Roy’s a Champagne super goalkeeper

Former PNE goalkeeper Roy Tunks
Former PNE goalkeeper Roy Tunks
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BIG INTERVIEW: Craig Salmon talks to ex-PNE goalkeeper Roy Tunks – part one

Roy Tunks was virtually part of the fixtures and fittings at Preston North End in the seventies.

The popular goalkeeper was North End’s No.1 for seven straight years after arriving from Rotherham in 1974.

After more than 300 appearances for the club, Tunks – who still lives locally in the village of Longton – is arguably bordering on legendary status at the club.

Bizarrely, though, two of his most vivid recollections of his time in the game occurred at Deepdale when he was a member of the opposition.

Despite spending a large part of his career in the home dressing room at North End, Tunks remembers two occasions which culminated in him quaffing Champagne in the visitors’ changing area.

Early in his career with the Millers, Tunks lined up against North End at the end of the 1970/71 season.

Alan Ball Senior’s men needed to beat the Yorkshiremen to be certain of lifting the old Third Division title.

North End were duly crowned champions thanks to a 3-0 victory in front of a packed-to-the-rafters Deepdale.

And the final whistle was cue for much merriment among the home team deep within the bowels of the stadium – with Tunks and his team-mates joining in to toast their hosts’ success.

Thirty years later – more or less to the day – Tunks found himself drinking bubbly once more as a visitor.

This time it was Blackburn Rovers who had reason to celebrate at Deepdale as Matt Jansen’s solitary goal clinched a 1-0 win and promotion back to the Premier League on May 2, 2001.

As Rovers goalkeeper coach at the time, Tunks took great pleasure in the success of Graeme Souness’s team and duly enjoyed the impromptu after-match party.

“I remember playing for Rotherham away at Preston,” Tunks said. “It was probably one of my first games for the club.

“We played North End in a league game and they had to beat us to win the league.

“They already knew they were promoted, I think they had drawn at Fulham on the Saturday to guarantee promotion and then they played us the following Tuesday night.

“There were about 28,000 to 29,000 at Deepdale that night and Alan Spavin scored two goals – they beat us 3-0 to win the league.

“I will never forget coming back to the away team dressing room and there were bottles of Champagne in there for our lads.

“I remember the Preston manager Alan Ball Senior came in and noticed that we had only got three bottles of Champagne between us.

“He then called for the chairman and when he came in, Alan gave him a right rollicking and said, ‘Get some more champagne in here for these lads’.

“It’s funny the away team dressing room at Deepdale has two big memories for me.

“They are probably the only times or two of just a few occasions in my career – that I have been in the away dressing room.

“On both occasions, I ended up sitting there sipping Champagne.

“The first was that night when Preston won promotion and the second was when I was the first-team goalkeeping coach at Blackburn Rovers.

“Blackburn won to clinch promotion back to the Premier League, so that was another night of drinking Champagne in the visiting dressing room.”

There were plenty of occasions when the home dressing room proved to be a happy place for Tunks – not least when he was part of the North End team which secured promotion back to the old Second Division under manager Nobby Stiles.

Interestingly when the moment arrived to pop the Champagne corks to celebrate the team’s promotion back to the old Second Division in 1978, the players were in the Guild Club, in the old Pavilion Stand at Deepdale, rather than in the dressing room.

Tunks remembers he and his team-mates waiting anxiously for a result elsewhere, before their automatic promotion spot was confirmed.

North End had played all of their games, but rivals Peterborough had one game in hand and could have overhauled PNE with victory in their final match.

Fortunately for Tunks and his team-mates, Posh were unable to collect the result they required and PNE secured promotion on goal difference.

“Most of the players were up in the Guild Club and I think the result came through on the radio,” Tunks recalled.

“There was no text or Sky Sports News in those days.

“It came through that they had drawn 0-0 I think it was and it meant that we were promoted.

“We had a few drinks I do remember and I think we finished up in the Withy Trees.

“I think we all went home eventually!”

Tunks was born in Wuppertal, Germany – he celebrated his 65th birthday on Thursday.

His father Reginald was a sergeant in the British Army and was stationed abroad for many years.

Eventually, Tunks’ father was discharged after many years’ service and the family settled in Sussex.

It was around about this time that Tunks’ sporting pedigree began to become apparent.

“My father was based a lot of the time in Germany,” he said.

“We had been back and forth a few times from Germany to various places in the UK, but eventually settled in Sussex.

“I think I was about 12 or 13. My dad came out of the Army – he had done his service and got a job in Sussex.

“It was there that I started to play football regularly as well as all the other sports that you do at school.

“I was not always a goalkeeper in those days

“It’s the usual story. I started out as a striker – I was a prolific goalscorer at school.

“I eventually went in goal and ended up playing for the county Under-15s and played for the Under-19s as a 15-year-old.”

His stature and ability soon caught the attention of a number of clubs, such as Arsenal and West Ham, but surprisingly Tunks decided to move north and join Rotherham, who were an unfashionable club playing in the old Second Division.

“I got offered a few trials at different places,” he added.

“I could have gone to Arsenal, Palace, West Ham and Brighton

“But the link with Rotherham – which became my first club – was that my dad worked at a public school called Lancing College after he left the Army.

“We actually lived in the school grounds.

“The sports master at Lancing College was a very good friend of Jack Mansell, who was the Rotherham manager at the time.

“They invited me up and Rotherham back then were a very good side.

“They were in the Championship or the old Second Division as it was.

“The team always finished in or near the top six so I signed for them as an apprentice at 16-years-old.”

The youngster did not have to wait long before he made his Football League bow – appearing for the Millers as a teenager against Birmingham City at Millmoor.

Drafted in as an emergency replacement for regular goalkeeper Alan Hill, who was ill, Tunks was given his debut by a certain Tommy Docherty – the man who would go on to end his career at North End several years later.

“Tommy Doc came in as manager at Rotherham and it was he who gave me my league debut – I think I was a few days past my 17th birthday,” Tunks recalled.

“I remember it well because I had turned up at the club in the morning to play for the Under-18s at Hull.

“But I got told to come back at 2pm because I was playing in the first team in the afternoon against Birmingham.

“I was like, ‘Oh, all right then’.

“I turned back around and walked back to my digs. I then waited for the afternoon and headed off back to the ground to make my first-team debut.

“The regular keeper for Rotherham was a fella called Alan Hill, but I think he came down with blood poisoning and so was unable to play.

“Looking back I did not have much time to get nervous – I just turned up and played.

“I do remember little bits about the game.

“The crowd was about 15,000 and we drew the game 1-1.

“Fred Pickering scored against me.

“Fred was an ex-England striker and had played for Everton.

“There were a lot of experienced, former international players in the Birmingham team.

“Players like Barry Bridges, who was ex-Chelsea and played for England.

“Rotherham had a good team. We had players like Barry Lyons, who went on to play for Nottingham Forest.

“I had a decent game and the goal I could do nothing about it really, Fred struck his shot really well.”

Despite impressing on debut as a teenager, Tunks settled back into life in the youth and reserve teams.

He continued to learn his craft and was allowed out on loan to York City, who were in the old Fourth Division.

His performances at York went a long way to persuading his parent club that he was ready to take over the No.1 jersey.

“I played four games for York and they had two strikers called Phil Boyer and Ted MacDougall, who both went to Bournemouth and became internationals,” he said.

“The centre half was the comedian Alan ‘chatty man’ Carr’s dad Graham.

“After coming back from York, I managed to get in the first team at Rotherham.”

Tunks began to make a name for himself and soon attracted the attention of some big names in the game.

“I think I played in total 140-odd games for the club, and spent six years there,” Tunks said.

“But clubs started to come in for me and Bobby Robson wanted me at Ipswich Town.

“They were a top side in those days, but the two clubs could not agree a fee.

“I remember Bobby saying to me, ‘They want £50,000 for you’.

“It might not sound a lot these days but it was back them, especially when you think Gordon Banks had only just been sold to Stoke City for £55,000, which was a world record transfer fee for a goalkeeper.

“Bobby told me that he had offered £30,000, but they could not come to an agreement so I went back to Rotherham.

“Almost straight away, Newcastle came in for me. They had just reached the FA Cup final and had players like Malcolm MacDonald.

“Again the same thing happened, they could not agree a fee, but on the very same day that deal fell through Liverpool came in for me.

“I think Bob Paisley was the manager – he had just taken over from Bill Shankly.

“But they wanted to take me on loan.

“I didn’t want to go out on loan again – I wanted somebody to come in and buy me.

“In retrospect that was a mistake – I should have gone to Liverpool because I would have been the No.2 to Ray Clemence for all those great European nights.

“I think they wanted me on loan to take a look at me first. Loans were like a trial and Liverpool wanted to see me first because they were going to invest a lot of money.

“So that did not happen and I stayed at Rotherham until my contract run out.

“You have to remember it was the days before Bosman so Rotherham still retained my registration.

“I refused to sign a new contract but they could still command a transfer fee. So I had to go to an independent tribunal in London through the PFA who represented me.

“Terry Venables actually represented me – he was the PFA rep.

“They fixed the fee at £30,000 and it halved every month.

“In the meantime, Ipswich and Newcastle had both gone out and bought new keepers – for £30,000!

“Two months later Bobby Charlton came in and it was a no-brainer to move to Preston.”

Next Saturday – “My years at PNE and the changing role of the modern-day goalkeeper” part two of the Roy Tunks story only in the LEP