Sid Prosser saved my career, changed my life – Wealdstone goal king George
PUBLISHED: 15:00 28 May 2020
George Duck netted 251 goals for Wealdstone during the 1970s, a haul that remains the club’s all-time record more than 40 years later.
And he remains ever thankful to the persistence of former manager Sid Prosser, who changed his life when he was ready to quit football.
Duck had signed schoolboy forms at Tottenham in 1965 aged 13, which was almost too good to be true for a fan of the club and recent Double winners.
“I was brought up on them as a kid. I was nine years old when they won the Double in 1961 and it was fantastic,” he said.
“We’d train two nights a week and the centre-half Roger Hoy would do the coaching. But after a couple of years I stopped going.
“I didn’t think I was good enough. They had the likes of Steve Perryman and Graeme Souness then. I took myself away and it’s one of my two biggest regrets.
“I went back to Bruce Castle Park with my mates and a couple of older lads, Ronnie Howell and Dicky Plume, were playing at Millwall and set me up with a trial.
“Luckily enough I was included and offered apprentice forms as a 15-year-old in 1967. Benny Fenton was the manager and signed me on the say-so of Charlie Vaughan the chief scout.
“I had a terrific four years there as an apprentice, youth-team and reserve player, some great times. But I was so disappointed when I was relased. I knew I needed a breakthrough in my last season but I didn’t get a chance.”
Duck joined Southend, but did not get on with manager Arthur Rowley and called it ‘a year best forgotten’ as he was left totally disillusioned.
“I was back at Bruce Castle Park, determined not to get involved again, I had a chip on my shoulder,” he added.
“Barnet had been over to get me to sign, but I said they were wasting their time. I got a call out of the blue from Sid Prosser and I said ‘no, I’ve had enough, I’m happy playing over the park with my mates’.
“But he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He was a salesman. I gave in and told him to come over for a chat and it all changed. He had a vision for the club and made it more attractive to me.
“I felt wanted. It wasn’t about money. He’d been a good manager at St Albans and played for England Schoolboys with Johnny Haynes, who ended up playing for a spell at Wealdstone as well, and said ‘we can do well together’.”
And Duck admitted it felt like he had made the right decision as soon as he set foot inside Wealdstone’s home ground.
“I instantly felt comfortable the first time I went to Lower Mead. It was a proper little stadium with three covered ends,” he added.
“It took me eight games to score. I thought the jury was out but they could see I could play. I wasn’t happy, I wanted goals, but then it really took off.”
That is something of an understatement by the modest Duck as he ended the 1972-73 season with 43 goals to his name, then followed that up with 62 the following term as Stones won the Southern League Division One South title.
“I was playing with Terry Dyson, a Double winner and European Cup Winners’ Cup winner with Tottenham and Johnny Haynes, an ex-Englnd captain, it was brilliant,” he said.
“I wasn’t intimidated. We won the league and didn’t do too bad in the Premier Division. I loved the club.”
Duck had dreams of playing at Wembley and got to the last 16 with Wealdstone before losing a replay in the North East.
“I was ill and we drew 1-1 at home then went up and stayed overnight in Newcastle and it was really tough,” he said.
“We liked to play and it was 0-0 so went to extra time, then John McCormack went up for a header and it hit his hand and they scored the penalty.”
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Duck helped Stones reach the third round of the FA Cup in 1977-78, winning at Third Division Hereford in a replay and beating Fourth Division Reading 2-1 at home to set up a date with neighbours QPR.
“We had real drama against Reading!” he recalled.
“I had a three-times taken penalty in the mud. The first one hit the post but they had encroached and I scored the second, but the referee Alan Turvey said he hadn’t blown his whistle!
“Steve De’Ath was in goal and for the third one I just shut my eyes and smashed it. It flew in and it was a really great moment as it led to the game against QPR.
“They were second in the First Division behind Liverpool but I wasn’t fit – flu or bronchitis – and shouldn’t have played. But the manager Alan Fogarty wasn’t going to leave me out.
“We held them until just before half time, so went in 1-0 down. If we had got to half time at 0-0 who knows.
“Stan Bowles produced a bit of magic in the second half and that was that. It was a great experience. They had Dave Thomas, Leighton James, John Hollins and Phil Parkes. Gerry Francis was injured and didn’t play.”
Duck continued to hit the net the following season, but it would prove to be his last for Stones.
“Every time I scored for Wealdstone it was a great feeling,” he added. “I had a lovely cup presented to me after getting 105 goals in two seasons.
“Never mind Wimbledon’s Crazy Gang, we had that years before! Willie Watson and Ray Fulton were two comedians, the Morcambe & Wise of our dressing room. They took the mick and the worst thing you could do was bite, you had to go along with them.
“It created a great feeling and camaraderie. But I eventually realised I’d stayed too long. Playing at Wembley was a big ambition of mine and Eddie Presland called me after Dagenham lost in the Trophy semi-final to Kettering.
“He said ‘come to us and I guarantee we will win the Trophy, you’re the missing link.”
Duck decided it was time for a change and moved to the east London club, with Presland’s words proving prophetic as the Daggers won the Trophy the following summer.
Duck opened the scoring at Wembley against Mossley in May 1980 as Dagenham won 2-1 but decided to leave after a second season when Presland was replaced by Ted Hardy.
He joined Wealdstone’s arch rivals Harrow Borough and scored twice against his old club in an FA Cup tie at Lower Mead in 1981, only to suffer an FA Trophy exit against them soon after.
But Wembley was in sight again in 1982-83 as Harrow thrashed Trophy holders Enfield in the last eight, won 2-0 at Telford in the first leg of their semi-final and struck early in the second leg back at home.
Telford hit back to force extra time, though, and eventually won 5-3 on aggregate in a stunning turnaround.
An Isthmian League title followed the year after, before Duck opted for another change of scenery.
“Brian Hall wanted me to go back to Wealdstone. We met in a pub in Harrow, but Eddie wanted me to go to Hendon and I had that loyalty to him,” he added.
“But I missed out on the 1985 Double at Wealdstone. That’s my second regret and mistake in football. Leaving Spurs and not going back to Wealdstone.
“I scored a great volley for Hendon at Epsom & Ewell to keep us up that season, but Wealdstone won at Wembley.”
Duck hung up his boots the following season after suffering a broken cheekbone, despite Presland trying to persuade him to follow him to his latest club Dulwich Hamlet.
But estimating to have scored more than 400 career goals for Wealdstone (251 in 370 games), Dagenham (about 50), Harrow (over 100) and Hendon (20 in 44 games) he has plenty to be proud of.
“I wouldn’t change any of it for the world,” he said. “And I’ll never forget Sid Prosser, who almost forced me to sign for Wealdstone.
“It saved my career and changed my life. I could’ve gone down a different path and 40 years later I’ve still got the goalscoring record at Wealdstone. They are my club. Even though I’m a lifelong Spurs fans, Wealdstone are the love of my life.”
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