Nick Deacy - MTFC, PSV and FAW. by Wolvesy

Nick Deacy was one of those players that my Dad would talk about with reverence, he arrived at Penydarren Park, scored goals for fun under John Charles and then left for Hereford but it’s what he did next that makes him one of our most successful players. Nick Deacy signs for PSV Eindhoven, wins the UEFA Cup and plays for Wales. We’ve tried to track down Nick down for a few years now as part of our Ex-players Day event but with no luck but a recent (and excellent) Radio Wales programme with Steffan Guero finally got us in touch and so one cold evening I went into deepest Cardiff to meet the man who was discovered by John Charles and replaced John Toshack for a while in the Wales team.

Nick and his lovely wife Frankeline (I hope I’ve spelt that properly!) were amazing hosts and we spent a hour or so just discussing football in general and now and then I tried to ask a question relevant to the Martyrs, so here goes;

Who saw you play for Cardiff Corries and signed you?
I was playing in the Welsh League, maybe against Merthyr, and John Charles saw me. And so he came knocking the door which was amazing, my Dad was more thrilled than me being of that generation. So that was it really. John used to take me up to Merthyr in his Fiat 500, two of us cramped up in the front

Well he had to have a Fiat didn’t he coming from Turin?
Of course he had a Fiat, we understood it to have been a present to him.

The team of that team included a few ex-league players like Doug Rosser
Dilwyn John, Doug Rosser, Mel Nurse, Carl Slee, George Jones, Alan Smith from Newport, Derek Bryant and later Barrie Jones and also Alan Sullivan. I loved my time at Merthyr.

Did you play in the Hendon game or had you left by then?
I played in the Hendon game. You know the story don’t you? Two reasons we lost, we didn’t come out of the hotel until half past two and we’d had a full meal, John Charles decided that, it’s the only time it ever happened when I was at Merthyr, to have a pre-match meal in a local hotel, not sure which though

Castle Hotel? It’s got to be that one
Yes that rings a bell, the Castle Hotel. It was a full meal “have what you like lads” so it was steak & chips all round, honestly we finished at half past two, we walked to the ground, we had to speed up a little bit as we knew we were late and we got dumped 3-0. That was really disappointing because we were in the club after and they used to do the draw and Hendon drew out Newcastle. That was about our 6th or 7th FA Cup game that season as we’d gone all the way through the preliminary rounds, replays etc. That was a disappointment.

It was after that you went to Hereford then?
So it was at the end of the season, and I think I played a couple of games in 74/75 but because I scored so many there was so many clubs coming to watch and there was interest but it never really happened, I found out why a little bit later. John Charles (laughing) had been apparently been selling me to clubs and he wanted a certain amount of money and they were not forthcoming and it simply didn’t happen and I was just wondering why coz I was just scoring for fun here. Anyway at the start of the next season I think Merthyr made the decision, because John had left, “right we need to sell Nick for whatever we can get now, there’s a little bit of profit in you so we’ll sell” so I went for about £1500 to Hereford United and that was great. They were in the Football League, third division at the time.

It was at the end of that first season with Hereford we played in Amsterdam in a tournament where we played against PSV and others, that’s where they saw me when we played against them, it was great, I didn’t know who they were, PSV, I had no idea, they whisked me off in the middle of the tournament, the manager was John Sillett at Hereford, remember him?, we were over there for about a week in the tournament, PSV whisked me off and I got back about 11 o’clock and Sillett was up and he said “I know where you’ve been” and he threatened me, physically, and added “If I find out where I think you’ve been, you’re in big trouble”, anyway he knew where I’d been and it went on in the summer then the transfer, they bought me for about £25k which was a nice profit for Hereford, less than a year after leaving Merthyr I was playing in the European Cup, boyhood dreams, it was fantastic.

It’s a very interesting story as you are the only Merthyr player to go on and win a UEFA Cup and I remember you coming back to Merthyr in the mid-eighties;
Oh yes I did, yes, very much at the end of my career.

John Charles was your manager right up until you left Merthyr?
Yes he left at the end of that season and Les Graham, ex Newport County manager, came and he was there for the first couple of game I played in 74/75 an then, as I said, they had the chance to sell me so I went off to Hereford. The seasons with Merthyr were fantastic, it was my first experience of professional players and ex-professional players, there was a whole load; Doug Rosser, Mel Nurse, John Charles of course, Barrie Jones, Barrie was involved in Cardiff City European Cup run in ’68 and I remember him playing for City and suddenly I playing with him, so exciting, so exciting, and scoring for fun it was absolutely fantastic and I have to say it gave me my most exciting moment in football at Merthyr.

At Merthyr?
Yeah. It was for me, simply because it was against Macclesfield in I think the first round proper of the Cup and we’d drawn up in Macclesfield and then we came back and it was 1-1 with a couple of minutes left and Barrie Jones crossed from the right and I belted it in and it was just so exciting, I was on my own in the car going home just full of excitement waiting for the South Wales Echo to come out and I always remember the pure, pure excitement of that moment because there must have been 4,000 there, published 4,000 so that means probably 6,000 of course.

We’re hoping for a similar crowd on Boxing when Hereford visit us
Really? That’d be good mind you but I have got the Dutch side of my family over here.

Do you want to take them to Merthyr???
It’d be ten tickets as they’re all coming over. We’ll see what happens.

Yes, the pitches you played on would have been very different;
Yes I’m thinking of the Hendon game when we ran out the grass was about 4 inches and Ken Tucker was there, a good guy a lovely guy, so we all gave him a rollocking but we didn’t really mean it for not getting the grass cut. “The council wouldn’t do it” was the excuse. Ken was a great man, loved him, he was good. Of course we had Maldwyn Davies as Chairman who owned the Bingo Club.

Ken Tucker who is of course Mr Merthyr Football reckons that Maldwyn Davies was the best Chairman we ever had because he paid everything out of his own pocket;
I definitely remember the bingo hall because when they realised that clubs were looking at me I was on an amateur contract so I could have just walked away until one day John Charles took me down to the bingo hall, I can’t say too much, because there was a kerching of the till and then “buy yourself a car” and that’s the way it was in those days. It was all declared of course (laughing).

As we were talking, drinking tea, eating biscuits we also looked through Nick’s programme collection from the seventies, he has a nice collection of matches and often we would look at team mates etc.

There’s a programme here from New Year’s Day at Kidderminster in 1974 with just four pages, a fold over and just the teams what’s that all about?
First of January? Kidderminster? I’ll tell you what that was a Sunday afternoon, it was Sunday football, it was the power cuts and the three day weeks, the whole season was affected by it.

So how many goals do you think you scored for Merthyr?
I don’t know how many games I played I think it was between 60 and 70 but officially I scored 49 goals for Merthyr but I know I scored 50 and I had an argument with Ken Tucker because strikers always keep a tally of the goals, they know them to the exact goal whether it was accredited to them or not.

Was there a disputed goal then?
There wasn’t a disputed goal but there was a disputed total because we played in a few Welsh Cup games and we played for the Welsh League side as well and I scored a few in there as well so I was adding those up and so was Ken but he still came up with 49 and I just kept saying to him “it’s 50 Ken, it’s 50”.

Right, we’ll call it 50 from now on then.
Fifty is always a good total.

You can sort this out maybe at one of our ex-players’ day where players such as Paul Caviel, Doug Rosser and David Jones will be there;
Paul Caviel, yes I remember him, he used to be an athlete before he played for Merthyr.

You mentioned Alan Smith earlier and he comes to the event with George Young;
Oh yes they went everywhere together, they used to go training together, play together, there’s a bit of string between them. They were good lads but they were all good lads in that team Johnny Wakeham, he didn’t take any prisoners in those days, in fact we had a good defence Dilwyn, Mel, Doug, Carl. Ooh, Carl Slee, he was a bit tasty as well.

Did you ever get sent off in your career?
No but I think that’s because it was different then, it was legalized thuggery in those days (laughing), genuinely it was, you know, flying fists, hard tackles, bad tackles, you had to do something really criminal to get yourself booked or sent off. Jeez, these day you just lift an arm and you’re off.

So the year you came back, you played just the one season?
Yes I came back and Fred Davies was the manager. It certainly wasn’t a full season. I think I was just trying to find my way. I’d just got back into the area so I was just looking around really. No, I played a season ’84 and I had a pelvic strain at Merthyr which finished me at Merthyr. For a couple of months it was a tear in the cartilage in the pelvis and that finished me for the rest of the season in Merthyr. So I went back out to Hong Kong after that. I had two spells in Hong Kong.

A well travelled player then? Wales, England, Netherlands, Belgium, Hong Kong.
Have you been to Hong Kong? A wonderful place.

Do you watch much football now?
Not really, I’ll watch the big games on the TV now and then. I really enjoyed the recent Wales v Panama game though, it was a great game, the youngsters looked great, end to end stuff and Wales were much the better team until that last-minute goal.

Did John Charles really drive the team bus sometimes?
Mostly it was a bloke called Dai Owen. One of the directors, he used to drive. He used to get mad with us as well.

Dai Owen? He used to terrify me, I think he hated kids
He was a shocker, I think he was only about 50 at the time but we thought he was 90, he wasn’t the politest of guys, we had a big vehicle, it was a bus but not a bus, it was a box on wheels, it was a Bedford (van) or something, it was a proper 20-seater but it was genuinely a box on a chassis.

You’ve just reminded me of a Dai Owen story, we’d just set off for an away game and we were giving him stick, we’re driving down Merthyr High Street and anyway someone had given a bit of stick, a bit of verbal he stopped the bus said drive yourself and just got out and left the bus in the middle of the street. It was left to either Ieuan Evans or maybe John to drive it. Ieuan Evans was a lovely man.

Nick also has a big interest in the research of the effect of heading footballs in dementia. He was very passionate about the issue and was quite angry with the PFA and in particular Gordon Taylor who has in his opinion done nothing on the subject. Although he did have praise for the PFA for when they saved the players’ contracts during Nick’s time at Hull City.

Do you return to Eindhoven still?
Oh yes, we go back once or twice a year. I visit the club occasionally but not so often as most of the people I knew have moved on. When I was there though it was a great club, really professional and I mean in the sense that they looked after the players, the behaviours, treating people right, even when I wanted to leave I went into the manager and I said it’s time for me to leave and he said “have you got anywhere fixed up Nick?” and I said yes and I admitted that I’d been tapped up by somebody and he was fine about it, he said “that’s great, that’s OK”, they were so professional about it and then when I left the club I had a phone call about a few weeks later and I was only over the border in Belgium and they said that they’d like me to come to the next board meeting, and I thought what’s up are they going to re-sign me?, so they called me in and all the bigwigs from Phillips were there and they said “Nick, we just wanted to thank you for the last three years” and that was it and I though how nice is that. Now I look back and I think that was decent of them.
Do you speak Dutch at all?
Fluently.

John Toshack is another player from that era who went away and immersed himself in the local culture, you played with him too.
We didn’t see eye to eye. It was really interesting, I made my debut against Czechoslovakia in 1977 and he was injured or something, I can’t imagine he was dropped, so I was in for my debut as I said against Czechoslovakia up at Wrexham and he came in to the dressing room about 10 minutes before we went out and he went all around the room shaking hands with absolutely anyone, da da da da da, he came to me and just moved onto the next one and I thought OK I’ve got you now.

You were very similar though in that you went abroad and learnt the language
Yes but to be honest because they speak such good English and in the first couple of years they just kept speaking in English to me so it came to a point when I said speak to me in Dutch please and so it was slow but I then met Frankeline and we went through a period of speaking 100% Dutch in the house, 100% English and now it’s English but if we go back to Holland it’s purely Dutch. It’s now becoming better now as I become comfortable in using it. I’m always learning.

The football club is looking to see if we can forge links with another Dutch club VVV Venlo;
VVV, I made my debut against them. Why?

We played them at Merthyr in the fifties as part of the Festival of Britain project;
So you’ll go out there? Their stadium is very cool, it’s in a dip and they’re a very friendly club. I can help translate for you if you like, very reasonable rates and a couple of pints.

Did you ever go into coaching after your playing career ended?
I could never understand coaching, it was all playing for me and nothing else. I’m working in IT now, I work for a company in Caerphilly and before that I was in Bristol for 25 years with Axa and Airbus.

So you went directly from football to IT which was probably just starting to expand?
It was perfect timing. It hadn’t taken off, it was about 86/87, BBC computers, Spectrums and whatever. The government was offering at the time was I think called a TOPS course and it was a retraining or a training programme and one of them was IT fundamentals and you went on it for three months and after my course in Cardiff they got me an interview with Airbus in Bristol so I turned up, got the job and that was it, I was away with IT. Airbus was the perfect employer for me to learn the job as IT expanded. It was also great as a transition from a football environment to an office where you had to behave very differently. It was a great experience.

Wales team memories?
I remember when we played Scotland in 1977 for the World Cup, the match originally was scheduled for Wrexham but the Welsh FA switched it to Anfield so we could get 55,000 instead of 20,000 but of course 50,000 were Scottish. I was on the pitch when Joe Jordan did it (the handball) but I didn’t see it. It’s just annoying though that he still hasn’t admitted it. I went down for a penalty against Ireland and got away with it, everyone tried to get away with things.

Terry Yorath was the captain in those days and he was no-nonsense on the pitch, I remember playing in the 1-0 win over England at Wembley in ’77, Leighton James scored a penalty for us, and we were a couple of minutes away from the final whistle and Terry went around every player to warn us not to celebrate too wildly when we won, he didn’t want us to go over the top, but when the ref blew up for full time I was jumping around with Brian Flynn and Yorath was less than pleased with us. We’d just beaten England away though.
It was an absolute privilege to interview Nick and we could have filled many more pages, for example to cover his brief career as a radio pundit, but hopefully he can make the Ex-Players’ Day at Penydarren Park on 3rd March 2018 so we can share some more memories of an amazing career.


Wolvesy

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