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Club News

Black History Month - player memories part 1

26 October 2023

Club News

Black History Month - player memories part 1

26 October 2023

In the on line programme for the game against Morecambe, to mark October being Black History Month, we said we would look back at the contribution made to our successes over the last fifty years by black and mixed race players. We have divided this in to two sections. This one looking at the players whose careers were mainly in the 20th century, and next week we will recall those who have played since the year 2000.

Gavin Fraser - 181 appearances/16 goals

Gavin was the first black or mixed race player to appear in our first team. He joined for the 1973/74 season having represented England Schoolboys and made his debut at home to Hitchin in August 1973, opening his goalscoring account in a 2-1 defeat against Walton & Hersham in October. Later that season Gavin was joined in the team by striker Junior Crooks.

Gavin left the club and played briefly at Wycombe Wanderers whilst training as a PE teacher before returning to Gander Green Lane for the 1977/78 season, when he became pretty much a first team regular, missing just two league games and scoring seven goals. Gavin continued to feature strongly the following year and played in the 1979 Anglo Italian Cup Final win over Chieti Calcio, which is widely seen as the springboard for so much of the success that followed. Gavin left the U’s in 1980 after making a total of 181 appearances and scoring 16 goals and later played for Carshalton Athletic.

Our paths would cross again in 2015 when the squad went on a pre-season trip to Jersey and Gavin was one of our hosts as an official of the Jersey FA and later joined the board of the island’s FA.

Steve Galloway - 65 appearances/33 goals

Steve joined the U’s in 1983 and was a fairly instant success, his speed, power and direct style making him a fans’ favourite and he was part of a Sutton team that was starting to score goals for fun. It was no surprise when, after just two years at the club and netting 33 goals for the U’s in just 65 appearances , he was spotted and signed by Crystal Palace but he only played a handful of games in two season, including a loan spell at Cambridge United, before a life-changing move to Sweden where he would play over 300 games for Tegs SK, Djurgardens and Umea, scoring almost 150 goals.

After retiring Steve became a coach in Sweden, where he still lives, and also appeared on TV show Gladiatorerna, the Swedish version of Gladiators.

Lennie Dennis - 264 appearances/144 goals

Lennie (above, pictured with Micky Stephens at a friendly at Dulwich a few seasons ago) joined the U’s in 1985, a slightly surprising signing by Barrie Williams to replace the prolific Micky Joyce after low key spells with Bromley and Dulwich Hamlet. However, partnering Paul McKinnon in attack Lennie formed a spearhead that helped the club to retain the Isthmian League title and win promotion into the Conference, bagging 32 goals in his first season.

Lennie was an all-action centre-forward, not dissimilar in style to Omar Bugiel but with a keener eye for goal. It didn’t seem to matter whether Lennie played alongside McKinnon or Joyce, the goals kept coming for all three. Famously, Lennie featured in the team that beat Coventry City in 1989. The broken leg suffered by Lennie at Barnet was a key factor in the club’s relegation in 1991, and he later left for spells with Welling and Woking before returning to Sutton to accumulate a total of 144 goals in just 264 appearances.

In 1988 Lennie was invited to represent Jamaica, and gained one international cap in a World Cup qualifier against the United States.

Francis Awaritefe - 62 appearances/22 goals

Francis joined the U’s from neighbours Tooting & Mitcham in 1986. Seemingly at home anywhere across the front line, Francis had a range of skills which, allied to his extreme pace made him a handful for any defence in the Vauxhall Conference. Francis netted 22 times in 65 games and seemed certain to be the next U’s star to progress into the Football League but it wasn’t plain sailing for the star striker, his temperament was always on the fiery side and defenders who couldn’t stop him any other way started to rely on the ‘dark arts’ and Francis was not always able to turn the other cheek. Events came to a head when Francis reacted to opposing goalkeeper Andy Pape with a blow that would not have looked out of place at Madison Square Garden; the club was left with little option but to terminate his contract. It was a sad end to his career at Sutton and professional aspirations, also for the fans who so enjoyed his exciting displays.

A year later Francis was playing in Australia and turned out to be a great success, averaging a goal every two and a half games in a career spanning more than 340 games and, as a nationalised Australian, earning three full caps. After retirement as player Francis enjoyed successful careers in coaching and on television before becoming a Vie-President of FIRPro (The International Federation of Professional Footballers.

 

Efan and Nko Ekoku - 68 appearances/36 goals (Efan); 142 appearances/13 goals (Nko)

Efan and Nko clearly inherited a sporting gene, brother Abi represented Great Britain as a discus thrower and later played rugby league, winning Super League and playing in a Challenge Cup Final, before becoming Chief Executive at Bradford Bulls.

It is the stuff of legend that a young Efan, playing nothing more than decent local football, walked into the club with a pair of boots around his neck and asked for a trial. After only a few weeks playing for the reserves Efan was promoted to first team action, coming on as a substitute against Bishop Auckland in the FA Trophy, and was soon impossible to drop. He finished that season with a hat trick against Barnet, the third goal following a run over half the length of the pitch. Efan had all the necessary physical attributes, height, strength and great pace. But on top of that he had skill to spare and became a firm favourite with Sutton fans and a force to be feared by other teams. There was one game where Efan was partnered upfront by a similar player in Carey Anderson and they were too much for a strong Darlington team in one of the most awesome displays of pace and power the old ground has seen.

It was inevitable Efan would turn pro, but maybe it was a surprise that he joined AFC Bournemouth, having scored 36 goals in 68 games for the U’s. Over three seasons he only managed 21 goals for the Cherries in Division 3 but Premier League Norwich City had seen enough and signed him in 1993 for half a million pounds. Efan scored Norwich's first ever goal in European competition, against Vitesse Arnhem in the UEFA Cup that September, and helped them to a famous win over Bayern Munich in the next round. He then scored four goals in a 5-1 win for Norwich at Goodison Park. A year later Efan was on his way to Wimbledon, sell-on clauses on top of his original sale to Bournemouth earning U’s a total fee of £180,000.

Nko possessed similar attributes to his brother but played in a slightly different position, either as a left winger or wingback where his power and speed could often dominate opponents. Nko was a big part of the culture instilled in the dressing room by manager John Rains and achieved one thing his brother didn’t, having a major role in the U’s winning the Isthmian League in 1999. The following season in the Conference was a challenging one for the U’s, ending in relegation, and Nko then left for Worthing. He played 142 games, scoring 13 goals.

Mark Watson - 238 appearances/102 goals

Mark had been playing locally, for Worcester Park, and came to the U’s attention through open trials and was offered a place in Ken Ireland’s Suburban League team. A tall, quick and strong front runner Mark soon pressed his case for a chance in the first eleven and was not slow in taking his opportunity. Mark is sometimes remembered for an amazing miss in front of an open goal against Histon but that is very unfair, his ratio of goals per game, 102 in 238 appearances, stands comparison with the club’s best strikers and he achieved that at a time when the club was at one of its lowest ebbs in the last fifty years. His goals were a key factor in the U’s avoiding the relegation trapdoor in the 1994/5 season. He then joined West Ham for a reported fee of £50,000 but only made one appearance for the Hammers, having several loan periods before a transfer to Bournemouth. Mark then had a brief stay with Welling United before returning to Sutton for two more seasons, his 100th goal being the winner in the 2003 Surrey Senior Cup final.

Fitzroy McCaulsky - 100 appearances

Fitzroy joined us at the start of the 1993-94 season having played for Haringey Borough and Brimsdown Rovers, and quickly established himself as the first choice goalkeeper. By the end of that season his performances, with his contribution to an FA Trophy replay win at Dover a standout, earned him the Supporters' Club Player of the Year and also recognition in the Isthmian League representative side. His appearance against Kingstonian in the last game of the 1994-95 season was his 100th for the club, before he left the club due to work and family commitments at the end of that season.

 


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