The 1980s was a good time for Southampton, with players like Kevin Keegan choosing to ply their trade at The Dell and Matt Le Tissier and Alan Shearer later coming through the ranks. They finished second in the First Division in 1984 and twice came close to repeating their 1976 FA Cup success. And one of the players to shine through the decade was homegrown youngster Danny Wallace.
Wallace emerged through the Saints’ youth ranks to make his debut at 16 in 1980. It was the start of nine years playing for Southampton, that would include him scoring the BBC Goal of the Season against Liverpool in 1983-84 and lining-up alongside younger brothers Ray and Rod. There were also 14 England under-21 caps for winger Danny to collect, playing his part as they finished as European champions in 1984.
One Cap, One Goal
in 1986, Wallace earned his big break with England. Just days after his 22nd birthday he was called up to the full side for a friendly in Egypt. The rare January fixture had not been met with universal support from club managers, but it afforded Bobby Robson’s side the chance to meet African opposition before facing Morocco in the World Cup finals. With FA Cup replays and League Cup ties clashing with the trip, England were under-strength in Cairo.
The match would be best remembered for Peter Beardsley beginning his successful England career, but Wallace was to make the most tangible impact by scoring from close range (see above pic) in the comfortable 4-0 win. As he tucked the ball home, Wallace must have started believing he could be on the plane to Mexico that summer. At the very least, scoring would surely earn him another cap.
But it wasn’t to be and Wallace would never be picked again, seeing players such as John Barnes and Chris Waddle dominate the wing positions. But at club level his reputation was strong enough for Alex Ferguson to fork out more than £1 million in September 1989 to sign him for Manchester United, helping them win the FA Cup that season. But most of United’s successes in the 1990s would be achieved without him, as he wound down his professional career with Millwall (loan), Birmingham City and Wycombe Wanderers.
In 1996 Wallace was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but he showed great courage in going on to complete the London Marathon in five and a half days in 2006 for the Danny Wallace Foundation to help others with the condition. A great achievement that puts any football success or frustration into perspective.
In March 1985 Gary Lineker netted his first England goal in a 2-1 win over the Republic of Ireland. It was set-up by substitute Peter Davenport, who had come on in place of Mark Hateley. But while Lineker was given the chance to go on and score almost 50 goals for his country, Davenport was never picked again. His England career lasted less than 20 minutes.
Davenport had been snapped up by Nottingham Forest from minnows Cammell Laird in his native Birkenhead and emerged as a key forward under Brian Clough. The friendly against (a pre-Jack Charlton) Ireland came two days after Davenport’s 24th birthday and afforded Bobby Robson a rare chance to try things out a bit as England took a break from their World Cup qualifying campaign. Goalkeeper Gary Bailey and winger Chris Waddle were also handed their first caps – Bailey earned just one more, but Waddle would be a regular for several years.
Big move to Old Trafford
There would never be another England chance for Davenport, but he didn’t disappear off the radar. He warranted a £750,000 move to Manchester United a year later. His record of 22 goals in 92 league appearances at Old Trafford wasn’t great, but not a total failure either and he would score brownie points with the fans by banging in a late winner against Liverpool in 1987. But as Alex Ferguson focused on rebuilding the side Davenport was a casualty and he moved to Middlesbrough late in 1988. Cup runs would be a highlight of his later playing years, helping ‘Boro reach the ZDS Cup Final at Wembley in 1990 and retuning there with Sunderland for the FA Cup Final in 1992. He would go on to briefly manage in the Football League with Macclesfield Town.
Would things have turned out differently if it had been Lineker supplying Davenport to score against the Irish?
In the first of a new series looking back at players to win just one England cap, we recall the solitary international appearance of goalkeeper Nigel Spink from Aston Villa in 1983.
Some players finally get their rewards towards the end of a long career. They may at last pick up a cup winner’s medal, or be recognised as Player of the Year for the first time. And that long-overdue England cap may arrive while the 30th birthday celebrations are being planned (or gone!).
And then there are others for whom the process seems to happen in reverse. Spink was a fine servant to Aston Villa though much of the 1980s and 1990s, helping them finish runners-up to the last dominant Liverpool team in 1990 in the First Division. But his true career highlights would come little more than a year apart in the infancy of his long career.
Very much the understudy to stalwart Jimmy Rimmer, Spink had just one senior appearance to his name when he came off the bench to replace the injured regular in the 1982 European Cup final against Bayern Munich. The 23-year-old kept a clean sheet as Villa enjoyed their greatest triumph.
Big Chance Down Under
A year later and by now more established, Spink was to get his big chance when he was selected for the England squad visiting Australia for a three match tour at the end of the 1982-83 season. England were severely under strength, with the likes of Spink, Danny Thomas, Nick Pickering and Mark Barham given the opportunity to join the remnants of the regular squad for the long haul Down Under.
First choice goalkeeper Peter Shilton was on the tour and played as England drew their first match and edged their second with the Aussies. who at the time were not regarded as strong opposition. It was in the third match Spink was handed his 45 minutes of international action, coming on for Shilton in a 1-1 draw at the end of a forgettable tour that received minimal TV coverage. Both goals were scored before Spink entered the fray.
Spink was never realistically going to oust Shilton as number one but he could consider himself unfortunate not to feature again or at least be in contention to go a major tournament as backup. The international retirement of Shilton and appointment of Spink’s former Villa boss Graham Taylor as England manager at the same time in 1990 did provide a glimmer of hope and Spink made two England B appearances in 1991. But there would be no full recall for Big Nige.