My Time At Town - Terry Gennoe: “Halifax gave me the chance to show what I could do”

Terry Gennoe. Photo: Johnny MeynellTerry Gennoe. Photo: Johnny Meynell
Terry Gennoe. Photo: Johnny Meynell
Terry Gennoe was going to give up football until Halifax Town offered him a chance to fulfill his obvious potential.

Teaching’s loss would be Halifax’s gain though as Gennoe blossomed into a goalkeeper destined for bigger things, having been schooled in the rough and tumble of lower league football at The Shay.

”I was going to give the game up,” recalls Gennoe, who went on to play for Southampton and Blackburn, where he has also worked as goalkeeping coach, as well as Newcastle, Celtic and Aston Villa.

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“I trained as a teacher and when I was at teacher training college I was playing for a Sunday League team in Shropshire called The Bricklayers Arms.

Gennoe in action away to Newport during the 1977-78 season. Photo: Johnny MeynellGennoe in action away to Newport during the 1977-78 season. Photo: Johnny Meynell
Gennoe in action away to Newport during the 1977-78 season. Photo: Johnny Meynell

”A scout from Bury came along and I was invited to play for their reserves.

”They wanted to sign me on a part-time contract when I was at college and I made my league debut at Workington.

”But things didn’t go my way, I broke my leg and never progressed as I wanted to.

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”I went for an interview at a school called St Stephen’s Juniors in Bury to become a teacher, and the board offered me the job, but wanted me to make a decision there and then.

Gennoe in action against Workington in August 1976. Photo: Johnny MeynellGennoe in action against Workington in August 1976. Photo: Johnny Meynell
Gennoe in action against Workington in August 1976. Photo: Johnny Meynell

”And for some reason, I don’t know what it was, I couldn’t let go of the thought of playing professional football, and I said no.

”A couple of days after, Halifax came in and offered £3,000 for me. Johnny Quinn was manager and Sid Farrimond was the coach.

”It was my last shake of the dice.

”I didn’t drive at the time so I had to travel from Bury to Halifax to train.

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Gennoe in action for Town away to Crewe in October 1976. Photo: Johnny MeynellGennoe in action for Town away to Crewe in October 1976. Photo: Johnny Meynell
Gennoe in action for Town away to Crewe in October 1976. Photo: Johnny Meynell

”What a place. We had to train on the moors, we didn’t have a training ground.

”Anybody that was injured used to have to keep watch for the council van because they used to come and turf us off.

”So for training to carry on, we sometimes had to pick up all the gear and move somewhere else.

”It added to the team spirit, it was fantastic.

Gennoe saves an effort at goal against Cambridge in October 1976. Photo: Johnny MeynellGennoe saves an effort at goal against Cambridge in October 1976. Photo: Johnny Meynell
Gennoe saves an effort at goal against Cambridge in October 1976. Photo: Johnny Meynell

”It wasn’t what I expected professional football to be, but it was a fantastic team spirit.”

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For a 22-year-old with little first-team experience, Gennoe’s time at Halifax proved eye-opening from the start.

”Percy Albon, the chairman, was a local plumber,” says Gennoe. “He was sat in the secretary’s room and the club doctor came in to do the medical.

“Percy was puffing on his pipe with ash dropping down and he said ‘he looks a big lad’.

”The doctor said ‘can you bend down and touch your toes?’

”I said ‘yeah’.”And he said ‘right, that’s fine’ and that was my medical.

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Gennoe in action away to Ipswich in January 1976. Photo: Johnny Meynell. Copyright: Ipswich Town FCGennoe in action away to Ipswich in January 1976. Photo: Johnny Meynell. Copyright: Ipswich Town FC
Gennoe in action away to Ipswich in January 1976. Photo: Johnny Meynell. Copyright: Ipswich Town FC

”I thought ‘this is crazy’.”It was quite a spartan dressing room, down that long corridor.

”They didn’t fix the roof because money was short, and they used to put buckets to catch where the rain was dripping through.

”Johnny Quinn was a fantastic guy, and Sid.

”Alan Ball Senior came in for the second part of my time and what a personality he was. Larger than life.

”When we first met him, all the lads were sat in the dressing room, door bursts open, in bursts Alan, hair all over the place, tie disheveled, black eye.

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”He said ‘before any of you say anything, you should see the other guy’.

”I thought ‘this is my new manager talking like this to us’.

”He was a strong character. I remember in pre-season we were at this country house type place and he said ‘right, one more run, one more hill run’.

”So the lads all went up, it was so hard, but he was a hard taskmaster.

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”He said ‘that was crap, we’re going to do another one’ and I looked out of the corner of my eye and this boot flew past Alan Ball’s face, must’ve been a couple of inches.

”Jimmy Lawson, one of the senior players. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

”And Alan said ‘right, I think we’ve done enough for the day lads’.

”I think it was the same pre-season, we were doing laps around the speedway track, which was a hell of a run because it was so soft with the shale.

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”We all looked round when we got back in and were like ‘where’s Geoff Harris?’ who was a young lad at the club.

”We went out and he’d collapsed and was resting behind the barriers, so we dragged him back in.

”We had to do one-minute laps round the track. Our game had been called off on the Saturday so Bally decided we’d do extra fitness work, and we had to do six one-minute laps, in the snow.

”He said if we did it in time, session’s finished. And because one player was a couple of seconds outside the minute, we were made to do it again.

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”This is my introduction to professional football. I thought it was going to be glamour and glory.

”One of my first experiences playing was up at Hartlepool, which was an experience in itself.

”I was quite naive. I went to pick the ball up and this young kid spat right in my face.

”So I picked him up and said ‘don’t ever do that again!’ and the few fans that were there rounded on me, and for the rest of the game I got lumps of concrete or whatever thrown at me.

”I said to the ref ‘what are you going to do?’

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”He said ‘you should learn not to open your mouth and get on with it lad’.

”So I learned at an early age, you just have to accept some things and get on with it.

”It was a tough learning curve, without a shadow of a doubt.

”And on the pitch, you had to toughen up quickly.

”First season I think we played Cardiff and there was an old centre-half called Eddie May.

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”He came up for a corner, I went to come and claim it, all confident, and smack! In my face, I fell to the floor, there’s blood pouring from my nose.

”I said to the ref ‘what are you going to do about that?’ and he said ‘don’t worry son, I’ve booked him’.

”Today it’d be a straight red. But if it taught me nothing else, it taught me I had to look out for myself on that pitch.”

Gennoe’s first season could hardly have gone any worse for The Shaymen, as they were relegated from the old Third Division, finishing rock bottom.

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”I think I was injured later on in that season and Alex Smith played, who was around 40 by then,” Gennoe says.

“We actually started the season quite brightly as I remember. We were up competing with the best of them, certainly early part of the season we were in the top half of the table.

”But results were poor and we had a small squad, and if we had injuries to certain players, we were going to struggle, and that’s what happened.

”You can only afford a certain number of star players and if they were missing it was very, very difficult to get a result.”

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And there was no bouncing back the following season, as Town finished 21st in Division Four.

”It was a tough time,” Gennoe says. “Financially, it’s always been difficult to compete because of not having the money to encourage players to Halifax.”

If things were gloomy on the pitch, then there were some lighter moments off it.

”I got to meet Eric Morecambe at The Shay when we played Luton in the FA Cup,” Gennoe recalls.

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”What a down-to-earth, lovely guy. I was in quite early, so there was the time to have a quiet chat.

”Experiences like that are priceless.

”At Christmas time we’d pick a venue and I remember one Christmas, we had a yard of ale drinking competition.

”I didn’t drive at that stage, so how I got back home I still couldn’t tell you.

”If you got to the final you ended up having to drink three yards of ale to win, but it was part of the culture in football at that time.

”And it was exactly the same when I went up the leagues.

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”But the team spirit was fantastic. I still follow and see what Halifax are doing, look for the results and hope they can climb back up the league again.

”If people were involved at Halifax it was because they had a passion for the club.

”John Crowther (board member) was a printer. The local tradesmen did what they could because they had a passion for the club.

”But they didn’t have an awful lot of money to pump into the club.

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”That spirit carried them a long way, and it was a good place to learn.

”It stood me in good stead later on in my career, because I learned to stand up for myself on and off the field.”

The parsimonious nature of life at Halifax certainly didn’t extend to any such luxuries as a goalkeeping coach.

”Pardon?” says Gennoe, with mock incredulity at the suggestion.

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”We’d join in with fitness work and even passing practice to make the numbers up and be part of it.

”And you usually found the goalkeepers would stay out longer than any others and work on their game, or a shooting session with a small group of players, and that’s where we’d get our specialised work, at the end of a session.

”Alan Ball Senior did encourage me to command my area, which ended up as a big part of my game.

”He did help me a lot, and was very supportive of me, and so were Johnny and Sid.

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”I had quite a few injuries throughout my career, and Halifax was no different.

”I think it was at Rochdale where a player got his boot caught between my fingers and broke them.

”The trainer came on, pulled my fingers back into place, strapped them together and I carried on.

”There was no substitute goalkeeper. I was talking to my wife about it and she was amazed at the number of injuries that I stayed on the pitch with.”

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Training may have been rudimentary, but Gennoe credits his spell with Halifax as a vital stepping stone in his development.

”I had improved but I’d still got a long way to go (by the time he left in February 1978),” he says.

“Halifax gave me the opportunity of playing regularly and it did teach me that I’ve got to look out for myself and you’ve got to be strong mentally and physically to be a goalkeeper.

”It was a far different game than playing Sunday League football with the Bricklayers Arms that’s for sure.

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”It brought it home for you when you realised you were playing for your living, playing for your mortgage. It’s down to the nitty-gritty.

”If you think you’ve got to put your head amongst people’s boots to get your bonuses, you did it, especially with the team-spirit we had because you could depend on the players beside you.”

When asked which of those players stood out, Gennoe says: “Derek Bell, his pace was phenomenal, and Joe Carroll, he was a young lad who was a talent as well.

”Other players like Tony Loska and Chris Dunleavy came in.

”The two centre-backs who were there when I first came in were very experienced, and by playing and training with them you gain so much.

”They spent time trying to help improve your game.”

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Gennoe’s talents had caught the attention of other clubs, setting him on the road for a long and distinguished career.

”The one game that gave me a leapfrog up the league was when Graham Taylor was manager of Watford,” Gennoe recalls.

”We had an away game at Vicarage Road, I think we drew 1-1, how we managed it I don’t know. They were camped in our penalty area for most of the game.

”After that, Watford put in a bid for me and I met Graham at The Shay.

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”Things had been agreed, and after we played Southend at Roots Hall, I was going to be a Watford player.

”I think we conceded five on a Friday night, it was a horrendous trip.

”I’d see the milkmen when I left Bury and I’d see them again the next morning when I was arriving back, because we didn’t stop over, we did it on the same day.

”At the end of the game, Alan Ball said ‘there’s somebody to see you outside’.

”I said ‘is it Graham Taylor’ and he said ‘no’.

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”I went to the door and Lawrie McMenemy was there. All of a sudden I wasn’t going to become a Watford player, on the Sunday I was going down to Southampton to meet with Lawrie.

”What a whirlwind moment for somebody who was playing lower down the league.

”We had moments when we played in-front of big crowds, like at Ipswich or Luton at home in the FA Cup, but they were few and far between.

”So to play regularly in-front of 10,000 plus was going to be fantastic.

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”But Halifax gave me the chance to show what I could do and catch the eye of managers up the league and give me an opportunity to play at a higher level.

”If it hadn’t been for Halifax I would not have got that opportunity. I would’ve probably been a teacher for the rest of my life.”

Thanks to Johnny Meynell for his help with this article.

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