Reading for £4,000; 16 first-team games, three goals
1963: signs for Chelmsford City of Southern League Premier Division
1965: transfers to Cambridge United; first game away at Dartford, September 4
20 August 1966: becomes United's first ever substitute in a competitive game, replacing David Barrett at home against Guildford; runs into wall at Corona End and forced off with cuts and grazes
10 September 1966: replaced by Barrett in second United use of substitute, away at Folkestone
United career 1965-67: 94 appearances plus four as substitute (all competitions); 37 goals
Subsequent clubs: Bexley United, Basingstoke Town
I took a job in London with an American firm and signed a one year part-time contract with Chelmsford, then played four years with Bexley United and one with Basingstoke Town.
I'm a lifelong member of the Salvation Army. It would be easier today for a Salvationist to play professional football than when I was playing.
When I signed pro in 1957, it was quite frowned upon to be associated with professional football with its gambling (in the form of pools) and drinking at the grounds. Times have changed and along with them the Salvation Army. I could write a book on it – that’s an idea!
I am chairman of the trustees board for the Kenya Trust and am still heavily involved with it. The Trust’s aims are to assist in improving conditions and facilities at the Salvation Army’s schools, hostels and community centres in Kenya and to promote and support the development of music within the Salvation Army in the country.
I am on the social support side – we raise money for projects that introduce water facilities into drought areas and also specialise in providing better conditions for deprived children (orphans and those with some disability) in homes and schools.