Where Are They Now? Derby County’s 1986-87 Div Two champs
By Neil Fissler
PHIL GEE’S rise from painter and decorator to scoring the goals that helped the Rams win promotion to the First Division was a real boy’s own story.
Gee was plucked from Non-League Gresley Rovers for a bargain £5,000 and spent a season learning his trade by helping the reserves to the Central League title.
He gave a glimpse of what was to come in May 1986 when he scored twice against Rotherham and Darlington to help the Rams claim promotion to Division Two behind Reading and Plymouth Argyle.
Then, when flatmate Mark Lillis picked up a knee injury early the following season, he was given a chance that he snatched with both hands, firing 15 goals to play a key part in back-to-back promotions.
“I wasn’t even in the squad at the start of the season,” he said.
“Arthur Cox, our manager at the time, started with Mark Lillis and I had to wait for my chance until he got injured.
“I had Trevor Christie in front of me in my first season and then Mark when he was signed from Manchester City
“But, when he got injured, I was in.
“It was ironic because I was in digs with him at the time and, just before he regained fitness, I started scoring.
“I was having to check my food in case he put something in it.
“Seriously, he was fine. He told me to carry on exactly what I was doing, even if I was keeping him out of the side.”.
The Rams lost only once at home all season.
That was on the opening day against Oldham Athletic and they never looked back after breaking into the top two in early January.
Defeats against Crystal Palace, Blackburn Rovers and Reading were the only blips in the second half of the season.
The title was bsecured with a 4-2 victory against Plymouth Argyle on the last day.
Gee recalls a very expensive promotion celebration after Cox imposed one of many fines on him for over-celebrating back-to-back promotions and a return to the top flight.
“We beat Leeds to clinch promotion and Arthur said we were allowed out for a couple of hours,” he said.
“No nightclubs but, of course, I was only a young lad.
“So, I went to a nightclub and, after we lost the next game at Reading, I got called into the office and fined. Had we won, it wouldn’t have happened.
“But we lost and I got fined £100, I think. I always got fined for going into clubs on a Thursday for a Coke. It was one of the lads’ 21st birthday, so I went and said ‘happy birthday’. I got fined for that.
“Everything that happened was a fairy tale, Roy of the Rovers stuff. Two seasons before, I was playing Sunday football.”
- Roy McFarland: The England central defender served a number of clubs in managerial capacities and took Burton Albion into the Football League. He is now a Rams Club Ambassador.
- Ross MacLaren: The midfielder spent 12 years on the coaching and scouting staff at several clubs before becoming landlord of the Blue Bell Inn at Kirk Langley.
- Charlie Palmer: A right-back who is the manager of Belper Town and has also worked as a social worker in Nottingham.
- Mike Forsyth: A defender who worked for an F1 team before returning to Pride Park, where he held a number of scouting and coaching roles, before moving on to Sheffield United
- John Gregory: The England midfielder has managed The Rams and his last job in management was with Crawley Town.
- Dick Pratley: The central defender went into coaching but is now working in industry and coaches at a school.
- Martin Taylor: A goalkeeper who was an apprentice coal miner becoming goalkeeping coach at Pride Park. He has since worked under Nigel Clough at Sheffield United and now Burton Albion.
- Mark Wallington: The former England under-23 goalkeeper went on to become a PE teacher at St. George’s Academy in Sleaford, Lincs, until retiring.
- Eric Steele: A goalkeeper who went on to coach at a number of Premier League clubs, including Manchester United, and is now working for the FA.
- Rob Hindmarch: A central defender who moved to the United States to work in a coaching school. He died in November 2002, aged 41, after fighting Motor Neurone Disease.
- Andy Garner: A midfielder who went into coaching at Burton Albion and followed Nigel Clough to Pride Park, then to Sheffield United and back to Burton.
- David Linighan: A centre-half like brother Andy, the former Arsenal player. He settled in the Blackpool area and is working as a carpenter.
- Mark Lillis: A striker who had a spell in caretaker charge of the Rams in 2011. He became academy manager at Huddersfield Town but left the role in May 2016.
- Paul Blades: A defender who became a health and safety officer in Birmingham and now works for Midland Safety Advice.
- Geraint Williams: The Wales midfielder has managed Colchester United, Leyton Orient, Caernarfon Town and the Welsh Under-21 side since 2012
- Dave Penney: A midfielder who managed Doncaster Rovers, Darlington, Oldham Athletic and Bristol Rovers. He has also been Southend’s assistant manager.
- Jeff Chandler: A Republic of Ireland midfielder who settled in Lancashire and works in Preston as a social worker and counsellor for youth offenders.
- Mel Sage: The full-back returned to his home town of Gillingham, Kent, where he became a taxi driver.
- Steve Cross: A defender who became a postman in Derby, then worked as a summariser for Radio Shropshire and became a physio at the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford.
- Phil Gee: The striker was a painter and decorator, when he was playing in Non-League. He has since worked for the Derby-based train building company, Bombardier.
- Arthur Cox: After leaving The Rams in 1993, he remained in the game until 2004 in various capacities. He came out of retirement to help Kevin Keegan at Newcastle four years later.
- Bobby Davidson: A striker who has managed Ferencváros in Hungary, then coached at the Leeds United academy and the Richmond International Academic and Soccer Acadenmy.
- Gary Micklewhite: A midfielder who coached at QPR, Wycombe and Charlton before becoming a black cab driver in London.
- Mickey Lewis: A defender who was a long-serving coach at Oxford United and is now managing Hayes and Yeading.
- Graham Harbey: A full-back now living in Ashbourne, Derbyshire. He has been employed as a sponsorship manager.
- Steve McClaren: The midfielder has managed England as well as a number of club sides, including Derby and, most recently, Newcastle.
- Steve Buckley: A defender who has scouted for his brother Alan and has also worked as a lorry driver.
Tagged Arthur Cox, Derby, Derby County, Phil Gee