Sid Wallace on his ‘home from home’

MATT KEANE MEETS

Matt Keane presses the flesh with the great Sid Wallace.

Matt Keane presses the flesh with the great Sid Wallace.

Sid Wallace arrived in Waterford in 1975 and he thought he would be here for six months or maybe a little longer.
But he remained for five years and it would be fair to say that he fell in love with the Deise and to this day he returns as often as he possibly can to catch up with his many friends.
Last week, he spent a highly enjoyable few days in the city and he looked back at his playing career with Waterford FC and his life at the present time.
“I was born in Wigan on May 30th, 1957 and in many ways Wigan is very much like Waterford so perhaps that is why I settled in so quickly.
“I was here for only two weeks and I noticed that the sense of humour here was very much like that back home in England. I had played a few games for the Blues and people would come up and say to me ‘we might keep you’ and at that stage I had scored a couple of goals so I learned quickly about how Waterford people used to compliment you.
“They were very friendly and I would like to think that I made an impression with the supporters from early on.”
Sid continued: “Wigan is a rugby league area and rugby union is also played there and I played the former when I was young but I had a bit of talent at playing football and when I had finished school I was asked to sign for Everton and I did well in their youth team.
N42Pic2“In the 1973-74 season, I scored 22 goals in 21 games and things were going well but then I broke my leg playing against Blackpool and a recovery period was required.
“The manager of Everton at that time was Billy Bingham who went on to manager Northern Ireland some years later. Billy was great friends with John McSeveney who was the manager of Waterford FC and as a matter of fact Billy was the Best Man at John’s wedding.
“John asked Billy if he had anyone available who could score goals and Mr Bingham recommended me. I was a little unsure about coming to Ireland to be honest but Billy informed me that I would be playing regular football every week and he advised me to go to Waterford for one season and see how things would work out – and I have to say I got on very well with John McSeveney from day one.
“He was a determined man who treated all of the players superbly well and I learnt a lot from him during his time in Kilcohan Park. But sadly he accepted an offer to return to England and Colin Harper came in to replace him but he only stayed on for a season and Tommy Jackson took over in 1978.”
Sid added: “I had made my debut for the Blues against Bohemians on November 9th, 1975 and I scored my first goal against Shelbourne the following week in Harold’s Cross. I was scoring on a regular basis when Tommy came in and I topped the goal scoring chart in season 1976-77.
“I got on well with Tommy although I never really got to know him as a person but he was a very good manager and he knew exactly what he wanted from every player. We reached the FAI Cup Final in 1979 and I had scored the winning goal against Shamrock Rovers in the semi-final in what was an amazing match.
“I suppose looking back now we put so much into that game we were not going to reach the level required in the final and we lost to Dundalk in Dalymount Park and I will never forget the empty feeling we had in the dressing room after the match. It was a terrible place to be. The losers dressing room after a final defeat is the worst place on earth and I remember saying to myself I never want to be in that place anymore.”
Sid recalled before talking about the following season. “We had a nice mixture of local players and guys like myself, Brian Gardner, Mark Meagan and Larry Murray. We were a sort of mid table team but we were going along nicely in the cup once again and we were well capable of beating any team on any given day and we made it back to the final once again and I was determined not to finish up as a runner-up again as did the other lads who had lost out a year previously. We defeated Limerick 3-2 in the semi-final with headed goals from Tony Dunphy, Paul Kirk and myself St Patrick’s Athletic were our opponents in the decider but despite the fact the game was in Dalymount Park the massive support we had on the day added to our determination to win.
“I thought Larry Murray was absolutely brilliant all through the match and I would advise anyone to have a look at the game on You Tube just to watch his display. He was the player who whipped the ball over to Brian Gardner for the only goal of the match.
“It was an amazing feeling to be part of a team who had won the FAI Cup, the first time the club had won it since 1937. We stayed in Dublin that night and a few of us went into a fish and ship shop later that night after we had had a few drinks and the highlights of the match was been shown on TV.
“The guy who was working behind the counter looked at us and then he looked back at the television and then looked back at us again and he recognised us and he told us the grub was on the house. I suppose he had no choice when I put me cup medal on the counter. I will always remember the look on his face. It was priceless!” Sid said with a broad smile.
The homecoming the following night will always remain with the Wigan born hero. “When we were coming near Waterford and we were informed that thousands of people were waiting for us and the bridge had to be cleared for safety reasons. It was an unbelievable night and to see old and young people crying was unreal.
“It saddens me that the club have not won it since and I really hope they can get back to where they belong very soon. I met a lot of the present day supporters this week and to see the passion they have for the club is brilliant and I really hope they will get the opportunity to see the team win a major trophy very shortly.”
Following his five years in Waterford Sid returned to England and he played with clubs such as Wigan Athletic, Chester and Sheffield Wednesday which saw him link up once again with John McSeveney. “I would have walked to Sheffield to play under John again,” admitted Sid”.
Sid has five children and needless to say he proud of them all. “Killian works in construction and he plays for Wigan in rugby league. Darren is a Premiership linesman and Andrew plays for Crawley Town. We have two daughters and one of them Sandra is a teacher. We have three grandchildren.
“I was reared by my grandparents because my mam died when I was very young and my dad was a miner so I learned a lot about the value of life from them and I would like to think I gave ort children the same values.
“I am the manager of a large construction company who build hospitals and extensions for blue chip clients. It’s a very rewarding job building such places. The days are long but I enjoy the weekends watching the lads in action be it football or rugby. As I’ve already said I love coming back to because Waterford is home from home for me and always will be.”

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