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Features

Heffernan – Getting promotion and a facelift

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

Tommy Heffernan had a double reason to celebrate after helping the Cherries clinch promotion in 1981/82.

The combative defender played a starring role as David Webb’s heroes booked a return to Division Three, a 2-2 draw at Bradford ensuring both teams would go up.

Heffernan had an eventful afternoon at Valley Parade and was delighted to leave the West Yorkshire venue looking like a new man.

Now 65 and living in Ireland, Dubliner Heffernan takes up the story for afcb.co.uk: “Bobby Campbell straightened my nose in that game!

“He was a big centre-forward from Northern Ireland and he scored their two goals that day. For the record, I wasn’t marking him!

“If their goalkeeper kicked the ball down the left-hand side, he would come in and jump sideways on and the elbow would come into you.

“My nose used to be like Steve Bruce’s but he straightened it for me and I thanked him after the game and bought him a couple of pints.

“Later in the game, I could see him coming so took three steps back, chested the ball down and smashed it as hard as I could at him. He put his hand up to block it and broke his wrist.

“After the game, we were standing at the bar and he said to me in his broad Northern Irish accent “I straightened your nose, you broke my wrist. I’m going to hospital and will see you next time”.

“Thankfully, it’s still straight to this day and I’ve managed to stay out of trouble!”

Heffernan, who joined the Cherries from Tottenham in May 1979, was part of a formidable back four under Webb, playing alongside John Impey, Phil Brignull and Chris Sulley.

He scored seven times from right-back and missed just one game in a marathon 55-match season which also saw the Cherries reach the third round of the FA Cup for the first time in nine years.

“I didn’t play in the 0-0 draw at Hull in our penultimate game of the season,” said Heffernan. “We were already promoted and couldn’t win the title.

“Derek Dawkins had hardly played all season and Webby pulled me and asked if I minded if he played instead of me. I asked if I would have to travel and Webby said no, so I didn’t mind.

“Some of the trips in those days were a nightmare. We went everywhere on the day and there was a bin at the front of the coach next to the driver which we used as a toilet.

“On the bus, we played cards and talked to each other. Me, Harry Redknapp and John Smeulders would sit together and have a King Edward cigar. It was crazy.

“On the way home, we would stop at the chippy and the off licence to get fish and chips and a few cans. We often got home in the early hours. Imagine them doing that now!”

Heffernan, who earned £80 a week when he joined the Cherries, also recalled a regular team-bonding event attended by the players: “We used to go to the pub every Wednesday night.

“We all used to meet up, all the players, but no staff or wives or girlfriends. We went to a pub in Christchurch and they used to have a band on.

“We didn’t go mad, maybe a couple of pints, and it was just bonding. We had a chat about the game coming up on the Saturday and what we were going to do.

“The manager and staff knew we went out and they ran the legs off us on the Thursday. Then, on Saturdays, we would go to war.

“I would buy my opponent a pint after the game but once you crossed the white line, you didn’t take any prisoners and we certainly didn’t.

“Webby was like that. He was hard as a player. What’s the point of being nice to somebody on the pitch. Be nice to them afterwards and, if you win, say “hard lines, see you next time”.

“Webby was a good man-manager. He said what he had to and got it off his chest. He was the type of fella you played for. You went out to give 100 per cent.

“He was very honest with you. He was upfront, he would call you in and tell you what the problem was and if you stepped out of line, he dealt with you in the right way. He had a lot of respect from all the players which was good.

“Alec Stock was a gentleman. He started the season by giving you an envelope with a letter inside which told you where you were playing and how many goals he expected you to score from that position. He gave me one with 12 and I said I was playing right-back not centre forward!”

Asked whether any players stood out that season, Heffernan, laughing loudly, replied: “Besides me?

He added: “We gelled as a team. We had some very good players and it clicked for us.

“Nigel Spackman came out of his shell after Brian Smith left and Ian Leigh took over from Kenny Allen after he had broken his wrist or arm. Ian was young and nervous but he had a brilliant season. Everybody played for each other.

“Kevin Dawtry was another very good player and Tony Funnell was quick and a good finisher. There were a lot of good players in the background and Milton Graham was coming through then.

“We had a great group which had a bit of everything. We only lost four games that season and it was a great achievement to win promotion, something I was proud to be a part of.”

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