Date: 10th June 2008 at 9:52am
Written by:

Rotherham United player, RAY LANCASTER, kindly agreed to share some of his memories of playing at Millmoor with us here on Vital Rotherham.

Ray was born in Maltby in August 1941 and played for the Millers, Grimsby and Lincoln. He played at both right and left half and scored two goals.

Here are his memories:

‘It was the year 1957 when I was 16 years old, Andy Smales saw me play against Rotherham United Juniors. He asked me to sign on for amateur forms, then to ground staff for 6 months until 17 years old. I signed my professional forms and got a £20 signing on fee. Then the wages were £10 a week – just think if I was playing today I`d be a millionaire. Ha.

Some of the best games I remember well. I made my debut against Derby County in 1961 and I scored the first goal with Barry Hutchinson getting the equaliser. I remember as well scoring against Huddersfield Town in 1963. Ray Wood was the goalie and I got one of the three goals scored. The final score 3-1. One of the most memorable games I played was against Stanley Matthews then of Stoke City. He shook my hand after the game and said “well done my son you`ll go all the way to the top”. I felt very proud that day. When we played Newcastle United I was marking Alan Suddick. When I saw the local papers it said that I made him look like an ordinary mortal. I was tipped then for the under 23`s honours. Another day to be proud of. I have some very fond memories of when I played against Jack Charlton of Leeds. Billy Bremner became a very good friend of mine a friendship that went on for quite a number of years. Don Revie tried to sign me for Leeds United – he said I was an exceptional player – but manager, Danny Williams, wouldn`t let me go because he said the money wasn`t enough that they offered. This was one of the lows in my football career. The worst thing ever was definitely when I played a league game and got injured. I was on the treatment table and Walter Winterbottom, the then manager of England, rang Danny Williams. He told Albert Wilson. “Guess who`s been on the phone?` Albert said, ‘who?` and Danny said, ‘Walter Winterbottom and Rays been picked to play at Bristol against France on Wednesday night.” Although Albert said I was fit, Danny said I wasn`t and Martin Peters got picked instead. To this day l still feel betrayed because I feel that decision stopped me going on to being an international. I`ve seen Martin Peters since and he even said I was unlucky not to have played and he was the lucky one. So you can understand when I say I will never forgive Danny Williams for what he did.

I think the one game everyone talks about, even today, is when we played England behind closed doors. I was marking Jimmy Greaves and we won 3-1. Walter Winterbottom said to Danny Williams that he`d never seen Jimmy get out marked in a game before. He said I was outstanding and after the game, I went into the England changing rooms and Bobby Moore said I would be a full international and wished me all the best. Gordon Banks, (who was born in the same village as me), also said I was exceptional. Bill Shankley (Liverpool), Arsenal, Wolves, Leicester City, and many more were after me. Good Ah! But, then I got a bad injury when playing Sunderland at home – a fractured cheek bone when I clashed with Charlie Hurley who split his forehead open- which knocked me out for three months.

I still remember the Stoke City players we played against at home – O`Neil, Asprey, Allen, Clamp, Stuart, Skeels, Matthews, Violet, Mudie, McElroy, and Ratcliffe (How`s that for memory?!) who were renowned famous names at that time. Football was my life and I was on top of the world when I was playing on the pitch. Those certainly were the days. I actually got on the radio playing against Norwich City and we won 4-0. No telly then. My dad was so proud of me then when he heard my name. Oh yeh! I remember John Charles (what an experience that was), the gentle giant. It was awful though when I got a bad injury on my knee – the cartilage, against Charlton. That put me out of action for six months and it was the longest six months of my life.

I feel I had some things taken away from me and still get a bit upset over it but one thing no one can take away from me are the great mates I had and still have. I met some super people and some famous ones as well. These memories stay with you forever. I could go on and on, like the time we played Sheffield United at Millmoor. That was special because people that I knew in the village all came and it was great because I knew them or most of them. Some came to support us and some came to support Sheffield. Unfortunately we lost 2-1. Ivor Allchurch scored the winning goal and Ken Houghton scored our goal. It was really great playing in front of all the mates I grew up with. Manchester City came to play us at Millmoor and Derek Kevin scored the winning goal. We lost 2-1 that time. That was a full house, the atmosphere was ecstatic. Then the Chelsea game, again at Millmoor, Terry Venables, Barry Bridges, and McCreadie all played that day with Peter Bonetti in goal. They won 1-0. I got star ratings again in the paper the next day. Frank Casper came into the team (from Barnsley) with Ian Butler. Frank and I became really good mates. We are still to this day. We often see each other on reunions at Rotherham. I played roughly 20 games with Frank.

I left Rotherham United because the minority of local supporters drove me out really. After having injuries my confidence had gone down. One minute they were hailing me a hero and the next heckling me. I suppose most footballers go through that once in their career. Look at David Beckham. Anyway I lost confidence in tackling etc. It`s not like that today, when you were injured then, you were out for a while, now it`s different, you`re back on the pitch in no time. I decided then I wanted a new start. That`s when I left and went to Grimsby Town. I still have lots of photos and memorabilia of my days at Rotherham United. I have a scrap book of all my games and write ups in local papers and photos. Lots of people have borrowed the book to read and didn`t realise what a good player I really was. So I know I have done something in my life I can personally be proud of and lots of youngsters of today, I`m sure, would love to achieve the things I did.’

Ex Miller

I’d like to thank Ray for sharing this with us – it’s certainly a good read as well as having a list of who’s who in football!