By Neil Fissler
MILLWALL keeper Paul Sansome believes winning the Football League Trophy helped the fortunes of the club turn around.
The Trophy was supposed to be a pre-season competition which was introduced to replace pre-season friendlies and took place a week before the league programme began.
The Lions, under player-manager Peter Anderson, were paired in Group 8 with London rivals Wimbledon, Brentford and Crystal Palace.
They started with a defeat against Wimbledon before following it up with victories over Brentford and Crystal Palace to progress.
The Lions, struggling in the Third Division, then sacked Anderson and under caretaker Barry Kitchener took their place in the last four with a win on penalties over Bradford in December.
George Graham took charge on the night they beat Bradford and a month later Reading were seen off 3-1 and a place in the final against Lincoln City beckoned.
By the time they visited Sincil Bank in April 1983 they had won their last three games and the great escape from relegation was under way.
Lincoln opened the scoring through Marshall Burke before the Lions took control with Dean Neal scoring twice and an Alan McLeary effort sandwiched in-between.
Lincoln missed a penalty while Burke added a second to set up a tense finish but Graham’s side hung on for a never to be forgotten victory.
“It was supposed to be a pre-season tournament and has now become the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy,” said goalkeeper Sansome.
“When George took over we were struggling. And he came in and changed between six and eight players.
“He bought in quite a few players and we stayed up and went onto better things from that season. The final at Lincoln was played in driving rain – but was a night to remember.
“It was horrible and wet. Macca scored one of the goals and he didn’t score many so that was one to remember.
“It wasn’t held in the same esteem as the League Cup or the FA Cup but it was still a competition that you wanted to win because it’s always good to win something.
“We weren’t expected to get to the final and Lincoln weren’t a bad side at the time. Colin Murphy was manager. Playing away at Lincoln with the things that Colin liked to do – switch off the heating in the changing rooms and make sure the water was cold – that sort of stupid stuff.
“It was one of his party tricks and he was notorious for trying to upset you. What he had forgotten was we had come from the old Den so we were used to that kind of thing.
“We didn’t even celebrate winning the Trophy because it was during the season. It was something like half a lager on the way home!”
1. Alan McLeary: After working in management and coaching McLeary has been a sports tour operator and a football agent.
2. Dean Horrix: Striker who was tragically killed aged 28 in March 1990 following a car crash just ten days after leaving the Lions for Bristol City.
3. Alan West: Midfielder lives in Luton and is a Senior Pastor for the Luton Christian Fellowship and is also Luton Town’s chaplain.
4. Paul Robinson: Since his career was ended by a broken leg he has worked in IT Service delivery management and works for Xerox UK in Chiswick.
5. Andy Massey: Has coached in Millwall’s academy and works as a window cleaner.
6. Terry Long: Coached at Palace, Orient, Millwall and managed Beaconsfield United, he worked as a car salesman. Is now retired living in Yately, Hampshire.
7. Cliff Speight: Running his own physiotherapy practice near his home in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire.
8. David Martin: England youth captain worked as a project manager for a dry line company and is now a cab driver in the capital.
9. Trevor Alyott: Striker who is still living in Chislehurst, Kent. He drives a black cab and works as a stats man for the Press Association.
10. Peter Gleasure: Goalkeeper who lives in his native Luton where he runs the the Wilsden School of Motoring.
11. Paul Sansome: Goalkeeper who since retiring in 1997 has been a director of Alpine Power Tools in Kent.
12. Keith Stevens: Central defender managed the Lions then emigrated to Australia, where he owns Subway franchises and coaches at the Southport School in Brisbane.
13. Lawrie Madden: Defender who is now a freelance football reporter and lecturer at Staffordshire University.
14. Barry Kitchener: Lions legend was a youth coach before running souvenir shops in Caister and Great Yarmouth prior to his death in March 2012, aged 64.
15. Roger Cross: He went onto coach at QPR, Tottenham and was then chief scout at West Ham until being sacked in April 2011.
16. Austin Hayes: Republic of Ireland winger tragically died of lung cancer in December 1986, aged 28 just three weeks after being diagnosed.
17. Paul Roberts: Went to school with former Millwall team mate Kevin O’Callaghan and is another member of the squad who works as a cab driver in London.
18. Sam Allardyce: Central defender who went into management and is currently battling to keep West Ham in the Premier League
19. Peter Anderson: A chartered accountant who founded Bayshore Technologies Inc in Tampa Bay, Florida in 1997. Is now president and CEO.
20. Nicky Chatterton: Midfielder who was duty officer at a leisure centre in Colchester before returning to Eastbourne to become a window fitter.
21. Willie Carr: Midfielder who was a rep for engineering supplies firm Abec Transmission in Birmingham for many years before his retirement.
22. Phil Warman: Lives in Kent where he was a licensee before working for a security company and in customer services for BMW.
Dean Neal: Is now driving a London taxi.