Where Are They Now? Bristol City’s 1975-76 Division Two promotion-winners
By Neil Fissler
GEOFF MERRICK led his boyhood club out for their First Division debut against Arsenal at Highbury after helping them to promotion – but he could so easily have been playing for the opposition.
Merrick, an indestructible central defender who later tore up a lucrative contract to help save the club, and Tom Ritchie were the subject of a joint bid from the Gunners.
It was turned down flat by a club who had been out of the top flight for 60 years.
Bristol was the largest city in the county without a a First Division club, but they were willing to let Merrick leave.
The Gunners, however, didn’t come back in with another offer to City, who had finished runners-up to Sunderland by three points the previous season.
Merrick and Ritchie were in the away dressing room for a game which City won 1-0, thanks to a goal from Paul Cheesley.
Merrick freely admits he would have been disappointed had he left Ashton Gate and not been involved in helping the club win promotion.
“It was the biggest moment of my non-illustrious career,” he laughs. “It was something really special. I’m a Bristol boy, my parents were both Bristol City supporters and I first went when I was about seven. And nobody had seen them in the First Division for 60 years.
“There was talk about me going to Arsenal. They made a bid for Tom and myself of about £250,000 for the two of us and Bristol City decided they couldn’t afford to lose Tom.
“But they could let me go because they had Gary Collier coming through. I know it sounds bloody awful.
“I was disappointed they were thinking of selling me and I’d miss out on the promotion with Bristol City. I have always wondered, if I had gone, would I have to do 14-hour days now?
“Anyway, they did a promotion where you could get cheap seats for the following season and it raised a fair bit of money. So they never needed to let me go.
“It never got around to me turning it down. I did see Bobby Campbell at the end of that season and he asked why I hadn’t got in touch with him because they wanted to buy me.
“I don’t know how well the Arsenal thing would have gone but I’d always regret not being involved in City’s promotion.
“Maybe if they had sold me they might not have won promotion. You never know. I had a good season, probably my only good one!
“We almost did it the season before. It sticks in my mind. We went to Orient needing to get a result, but they beat us 1-0 with a controversial goal and the floodlights went out for ages.
“And that was the end of that season’s run. I think had we won we would have been in contention that season as well.”
- Keith Fear: A forward who has been inducted into Bristol City’s Hall of Fame. Served the club as lottery manager for three years and sold fruit and veg.
- Joe Durrell: Winger who became a PE teacher and was later a support teacher in Bethnal Green.
- Len Bond: Goalkeeper who helped Brentford win a promotion. He opened a newsagent’s in Exeter and now lives in Taunton where he runs a sportswear firm.
- Ray Cashley: Goalkeeper who later helped Chester win a promotion from Division Four. He worked in the promotions department of Weston-super-Mare FC and then became a driver.
- John Shaw: Goalkeeper who was part of two promotion squads at Ashton Gate. Now living in the Portishead area of Bristol and has run his own painting and decorating business since he retired.
- Mike Brolly: Winger who settled in Grimsby, where he won back-to-back promotions. He became a teacher at St Mary’s RC High School and then at Matthew Humberstone School, Cleethorpes.
- Clive Whitehead: Winger who later won a promotion with Exeter City, before managing Yeovil Town and then coached Bristol City’s reserves. Later, he joined the PFA as a financial adviser.
- Ken Wimshurst (chief coach): He ran a sports shop and worked at Southampton’s centre of excellence. He later scouted for Real Madrid and Barcelona. He died in July 2017, aged 79.
- John Emanuel: Welsh international midfielder who lives in Mid-Glamorgan and worked for the National Coal Board. He then became a forklift driver for a kitchen manufacturing company.
- Don Gillies: Full-back who was an Anglo-Scottish Cup winner. He ran his own fruit and veg business, but now lives in Wells, Somerset, and is an account executive for a wholesale fruit and vegetable company.
- David Rodgers: Centre-half and son of former City striker Arnold. He went to work for Clifton College as house master and is now master in charge of football.
- Gary Collier: Central defender who now lives in Florida and has managed the San Diego Nomads and also coached children at San Diego Soccer Club and Rancho Santa Fe club.
- Tom Ritchie: Striker who played for the club in all four divisions after working as a painter and decorator. He lives in nearby Clevedon andbecame a postman in Portishead.
- Paul Cheesley: Forward who was part of a promotion-winning squad at Norwich. He worked in insurance and as a salesman and publican before returning to sales with a packaging firm.
- Les Bardsley (physio): He died in January 2012, aged 86, following a short illness. He served the Robins for 21 years before opening up his private practice and also worked for Gloucestershire County Cricket Club.
- Trevor Tainton: Midfielder who had three relegations with City. He spent many years working as a security officer at Oldbury Nuclear Power Station after hanging up his boots.
- Brian Drysdale: Left-back who later became player-manager of Frome Town and Shepton Mallet. He worked as a self-employed carpenter. His son Jason, had spells at Watford, Newcastle, Swindon and Northampton Town.
- Geoff Merrick: Central defender who was twice voted Robins’ player of the year. He lives on a farm at Nailsea, Bristol, which he ran, along with a family building business.
- Alan Dicks: He went on to managed Fulham, Carolina Dynamo and Charleston Battery but has now retired and lives in Heanleaze, Bristol. He has been a regular visitor to Ashton Gate for matches.
- Gerry Gow: A midfielder who managed pubs in Bristol and Dorset, where he also worked for an engineering firm before stacking shelves for Tesco. He died from cancer in October 2016.
- Gerry Sweeney: Right-back who coached at Walsall and Bristol City, as well as being a fitness coach, before becoming a postman in Portishead, Bristol.
- Jimmy Mann: Midfielder and one of the Ashton Gate Eight. He has been a security officer, milkman and dry dockman. He now lives in Goole on Humberside, where he became a jetty master.
Tagged Bristol City, Geoff Merrick