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💬 Terry Cooper: "He reminded me of Gordan Banks because he was so laid back but when the whistle went, he was on the ball and he made it look easy.”

Former City manager Terry Cooper talks through the 1989/90 season on the 30th anniversary of the title win

1 May 2020

In part three of this interview Terry Cooper talked about the experienced and flair players that helped to guide Exeter City to title success in 1989/90. However, in the final part he touches on the young players who made an impact and those who provided defensive steel to the team to allow their flair players at the top end of the pitch.

At the age of 25 Danny Bailey was playing for Wealdstone in the Isthmian League. He had had unsuccessful spells at AFC Bournemouth and Torquay United and had only made three appearances in the Football league. 

All of that makes it quite remarkable that Terry Cooper, who would later go onto be a very successful scout for Southampton, spotted his talents and brought him to City to play a crucial role in the title winning season.

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Danny Bailey

“It was like a jigsaw puzzle, putting it together,” explained Terry. “If you have got flair players, like Stevie Neville, then you need other type of players to enable them to play. And Danny broke play up. All I asked him to do was break play up and get it out to Clive Whitehead and Brian McDermott or play simple balls up to Darran Rowbotham or Stevie (Neville) and he was great at that.”

Danny would go on to make more than 200 appearances for the Grecians as well as play for Reading following a £50,000 transfer.

Another great non-league pick was the goalkeeper Kevin Miller. He was spotted playing for Newquay in the Western League but having turned out for Exeter City in their title winning season he followed Terry Cooper to Birmingham before going onto play for Crystal Palace in the Premiership and Barnsley in the second tier.

“He was fantastic,” said Terry. “I was lucky because when I went there, I knew we needed a goalkeeper. That stood out a mile. Initially we got the famer, Dave Walters in. He was a proper farmer from down there and his hands were like bloody shovels and initially he did really well for us.

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Kevin Miller

“But, then someone tipped me off about Kevin, who was playing for Newquay at the time, so I invited him up and you could see he was a natural. You could understand how he had not been spotted playing down there, but we decided that we had to sign him. He was just a natural goalkeeper. He reminded me of Gordan Banks who I played with at England, because he was so laid back but when the whistle went, he was on the ball and he made it look easy.”

In front of him there was a good centre-back pairing as well of Richard Dryden and captain Shaun Taylor. Shaun was another player who would go onto make appearances in the Premiership having achieved promotion to the top division with Swindon Town.

“He was just a colossus at the back,” added Terry. “He used to put him gumshield in and nobody could understand a word he was shouting as captain.

"He was one of those players that was a manger’s dream again because if I’d have thrown a brick up the air and told him to go and head it, he would have. He was that type of character. He wanted to win and he was better footballer than he thought he was. As a defender in that division he was fantastic - a real threat in both boxes.”

Then there were the youngsters Chris Vinnicombe and Scott Hiley. Both full-backs like Terry and he knew they both had a bright future in the game having watched them at City.

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A newspaper cutting from the Express & Echo when Chris Vinnicombe was on the verge of joining Glasgow Rangers

Speaking about Chris, Terry said: “He was fantastic at 17. I thought he was going to have a proper, proper, stellar career. Maybe we sold him two young. We sold him to Glasgow Rangers, who at the time were the dominant force in Glasgow under Graham Souness.

"Perhaps if he had stayed with us another 12 or 18 months it would have been better for him because it was such a big step to go from Exeter, playing in front of three to four thousand at that time, to Ibrox to playing in front of 50 odd thousand. It was a big jump, but it is one of those things. If you get that opportunity you have got to take it. He was a great young lad with bags of ability.”

Scott Hiley was a player who would have two spells at City, returning to the club towards the end of his career. Terry added that he was great player to manage.

“I took him to Birmingham with me as well and, to be fair to him, he had a good career because then he went to Man City,” he said. “He was a good athlete. He could get up and down, like a modern day full-back, and he was a great to work with. He was a manager’s dream. You need players like him because he didn’t cause any problems and just liked to play.”

Terry also saved mention for a couple more of the senior players who added the right steel and attitude to the team, starting with Clive Whitehead.


Jim McNichol

“I stuck him (Clive) out on the left wing and he was unbelievable," said Terry. "He could drop his shoulder, go past players and he loved a tackle. He was a winger that tackled full-backs and you don’t get many of those, but he had great ability going the other way.

“Winning breeds character. That is why I brought Jim McNichol back. He was a good professional. He was a Scottish lad, who wouldn’t stand any messing and Clive Whitehead wouldn’t stand any messing. They majority of the players were just good characters who could play good football.”

To see how you can purchase a replica 1989/90 shirt click on the following article.

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