ON MONDAY, April 23, I’m sure that many Bristol Rovers supporters, officials and former players will be at South Bristol Crematorium to pay their last respects to the late Terry Oldfield, who lost his long battle with illness on March 28.
One from the ‘old school’ of footballers who demonstrated total loyalty and commitment to his team and always found time for the fans, Terry will be sorely missed.
I bumped into Terry on a number of occasions over the years, sadly, often at funerals of his former Bristol Rovers colleagues, and featured him as my Memory Lane guest back in 2005. I make no apology for telling his story, with a few updates, once again.
The record books show that Terence James Oldfield was actually an amateur with rivals City as a teenager, but left without signing a contract to play for local amateur side Clifton St Vincents, where he played a significant role in the club reaching the Norman Hardy Cup final.
He soon came to the attention of Rovers, signing for them in February 1958. Back in the day, football clubs had huge squads and it would be November 1960 before Terry would make his senior debut (a 2-0 defeat at Roker Park against Sunderland) although two years National Service didn’t help his case for making the first team.
One of just two appearances that term, Terry would make a mere three appearances the following campaign, a season that saw Rovers tumble into soccer’s third tier (now League One).
But for the next three seasons he was one of the first names on the team sheet. Originally signed as a striker, Terry was switched to wing half, effortlessly slipping into the new role.
“Looking back, the local derbies with City were always special occasions,” Terry told me, when we got together for the first time over 17 years ago. “Then there were the pre-season training sessions when we used to stay at Burnham-on-Sea, they were great for team bonding. Oh yes, there was the time we went to Old Trafford for a cup match.
“They had a forward line of Herd, Law, Charlton and Best. We lost and I think Denis Law got a hat-trick – but what a fantastic experience.”
Terry would go on to make 145 appearances for Rovers, all under one manager, Bert Tann. “He was excellent. Nothing moved or happened at the club that Bert Tann didn’t know about.” And, pressed on the best player Terry lined up with during his time at the club, he replied;
“Probably Alfie Biggs – a great player for Rovers.”
The 1965-6 season would prove to be Terry’s last at Eastville, his final game a 0-0 draw with Reading at Eastville on April 9, 1966.
He moved on to Wrexham, where he was promptly made captain. But, in conversation with Terry in later years, he revealed he had actually captained Rovers once in his career.
“Ironically, it was away at Bradford Park Avenue in April 1963, the game that made the headlines for two of our players (goalkeeper Esmond Million and forward Keith Williams) becoming involved in a bribery scandal, after it emerged that they had agreed to throw the match.
“Bert Tann acted very honourably in suspending the players involved and informing the appropriate authorities.”
A natural leader, Terry was an automatic choice for his new club, but his career would be brought to a premature end after forty-odd appearances.
“I was doing OK there and then we played the Welsh Cup final against Cardiff City and I got caught by a really bad tackle, which finished my playing career,” revealed Terry. “You expect to get injuries, but this tackle was deliberately late. Of course, in those days, players didn’t sue other players for ending careers like they can do today. Getting ‘done’ like that was definitely the lowest point of my career.”
Keen to stay in the game, Terry followed his Wrexham boss to Bradford Park Avenue (another of life’s little ironies), to take up a coaching role.
“Jack was probably the main reason I went there. It was a disaster, the worst year of my time in football. No facilities, no money, no organisation, nothing. It was no surprise to me when they went out the league.”
After leaving the game, Terry tried his hand at a number of occupations – estate agent and auctioneer, pub landlord and, when we first met up, he was a cabbie in the Bristol area, a job he stayed with until his retirement.
“I became a cabbie after chatting to a neighbour who drove a taxi,” explained Terry. “It’s great. I’m my own boss, can pick the hours to suit me and get away to the golf club whenever I want.”
In addition to football and golf, Terry was also a more than useful cricketer for Somerset and Brislington.
No sooner was the soccer season over, then Terry would be donning his cricketing whites. With the seasons of the two sports overlapping, this could cause football managers problems. No worries on that score with Terry for Bert Tann though.
“Football was always my priority,” Terry pointed out to me.
Living in Backwell at the time of our original meeting, Terry moved to Long Ashton after retiring.
Dogged by illness in later years, he passed away on March 28, just three days short of his 79th birthday.
When told of Terry’s passing, former team-mate Gwyn Jones, was devastated by the news. “Oh no, how very sad,” was his response, when I contacted him at his home in Anglesey. “Terry was a very strong personality and Bristol Rovers through and through. He loved that club and always gave everything. He didn’t get the success he deserved. I’m very upset to hear this news.”
The funeral, on Monday (April 23) is at 10.30 am, with, no doubt, many former friends and players gathering at South Bristol Crematorium to pay their last respects. This will be followed by a wake at Backwell Village Social Club.