Player Of The Month December 2009
EVERY MONTH WE WILL FEATURE AN INTERVIEW WITH A PLAYER
3RD IN THIS SERIES IS AN INTERVIEW WITH ARGYLE LEGEND BILLY RAFFERTY
WE ASKED BILLY 15 QUESTIONS HERE ARE HIS REPLIES
Q: What was your most memorable match?
A: There were many great matches to remember from my time at Argyle. Probably the one that sticks out is the FA Cup tie against my old club Blackpool in January 1975. My parents had made the long trip from Scotland for the match and I also felt that I had a point to prove to the Blackpool manager Harry Potts. I scored a goal in each half in our 2-0 win. The team played fantastic on the day and ran the Blackpool team ragged.
Q: Who was the best Argyle player you played with?
A: That's a no brainer. Paul Mariner was the best Argyle player that I played with. Paul and I had a great understanding on the pitch and were good friends off it. On the face of it you would think that our partnership wouldn't work because we were very similar types of player. I think the key to our success was that we worked very hard to create space for one another. We had an uncanny awareness of where the other was, in and around the box. We shared the role as target men but both loved to get turned and run past defenders both with and without the ball. Added to this we were very good in the air. All in all we were a nightmare for defenders.
During my career I played with lots of great players. Paul was up there with the best, we only played together for two seasons. The Mariner / Rafferty partnership is one that I look back on with great pride and only wish that it had gone on for much longer.
Q: Who was your toughest opponent?
A: Alan Hansen and Phil Thompson as a pair were always very well organised defensively and gave you little or no space. I played against Steve Bruce a few times before his move to Man Utd. He was always a very committed and whole hearted defender. You always knew you had been in a game against Brucie.
Q: You must have an amusing story you could share with us about your time at Argyle?
A: Chelsea vs Argyle in the old second division 1975/76 at Stamford Bridge. This was our first trip to Chelsea since they rebuilt the main stand with all mod cons. The visitors dressing room was as though it was an afterthought. Very narrow, cramped, dark and dingey. We hadn't performed very well in the first half and came in 2-0 down. Coach Alan Brown was fuming and started to give us a dressing down. Just as he was in full flow this loud rock music from the tannoy system came blaring out of a speaker above the door. Alan was not amused to be interrupted and apart from that he hated this type of music. After about 30 seconds the music went off and Alan started on us again. 10 seconds later it was on again louder than ever. Alan went out into the corridor slamming the door behind him. After about a minute the music ceased and Alan came back in saying that he had sorted the music out. Just as he was about to open his mouth to start again, the music blasted on again. Alan's face turned purple with rage. He opened the door, told one of the lads to hold it open, he stood on a chair, ripped the speaker off the wall. The speaker, suspended by the wiring was then swung out into the corridor and the door slammed shut behind it. As Alan got down off the chair the bell rang to call us out for the second half. We all went out onto the pitch with a smile on our faces. All except Alan because he was still fuming and he still hadn't got his views across. Anyway he had a smile on his face at the end of the match as Paul M grabbed a couple of goals to give us a good away point.
Q: Now you are no longer playing football how do you occupy yourself?
A: I have always enjoyed playing golf since I was a boy. As a professional footballer you are restricted as to when and how often you can play because of match schedules. Since finishing my football career, my competitive urges are now fulfilled through golf. I play a couple of times a week with friends.
In the summer months a lot of my spare time is taken up in my garden which is quite large and needs constant attention.
Q: Can you recall your most embarrassing moment?
A: I think my most embarrassing moment in my time at Home Park was missing a last minute penalty vs Charlton in the promotion season. It was a top of the table clash. They were in 2nd place we were in 3rd. I had put us ahead with a header with about 20 minutes to go. They equalised about a minute from full time but we went straight to the other end from the restart and Paul was fouled in the box. My spot kick hit the inside of the post and went back across the goal.
I felt as though I wanted the ground to swallow me up. I spent a totally miserable weekend thinking what could have been and retook the spot kick over and over in my mind a thousand times.
Q: How has football changed over the years?
A: I don't really think the game has changed that much. Obviously players are physically stronger and more powerful athletically, so things are done at a faster tempo. Players are far more educated in diet and nutrition and how the body functions. Despite this, I feel that players are more prone to injury, due to being so highly tuned. Also a lot of players suffer foot injuries due to modern footwear.
The big change in football is the Media coverage. Newspapers and television are looking for something sensational every day. Match coverage is so different. In my day you were lucky if you were on national television 5 or 6 times a season. These days players are scrutinised in every aspect of their performance on the pitch and their behaviour off the pitch.
Q: Who was the best manager you ever played under?
A: When I think back about different managers, a lot of them had good points. Not many had the whole package of qualities that I think you need to be successful. For me Bobby Campbell who took over whilst I was at Portsmouth, had it all. He was an excellent coach, tactically very aware, but his best asset was his man management skills. I certainly think he got the best out of me and wish that I had played for him earlier in my career.
Q: What was your pre-match routine? E.g. lucky item, superstitions.
A: My only superstitions were to always put my left sock on before my right and my left boot before my right. I still do the same thing to this day when getting dressed.
Q: Do you keep in touch with any of your former Argyle teammates? If so, who?
A: Not really. It is a long time since we played together and I live in the far north of the country in Carlisle. Paul M and I send the odd e-mail and speak on the phone occasionally. Otherwise it is a Christmas Card with a message to Mike Green and Colin Randall. Footballers are terrible for keeping in touch with each other, yet put us together at an Ex players reunion and within 5 minutes you would think that we had never been apart.
Q: Do you think PAFC will do well this season?
A: We are now in December and to date, things have not been going too well. I think inconsistency is the main problem. I think on a good day they are a match for most teams in the division. There have been changes to the Coaching Staff in recent weeks with the return of my old striking partner Paul as 1st team coach. Things will not change overnight, it will take time for Paul to get his ideas across to the players. Paul Mariner is a winner and I think his influence over team matters will start to take effect over the coming months. I expect Argyle will start to climb away from danger after the turn of the year.
Q: If you could choose any player in the world you would have liked to play with, who would it be?
A: The player that I idolised as a boy was the great Pele, for me he was just the perfect player. His football brain was fantastic. Pele always seemed to do something that you hadn't seen before on a football pitch. I had the honour of playing against him on an end of season tour in the far east in 1972. Coventry City vs FC Santos in Bangkok. Score 2-2
Q: Do you follow Argyle's progress or attend any of their matches?
A: I always look out for all of the clubs that I played for, but I have to admit that Plymouth Argyle are very close to my heart. I must admit that my weekend is far more enjoyable when Argyle have won. With regard to getting to matches, I am just too far away in Carlisle so the occasions of seeing Argyle in the flesh are few and far between.
Q: Do you now have a day job outside of football?
A: I ran a Health and Fitness Club with my wife Elaine from 1989 to 2005. I also started a Corporate 6 a side Football League in Carlisle in 1998. This has now developed into 5 leagues in different areas of Cumbria. We now have in excess of 600 players taking part weekly. So it does take a bit of organising.
Q: What would be the highlight of your time at Argyle?
A: There were many fantastic matches and many happy memories from my time at Argyle. I suppose the highlight had to be the achievement of gaining Promotion. What I enjoyed more than anything was the bond between the group of players that won the promotion. I don't think I was ever involved with a group of players who were closer, we battled and supported one another on the pitch with a passion, in the dressing room and in training we worked very professionally together but always with a smile on our faces.
The other thing that I think of often is the special relationship that I had and still have with the Argyle Fans. I will never forget the reception that the fans gave Paul and I about 4 years ago, when we returned to the club together for the first time since our playing days. We went out onto the pitch at half time and were presented with a framed club shirt, printed with our names. The reception we received was amazing and something that I will remember and cherish for the rest of my days.