Heroes & Villains, the Aston Villa fanzine

Heroes & Villains => Villa Memories => Topic started by: Steve R on October 17, 2012, 12:43:15 AM

Title: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: Steve R on October 17, 2012, 12:43:15 AM
I recently came across an old football book, The F.A. Book for Boys 1962/63 (number 15) Heinemann press. I would guess it was actually published either at the start or early in the 1962/3 season. It included the following article. It is lengthy and I considered editing it, but even the inconsequential stuff is a good read 50 years on. Apologies for reproducing it in full.


says John Sleeuwenhoek, Aston Villa's 19-year-old centre-half, who describes a day in his life.

I bet you cannot pronounce my surname, for it is not really typical of the grimy Black Country, where I was born and brought up in the heart of the Midlands. You see, my father happened to be a war-time paratroop instructor in the Dutch Army, stationed near my mother's home at Wednesfield, Staffordshire, only a few miles from Wolverhampton. And so, although my christian name is quite ordinary, my surname is a Dutch one. None of my pals has ever been able to pronounce it properly and they call me 'Slogger', 'Tulip' or 'Daffodil' because of my Dutch parentage.

Growing up as I did in the Black Country, I very soon developed a healthy English interest in soccer, and I loyally supported one of the big league clubs in the area, like all my friends. In my part of the world, a youngster usually supports either Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion or the Wolves. Although proud to be a Villa player now, I must confess that, as a lad. I was a fervent Wolves fan and was to be found on the Molyneux terraces for every home match, cheering on my Heroes in old gold and black.

At school, I was a tall boy for my age and seemed to settle down naturally in defence. I played for my school team, the South East Staffs representative side, which has produced so many fine players. Eventually I found myself in the England team where I played at right back and sometimes at inside right. After I joined Villa I also played for the England youth XI at centre half.

At one stage in my school career I heard that the Wolves had been watching me and were keen to sign me on. But as soon as I left school, Mr. Joe Mercer, the Aston Villa manager, stepped in and signed me on before any other club could make a move.

I have never regretted my decision to join this famous club. When I look back and think about two years ago I was just a humble groundstaff boy, sweeping the terraces at Villa Park, I sometime believe it is all a dream and wonder when I shall wake up! But each bright and crisp morning when I set out from my home for Villa Park I know that I am not dreaming after all. On mornings like these, I can hardly wait to get a kick at the ball!

I usually take a train into Birmingham and make my way by public transport to the ground in the Witton district of the city. We are expected to arrive by 9.45 a.m. and be ready changed into training kit by 10 a.m.

Including Mr. Joe Mercer, who usually takes part in all training and practice sessions, there are five coaches to look after us at Villa Park. They are at the ground earlier than the players and meet in Mr. Mercer's office to discuss the day's training programme. If it happens to be a Tuesday or Thursday they pick teams for full scale practice matches.

At 10 a.m., therefore, we are ready to walk down to the club's practice ground in Trinity Road which is only a few minutes away from Villa Park. Once a works sports ground, it has room for two full sized pitches and space for collective and individual coaching. Most leading clubs have these training grounds nowadays and it certainly saves wear and tear on the match pitch.

In our practice games the first team usually plays against the reserves, although Mr Mercer often decides to switch various players so as to give them experience of different positions. These games are certainly not light-hearted affairs as I can testify; everyone goes full-out as they would in a proper League match, and there are quite a few knocks and bruises afterwards. Quite often, Mr. Mercer, who takes part in the games himself, will stop games to explain where some of us have been going wrong.

Sometimes he will even do this before the game. The other day, for instance, having noted during our League match on the previous Saturday, we had been forgetting to call each other for the ball as we should have been doing, he collected the younger members of the side, including Alan Deakin our left half, Gordon Lee and Charlie Aitken, our full backs, our skipper Vic Crowe and, of course, myself, and told us exactly what he wanted us to do about it and why.

In the practice session that followed that morning, Mr. Mercer insisted that we did call to each other at the right time and in the correct manner. He had been a great 'caller of the ball' in his own playing days with Everton and Arsenal, and he explained to us how this helped to instil confidence in one another. He said this applied particularly to defenders under pressure who have to part with the ball quickly and want to know which colleague is on hand to receive it.

If there happen to be two practice games going on at the same time, Mr, Mercer will take part in both matches, crossing from one pitch to the other as the fancy takes him. You never know where he will pop up, and woe betide the player who is slacking or continually making the same mistake. Our manager soon lets him know all about it and I have been the culrpit more than once!

We normally train until 11.45 a.m. and then we trot back to Villa Park for our baths and any necessary treatment. The local folk are quite used to having a dozen or more muddy footballers dodging among them along the pavement.

The first thing we do when we arrive back at the ground is to make for the boot-room and thoroughly clean and brush our boots before placing them on the pegs allocated to us. Care of the boots is strictly observed at Villa Park and each player is responsible for his own pairs. In charge of the boot room and dressing-rooms is Phil Hunt who ha sbeen with the club for over thirty years. He takes our soiled training gear from us and then we make for the huge plunge bath, adjoining the home team dressing-room. I should explain that at Villa Park, the spacious home and visiting team dressing-rooms are on opposite sides of a corridor. On training days, the reserve players change in the visitors' dressing-room, but we all use one bath so there is a constant stream of towelled and dripping players moving between on dressing-room and another!

Sometimes, instead of going up to the practice ground, we spend the morning in the gymnasium which is situated under the club offices. Many years ago, when the site of Villa PArk was a giant amusement park, our gym was an aquarium stocked with tropical fish! I belive our gym is one of the finest in any league club. We have room there to do practically everything; there is even an indoor 'shooting gallery'.

After I have bathed and changed, I find out whether we are wanted for training in the afternoon. Normally, however, we only do this during the pre-season training period, unless Mr. Mercer wants us back for any special reason.

As I am still one of the 'younger set' at Villa Park, I naturally find my particular pals among the second and third team players who are more my own age and, like myself, single. On most days we all go to a local cafe for lunch. They know us there and we get a good hot meal which goes down very well after a stiff morning's work in the fresh air. After our meal, we sometimes go to a nearby club to play a few games of billiards or snooker, but recently we have discovered a new game to keep us interested during out off duty hours: Tenpin Bowling There is a very fine bowling alley near Villa park and I go there frequently to play this American skittle gamewhich is now becoming so popular over here. I find Tenpin Bowling a grand relaxation from the problems of soccer.

As I live outside Birmingham, I do not, as a rule, go home until late in the afternoon for my main meal of the day.

Of course, not every day is the same at Villa Park. Like other big clubs, Villa try to vary the training schedules as much as possible, depending on the time of the season. Sometimes we have tactical talks or see coaching reels or films of matches. There are many other activities too, including the occasional day's golf.

Sometimes, when the weather is bad, Mr. Mercer will take us up to the Central Council of Physical Recreation Centre at Lilleshall Hall in Shropshire. There they have a fine indoor practice pitch where we can play five-a-side football and take part in other team exercises. I always enjoy these outings: in Spring and Summer I know of nowhere more beautiful than Lilleshall Park, and it does make a nice change to train in such pleasant surroundings.

When I am off duty I always make a point of watching as much football as possible for you can always learn something from seeing others in action. I often attend Wednesday afternoon junior games as well, especially if any of the Villa junior sides are engaged, for then I can cheer on my pals.

Under Mr. Mercer, the training week is a very busy and enjoyable one at Aston Villa. And, of course, there is always the Saturday match to await - the culmination of our week's work - when the crowds roll up and precious points are at stake.
Title: Re: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: Dave Cooper please on October 17, 2012, 01:06:32 AM
Marvellous, great find and thanks for sharing.
Title: Re: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: The Left Side on October 17, 2012, 05:50:53 PM
Ahhhh, what a great read
Title: Re: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: PGW on October 17, 2012, 06:11:44 PM
This was indeed a great article and a tragedy that he died so young - 1989 or thereabouts.
Title: Re: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: Woofles The Wonder Dog on October 17, 2012, 10:19:05 PM
Cheers Steve. Happy memories. My memory may be false, but I remember that he wasn't that tall for a centre-half, certainly not these days. 5' 10" or something.

I was obsessed by height back then, being a runt (I trained with Sutton Town's Youth Team in the mid 60s, but never got a game despite hectoring the coach that I was the same height as Bobby Collins (5' 2"), though maybe it was because I was shit) and would check the programme for player stats to make my case.
Title: Re: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: SteveN on October 18, 2012, 11:26:31 AM
Thanks for posting, fascinating.

When I first started watching McParland and Hitchens were the stars but Slogger was my first real hero. 

I really can't remember how good he was but loved his committment and the sliding tackle.  On a greasy pitch he could start it from about the centre of the pitch and take the man somewhere near the touchline. 

The Slogger era is still my happiest time of watching the Villa, clearly based on my age and the times because most of that time we were dire. 
Title: Re: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: Andy_Lochhead_in_the_air on October 18, 2012, 08:14:11 PM
When I started watching the Villa in 1966, Slogger was one of the few signs of quality in an otherwise poor side.
Cannot find any footage of him playing, but here is a short clip of his wedding day.

Title: Re: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: Ron Manager on October 18, 2012, 09:45:38 PM
Between 64 to 66  Colin Withers our huge athletic goalie  Slogger and big Tone were the players who kept us in the top flight.

When Hateley moved on we did not have a chance of staying up and so it proved.

Slogger used to work in the club shop for a while and his son Kris was at Derby but never lived up to his early promise.
Title: Re: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: pooligan on October 19, 2012, 09:09:42 AM
Slogger  was one of my first real Villa heroes along with Withers,Hateley and Burrows. Was like a rock in the middle of a overworked Villa defence. Can't remember why he left Villa,but i do remember to my horror that he went to what he said was a better club who just happened to be Small Heath. Maybe it was Ron Wylie or Stan Lynn who talked him into moving across the city but i do know he was never as good for them as he was for villa
Title: Re: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: Rudy Can't Fail on October 19, 2012, 02:15:32 PM
Thanks for that, Steve, especially writing it all up yourself, complete with spelling errors. ;)

Great read. It's wonderful to see how a young, local lad sees life as a Villa player. Interesting also to read about Joe Mercer, who three years later suffered a heart attack and after sacked by the Villa, bringing an end to the  'Mercer Minors'. I've always wondered what he could have achieved at the Villa, had we kept him on. He certainly had success at Man City, winning the league, both cups and the Cup Winner Cup.
Title: Re: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: Brend'Watkins on October 19, 2012, 04:54:43 PM
Nice find Steve.

What an innocent time.
Title: Re: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: Steve R on October 19, 2012, 07:57:24 PM
Thanks for that, Steve, especially writing it all up yourself, complete with spelling errors. ;)

An official FA book too. You'd think they would take more care  ;)
Title: Re: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: dcdavecollett on January 23, 2020, 10:44:08 PM
Like RM, I remember watching Slogger, one of our few quality players in those days. He went to SHA for £45,000 but failed to improve their weak backline.

Before our home game against Portsmouth in the Spring of 1973, he served me in the club shop!
Title: Re: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: Pat McMahon on January 23, 2020, 11:01:05 PM
I remember my dad pointing him out to me in the club shop too, maybe early 70s.

A lovely read by the way, thanks.
Title: Re: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: papa lazarou on January 23, 2020, 11:07:11 PM
Like the other posters he was one of my early heroes. I remember him walking off the pitch in tears after the home defeat by Everton in 67 when we were doomed to relegation. We then lost to Southampton 6-2 which was his last game before he moved to the dark side.
He was only 45 when he died.
Title: Re: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: The Charmer on January 23, 2020, 11:13:11 PM
What a great find. I really enjoyed reading that and, yes, the innocence of how the game was for a promising young player like Slogger jumps off the page at you.

I thought he was about to give me the definitive pronunciation of his surname but he stopped short!

I always read it as ' Slee - ven - hook'.  Close anyone?
Title: Re: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: dcdavecollett on January 23, 2020, 11:38:11 PM
I think it was Sle-ven-hook, though I've also heard it pronounced Slew-en-owk.

I think he played a few games for us in Division Two in 1967 before he joined Small Heath.
Title: Re: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: papa lazarou on January 24, 2020, 12:26:39 AM
I think it was Sle-ven-hook, though I've also heard it pronounced Slew-en-owk.

I think he played a few games for us in Division Two in 1967 before he joined Small Heath.

You're right Dave, brain fade, I had to look it up but he didn't leave until the November.
Title: Re: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: Flamingo Lane on January 24, 2020, 08:23:08 AM
That's a great read..

As part of his role at the club after he finished playing, as well as working in the shop he would travel around the Midlands delivering Villa bingo tickets to those who like my dad would then sell them at his work and the pub etc.  He used to call in every Friday morning at our house, much to the approval of my mum, as he was quite a good looking fella.
Title: Re: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: dave shelley on January 24, 2020, 08:58:12 AM
I completely missed this thread, I remember him very well as a member of Mercer's Minors.  I saw him play for England U23's along with Alan Deakin in a match at St. Andrews.

I think he played for the Blues the season we got relegated to the third division in a match where Bruce Rioch scored a screamer and we won for, I think the only away victory of that season.  I could be wrong about that though.

The last time I saw him was after a match at the Wolves, League Cup I think, we'd won and I saw him and what I took to be his son as we were leaving.  He certainly gave his all for the Villa every time he played, so very sad that he died so young.

Thanks for posting, an enjoyable read that evoked so many memories for me.

*Edit:  I forgot to add that unfortunately he played most of his career with us when we really were awful.
Title: Re: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: Oscar Arce on January 24, 2020, 02:50:03 PM
Although slightly before my time, I think Slogger played in the 6-2 home defeat by Chelsea, correct me if I'm wrong, which you can find on youtube.
Yes he went over to the dark side, and I also remember him playing against us for Torquay, with other ex-Villains Dick edwards and Tommy Mitchinson, when we were in the Third Division
Title: Re: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: dcdavecollett on January 25, 2020, 08:59:32 PM
You last two posters are both spot-on. Slogger did play in the matches you refer to.
Title: Re: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: Villan For Life on January 25, 2020, 09:21:56 PM
I donít remember this guy because as a young 53 year old heís slightly before my time, I recognise his name from reading various Villa stuff over the years but what really resonates with me is his description of life as an apprentice. Brian Little also describes it well in his last book and both are an interesting insight into the life of an apprentice footballer which is long gone.
Title: Re: The young Slogger speaks.
Post by: Andy_Lochhead_in_the_air on January 25, 2020, 09:49:43 PM
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