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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for and and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


In Search of Don Rogers’ Moustache – A 1972 Sighting

Written by on March 8, 2011 | 6 Comments »
Posted in History and Books

A continuation of the Don Rogers theme from last week. The following was part of last Friday’s WSC “Weekly Howler” and resolves Bryan’s conundrum of Rogers’ exotic moustache.

“Their (Swindon Town) Wembley hero was left winger Don Rogers, who scored twice in extra time to seal a 3-1 win. Widely regarded as one of the best players outside the top level for several years, Rogers was 27 when he finally moved up to Division One with Crystal Palace in 1972, by which time he had grown a luxuriant moustache.
Palace went down in Rogers’s first season but he was the star performer in a televised thrashing of Man Utd that led to the sacking of the latter’s manager Frank O’Farrell. The Scotland boss Tommy Docherty, who was at Selhurst Park in a scouting role, was offered O’Farrell’s job by United directors during the game. After a spell with QPR, Rogers retuned to Swindon in 1975 but had to retire due to injury shortly afterwards. One of the stands at the County Ground is named after him.”

Here is video of the 5-0 thrashing of Manchester United.

And this is a summary of Crystal Palace’s 1972/73 season.

The 5-0 game at Selhurst Park took place on December 16, 1972 and the score line was quite sensational. After all, this was less than four years after Manchester United had won the European Cup against Benfica at Wembley and Palace had struggled for three seasons to stay in the top flight.

I believe George Best may have been absent on the day, on account of one his self-enforced retirements. He returned after arrival of Tommy Docherty but the relationship was only going to end in tears and Best quit again.

The United side was an amalgam. There was the “old” guard that had won the European Cup – Alex Stepney, Tony Dunne, David Sadler, Brian Kidd (only 23 at the time) and substitute Denis Law who was in his last season at Old Trafford.

Then there were the signings brought in to try and stem the flow of blood as United sunk deeper into trouble – Willie Morgan, Ian Storey-Moore, the big Welsh striker Wyn Davies and Ted MacDougall.

MacDougall, along with many others, would play in the NASL and he took up residence in North America in the 80s and is still heavily involved in Atlanta-area soccer.

Martin Buchan would be the only United player who appeared in that match who would be still be around when the good times returned a few years later under Tommy Docherty.

In many ways Crystal Palace was more intriguing. Palace had been promoted to the First Division for the very first time at the end of the 1968/69 season. They had finished as runners up to a Derby County side managed by Brian Clough and Peter Taylor.

The 1972/73 Palace side retained remnants from the team promoted a few years before. Mel Blyth who went on to gain a FA Cup winners medal for Southampton (ironically against Manchester United) was part of the team as was Tony Taylor.

Taylor had played in Scotland for Celtic and Morton before heading south and years later he would enjoy a brief sojourn as manager of the Canadian national team.

Another Scottish player still around was former Third Lanark defender John McCormick while some may remember goalkeeper John Jackson.

The Palace side that faced United was of particular interest to me. Charlie Cooke had moved from Dundee to Chelsea in the 60s and it is no exaggeration to say that he became a Stamford Bridge legend.

When Cooke moved to Crystal Palace (along with full back Paddy Mulligan) many took it as a sign that he was in decline but it turned out not to be the case. Charlie returned to Stamford Bridge two years later and he was recalled to the full Scotland team in 1975.

Cooke subsequently moved to North America and built a very successful coaching franchise.

Iain Phillip had just been transferred to Palace from Dundee in 1972 and as we attended the same school his career was of particular interest.

He was five years older and although I got to play on the same cricket team, never on the same football team. Phillip had captained the Scottish Schoolboys and he was recognized very early as a player who could go far.

His time at Palace was not a happy one and he returned to Dundee soon after. Ironically almost a year to the day of the United game, Phillip would be part of a Dundee side that won the Scottish League Cup beating Celtic 1-0 at Hampden.

Later he would move – literally across the road – to Dundee United and would win two more League Cup medals at Tannadice.

Other Scottish connections in the Palace squad that season were two of the Lisbon Lions. Willie Wallace and John Hughes (never played in the European Cup Final) had moved from Celtic to Palace in 71.

Wallace, however, moved back to Scotland in the 72/73 season. Hughes brother Billy would write himself into the history book less than six months later. Billy Hughes took the corner that resulted in Ian Porterfield scoring the only goal in the 1973 FA Cup Final that saw Sunderland upset Leeds United.

Alan Whittle – the scorer of that wonderful goal – had just joined from Everton and would go on to play in the Iranian League some seasons later.

Derek Possee signed for Palace six weeks after the United match and would eventually land in Vancouver. He would be part of the NASL Soccer Bowl winning Vancouver Whitecaps in 1979.   The 79 team was just announced as a 2011 inductee into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame.

As for Palace the season did not finish well. Malcolm Allison arrived late in the season to replace manager Bert Head but after narrowly avoiding relegation for three seasons Palace succumbed to the drop in May 1973 with 30 points – just above West Brom but below Norwich.

More relegation agony would come the following season with another drop, this time to the old Third Division. It would take the appointment of Terry Venables later in the decade to spark a revival.

Docherty’s United avoided relegation by finishing 18th in a 22 team league and with 37 points. However, relegation was only postponed and United dropped to the old Second Division at the end of the 1973/74 only to be promoted the season after.

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6 responses to “In Search of Don Rogers’ Moustache – A 1972 Sighting”

  1. Red-Fan says:

    Bobby, this will tax a few memories. I recall a great deal of what is written here and I do not know where you trawled all this up from but it’s a nice read so thanks.
    As for Don Roger’s moustache……we will just have to keep our eyes peeled.
    I recall Utd going down very well and was mildly disappointed their visit in div 2 was so short and did not extend to div 3. One name I recall quite well and not on the list with Malcom Allison and the Doc is Dave Sexton who ended up at Utd for spell in charge already having been at Chelsea. Off the top of my head I think Sexton came after the Doc but not sure without looking. Articles like this get the mind going!

  2. Ian says:

    Great read, Bobby. I was struck by the casual nature of the possible offside at min 4:15. After “O’Neil” (Tommy O’Neil I’m guessing) gets back to make a fantastic goal line clearance the announcer comments, “in a way I think it was justice, because he looked offside” and that was about it. No angry demonstrations from the players and in fact they actually kept right on playing! I don’t know that anyone would have gotten back to make that goal line clearance today. Every defender would have stopped running, raised their arms and if no call came, gone storming in two groups to both the linesman and the ref, red-faced and screaming. I felt a bit smug and judgemental for a half a second before I realized I was a bit upset that the replay with stop motion and a shaded offside line I was expecting was not likely in a game from 72 and that made me, in some ways, no different. Made me wonder how many great goal line clearances like that do we miss out on today. Every time we watch a slow-mo replay now and see that a ref didn’t get a call quite right people call for some form of replay ref system. It gives the players and Manager the ability to act disgracefully toward the officials (yes, I know my beloved SAF is the about the worst at this, although as a demigod I think he should get some latitude!) and really adds little to the actual game. I think that little play is another bit of weight to the argument you always make, that adding new instant replay technology doesn’t mean things will somehow be more fair or accurate or any better to watch.

  3. Gus Keri says:

    The first Rogers’ goal reminded me of the greatest miss of all time by Pele agaisnt Uruguay:

  4. Red-Fan – You are correct about Dave Sexton following Tommy Docherty at Manchester United as he did at Chelsea as well. (Pithy comment about Mrs. Docherty deleted in the interests of good taste)

    Gus – that Pele moved inspired a generation to contrive a similar move but I have never seen anyone pull it off.

  5. redfan says:

    lol @ Mrs Doc

  6. Bryan says:

    So I was wasn’t imagining it after all!

    Great piece Bobby. It brought back a lot of memories ,and some I’d forgotten.

    I saw a Charlie Cooke interview a couple years ago and he said that leaving for Palace was the biggest mistake of his career, not that he had much choice at the time.

    Never did like Palace ,having been exiled to the frozen-tundra of Croydon at a young age and growing up surrounded by Palace fans.

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