The Punkiest Pirate in Town
At the Shrewsbury Town game we were joined by two former players, Paul Randall and Dave Wilcox.
Dave was brought in from Portway Bristol by Harold Jarman in 1979, initially on a non contract basis. Dave signed a professional contract in 1980 under Terry Cooper, but at the end of an awful season on the pitch Rovers were relegated and Dave was released before he could play a first team game.
Dave later played for Frome Town and Clevedon Town, and told the BRFPA that he enjoyed his time at Eastville alongside some great players including Tony Pulis, David Williams, Ian Holloway, Phil Kite and his best mate Mike Barrett who tragically died from cancer just a few years later, aged just 24.
Paul Randall barely needs an introduction. Paul was the darling of the Eastville terraces, and even after being sold for a staggering £180,000 to Stoke City in 1978, the fans helped pay for his return just over two years later, leading to a further 187 League appearances, and 61 more goals, before unexpectedly turning his back on full time football in March 1986 to become a new legend at both Yeovil Town (62 goals in less than 150 games) and Bath City (112 goals in 212 apps).
To this day Paul is still the only player since Bobby Jones and Harold Jarman to score over 100 goals in Rovers colours.
BRFPA Committee member, Simon Hedges, spoke to Paul about some of his memories in the famous blue and white quarters.
Strikers generally only talk about two things; goals they scored, and the defenders who used to kick them up in the air. Of the latter Paul names the hardest men he faced as Norman Hunter, Denis Smith, Sam Allardyce and Forbes Phillipson-Masters (once voted the poshest sounding player in football).
One of Simon’s own earliest away games was the infamous match at Walsall in April 1983. The Rovers Directors innocently provided free coach transport, ending up with around 40 coaches going. Paul recalls coach after coach after coach going up the M5 with fans continually waving at the players from their coach windows. The enormous following clearly didn’t have the desired affect though: Rovers were hammered 5-0 and the waving at the players on the way back wasn’t quite so appreciative of the Directors’ generous gesture, with Paul thinking ‘oh, here comes another one…’.
Coaches regularly feature in many football stories of yesteryear and they struck again at the last game of the following season on the way to Hull City in May 1984, resulting in the players changing on the coach and getting taxis to the ground. The taxi that Paul and Ray Cashley were in then proceeded to break down and they even helped the driver change a tyre with their full kit on. After finally arriving at Boothferry Park at around 3.15, they kicked off with hardly time for a breather. Ray though kept a clean sheet and Rovers earnt a point. One coach story that did have a happy ending!
Paul was actually born in Sefton, Liverpool and is still a very keen Liverpool FC fan. Whilst at Stoke City he found himself sitting on the sub’s bench at Anfield on April Fool’s Day 1980. If that was a ‘pinch me’ moment imagine his delight when he was called onto the pitch for the final 30 minutes.
Star struck Paul couldn’t remember much of the football though, only the staring at the packed stands and the famous Spion Kop. Curiously his penultimate goal for the Potters was a last minute equaliser against the Reds in November 1980.
Paul is now a keen darts and skittles player and regularly watches his son, Mark, play for Wells City. This is almost a full time job as Mark remarkably reached his 500th appearance for the Blue Army in November 2016; a club record. By his own admission Paul says his son has a sweet left peg, unlike himself!
Punky got his nickname for his love of the edgier music of his youth, and recalled watching The Jam in his Stoke days, alongside Lee Chapman and Adrian Heath. ‘Inchy’ was presumably sitting on Chapman’s shoulders!
In 2013 Paul finally answered the question he was regularly asked – “why don’t you write a book?” – by releasing his autobiography ‘Punky’ with Neil Palmer (JDM Media, 2013).