Graham gives thanks to Deal support
Graham gives thanks to Deal support

Today we conclude our feature with Deal Town’s FA Vase winning goal scorer ROLY GRAHAM as he pays tribute both to the cross that made THAT goal twenty years ago and the man who made it all possible – Deal’s legendary boss Tommy Sampson.

Reflecting on the goal that proved so priceless, Roly recalled, “People have said to me that I sounded confident and big headed about scoring, but I just knew as soon as Stevie Marshall put the ball over, that it was going in and the rest is history as they say.”

“But it was without a doubt the greatest achievement and greatest goal that I ever scored – I don’t remember much about the celebrations; I think I tried to do a “trumpet” but I was that knackered that I just couldn’t do it!”

“That was the first time all that season that Marshy had been that far out! He was a good player – pacey and stuff and had a lot about him. He was never one of those goal providers – until that day!”

“I do owe a lot to Stevie Marshall – despite what others may say, it was a fabulous cross and I couldn’t have asked for a better ball into the box to be honest. He was absolutely one of the unsung heroes of that team – I felt that he was very under rated; apart from his pace he did work very hard whoever he was playing up front with and he could finish from anywhere – if he got a sniff of goal he’d finish… I knew that he played at a level above and I always thought that if he’d had the right attitude he really could have played at a higher level – I rated him very, very highly!”

Roly then had this to say about the man who put it all together – Tommy Sampson. “He was magic!” Roly told us, “You either loved him or you “hated” him, and I was one of many of his admirers, the same as all the players, coaching staff and everyone connected with the club really.”

“If you played for him, he would stand up for you one hundred percent – he wouldn’t let anything get in the way. He signed me many years before Deal – I was playing local football for Teynham and Lynstead in the Hurst Electrical League and he picked me up and said, “I’m at Herne Bay – do you fancy it?” I just had a really good relationship with him – the system he played, as I’ve said before, just suited my game.”

“I had my run-ins with Tommy the same as anyone else, but he would just drill into you how he wanted to play, what system he wanted to play and what I really liked is that everyone played for him and the team one hundred percent. You played for Tommy, you knew you’d played for Tommy Sampson and he would stick up for you no matter what happened – he was the best, he really was!”

At the time, there were those who asked if manager Sampson almost became obsessed with reaching the Twin Towers – a theory that Roly agreed with as he replied to the question, “I think so. I suppose that in any Non-League manager’s career – especially with Tommy being full time and especially at Deal with the money he was given.”

“I think with Tommy as well it was a “little” statement to say, I have won everything in the Kent League but now I’ve won the FA Vase and now people are going to recognise me who I am!”

“I’m not just a manager who plays the same system week in, week out with the same players. And I think that for Tommy is perhaps it did become a bit of an obsession, but as a manager why not, as at the end of the day, why wouldn’t you say that I want to win the pinnacle of the sport which for us was the FA Vase. And I will also admire him for being that way about it…”

“Tommy gave me the freedom in the role that I played and he knew I always had goals in me and I can remember playing Greenwich a couple of times and their words were “we just don’t know how to pick you up!” and I guess that was because I would come from anywhere.”

“One minute you could be floating about on the edge of the eighteen yard box and all of a sudden you can get the ball twenty yards out and scoring a goal, and I think that in the system that we played, Tommy just knew that that role suited me – the three-five-one in that day and era of football was just made for me. I think I ended up scoring twenty-five or twenty-six goals that year.”

Sadly, there was to be no fairy tale finish for Deal as by the start of the following season most of the Vase winners had left the club – a fact that Roly still regrets.

“We’d just started a family, yet I was still willing to carry on after making sure that the family were all OK with it,” he said.

“If we’d kept more or less the same team and added one or two with the way the club were going, why wouldn’t we have been excited by it. For Deal the town itself when they did finally pull the plug, I think we were all gutted – I really do – as we had a team that did something that no other Kent side will ever do – we should have won all four trophies we played for (the Kent League, the Kent League Cup, the Kent Senior Trophy and the FA Vase) and only didn’t as we had to pull out of one Final because of the Vase – and then all of a sudden we weren’t together, but unfortunately life went on – personally I was absolutely gutted so soon after such a high!”

In the next instalment of the “Twenty-two Days in May”, we speak to the Gillingham striker who missed a large part of the Wigan season before making a sensational comeback at the end of the campaign to lead the line in the club’s greatest hour and promotion to the Championship – we’ve been talking to Carl Asaba…