Ian’s Kruse to a world record
Always happy to correct an error, especially when it involves an old friend and a world record.
The pal in this case is Ian Seddon, who plied his cultured midfield trade with the U’s between 1976 and 1977, racking up 47 appearances and four goals for Ron Atkinson’s side. The world record is that for football’s fastest own goal.
Let it now be proclaimed: the ‘assist’ for the fastest ‘oggy’ in English and even world football – scored by Torquay United’s Pat Kruse in a Division Four match against United on 3 January 1977 – should be attributed to Ian Seddon. Somehow, Coconuts got its facts twisted when it credited the assist to Dave Stringer back in 2018.
The own goal took just six seconds and was greeted by stunned silence on the Plainmoor terraces. It was so quick that United physio Ron Simpson, who had been in the United dressing room when the game kicked off, had no idea that a goal had been scored and afterwards took some convincing that the U’s had gained a point with a 2-2 draw.
Ian tells a cracking story – for evidence, have a look at Ah’m Tellin’ Thee, his entertaining biography of Bolton Wanderers and England full back Tommy Banks; available on the usual book sales websites – so let’s listen to his account of the record-breaking events. Bear in mind that the frozen, rutted pitch, with one muddy goalmouth thawing slightly, was barely playable that day.
‘We had a set week-in, week-out kick-off routine,’ Ian recalls. ‘Ron always wanted the ball long behind the full back, even if it went out of play – he wanted to put the emphasis on the opponents getting out of their last 20 yards.
‘When Tom Finney played the kick-off back to me it hit a rut and I didn’t catch it clean, resulting in the ball swerving inside the wide centre half, Pat Kruse. He raced back inside the box towards his goal and headed it past the goalie (Terry Lee), who was sprinting out of goal to collect. They almost collided.’
Referee Tony Glasson’s opening ‘pheep!’ had barely died away and the U’s were a goal ahead. Remarkably, they went two up just before half-time when Phil Sandercock supplied the game’s second own goal with a spectacular header from a Tommy Horsfall cross.
The Gulls’ failure to win a game in which they scored all four goals is legendary on the English Riviera. It has even inspired Torbay musician Ian Churchward to compose the song The Fastest Own Goal and feature it on his album Thrilling Blunder Stories.
It was a strange day all round, and the weirdness was in keeping with the rest of the weekend, Ian remembers. ‘Ron had taken us to Devon over the new year, to train before the game,’ he says. ‘For some reason we were billeted at a holiday camp. The place was closed, although the canteen was opened for us, but there was no heating in the rooms, which were absolutely freezing, and there was nothing to occupy us after training. A few of the lads who made the trip were recovering from injury – Graham ‘Willie’ Watson was one.
‘After one full training session, Big Ron summoned John Simpson to collect a golf driver from his room. Ron then commenced driving balls into the wooded ravine below the complex, demanding that Willie and the other lads recovering from injury “go fetch”.
‘Seeing Willie and co panting and puffing on endless sorties like gun dogs seeking shot-down pheasants was embarrassing to the rest of us, but in true football teammate humour the cheek of it brought a smile.’
Willie remembers the incident slightly differently. Ron was armed, he recalls, with both a driver and a pitching wedge or similar. Willie, as the senior member of an injured duo with full back Bill Baldry, ensured his younger colleague was dispatched to fetch the manager’s shots from the driver, while reserving the shorter wedge shots for himself.
Not like Willie to take the easier option, observes Ian with a grin.
Tale tellers: Tommy Banks (left) and Ian Seddon
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I'm the living embodiment of the spirit of the U's, and I'll be blogging whenever I've got news for you, as long as I don't miss my tea.