UP CLOSE : Arsenal football star who returned to Radstock tells Nub News his incredible story

  Posted: 29.07.20 at 13:15 by The Editor

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He was a star football player who brought fair wages to national football - so the memories that Eric Doughty holds are impressive.

He might be 88 years old, but this Radstock star can still recount the names of the other players in his Arsenal squad, a team he played for for over five years - back in the 1950s.

But that is not all, Eric, who many in the town know for his time at the Miners' Institute, was instrumental in bringing fair wages to the footballers - although those wages back in the 1950s were nothing like Premier League players can expect today.

Eric himself was paid £17 a week - with an extra £2 if he won, £1 if the Gunners drew, and nothing if they lost. Labourers earned a good deal less - as had the miners such as Eric's father - and he got living accommodation and food for free so it was a good life, but pay was a point of principle for Eric and his fellow players.

Eric moved to Highbury in 1952 after his two years of National Service moving into a flat close to the ground, under manager Tom Whittaker.

He had just married his wife, who was a Peasedown supporter where they met, and they moved together to London.

Arsenal was already one of the big clubs and Eric played nearly all the big matches

Eric was a rarity playing with his left foot and played Left Back or Left Half or sometimes Central Half. But he is also famed for being part of the football campaign for better wages.

" I played at Fulham at Craven Cottage and Jimmy Hill was playing inside right that day for Fulham. I was playing left half that day, we took Arsenal and Fulham players and we met up with the Players Union about 1956, we forced the FA to give way and release the fixed pay for footballers.

" Twenty pounds was not enough. The first to get the £100 a week was a Fulham player and that came shortly afterwards. Labourers were on about £8 a week, so we were celebrities - but the point was that you were under contract and you had to keep yourself super fit and you were stuck."

Eric loved playing for Arsenal - especially since at that time the team also fed the players. He was on a strict fitness regime, remembering having to run 30 laps around " That bloody stadium - with spikes" before going in the shooting box, and then into gym.

It was a very strict regime with all players off carbohydrates and being fitted with gas masks to breath in oxygen before training. But as Eric laughs at the memory: " That never paid off, but never mind." The players used a leather ball and Eric still has a scar on his head from an unhappy tackle when he was out playing West Ham.

One of the bigger matches was against Chelsea in 1957

Eric moved from Arsenal to Plymouth Argyll, a decision made in spite of a rival offer from Norwich, which were that year in the semi final of the FA cup. It was a decision made by his wife (" She wanted to go to the South West" Eric tells Nub News) but it was here that a tackle ended his footballing career, with just a short interlude at Bristol City.

Eric told Nub News about the injury and again it is an incredible story : " We were one up at half time. I got the ball out but then another player kicked late and caught my studs in his studs and took my leg right the way around. I was in agony and I went down bad. "

But amazingly Eric had to stay on the pitch " There was no sub, " he explains. " So I had to stay playing. The next day they took me over to Manchester United dressing room.. they had just come back from the Munich disaster.. it was so sad and obviously gloomy. But Sir Matt Busby met me and lent me his crutches to go back to Plymouth to recover and have an operation on my knee."

But the subsequent operation was not effective and although he was signed for Bristol City in 1960, who hoped that physio would save him, every time he tackled his knee would swell up so after three months that was that.

Actually that was not quite the end of his football, Eric returned to Radstock and helped out at Southfields where he had once played in the undefeated youth squad, along with two of his equally talented brothers.

The Radstock Youth Team in 1948 with Eric third from the right, his father on the right and his brother Ted second from the left, a third brother John is not in the photo

" My God I made them fit, " laughs Eric. " I had them running up there and running around... they did not know what had hit them."

Another planning application has been put in for the former Radstock Infants school up off the Old Bath Road. Back in 2007 an application was made ...
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