Amber: Hello Mr Joyce (flutters eyelashes...) Micky Stephens and yourself have a long association with the club, you joined at around the same time in the middle of a difficult period for the club, is it true that you were a supporter before you joined the club as a player and also that you had a couple of games for the Supporters' team ?
Micky: Hi Amber, I did appear in a couple of games as my Dad worked with the Thompson brothers Ian & Brian (the local hoods) and suggested I try out for the U's supporters. I turned up and scored a few and then the next week was dropped for Graham Starns, something to do with it being his ball. Apparently Micky Stephens couldn't even get in the Supporters' squad.....
Amber: Who was the manager when you signed ?
Micky with former Corinthian Casuals goalkeeper, Robert Willis.......
Micky: I was introduced to the club by ex-Wimbledon & Sutton centre half John Shears as we played together at Woodmansterne FC and he suggested to Alan Pentecost, the club manager, to give me a go. Ken Ireland the Assistant manager and full badge FA coach quickly made me feel at home and I played under floodlights for the first time at the age of 18. Keith Blunt then took over at the end of that season.
Amber: After a high turnover of managers Keith Blunt brought some stability to the club and that led to the famous Anglo Italian Cup win, what do you remember about that trip to Chieti ?
Micky: It was 1979 and an amazing start for a young, relatively in-experienced team with players like Tony Rains, Micky Stephens, Martin Clark and Paul Mckinnon guided by the likes of Larry Pritchard, John Rains, Dave Collyer & Keith Waldon. Keith Blunt knew that discipline and team spirit was important and we had to demonstrate that to travel abroad and, by proxy, we were representing our country.
We were treated to the top hotels and professionalism and although we were just part-timers we couldn't help but feel unbeatable, who were these Italian full time pro's on mega money we had to play ? 14000 Italians & 50 from Sutton, I know them all. Proudly wearing the England strip we held our own against the lively Italians but as the game wore on a goal from Bobby Southam and then the winner by John Rains secured the only non-league team to lift the Anglo Italian trophy.
Amber: And then Keith went to Malmo, after they lost in the European Cup Final to Nottingham Forest, and Barrie Williams stepped up. Was there a change in style of play ?
Micky: Barrie was also an FA Coach and a colleague and friend of Keith and took charge with very much the same team but all growing in confidence. We had a mixture of enthusiastic raw talent and experienced older players, all prepared to learn. I remember we worked a lot on set pieces and we scored a high percentage of goals throughout the Williams years by rehearsing and perfecting this part of the game. One year the FA nationally trialled the Isthmian League with a rule of no offside from free kicks and a no throw-in policy and only kick-ins. We had the ball in the box at every possibility and scored loads.
Amber: The team came 4th in 1980 and 5th the following year but that season will be remembered for the run in the FA Trophy. The highlight for you was surely the 2nd leg of the semi-final against Bangor ?
Micky: I missed the final, so the semi final holds fond memories as we had the twin towers of Wembley in sight. We drew the first game 2-2 at Bangor and then it was all up for grabs on the the return game at Sutton with a full house. We went 1-0 up with a sweet strike through the late Graham Dennis. At half-time the game was there to be won with a massive prize just waiting across London for the winners. With the crowd behind us the football started to flow and dominating the game I notched a couple of goals before they pulled one back. Celebrations throughout the night, they were lively.
Amber: And the low point was getting injured against Slough, meaning that you missed the final ?
Micky: I missed the final with a ruptured ankle tendon, injured playing Slough in a league game by an over zealous tackle by Eric Young who went onto to play for Wimbledon and Crystal Palace. I had intensive treatment with Danny Keenan continuously for 4 weeks before the final, ultra-sound daily, injections, you name it, but it wasn't going to work and finally I resigned myself to not being fit to play.
Amber: In the 1981/2 season it looked like the U's would win the title but Leytonstone & Ilford - under current Dagenham manager John Still - came from a long way back to finish as champions. What went wrong ?
Micky: I think we just had a massive drop in confidence as we reached the later stages of the season. It suddenly looked like another team could better us and so when we played we Leytonstone at Sutton late in the season we needed to win to kick on for the championship. I remember scoring but even that couldn't lift the team and all we seemed deflated and Letonstone went onto to win and take the title. John Still still reminds me of his success everytime I see him.
Amber: Then came the 82/83 season and the cup treble. You spent a lot of that season partnering John Rains upfront. You hit 52 goals that season but JR grabbed 25 and there was a run of 4 games where you hit 2 hat-tricks in successive matches only for John to then do the same. Did it surprise you that a centre-half could switch so seamlessly into the number 9 role ?
Micky: JR was an immense player for Sutton and had the ability to out jump most defenders to score with his head, so the air was blue when Micky Stephens or Ray Sunnocks over or under hit their crosses. Saying that he still had a eye for goal but the clue was that we had a special squad of players and it was no wonder we both scored so many goals. Even Bairdy might have notched a couple.
Amber: What do you remember about the 84/5 season and finally winning the league title?
Micky: It was a coming of age for all the team, most of us had stayed or rejected the pull of other clubs so the team had matured to a finely tuned squad that could deal with the pressure of league and cup fooball. Goals were scored throughout the team from midfielders Michael Cornwell, strikers like Ian Parsons to defenders Steve Rogers and Bobby Green.
Amber: You then joined Maidstone, how did that go?
Micky: I joined Maidstone as I was disappointed we didn't accept the promotion to the Conference and Barry Fry, manager at the time, rang me every day and finally I agreed to join Maidstone Utd in the Conference. It was an amazing experience under Barry Fry, players were bought and sold each week and at one stage of the season we had 26 players in the changing room before a game and were all expecting to play. Two seasons later Barry had left and I scored a hat-trick against Altrincham and then was sold back the following week on the morning of a New Year's day game ironically versus Sutton. I played for Sutton that day, got sent off for over arguing a goal that had crossed the line and ended up in the Maidstone bath with my now ex teammate Mark Hill, who had got injured. We won 1-0 but had to get out sharpish as the final whistle went as Bill Williams came thundering into the changing room.
Amber: Your career was then ended by injury but you recorded an amazing 219 goals for the club, before coaching at various levels including a stint as reserve team manager. Last summer you became a director, that was good timing ?
Micky: I reckon I could have played for another 5 years, so at 29 with regret and a worn out hip I had to finish playing. The coaching was the alternative to playing but the pain and disability from the hip injury put paid to that and I fell back into managing my local football team Woodmanstene FC ( now managed by a certain Phil Dawson and occasionally assisted by a Stuart Massey). Becoming a Director has been a great honour and having been at the club nearly 40 years I hope I can lend what skills or passions I have for this club for the next number of years. My current project is to push forward the community changing rooms and pavilion and recently I've introduced the pre-match meal quiz which apparently is a great favourite with the chairman so this should stay for many years to come !!!!
Amber: How do you feel the National League now compares to when you played at this level?
Micky: Difficult to say as we always think it was better in our day. However, finance, playing surfaces, media coverage, fitness, dedication, dietary programmes coaching methods etc have all improved the game and the quality is clear to see.
Saying that, at the time teams who were in the Conference then such as the Wycombe Wanderers, Crawley, Cheltenham Town, Yeovil etc have all progressed to the football league and are still there today.
Dos has now got an exceptional group of players and yes, a dream of the Football League is a real possibility, so how far can this team go ?
Oh yes, another thing different to my day you can wear pink, green, blue and yellow boots now...!!
Amber: One last question, if I may, is it true that Micky Stephens set up about 90% of your goals ?
Micky: If he said so....................!!! but maybe only 89%.....