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Club legend interview: Derek Spence

27 June 2017

Derek Spence opens up on his time at Roots Hall and playing in the Division Four winning side, which appeared in the matchday programme for the game against Bury.

You spent three years at Blues. The stand-out was obviously the Division Four winning season. What was your time like?

DS: We started off, Keith [Mercer] and I, that season and we got relegated in 1980 on the last day of the season.

I knew that team was a good team but we just didn’t get any luck in the last few matches and the last game against Hull we should’ve won it.

Going down was a massive body blow but the following season, I should’ve put my house on it. I’m not a gambler but I knew we would walk it because we had such a good team.

Everybody knew their job and I have to say it was one of the best teams I ever played in. We broke quite a lot of records and from my own point of view, having normally played in the north, I absolutely loved it.

The ironic thing about football is when things are going really well, that’s when you get a kick in the teeth. In 1982 I got a head injury and contracted shingles from that which took me quite a while to get over. Then eventually the Hong Kong Rangers came in and Dave Smith obviously thought maybe it’s time for me to go which was sad because I didn’t want to leave.

But the one thing I say about that team is they were all really focussed, a great set of lads. We did a lot of charity work off the field which I think really galvanised us together.

Keith said you would even admit he produced a lot of goals for you.

DS: Oh my goodness, absolutely! He was a wonderful player to play with because he was an out-and-out target man, a big strong lad who could score goals and we complimented each other.

I was given the freedom to get everywhere, so for anyone to mark me must have been a nightmare because I didn’t stick to a plan. But we knew, Keith and I, what we were going to do. We had a fantastic relationship on and off the field.

But it’s a completely different game today. I wouldn’t have enjoyed all this going back, passing it around. I just wanted to go forward!

And it’s great you're coming back because you had a stint with Bury also.

DS: I did. I had two teams where I won promotion and Bury was the first one. That was my first full season in English football as I first team player and we got promotion with Bury.

The only medal I won in English football was with Southend, so I have real mixed emotions.

I played with some fantastic players their and it was very different to the team I played with at Southend. But that Southend team that went up was a very, very strong team.

At Bury we played 4-2-4 and at Southend we played a very rigid 4-4-2 with Keith and I up front, so two totally different teams. I wouldn’t like to say who was the best.

Maybe for organisation Southend, but for flair and entertainment that Bury team was unbelievable. 

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