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Player of The Month December 2011

ARGYLE LEGENDS THANK MARK LEESDAD* FOR PROVIDING THIS MONTH'S INTERVIEW

*Mark is a sports writer who has a weekly Memory Lane column in the Sunday Independent, featuring ex Bristol City/Rovers players. He is also the author of LIFE AFTER BRISTOL CITY VOLS 1 & 2 and LIFE AFTER BRISTOL TOVERS VOLS 1 & 2. He is also the co author of Chris Garland’s autobiography A LIFE OF TWO HALVES.

THIS MONTH'S INTERVIEW IS WITH MIKE GREEN

I don’t know about you, but I love quizzes. It doesn’t matter if it’s a pub quiz or one of so many that are on the telly, I love ‘em. Now there’s no huge cash prize or holiday in the Bahamas at stake, but here’s a brain teaser for all you Gasheads. Who captained the Rovers side that won promotion from the old Third Division in 1974 and, the following season, won promotion, again as captain, from the same division ? If you came up with the answer ‘Mike Green’ award yourself ten points (if you got it wrong, mine’s a pint !)

“Great days and wonderful memories,” said Mike, when I caught up with him at his home in Torquay.

A solid, no nonsense centre half, Mike began his career with Carlisle United. A former member of the Cumbria Schoolboys team, Mike was Carlisle’s first ever apprentice.

“I actually made my debut at left back against Bristol City in April ’65,” recalled Mike.

That season Carlisle were to get promotion as champions (City were runners up) and, as I mentioned, Mike was to make a habit of promotion celebrations during his career. “I had three years with Carlisle,” he said. “Hughie McIlmoyle, who later had a spell with Bristol City, was the star player there.”

But, with first team chances limited, Mike accepted a move to Gillingham in the summer of ’68. “I started off in defence, but got moved up front and spent the best part of my three seasons there as a centre forward,” he revealed. “We always seemed to be fighting against relegation, but I managed to score a few goals (24 in 132 league games) for them.”

Ironically, if it hadn’t of been for a management change at the Gills, Mike might never have come to Rovers in July 1971. “The manager told me I was being retained, then he got the sack and the chairman told me I wasn’t (being retained.)”

More than a few clubs were interested in signing Mike, but it was Rovers’ manager Bill Dodgin who persuaded him to come to Bristol. “Initially I struggled to break into the side as a striker, so persuaded Don Megson, who was in charge of the reserves, to play me at centre half and, after a few reserve games, got a place in the first team defence,” he explained.

The move back into defence proved a success for player and team and Watney Cup success was followed by promotion in the 73/74 season, with Mike missing just two league games. He even had a stint in goal, taking over from an injured Jim Eadie (another old boy soon to grace these pages) in a league game at Port Vale.

Having skippered the side to promotion and completed nearly one hundred games for Rovers, it came as something of a shock to Mike when the manager told him they’d had an offer from Plymouth Argyle for him. “I wasn’t particularly keen,” admitted Mike. “We’d just won promotion, had bought a house in Nailsea and I was thinking of opening a sports shop.”

But Mike went down to talk to Argyle manager Tony Waiters and a deal was done. Mike was appointed skipper and, for the second successive year, led his team to promotion out of the Third (Division.) “I liked Plymouth and thought I would finish my playing days there,” said Mike, who went on to make over a hundred starts for The Pilgrims. “We even bought a fish and chip business in Cornwall. Then, out of the blue, I was offered the job of managing Torquay United.”

That was in 1977 and Mike combined playing and management at Plainmoor. “There were obvious difficulties in being player manager and it was a twenty-four hour a day job, but I enjoyed it,” said Mike. With money always tight, Mike had to buy cheap and make a profit where he could – classic examples being goalkeeper John Turner and centre forward Colin Lee. At one stage he was in a tug of war between Torquay and Rovers, who wanted him as their new manager. “Rovers offered me the job, Torquay wanted compensation and I was piggie in the middle,” said Mike. The upshot was that Mike stayed at Torquay, was given a new three year contract and, a year later, was sacked.

“I decided after that experience I’d never go back into professional football, though the (then) club chairman Tony Boyce remained a friend,” Mike told me.

For the next 22 years Mike ran a Post Office/newsagents in the Torquay area, selling up about four years ago –“before Post Offices started to become an endangered species !”

Married to June, the couple live in the Chelston area of Torquay and have a son (Christopher) and daughter (Zoe).


 
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