by Terry Rowley
These pages chronicle the playing legends of Altrincham Football Club. The texts have been kindly supplied by Terry Rowley, joint editor of the Robins' Review matchday programme. The profiles have previously appeared in the Robins' Review.
Peter Eales was the 'Joker' in a team full of characters and his antics amused spectators wherever he played but his antics could not disguise the fact that he was probably the best goalkeeper Altrincham have had since the second-world war, (statistics support this view with J 40% of his matches being clean sheets).
He had two spells at Moss Lane and was in many ways the Bruce Grobbelaar of his day. A big match player, nicknamed by the fans as ‘Peter the Great', he loved an audience. Peter could be seen swinging from the cross bar, wobbling his knees, chatting to the fans behind the goal or sitting on the penalty spot, whilst Altrincham were attacking, producing some of the loudest belches and burps ever heard by the writer!
Peter started his senior career with Wigan Athletic before spending 5 seasons at South Liverpool and then moving on to Moss Lane at the end of the 1972-73 season, his only two Alty games being the 2 legs of the NWFL final against Buxton, which Altrincham won. He was brought in, along with Gerry Casey and Joey Pritchard as part of Roy Rees's team re-building. The following season (73-74) he kept 26 clean sheets and a record 9 consecutive clean sheets.
He played against Balckburn Rovers in the FA Cup and finished the season an NPL League Cup finalist. Season 1974-75 saw Peter keep a further 23 clean sheets and help Altrincham to a 3rd Round FA Cup tie against Everton. The following season he joined Bangor City when Alty's new manager, Les Rigby systematically dis-assembled a successful side. He returned the following season (77-78) when Tony Sanders (Roy Rees's former assistant) lured him back to Moss Lane and 18 further clean sheets helped Altrincham to the FAT Final win against Leatherhead. It is said that he wouldn't take his winner's medal off for a month after the match!
Eales claimed to have retired after the Trophy Final but was pesuaded to change his mind for one last season (78-79), a season that saw Peter dogged with injuries but still able to help Altrincham reach the 3rd Round of the FA Cup and those sensational games against Tottenham Hotspur. The following season, as Altrincham joined the newly formed Alliance Premier League, Peter moved to Runcorn, eventually moving onto the coaching side. He was reserve keeper for Runcorn for the 1986 FAT Final tie against Altrincham. The following season he moved as coach back to his roots at South Liverpool, where he stayed for a few seasons and then had a spell on the coaching staff at Southport.
Brian Taylor was one of the unsung players who gave excellent service to the Club, without ever grabbing the headlines but, who nonetheless gave nothing less than 100% and, without doubt, were just as essential to the success of the club as any of the "big names". Manager Freddie Pye, looking to strengthen the Altrincham side for the inaugural season in the Northern Premier League, pulled off a master stroke when, in July 1968, he obtained the signature of the 26 year old, experienced wing half, Brian Taylor from Football League side, Rochdale.
Taylor had been a junior at Rochdale and signed professional terms in March 1962. He went on to spend five seasons with the Lancashire side playing 132 League games, 3 FA Cup games and 4 League Cup games, scoring 8 goals. At 6 foot 2 inches and 12 stone, he had the natural build of a centre half, so it was perhaps surprising that he had spent most of his career playing as a wing half and indeed started hiis Altrincharn career in that role. It was Freddie Pye who successfully converted him to centre-back early in the 68/69 season, a position he was to make his own for the next 5 seasons. Taylor was good in the air, consistent, a dominant centre half who was rarely absent due to injury. He helped Altrincham to win the Northern Premier Cup in the 69/70 season, beating Macclesfield over two legs and he also picked up a Cheshire Senior Cup loser's medal.
The following season Macclesfield featured again as Altrincham beat them once more over two legs in the NWFL. He remained the first-choice centre half under the new management team of Roy Rees and Tony Sanders (appointed for the 71/72 season) until the end of the 73/73 season when Rees signed former Tranmere Rovers favourite Gerry Casey from Ellesmere Port Town. Casey replaced Taylor in the two legs of the NWFL final against Buxton and the following season Taylor could not displace the central defensive pairing of Casey and Owens who limited him to just two first-team appearances, with a couple more as substitute which meant that his Moss Lane career was over after palying 290 games for the Robins.
A quiet, thoughtful man Tony Sanders is the only non-playing Legend selected but without doubt he was the most successful manager in Altrincham's entire history, assembling a team that built Altrincham's reputation as FA Cup ‘giant killers’ and a side that could be considered the best in non league circles and so therefore justifying inclusion.
Tony began his management career with a season as manager of New Brighton, joining them in 1968. becoming a fully qualified FA coach the following year. He then joined Roy Rees as assistant manager at Skelmersdale and was part of the management team that saw Skelmersdale win the FA Amateur Trophy at Wembley against Dagenham in 1971 (This was Skelmersdale's last season as an amateur team before turning semi-pro). After this triumph, Rees left and took Tony with him to take on the manager's post at Altrincham the following season.
He spent 2 years in charge of lcelandic 1st Division side Vikinghor, returning to the UK to manage Bangor City before taking up the Manager’s post at Moss Lane in March 1976 and went on over the next 6 years to build possibly Altrincham's strongest and certainly most successful team in the club's history. Between 1978 and 1982 there was probably not a non-league side in the country to touch Altrincham. Sanders led Altrincham to unprecedented success, beginning with the 3-I FA Trophy win over Leatherhead at Wembley in 1978, followed by leading Altrincham to second place in what would be their final season in the NPL in 1978-79.
The team reached their peak during the following two seasons winning the inaugural Alliance Premier League in 1979-80 and following that with an Alliance Premier League and League Cup 'Double' in 1980-81. The following season (81 -82) Altrincham were again FAT finalists but this time lost, 0-1 to Enfield, though they won the Cheshire Senior Cup. Also during this period Altrincham built up a reputation as FA Cup ‘giant killers’ with notable FA Cup ties against the likes of Sheffield United (2-2, 3-1), York City (4-3), Burnley (1-6), Scunthorpe (0-0, 1-0) Darlington (0-2), Huddersfield (0-1), Rochdale (2-1) Liverpool (1-4). Spurs (1-1, 0-3) Orient (1-1), Rotherham (2-0) and Crewe (3-0).
Unfortunately though, the team had peaked and Tony Sanders was unable to conjure up the replacements of the quality of John King, Graham Barrow, John Rogers and Barry Whitbread. So, in 1984 Tony resigned the manager's post to be succeeded by John King and retired from management completely believing that he would never be able to assemble as good a squad of players as that seen in the late seventies and early eighties.
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