My First XI- Tooting & Mitcham United, Roger Butcher

We’re off to South London- which is apparently black and white- and for some of Roger’s selections we’re heading back nearly half a century.

My First XI- Tooting & Mitcham United, Roger Butcher

We’re off to South London- which is apparently black and white- and for some of Roger’s selections we’re heading back nearly half a century.

The problem with supporting a team like Tooting for nearly 50 years is that in the mid 70’s we were arguably amongst the top 10 non league clubs in the country, so most of the all time greats will be from that era. And actually half my team did play for Tooting in the 1970s.

But in goal I have gone for Jamie Butler who played for 1 season under Mark Beard. I rated him from day one and argued my case with anyone who could be bothered to listen. Some of my fellow fans reckoned his size was against him, but my player judgement was proved right for once as Jamie went on to play in the National league and earn international honours.

At the back I have the trusty centre back pairing of Steve Grubb and Billy Smith who provided a solid base for all of our big games in the 70s. There was the height and power of Grubb plus the aggression and the combative style of Smith which proved to be a successful combination.

At left back from the same team I have Bobby Green. Seemingly with unlimited energy he was perpetually bombing up and down the wing, which for a team like ours which didn’t really have any wingers as such, was a massive addition to our attacking options.

I don’t think we have had the embarrassment of riches at right back as we have had at left back, but I have plumped for current Terror Dean Hamlin as my number 2. Apart from being a talented, tenacious defender, he has also showed great consistency and longevity, having been with us, on and off, for 15 years or so.

In midfield, the 1st name on my team sheet would be Ronnie Howell. He was the lynchpin of our 1970s team and would boss games for 90 minutes from his deep lying position. He knew how to mix it up as well! If I had to pick my all time best Tooting player, Ronnie Howell would be the man

On the right I pick Michail Antonio. Although he only played a couple of dozen games for us as a teenager, he stood out immediately and without looking particularly pacy, he always seemed to get to the ball first. Apart from his obvious ball skills he also seemed to win everything in the air and had a fine scoring record.

Also in midfield I would have Chace O’Neill. When he first came to us he helped transform a team that was in danger of relegation into record breaking champions. He had a great touch and knew how to get into the box. Perhaps he went off the boil a bit after the championship win, but still one of my favourite players to watch over the last 10 years.

Up front I would have the hero of our win over Swindon – Alan Ives. Still our record league goalscorer, Alan also played for England during his time with us. Another player who always looked comfortable on the ball and had the ability to glide past players – not easy on the Sandy Lane pitch which used to really live up to its name!

But for me, Nicky Glover was our most deadly forward in the mid 70s. Not only did he score 100 goals in 3 seasons, he must have earned about 25 penalties – all of which were put away by Dave Juneman. He had tremendous pace and was the coolest finisher that I can remember.

My number 9 would have to be Paul Vines. He became the hero of the Bog End under Bully Smith with his goalscoring exploits. Headers, volleys, tap ins and worldies - It didn’t matter to Vinesey. But what endeared him to the fans as much as his goals was the tremendous work rate off the ball and his all-round commitment. It didn’t even matter when he scored a hat trick against us! Left us far too soon – don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed to see a player move on.

Right, let’s have your First XI! Email your squad to Ian at townsendaround@gmail.com and you’ll see it appear here.

Where next?

My First XI- Romford, Peter Hynds Peter began watching Romford seven decades ago. Look for some vintage choices in his First XI.
My First XI- Haywards Heath Town, John Rea Given Heath have- so far- only managed one entirely completed Isthmian season, we allowed John to delve back into the depths of history for his best set of Blues!

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