Wednesday, 9 June 2010

38. Vernon Allatt

Position : Forward

Played : 1983-4

Appearances : 40

Goals : 8

Ah Vernon. The very name causes Dale fans of a certain age to tremble. Vernon was originally signed by Walsall from his hometown club Hednesford Town but didn’t make his League debut until he moved to Halifax. He spent four years there without making much impression ; by his own admission (in a Lancashire Evening Post interview in 2003) he was a bit soft. On deadline day 1982-3 he made a surprise move to Bolton but didn’t make a League appearance for them and followed Mike Doyle to Spotland.

Vernon had a problem from the start in that he was paired alongside Steve Johnson and they were too similar, target men rather than goalpoachers. As the shorter of the pair Vernon was expected to be the goalscorer but, putting it kindly, finishing wasn’t his forte. I think it was the game at home to Doncaster where the keeper failed to cut out a low cross and the ball rolled to a stop in the mud two yards out by the far post. Vernon was umarked but unbelievably put it wide, certainly the worst miss I’ve ever seen at Spotland and it cemented his reputation in many eyes. Shortly afterwards injuries meant he had to play at centre half at Crewe and he put in a very good performance. As the season wore on and Dale disintegrated he gradually began to earn some respect as the player who was trying hardest.

New manager Vic Halom wanted to keep him but Crewe came in for him. Vernon has an interesting story about this. In one of his appearances for Halifax against Crewe he had been intimidated out of the game by their centre half (and ex-Dale man) Bob Scott and been roasted for it in the dressing room. His first appearance for Dale was against Crewe and he kicked Scott every chance he got until the defender was substituted. Dario Gradi told Vernon that Scott had recommended him for his fearlessness and the two became best mates. Vernon’s record for Crewe was almost identical to that at Dale then he moved to newly-relegated Preston. He only scored 3 in 19 games as Preston finished bottom of the League and he was singled out for abuse. His name crops up a lot on PNE web forums when nominating their worst players. Colin Murphy gave him another chance at Stockport and Vernon took it with both hands scoring 10 in 24 games to lift them clear of the relegation zone in 1986-7. He rates Murphy as the best manager he played for and the one who significantly improved his game. When Murphy left for Lincoln, Vernon went to Holland for a spell with Hercules and made a brief return to Crewe where he scored 2 in 5 appearances but then decided to swap football for the Prison service and re-signed for Hednesford. Just months later, a serious car accident put an end to any sort of football though fortunately he was able to resume his day job and some years later appeared on Fort Boyard.

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