WHERE ARE THEY NOW? READING 1978-79 FOURTH DIVISION CHAMPIONS
LAWRIE SANCHEZ admits that he thought every season in professional football was going to be like his first when he helped Reading to the Fourth Division title.
Sanchez was straight out of Catholic Boys School Presentation College after doing his A levels when he broke into the Royals first team squad on a regular basis.
He had made his debut the previous season as a schoolboy before going on to study management science at Loughborough University while still playing for the club.
“When I finished my A levels manager Maurice Evans asked, ‘Do you want to sign pro?’. I said ‘yes’ and I wanted to spend some time improving my grades before going to Loughborough.
“A year playing football would give me the chance to do that. We won the league and I thought that was what football was about, winning a trophy every year.
“It’s not until you finish playing that you realise events like that are few and far between unless you’re playing for Man Utd.
“It was all new to me. I used to come home from training at two and then sleep until five or six and my mum thought there was something wrong with me.
“I finished my final exam on the Friday and started pre-season training on the Monday. It was quite a shock.
“I remember sitting in the dressing room for my first few months listening to the tales of what went on on a Saturday night. I just sat there with my mouth open and my jaw dropped!”
Reading were crowned champions after going unbeaten in their last 11 games, eight of which they won without conceding a goal.
Royals keeper Steve Death set a Football League record of 1,103 minutes without conceding a goal and it has been beaten only once since – by Edin Van der Sar.
Death’s run, which continued into the following season, saw Reading take the title from Grimsby Town by a four point margin.
Sanchez says: “Steve was one of the smallest goalkeepers in the League but he was an extraordinary goalkeeper.
“He never did a thing in training. In fact if we ever did shooting in training, he just stood in the centre of goal. If the ball went near him he elbowed it or punched it out.
“But if the ball went into the corner he just stood there. He wouldn’t dive in training, which was frustrating. Then come Saturday he was superb.”
Death’s record sequence ended the following season and even then it wasn’t an opposition player who beat him, it was an own goal from Stewart Henderson who was player-coach at the time.
1. Ollie Kearns: He lives in Banbury, Oxfordshire and has had a success career in property development.
2. Martin Hicks: The Royals record appearance holder returned to his native Stratford-Upon Avon where he is working as a postman.
3. Sean Price: He is living in Saxmundham, Suffolk running his own tree clearance business.
4. Paul Miles: A local player who continues to live and work in the Berkshire area.
5. Dave Moreline: Now living in Rainham, Essex and works locally as a postman.
6. Jerry Williams: He lives in West Hagbourne, near Didcot and went into the financial services sector as an insurance broker for Premier Financial Management in Woodstock.
MIDDLE ROW FROM LEFT TO RIGHT:
7. Paul Bennett: He spent four years in eduction at a school in Southampton where he now lectures in business studies and he is a director of the Eastpoint Centre.
8. Gary Peters: Has managed Preston North End, Exeter City and Shrewsbury Town. Is now football consultant to Midas Sports Management, also has property interests.
9. Steve Death: He lived in Reading and worked as a greenkeeper at Mapledurham Golf Club until his untimely death from cancer in October 2003 aged 54.
10. Jimmy Gordon: Now living in Saxilby, Lincolnshire where he ran his own newsagency.
11. Lawrie Sanchez: He lives in Reading and has managed Sligo Rovers, Wycombe Wanderers, Northern Ireland, Fulham and Barnet.
12. Mike Kearney: The father-in-law of Brendan Rodgers, was associated with the club for 35 years and worked as facilities manager until retiring in the summer.
FRONT ROW FROM LEFT TO RIGHT:
13. Alan Lewis: Lives in the Reading area and works in the building industry as a foreman for a building contractor.
14. Wayne Wanklyn: Lives in Wokingham, Berkshire and has worked as a sales controller at Nestlé for over 26 years. He has managed Wokingham & Emmbrook.
15. Pat Earles: He lives in Southampton and works locally as a probation officer.
16. Steve Hetzke: He lives near Newbury, Berkshire and is employed by the Premier League as a technical monitor.
17. Roy Davies: Based in the London area and earning a living as a professional musician.
18. Mark White: He lives in the Reading area and is working as a chartered physiotherapist with the Royal Berkshire NHS Trust.
19. Martyn Britten: Lives in Butcombe in north Somerset. He has worked as a bricklayer but is now running his own building company.
20. Richie Bowman: Based in Eltham, South East London, he was a restaurant proprietor but now owns a London sandwich shop.
John Alexander: He took a job at the BBC before going back into football as club secretary at Watford, Tottenham Hotspur and now Manchester United.
George Shipley: Has been youth team boss at Gillingham and Middlesbrough, assistant manager at Bradford City, and fundraising manager for Newcastle’s community scheme.