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Features

Funnell – From Maternity Wing to Goalscoring

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Tony Funnell’s promotion celebrations in 1982 started on the maternity ward and ended on the beach, making time to score in front of a Dean Court full house in the middle.

The striker was the club’s leading marksmen with 16 goals during the 1981/82 campaign, with the Cherries earning their second-ever promotion and finishing the season on a 17-game unbeaten run with a home fixture against Hereford.

It was a day of real celebration for Funnell and his family on and off the pitch, as he and his wife had welcomed their first child in the early hours of the match.

Despite this, there was no chance of him missing the match just hours later, as he explained to afcb.co.uk.

“It was certainly a busy night!” he remembered. “I was down in the hospital past midnight when Gary was born, then up and ready the next day for the game. I wasn’t tired, when things are going well you don’t think about anything, you just go with the motion.

“Webby and Harry knew I’d been up all night but knew I was fine to play.

“We didn’t have the biggest squad and in the position we were in they were never going to put me on the bench. We’d already got promotion and they wanted the team that had won it for them out there and playing well.

“That day was amazing, the stadium was packed solid with a really good atmosphere. It was another game we thought we should have won, going 1-0 down before getting a draw. There was a great atmosphere all the way through the game and then all the way through the night!

“We had a good night, I remember strolling along the beach in the early hours of the morning. I guess it was the adrenaline that got me through.”

The goal-laden campaign started for Funnell in September when he made the move to the south coast from Brentford, joining a Cherries squad he quickly knew would be challenging at the top end of Division Four.

“I signed after the season had started and I was excited to join. My face didn’t really fit at Brentford, I’d been given player of the month there as top scorer but instead of receiving it on the pitch before a game I received mine in the social club on a Monday night because the manager at the time didn’t fancy me,” he recalled.

“I was excited to get away from that and when I got down to Bournemouth with Dave Webb and Harry Redknapp and knowing a few of the players I realised straight away that we weren’t a bad side.

“I came on as sub for my debut at Halifax, and in those days you could pass back to the ‘keeper. I was quite quick and had not been on the pitch long when a defender passed it back, I nipped in and scored to make it 1-1.

“I’d scored a few goals at Southampton when they’d got promotion a few years before so a few fans from Bournemouth would have known that and they were probably as excited as I was to be there, I hit the ground running which was lucky and never looked back.

“Early on we knew we had a chance. We had a strong squad, with players who’d played for big teams, like Tommy Heffernan who was from Spurs and Keith Williams who was with Villa, the core of the side, with Webby and Harry, our training was really good and we were one of the most organised teams in the league.

“We weren’t a boring side because we attacked, but we knew how to defend and work as a midfield. That was the great starting point as we didn’t give too much away. As a team we were really confident and had a great team spirit, we always stuck together and often went out together.”

With the charismatic duo of Webb and Redknapp leading the team as manager and assistant, the side lost just four games throughout the league campaign, and not tasting defeat again after an unexpected February loss away to Northampton.

Funnell spoke about his gaffer, including an unexpected run-in after promotion had been clinched in May thanks to a 2-2 draw at Valley Parade.

“I liked him as a manager,” said Funnell. “He was straight and honest, the original tough guy from Chelsea. Harry was the fun guy and then with Dave as the manager, you did what you were told.

“I remember though, we were 2-1 up at Bradford on the day we clinched going up. It was a big game and they were a good side as well, they went up with us.

“It was nearing the last few minutes and I got the ball on the edge of the box, I could have passed it but I shot instead, I didn’t catch it well and the ‘keeper saved it. He knocked it up the field, they scored and it finished 2-2.

“I was thinking it wasn’t my fault, I had ten players behind me, but Webby went spare.

“On the coach on the way home I’d been sitting near the back, we were all celebrating a bit. I walked down the coach and just as I got off I turned round to him and said ‘Don’t blame me for today’s game, remember all the goals I have scored!’. He laughed because he was a good lad.

“We celebrated a bit that day but we all thought we should win the league. We drew the last three or four games and it wasn’t that Bradford game that lost the title for us.”

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