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'Pat hands me the phone and it was Kenny Dalglish. He goes ‘We really want you to sign’'

Eddie Gormley tells us all about his time in England, returning to the League of Ireland and falling into management.

Gormley enjoyed six successful years at St Pat's.
Gormley enjoyed six successful years at St Pat's.
Image: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

“I HAD BEEN PLAYING with Bray about two months when Pat Devlin called me in from training and said: ‘Right, you can go to either Liverpool or Spurs. It’s whichever one you want’.”

Having attracted little or no interest from clubs after finishing up in schoolboy football, Eddie Gormley had already accepted that his dream to play professionally would never become a reality.

Now — to his astonishment — he was being told to take his pick from two of the biggest names in English football.

Originally from Deansgrange in South Dublin, Eddie had lined out for St Joseph’s Boys over a 10-year period and, after completing school, took up a job in supermarket chain H Williams.

“I just loved playing football from the minute I got up in the morning and I’d have to be dragged in off the street at night,” Gormley remembers.

“I always thought I’d like to be a professional footballer, but I didn’t think I would get there. I played with Joey’s from 8 to 18 but I never went on trial anywhere. Although I had a few sides trying to poach me here, I’d be fairly loyal in that way and as a result I didn’t have many clubs during my career.

“After U18s, nobody came near me. Joey’s had a Leinster Senior League team in the top division at that time but there were no offers. I decided that it was the end of the football and I’d concentrate on working. I genuinely believed that I’d just play for the local team somewhere.”

A chance meeting with Bray Wanderers’ Colm Phillips was to change all that, however. While at work one day, Phillips called in and asked Gormley if he would be interested in playing in a seven-a-side tournament.

Seagulls boss Pat Devlin, who he knew to say hello to as they lived in the same area, got wind of the youngster’s ability and invited him to sign up with the League of Ireland club. Devlin would go on to have a huge influence on Gormley’s career and, remarkably, the pair are working together all these years later.

Pat Devlin  Bray Wanderers 8/12/1996 Pat Devlin. Source: © INPHO/Patrick Bolger

His first season in senior football hadn’t even begun when Gormley was sent on trial to Liverpool. He performed well and the Reds, back then at the height of their powers, were keen but the midfielder wasn’t sold on the idea.

“I have to say that the people at Liverpool were absolutely brilliant, but it was the first time I had been out of the bloody country!” Gormley explains. “I was over there for a week and I had been meant to come home but there was a really bad storm in Ireland so we couldn’t fly back and I ended up staying for another three days.

“I was in digs and they were nice people but it was something I wasn’t used to. That was the reason I didn’t fancy Liverpool.

“I knew Steve Staunton and I was talking to him as well. I’m a Man United supporter so it wouldn’t have gone down to well either! No, it was nothing to do with that but sometimes you know if it’s for you or it’s not. They were winning leagues and I just couldn’t see myself getting in there.”

After turning down what appeared to be a golden opportunity, Gormley was invited over to Devlin’s house before training one evening.

He takes up the story: “I call in and the next thing is the phone goes. He’s talking to someone, then says ‘Eddie, come out here. Someone wants a word with you’.

Pat hands me the phone and it was Kenny Dalglish. He goes ‘We really want you to sign’. I said ‘Right, Kenny. No problem, I’ll have a think about it’. I put the phone down and said ‘Feck you, Pat. What did you put him onto me for?!’. He had put me on the spot.

“I told him I didn’t enjoy it when I was there. They had promised the sun, moon and stars but I repeated that I just wasn’t interested.”

ENGLISH SOCCER Liverpool legend Kenny Dalglish. Source: EMPICS Sport

So Gormley stayed put and went on to make 13 appearances in his debut campaign for Bray. They faced Dundalk up at Oriel Park and lost 2-0 but, as it happened, there was an interested spectator in the crowd that night.

“It was the worst game I played up to that stage,” he admits. “I thought I was dreadful.

“We came back and in the old days we used to go for a pint. Pat walked in and said ‘The Spurs scout wants a word with you’. I agreed to go over on the Monday so myself, Pat and one of the Bray directors went to White Hart Lane and stayed the whole day there negotiating my contract.

“I had a brother living down the road in Watford at the time so it was a nice fit for me. I ended up signing a three-year deal with Spurs.”

Thanks to the brief experience at Liverpool, Gormley was better-prepared for the move to London but still found it difficult to get his head around the sheer size of the city. To help settle in, he lived with an Irish family at first and quickly learned to drive so he could visit his brother, while his girlfriend (who would later become his wife) moved over after six months.

“A lot of people don’t understand that homesickness is a hard thing to cope with,” he says. “I was lucky the way certain things went for me. I saw two or three Irish lads who went over and lasted a month before they had to go home.

“I just had the mentality that I wanted to be a professional footballer. I said I’d be a sponge, listen to everything I was told and try to carry out whatever the coaches told me to do.”

Back then, Tottenham were managed by Terry Venables and Gormley was extremely impressed by the future England boss.

You would run through walls for him, he was excellent,” he says.

“I played a reserve game against Fulham at Craven Cottage on the Wednesday. We won 4-2, I scored two and set up two. I was the only player playing that day who hadn’t been given a shot in the first team.

“Afterwards, Venables pulled me aside and said it was the best game he had seen me play for the club. On the Saturday, we were at home to Charlton. We arrived at the ground and I was called in by Ray Clemence, who was reserve manager. He told me I wasn’t involved.

“It’s fair to say I wasn’t too happy so I got into the car and drove home. On the Monday, Venables summons me to the office and asks why I had left the game. He said ‘Listen, anytime you’re called up to a squad you stay and watch the game’.

“He fined me two weeks’ wages. I had a colossal mortgage at the time with the girlfriend, and I said ‘How do you expect me to become a first team player if you don’t give me an opportunity?’.

“That was that, but when I looked at my next pay packet, it had ‘Two weeks’ fine’, then underneath ‘First team bonus’, which was more than two weeks’ wages!

“They used to give two reserve players a first team bonus, so he fined me but then paid me extra. It was his way of making a point. To be fair, he was brilliant.”

Gormley also laughs about the time he — dressed in paint-covered overalls during the summer break — met the Spurs boss, who suspected he might be double-jobbing.

“My wife’s aunt needed her house painted and wall-papered. We were off for the summer so had nothing to do for two-and-a-half months. Anyway, I ended up driving her to work in Muswell Hill and I decided to go in and buy a paper before I went to her aunt’s house.

“So I walk out of the shop when I hear a car beeping at me. I turn around and it’s Venables in this big Mercedes. I said ‘Alright, boss’. He says ‘I’m grand, what are doin’?’ I told him I was just doing a bit of painting at home, and he looked at me like ‘Yeah, you are alright! I’ll see you in a couple of weeks’.

“The odds of me bumping into him! Ah listen, he was sound.”

Gary Lineker Gormley has good things to say about Paul Gascoigne (left) and Terry Venables (centre), pictured here with Gary Lineker. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

The same year that Gormley arrived, Tottenham signed Paul Gascoigne from Newcastle United. Hugely-gifted with a mischievous personality, Gazza’s training ground antics have been well-documented over the years.

“I have to say he was just a genuine, nice bloke,” Gormley says of the ex-England midfielder. “The first day he came into training he sat with all the apprentices. I’ll always remember it. There’s a big old Georgian house on the training ground and the pros sat on the benches on the left and the apprentices stay to the right.

“One of the first-teamers says ‘Gazza, you’re supposed to be over here’. He shouts back ‘You’re alright. I used to be one of these lads and I prefer their company!’.

“He was sound but him and Paul Stewart were mad — absolute nut jobs! Another day, we were in the video room when Paul Stewart comes in laughing his head off. Next thing, Gazza goes out and sees his club car with the two doors smashed in. The following day, the other lads went out and made mince meat of his car.

They wouldn’t think anything of it and, to them, it was great craic to trash two brand new Ford Granadas.”

The Dubliner spent three years at Tottenham, during which he earned Ireland U21 caps and had loan spells with Chesterfield, Motherwell and Shrewsbury Town, but despite performing well for Spurs’ reserves a first-team opportunity never materialised.

“The first couple of years were a learning curve and I set a target that by the third year, when I was hitting 21, I would push into the first team,” he says.

“To be fair, I had a very good season in the reserves the final year. I was playing wide on the left wing and finished that season scoring 14 or 15 goals in the last 11 or 12 games.

“I went on loan to Chesterfield for a month and did well under Paul Hart. They put a bid in for me but Spurs turned it down two or three months before my contract was up.

“I got called in and they offered me another year or a free transfer. I think they were a bit surprised that I jumped at the free transfer.”

So he returned to Ireland for a couple of months and the phone began to ring. Gormley says he literally took out a map of England and drove from one end to the other — stopping to meet interested clubs along the way.

In the end, it was Billy Bremner who persuaded him to sign for Doncaster Rovers in the old Fourth Division. Legendary Scottish midfielder Bremner had been part of the great Leeds United midfield alongside John Giles and Gormley got off to a flying start. They stormed to the top of the table in his first season before the club was hit by financial troubles.

ENGLISH SOCCER Bremner during his days as Doncaster Rovers boss. Source: EMPICS Sport

“He was an absolute legend and I liked how he spoke about his plans for the club,” he says. “To be fair, for the first six months I was there it worked really well. We were top of the league and flying.

“But in the background, the club needed money and they had to start selling players. That’s where we began to hit bumps.”

“It was halfway into the next season when he had enough of it and left. Billy was a character and would be telling you stories in the dressing room about Johnny Giles in the Leeds days and this and that player. He was a very interesting man to listen to.”

Bremner may have left but Gormley would go on to win the club’s Player of the Year two years running after being moved from left wing to central midfield.

I have to say I loved my three years there,” he says. “The second two were phenomenal for me and I was probably playing the best football I ever played — I was on fire. I lasted two games on the left and then they put me in the centre of the park. From that day, I absolutely flew.”

But all good things tend to come to an end and two separate disagreements with manager Steve Beaglehole and his assistant suggested the writing was on the wall at Doncaster.

“It was frosty between us but I still had a good season before my contract ran out,” he explains. “I had a falling out with the manager and he offered me the same terms as I was on. I just said ‘No’. It was different back then because they could hold your registration.

“It got very sloppy and there was an incident where he made a phone call and he wasn’t very polite to my wife. I went down to the club and caught him trying to scarper out. I gave him back all the gear I had and said I’d never kick a ball for the club again.

“I did enjoy it there and the supporters were brilliant. It was a lovely club to play for but I can’t play for people I don’t have respect for.”

Still under contract, Gormley  went out on loan to link up with his old friend Devlin, who was at this point managing Drogheda United. Unable to train at Doncaster, however, he had missed pre-season and was two-and-a-half stone overweight.

When Devlin resigned at the end of the season, he recommended Gormley to St Patrick’s Athletic boss Brian Kerr and a meeting was arranged.

“Pat wasn’t my agent but he would advise me and handle all that stuff. I agreed to meet Brian in the Morgue pub in Templeogue and we chatted for an hour or so before I signed the form.”

Eddie Gormley 1996 He signed for Pat's in 1994. Source: © Billy SticklandINPHO

Still well short of fitness, Gormley joined up with his new club where Kerr made sure he put in the extra hours to regain top form.

“We had a conversation and he said ‘You’re overweight so I’m going to work with you for a half-hour after training to lose it’.

I didn’t think anything of that but when everybody was heading in after the first session, I followed. He comes over ‘Where are you going? I told you, you’re going with me’. He ran the arse off me every session until my weight dropped.

“After three or four months, I had lost it and that’s when it really took off for me. I was just happy to get a game while I was losing the weight and I was playing wide left. I didn’t think I was playing particularly well though.

“I just used that season to get my fitness up and get in good condition to give it a good whack the following year.”

By the 1995/96 campaign, Gormley was running the show in midfield alongside Paul Osam and the Saints beat Bohemians to the Premier Division to claim a first title in six years. He also picked up PFAI Player of the Year.

“You could see Brian was starting to build something. Once I got myself right, I never looked back. I was in great condition and I had started playing centre midfield.

“It was like a second wind for me. I had had two great years at Doncaster and all of a sudden you’re now back fit. Obviously it helped that I was playing with the likes of Paul Osam and Noel Mernagh. We were on fire and the game just seemed easy to me. I was in the zone, I was enjoying the football and the people I was playing with.

“It was an unbelievable season for us. We won the league, I got Player of the Year, and that set the standard we had to try keep for as long as we could.”

Eddie Gormley with the League trophy 15/5/1998 Lifting the Premier Division trophy. Source: Keith Heneghan/INPHO

His midfield partnership with Osam was the envy of the league and Gormley can’t speak highly enough of the Saints legend.

“We got on really well,” he tells. “He was a bit of a messer and we worked really well on the pitch. He had the same mentality as me — when you cross that white line you don’t come off with doing everything to get those three points. His will to win was incredible. We didn’t take defeats easily. We drove the team on as much as we could.

“There would be a couple of players from that era like Trevor Molloy, but if you’re looking at consistency and length of time, Oso would be the best player I’ve played with.”

Gormley would go on to win three league titles with Pat’s but, in 2000, a holiday to Mallorca brought his time there to an end.

“I had a year left on my contract and a testimonial had been agreed. I went away on holiday after the season finished with Colm Tresson, Richie Parsons, their wives and kids.

“The three of us used to get on really well — We still do. We were in Santa Ponsa and one evening Richie, who is an awful messer, gets up on stage in a bar and starts singing. He hasn’t a note in his head but for someone who can’t sing he does love a sing-song.

He says ‘This goes out to Eddie Gormley’. At this stage, I had no inkling of a move, but he starts singing ‘Please release me, let me go!’.

“I’m looking out thinking ‘What are you on about?’. Bray had been promoted to the Premier Division that season and he said Devo would ended up trying to bring me back. I said ‘We’ll wait and see’.

“It just so happened a couple of days later, myself, Richie and Colin went up to Pat, who was an hour away, for a game of golf. I ended up in a buggy with Pat and he asked if I was happy as he would talk to Pat Dolan.

“To be honest, I was open to a new challenge and Bray were the only club in Ireland I would have left Pat’s for. I always said I’d finish my career there. I was hitting 30 at that stage so I wanted to give Bray the last couple of decent years I had.

“I think it was the right decision because we had a decent year and probably should have won the league. It was all very amicable when I left Pat’s. They wanted me to stay but I had been a good servant. I was starting to feel it was going a little bit stale.

“I have to say I enjoyed my last couple of years with Bray.”

The Seagulls finished fourth in the Premier Division upon his return and Gormley would play there up until his retirement in 2005 — with the exception of a brief loan spell at Ballymena United to regain his fitness after an injury in 2003.

On the decision to hang up his boots, he says: “I was lucky in that I didn’t get many injuries. You’re playing at that level in midfield and it’s box-to-box, there’s wear and tear on the body and you’ve lost that half a yard. The competitiveness is always there but you know yourself. I didn’t want to be one of those who overstayed his welcome. You want to leave when people remember you’re a good player.

“I just couldn’t physically play at that level anymore. You have young lads flying by you, and it’s time to stop.”

Eddie Gormley DIGITAL In action for Bray during his second spell with the Seagulls. Source: INPHO

Coaching had always been in the back of his mind and an avenue soon opened.

“I had already done my B license when I was about 25. The plan was always to go on and do the A license, but I had no real aspirations to be a manager.

“Pat asked me to go on the coaching team but wanted me to sign a player’s form just in case there were injuries. I said the only way I’ll play is if we only had 10 players available. We played UCD with four games to go and I literally hadn’t played. I was only coaching.

“He asked me to go on the bench as we only had kids and he wanted a bit of experience. We were 1-0 up with 10 minutes to go, but conceded two goals in two minutes from a couple of horrendous mistakes.

“Pat said we needed a draw so I went on. I ripped my groin after about 20 seconds and then he was telling me to whip in the free-kicks. Every time I did, I ripped it more.

“We got into the car after the game and we were talking about a player. I said ‘You’ve got to get rid of him, he’s cost us tonight’. I said ‘One more thing, if you ever ask me to step onto a pitch again…’. He replied ‘Don’t worry, you were absolutely shite!’. So that was the end of my playing career.”

Devlin left to become Ireland B manager and Tony McGuirk took over at Bray — bringing Gormley in as his assistant. When McGuirk departed by mutual consent, the club turned to Gormley and pleaded with him to take the job until the end of the year.

“I enjoyed the coaching end of it, but I ended up getting involved in management by default and I had no real desire from the outset to be one.

“When I went in, we had seven games to go and we were bottom but we survived that by hook or by crook. I only went in to finish that season off but I had a chat with them and they thought I must be half-decent with half a brain so they I took the job on a year-on-year basis.

“The first year I went in, we had a half-decent budget but still nothing like the other clubs. We managed to get good players in with some young lads around them.”

Eddie Gormley an Pat Devlin Alongside Devlin in the Bray dug-out. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Gormley was in charge of the Wicklow club for four years, but it increasingly became a real battle to remain in the top flight with the limited funds on offer.

“I had a chat with the club and said ‘If you give me a couple of extra bob I’ll get you European football’. They said they would come back to me, then said they were halving it.

“At that stage, I should have left. I know that myself, but when you have that link to a club it’s hard to walk away from it. Stupidly enough, I stayed on and we had a couple of years where we really struggled in the league.

“Each year they would come back and half the budget again. It was an absolute nightmare. I had one-and-a-half good years and two more where there was no enjoyment. It was just a matter of survival and setting a team up not to get beaten.”

After narrowly avoiding the drop, they finished ninth and sixth before ending the 2009 campaign bottom of the table while also reaching the FAI Cup semi-finals. Losing out to Sporting Fingal in the promotion/relegation play-off final, Bray looked to be heading to the First Division.

However, they were reinstated due to the financial demise of Cork City and Derry City, which led to the relegation of both. In August 2010,however, Gormley finally decided to walk away.

It was the best thing I’ve ever done, that’s being honest with you,” he reveals. “It wasn’t a good place and it was affecting my home life, work life — everything. The minute I told them I was absolutely delighted.

“I had done my best with limited resources. Pat had just come on board and he wasn’t too happy but I just couldn’t do it. Physically and mentally I was absolutely drained. You try everything but enough was enough and I have no regrets stepping away from it.”

Badly in need of a break, he took a year out of football before being persuaded to do some coaching at Cabinteely — the club his youngest son was playing for.

“It was the usual, a manager asks if I’ll take a training session,” he says. “Then other fellas see you and say ‘You wouldn’t do one for my team?’.

“It just snowballed and I ended up becoming director of coaching. I really enjoyed that and could see Cabinteely moving up the leagues in the DDSL. I was putting little structures in place to make things better for the club and it was really kicking on.”

Eddie Gormley Gormley is still involved with Cabinteely today. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

In 2015, Cabinteely acquired an SSE Airtricity League First Division license and he was persuaded to take over on a short-term basis.

“They asked me would I take the first team if they got League of Ireland,” he recalls. “I said ‘No, I’m not interested. I’m finished with the League of Ireland and I’m really enjoying what I’m doing with the kids’.

“They came back three or four times and said ‘Please’. I ended up agreeing to take it short-term. I can’t go into the details but they were meant to have somebody else in place and I’d be there for three months until it was sorted out.

“But that all fell through, so I wasn’t going to leave them in the lurch. I knew it was a project and where they were trying to take it. So I stuck it out for two years. It was a tough two years and I thought I was going back to my Bray days but it worked out in the end.”

At the start of this year, his old mentor Devlin was handed the job and Gormley accepted the offer to stay on as first team coach.

“Pat came in at the beginning of this season and he asked would I come back as a coach and I said I would. If he is staying, I would stay. If he was going, I would go. That’s how we’ve left it at the moment.”

With five league matches remaining, Cabinteely sit fourth in the First Division behind leaders Waterford, Cobh Ramblers and UCD. As only one club will go up this year due to the league restructure, promotion is beyond the South Dubliners but Gormley is proud of the progress that’s been made.

I’ve been very fortunate and played under some great managers — Venables, Bremner, Dolan, Kerr and Devlin. I’m working with Pat now and things are going really, really well.

“We’re putting even better structures in place to make sure the future looks bright for Cabinteely. We go back a long, long way and you have a bit of craic with Pat but at the same time we get our work done and it’s very professional. You have to have your little bit of banter to keep you sane.

“Graham O’Hanlon has joined us too and we go back to our Bray days. He’s a very good up-and-coming coach. We’re lucky that we see eye-to-eye on a lot of things and we get on well.

“We respect each other and everyone involved. If you don’t have respect then I wouldn’t be involved. Plus we’re having a decent season.”

Finally, having spent a large chunk of his playing and managerial career at Bray, what does he make of the recent goings-on at the Carlisle Grounds?

“I was there for a long time and you’d like to see them doing well but every second person you speak to has a different story down there,” he replies.

“Regardless of what’s happening at Bray Wanderers, it’s not affecting what we’re doing at Cabinteely. I’d love to see a successful Cabinteely and a successful Bray. I’m not privy to what’s going on and I’m not going to make a call but hopefully everything works out well. Whatever happens happens, all I’m worried about is Cabinteely.”

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