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Bez Lifts the Lid...
Life with United...and beyond   Part XIX

This time round we talk of some of those players who didn't make it to the summit of the Keegan era, but contributed nevertheless to United......

Brainstorming Bez on The Boro: 

John's first season was of course the promotion season of 1992-3. It kicked off with a friendly defeat at Hearts, followed by a win at York and a draw at Doncaster. Next up were Boro in the wildly titled Newcastle Exhibition Superchallenge at St. James' Park. Bez played in the 1-0 victory, as did another recent signing, Brian "Killer" Kilcline who had also played in all the pre-season friendlies. Bez recalls that one thing you didn't do with Killer was touch his pride and joy... his hair....

"We were in Cyprus celebrating promotion and most of us had been on the drink for something like 24 hours after the Leicester 7-1 game. We'd been on the beach all day and Killer came back glowing, having fair skin and ginger hair. A lot of us grabbed a few hours kip before going back out again that night but a few of the lads had a couple more drinks in the hotel bar. Derek Fazackerley, John Murray and Barry Venison are the ones I can remember but there were one or two others as well. Not me.... Killer was wrecked and was about to pass out on the bar. Venners said for a joke that they should cut a bit of his hair off and see if he wakes up. 

"Well, Killer duly passed out and a pair of scissors appeared. A little bit was snipped and Killer didn't move. A little bit more followed, still nothing. And then half of his pony tale had gone - the other half still long. This looked a bit strange so all of it disappeared. Still Killer slept. Then they started on his moustache and that went. They left him slumped on the bar with bits of hair in his drink and scattered all around so that he would know what had happened when he woke.

"Eventually he did wake and he was absolutely fuming. Apparently it was like a volcano erupting. He started smashing the place up and the barman legged it, petrified. David Kelly knocked my door asking if I'd go and have a word and try and calm him down, as I'd got on well with Killer that year. 'You must be bloody joking!' I said, 'I'm going nowhere near him until he's sobered up a bit more!  Eventually Derek Fazackerley went out to see him and had barely got a word or two out before Killer smacked him one. To be fair, Faz took it and thought he'd deserved it but the whole incident ruined the rest of the holiday. Killer never forgave those involved, although he thought the whole team was in on it, which they weren't. 

"He ended up shaving off his moustache and having all his hair levelled - leaving him with this massive ginger bob. It actually made him look a lot younger but it became like the Basil Fawlty sketch - "don't mention the hair, I mentioned it once and I think I got away with it....". However, on the plane back we linked up with some of the other lads who had gone to a different resort and they couldn't help but notice. Not only did it spoil the holiday but things were never the same with Killer and he left in the January, which was a shame."

Incidentally, the Boro friendly featured the debut of former United player Michael O'Neill, who wasn't offered a contract by the Teessiders. United went on to play Bobby Robson's Sporting Lisbon in the tournament final and we took a 3-0 half-time lead. United collapsed in the second half with Jorge Cadete, Filipe, Balakov and a certain Luis Figo masterminding the remarkable turnaround. 

Replacing Bez was Mark Stimson who Bez himself had been bought to replace. 

"You never know how players are going to react but Mark was fine about it. He knew that I was going to take his place but it was just one of those things. He was a good lad." 

(Stimmo is now at Canvey Island, who earlier in the season earned headlines for their dfeat of Port Vale in the FA Cup, and have reached the semi's of the FA trophy....alas those blonde locks have disappeared....)

United played Boro twice more that season but not in the league - Boro were in the first ever Premier League and we drew them in the Coca Cola Cup. Bez played in both games - 0-0 at St.James' and a 3-1 win at Ayresome Park - as did Mickey "Sumo" Quinn.

"I'd been at Portsmouth with Quinny and got on well with him there. Obviously his gambling and love of the horses id fairly well known - in fact, I saw him at Doncaster Races not long ago. He also struggled with his weight which everyone knows.

"One pre-season he came into the changing room at the training ground and puts on the bin-bag [the sort boxers use to sweat a few pounds off]. He also got out this smart-looking stopwatch which surprised me. I asked him what it was for and he said, 'To time meself running.' Quinny was possibly the worst runner at the club and would always be sent out ahead of the rest. If you didn't catch him, then you knew you were unfit.... We usually ran from the training ground to the bridge on the way to Durham. 'How many minutes are you hoping to do it in?' I asked. 'Minutes?' he said. 'My stopwatch only counts in hours...!' 

"I can't remember who coined the phrase but Mick was known as the fastest player at the club....over a yard. It was true, though. In front of goal he was as sharp as anyone I've played with. He was brilliant at toe-ending it. Obviously that's not something coaches like to see but he could turn and spin and with no backlift, toe-end the ball into the net. It was a real skill.

"I actually played against him in the Intermediate League when I was a junior at Man City. Mick was playing for Stockport Reserves and I remember this burly Bob Carolgees lookalike treading all over me in his big Puma boots. After he trod on me again I hurled some abuse at him and he came out with a torrent of filth about playing for big flash clubs. I reminded him about it some years later and he couldn't recall it, he said that he'd said the same to things to loads of others when he was at Stockport. 

"He realised after the Portsmouth game [Quinn was recalled for the injured Peacock, scored two, had a perfectly good goal disallowed and was then dropped after Peacock recovered] that he didn't figure in Keegan's plans. It's a shame that players like Mick don't seem to be part of the game any more as he could get a hatful of goals at any level. I'm sure if he'd been our centre-forward in the promotion season he could have got 50. But Keegan wanted to play a different way and Quinny went to Coventry who were above us in the Premier League. 

Niall MacKenzie

Page last updated 24 June, 2009