The tale of Wales’ four-goal hero Ian Edwards

By Tommie Collins

As Wales look forward to Euro 2020, Tommie Collins went to interview the only player to score four goals in a match for Wales.

The Welsh national football team has probably had three world class players; namely John Charles, Ryan Giggs and most recently Gareth Bale. We’ve also had very good striker called Ian Rush, albeit none of the above achieved what a striker who only played four times for his country managed – scoring four goals in a game.

Ian Edwards, born in Rossett near Wrexham, scored 63 goals in 214 games for West Bromwich Albion, Chester, Wrexham and Crystal Palace, before retiring at the age of 28. He then managed Mold Alexandra and Porthmadog. The ex-Wales international that scored four goals in four appearances for his country now runs a hotel in the seaside town of Criccieth.

“It’s funny really, I didn’t play centre forward until I was 16. Our PE teacher knew someone from Rhyl so he took me and a local lad Steve Edwards who played for Wales schoolboys. I played for Rhyl in the Welsh system then the Cheshire league; I used to get paid in that league.”

Fedora

“Lots of clubs were in for me when I was 15, Joe Mercer from Man City came to our house with Malcolm Allison, I don’t know if he had his fedora on as I was still in bed. Man Utd, Burnley and Luton also wanted to sign me as an apprentice, but I decided to stay in school and carried on playing for Rhyl. At the end of sixth form West Bromwich Albion came in for me and I went but, it was a mistake really as I should have gone three years earlier. I was playing catch up; the others had been there three years. Asa Hartford, John Trewick, Len Cantello, Willie Johnstone, Bryan Robson, John Wile and Joe Mayo, who I’m still friends with.”

Ian Edwards was playing before the days of the Bosman ruling came into force in 1995. The Bosman ruling meant that players could move to a new club at the end of their contract without their old club receiving a fee. Players can now agree a pre-contract with another club for a free transfer if the players’ contract with their existing club has six months or less remaining.

“I was on £35 a week when I started, it wasn’t bad but wasn’t life changing, my dad earned the same in his job as a draughtsman. What you don’t realise is that you become their property; I signed a two year contract and started playing in the reserves. I didn’t think I was doing very well, they were now in the 2nd division, when I went to ask for a pay rise they said you signed a two year contract, which had an option of another two which meant they could keep you for that period of time on the same money, after that they kept your registration, a bit like slave labour.

“There were no agents then which meant you had to go in and negotiate with the Chairman and Manager; they would say you’re lucky to have that, even though you were doing well they wouldn’t tell you. I left in November of 1976; they were now in the first division I doubled my money by going to Chester which was ridiculous. I left because I was 21, travelling with the first team, I was only playing once every three weeks, those days if you were sub, which I was a lot, they weren’t keen to put you on in case someone got injured. It’s not like where there are big squads and everyone is well paid, they had you and if you kicked off you’d be back in the reserves or the third team.”

Injury problems

“Soon as I went to Chester I started scoring but within two months I did my knee in at Rotherham. Their keeper, Tom McAlister, came out and caught me as I scored, my knee buckled backwards and I was never right again, it’s still hurting me now.

“But them days they didn’t put them in plaster, they had me playing in about three weeks running up and down stairs to strengthen it. I was 21 when it happened and 28 when I finished. I’d had five different operations on the same knee, today’s technology would certainly have helped me, they just kept giving me cartilage operations. I had three full ones, and there was stuff left from before – basically, I think they were experimenting. Now it’s a keyhole – them days it was a six-inch cut.”

On the treatment table

“Being injured at a football club is terrible, all the time I was at Wrexham I was injured, because I went there with an injury, I’m sure they were hoping it would clear but it never did. They get annoyed, you know you’re a burden when you’re on the treatment table, the physio doesn’t like you as he knows he can’t make you better, the manager doesn’t like you because you’re not playing and you’re not happy, because all you want to do is play. We know it’s a short career and you think you can achieve something.

“So for about three years before finishing I didn’t train much, I just went in and, I was breathing through my ass, I was knackered you need to be fit to play. It was the second division which is now the championship and I was taking pain killers to get me through.”

Chester > Wrexham

There is a fierce cross border rivalry between Chester and Wrexham and not many players get accepted when they make the move, although Gary Bennett is one that was accepted at both clubs probably for his goal scoring prowess.

“If you lived in Mold, where there was a lot of Chester fans, it was no big deal, it’s more so now this nastiness between them, it’s not a good move to go from Chester to Wrexham because the Chester fans don’t like you for going and the Wrexham fans don’t like where you came from and vice versa – it’s up to you to convince them.”

And convince them he did with a stunning goal for Wrexham at Derby which won the Goal of the Month in the September 1980/81 season.

“It should have been the goal of the season. Tony Morley won it for his goal at Everton. Ivan Golac’s goal for Southampton was a cracker as well. I was always good at volleying and the previous midweek I scored a left foot volley at Newtown, it was better than the Derby one. It was instinctive.”

Wales             

It was during his spells with Chester and Wrexham that Edwards made his four Welsh appearances.

I got picked for Wales U21 in Edinburgh against Scotland, along with Peter Sayer as he was a good foil for me. Not being quick, I could win the balls in the air and flick them on to him. I was 22 but still eligible for the U21’s and the Scottish team had some good players in the squad.

“It didn’t start well as during the train journey up to Scotland I got in a conversation in the buffet bar with a guy who was going clam diving off a boat. We chatted for ages, the train had stopped for a while in the middle of nowhere, next thing the train pulls into Glasgow Central, I said goodbye to my new friend and realised there was something wrong – I thought what’s happened here? I was told in the middle of nowhere the train splits in half, with one going to Edinburgh and the other Glasgow, so when I came off the train I was arrested as I had no ticket, anyway I explained the situation and the police all took the piss out of me. They took me in a Black Maria across Glasgow to the station that goes to Edinburgh; I arrived four hours after everyone else.

“The manger at the time Mike Smith wasn’t impressed, he eventually started to laugh and I told him well really someone should have told me the train splits in half. Anyway, we played the game and soon after I got called up for the Malta game. Robbie James made his debut; he was a quality player, and he played up front with me – he could hold the ball up well. John Toshack was coming to the end of his career; he’d had injuries, so really it was open for me. If I had been fit enough, it was there for me, on the weekend of that game when I scored four I scored for Chester against Reading and two the week after. In the space of ten days I scored more than I did in some seasons. I scored nine goals then and after the two goals against Hull I had another knee operation on the Sunday. I didn’t think I needed another operation but just probably a rest.

“I was out again, all these breaks were affecting me, you need two or three games to come back from injury, I can see it with players now they’re off the pace, I wasn’t blessed with pace thus I couldn’t come on and make an impact. I could hold the ball, head the ball and score goals, but I wasn’t going to come on and do a David Fairclough.

Kuwait

“Kuwait away, it was very hot, Graham Williams came to pick me up, and I knew him from my West Brom days. He was captain of the WBA team who won the FA Cup in 1968 and he was managing a team out there. Kuwait isn’t a country – in reality, it’s a city. We stayed in beach side apartments in 100 degrees heat, I came on as sub, a good experience, a funny place, smashed up sports cars were left on the side of the road. Maseratis and all – more money than sense.

“I‘d already played schoolboy, youth and U21 level so I was used to representing my country. If you do well, you’re going to play for your country aren’t you? You’ve got to be honest as a footballer, it’s a selfish existence and you do it for yourself, you’re not doing it for Wales. Like now, I’ve got no interest in some of the teams I played for. They paid my wages, I look at their results. They’re not interested in me neither.

As the Red Wall are planning their trips to the Euros this summer, only fans of a certain age will remember Edwards’ feat.

 “In my only full cap I scored four. I had a good goal disallowed, they said I pushed the defender but I was stronger than him, I kept the match ball got it signed and then I gave it to the kids to play football with. When I came to Criccieth, I found some shirts; one had been in a suitcase since 1989. My lad Rhys has the shirt from the Malta game and he’s going to frame it.

“We played Germany at home and Toshack came on and replaced me, I had a knee in my back the previous weekend; I was in pain and had a cortisone injection. They (Germany) were miles better than us at the time, they had some team, they were also ahead of us with the fouling game, they were holding on to me throughout the game, I’ve never been fouled so much in a game. The centre-half was a man marker, just held on to me, I should have battered him early on – but you’re frightened of being sent off. When you’re playing against a team that’s better than you they have the possession, you’re chasing and I wasn’t the quickest to be doing that. I needed us to have possession to be playing further up field. It was such a big gap, they had players like Karl Heinz Rummenigge, Uli Stielike, Klaus Fischer, Manfred Kaltz – he was brilliant.

Byron Stevenson was controversially sent off in Turkey in 1979 after he allegedly fractured opponent Buyak Mustafa’s cheekbone. He was given a four-and-a-half year European ban, effectively ending his international career.

“I played against Turkey where we lost 1-0 in Izmir. It was a holiday resort, the road was full of potholes, and you could lose a bus in them – also a very hostile place. One of our players, Byron Stevenson who died in 2007, broke a blokes nose and they went crazy. Mike Smith asked him did you do it he, said ‘no’, but Joey Jones said that he did. It nearly caused a riot and we couldn’t go out after. I went to Iran, in one stand there was only the Shah and machine guns everywhere. I was sub, and it was part of the job.”

End of the footballing road

“I joined Crystal Palace on a free from Wrexham and they were relegated. I could have stayed if I’d taken a pay cut but I had another operation as I’d fractured the orbit of my eye in two places. I had two spells of six weeks on the sidelines, and then I came back for the last two games of the season and scored the goal that kept Palace up. It was the last time I kicked a ball; we won 1-0 so Burnley went down – Alan Mullery was the manager and he was great with me, although the Palace fans weren’t keen because he came from Brighton.

“I came back home to Wrexham. Some clubs wanted me, Twente Enschede asked me to go there, and some other Dutch clubs were interested, but my knee was hurting. I went to Walsall and played a practice game, Kevin Summerfield was there, I’d played with him at WBA, and they asked me to go back. My knee was swollen, I couldn’t go back, you can’t tell people I’ll sign but only play on a Saturday, so I just went downstairs and decided that’s it I’m retiring; it was a relief.

“There was no point in trying to be fit. I never got dropped at Palace, same at Wrexham really, at 28 I wasn’t in a position to go into football, it’s not like today where there is backroom staff, and it was only the manager and his mate.”

Milkman

“I had to do something quickly to earn some money as I had a family to support, I started a milk round in Wrexham and did all right, and I sold it after a few years and bought a hotel in Criccieth. The knees were all right on the round and I played for Mold in the Welsh National League but they got promoted to the League of Wales (now the Welsh Premier League). My knees wouldn’t have coped at that level, I was only going at half pace, I was fit but I wouldn’t have coped full pace, then I went to Porthmadog, but that’s another story…

“I did some work at Llanystumdwy with the kids and would watch my boys play but soon after they came off I’d go home – I’d sooner play golf than watch football these days. Football has changed. You need a sugar daddy these days. Money is the be all and end all, that is why the richest clubs are where they are.

“Even though I said I’d rather play golf than watch football, I like many others thought Wales were brilliant at the Euros and they should have qualified for the World Cup. With players like Joe Allen, Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey there shouldn’t have been a hangover. It should have been exuberance, and we should have been thinking we’re top four in Europe.”

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