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The Turning Point

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Relegated to Division 3 for the first time in our history in 1971, we started life in the lower leagues dismally. Ten defeats and only eleven points gained from our first 17 games saw us next to bottom and with confidence exceptionally low we were heading for the abyss and Division 4.

Step in Big John McNamee. As Mike Jackman says he was a rough, tough centre half in the traditional mould. Few frills to his game, he simply used his height and weight to intimidate opposing forwards. He was born to play centre half and did it with relish.

He signed from Newcastle in time to play Tranmere away on 26 November 1971. A car load of us went to that Friday night game in Birkenhead and what a joy. Big John shored up the defence, we started to play with a newly found confidence and with goals from Price, Field (one of my top five ever Rovers) and Conlon, we won 3-1 and started our climb from probable oblivion.

Make no mistake about it this was a turning point. Only five years previously we had been rubbing shoulders with Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Spurs et al but were now, it seemed, destined to be playing Workington, Crewe and other Division 4 outfits.

We came back from Tranmere full of hope and sure enough started to win games. December and January yielded four valuable wins, three draws and only two defeats. Big John found the net three times during this period and ended the season with a credible six including a brace against Brighton at Ewood in April. One of these was the hardest shot I have ever witnessed in football. He blasted the ball from inside the centre circle which nearly removed the net from the Darwen End goal. It wasn't a lob or a looped attempt, the ball kept more or less the same height from centre circle to net.

Ten further wins and six losses saw us finish the season in 10th and, importantly, both saved us from potential disaster and gave us breathing space before a small amount of team building allowed us to have two good seasons (3rd & 13th) prior to winning the 3rd Division in 1974/75.

Anyone who followed Rovers at that particular time in the early 70s knows the gloom, doom and despondency that was around. The late 60s were bad enough but what could have happened had we been relegated to Div 4 doesn't bear thinking about.

McNamee partnered Faz for the most part of the 72/73 season but didn't feature the following season and in December 1973 was transferred to Hartlepool on a free.

In such a short space of time he gave the club a huge lift and in my opinion was a major factor in saving us from disaster............he was The Turning Point. :brfc:

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Spot on CLB. I was at Tranmere that night, didn't Beamo score their goal then join us shortly after?

It certainly was a turning point. The future was really grim then. The thought of rovers drawing in millions as part of a TV deal wasn't on anyone's horizon.

Another centre half in the same mould as McNamee, was John Coddington, who played around the same time as McNamee. They were both centre halves of very limited ability, but had the "they shall not pass" attitude lacking in some modern central defenders.

Good post!

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