Tuesday, 13 July 2010

86 John Bramhall

Position : Centre half

Played : 1986-7 to 1987-8

Appearances : 86

Goals : 13

We're into the dreaded 1986-87 season now, one that brings back painful memories of some of the worst players ever to put on a Dale shirt. But John wasn't one of them ; he was an absolute hero who deserves to be on the same pedestal as the likes of Alan Reeves and Grant Holt and others who are better remembered because they were in more successful teams.

John was 29 when he signed on a free transfer from Bury. He began his League career with Tranmere after signing from Stockton Heath in 1977 making 170 appearances for them before moving to Bury in March 1982. In the next three sesons he missed only 5 games but in 1985-6 the arrival of future Dale man Peter Valentine displaced him and he only made 25 appearances mainly at right back plus 4 on loan to Chester.

John was Vic Halom's last decent signing and he had a daunting task. Halom had been ordered to slash the wage bill in response to some lost TV income and the saleable players had to go. John had to replace one of them , the popular Joe Cooke, both as centre half and captain. To make matters worse injuries meant that for most of the season his defensive partners were two guys who'd only played one league game between them prior to August. A born leader, John battled away at the back but also made a vital contribution upfront at corners and setpieces notching 9 goals including a brace in a home game against Torquay where he led a fightback from 0-3 down to get a draw. What's more, he was playing with a steadily worsening hamstring condition which left him vulnerable - he was absolutely murdered by David Platt away at Crewe - but he struggled on to secure our League safety.

The following season went a bit sour for John after the dressing room inquest following Dale's 8-0 defeat at Leyton Orient. When Eddie Gray criticised him, John retorted that he was " having to cover for the worst two fullbacks in the League" (Geoff Lomax and Peter Hampton, both Gray signings). Gray brought in Andy Duggan on loan from Huddersfield specifically to enable him to drop John but the financial crisis that hit us in December 1987 forced him to reinstate John who celebrated with a goal at Wrexham in his first game back. It was obvious to everyone that he wouldn't be retained at the end of the season and he moved on to Halifax.

After 18 months at The Shay (62 appearances, 5 goals) he moved on to Scunthorpe making another 32 appearances without scoring. He went to Hyde United for a spell but was already working for the P.F.A. where he has risen through the ranks to become Assistant Chief Executive.

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