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Nigel Cassidy

 
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Nigel cassidy Scunthorpe United

Nigel Cassidy at Scunthorpe United

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NIGEL CASSIDY

Birthplace: - Sudbury [Suffolk]: - 7th December1945 INSIDE FORWARD

Signed for Norwich City from Lowestoft Town July 1967 [1967-1968] 2 apps 1 sub 0 goals

Transferred to Scunthorpe United 13th December 1968 [1968-1970] 88 apps 35 goals

Transferred to Oxford United November 1970 [1970-1973] 113 apps 3 sub 33 goals 20,000

Transferred to Cambridge United March 1974 [1974-1976] 52 apps 2 sub 13 goals 28,000

Football League Career  255 apps 6 sub 81 goals

Career breakdown League appearances and goals only

Club Season Appearances Substitute goals
Norwich City 1967-68 1 0 0
  1968-69 1 1 0
Scunthorpe United 1968/69 25 0 8
  1969/70 44 0 21
  1970-71 19 0 6
Oxford United 1970-71 19 0 4
  1971/72 39 1 13
  1972/73 33 2 10
  1973/74 22 0 6
Cambridge United 1973/74 9 0 4
  1974/75 34 0 7
  1975/76 9 2 2
Total:   255 6 81

Nigel, the son of a pre-war Norwich City player Francis Arthur Michael Cassidy, began his career with Norwich City, joining them as a 15-year-old in 1961 as an apprentice, after leaving Lowestoft Grammar School. His father, also a centre forward, played just one first team game for the Canaries, away to Coventry City on 23rd October 1937, but he did manage 18 goals in 70 Reserve team games.

Two years later Nigel was released to join Eastern Counties League team Lowestoft Town, playing in their reserve team during 1962/63, while still only 16. Playing football for Lowestoft when required and working full time with Birds Eye in the Quality Control team.

He was to make 5 appearances for the reserves during 1962/63 at centre forward, making his debut on 27th October in a 4-0 home win against Watton United.

Nigel’s last appearance of 1962/63 came on 8th December two days after his 17th birthday. He then had to wait over a year before playing again for the reserves, by playing on 18th January 1964 in a 6-0 home win against Holt, at left back. He then waited till April to play again this time playing at left half. Seven days later he was tried again at centre forward and scored two goals in Lowestoft’s 6-1 away win at East Harling. He followed this up a week later going one better by scoring a hat trick, and then two weeks later he went one better again by scoring four in a 10-3 win over Beccles Caxton. Nigel finished the season by making a total of 7 appearances scoring 11 goals. The reserve team won the East Anglian League title at the end of the 1963/64 season. When not needed by Lowestoft Town, Nigel also turned out for one of their ‘feeder sides’ Lowestoft Corinthians.

During 1964/65 Nigel made his debut for Lowestoft’s first team, but was in and out of the side, making 9 first team appearances during the season. This saw Lowestoft win the Eastern Counties League title. In the reserve team he made 23 appearances scoring 5 goals.

An end of season friendly on 4th May 1965 seems the turning point in Nigel’s career at Lowestoft. Tried at inside-right and partnering The Blues top scorer Mike Tooley for the first time, they had a field day in a Charity Cup match at future F.A.Vase winners Diss, Nigel scoring 4 times and Mike Tooley 3 in a 7-1 away victory.

Lowestoft manager Noel Kinsey, another former Norwich City man and a cup final goalscorer for Birmingham City, remembered this performance, and paired the two together from October 1965. For the next two seasons Lowestoft Town and the striking partnership of ‘Tooley and Cassidy’ were legendary in East Anglian non-league circles.

In the 1965/66 season Nigel was almost a permanent fixture in the first team from October onwards. He only played in the reserve team 6 times at inside right scoring 8 goals including one hat trick.

He managed to make 37 [32 League] appearances in all competitions for the first team, scoring 42 [36 League] goals. This includes two hat tricks, and in one game at home against March Town United on 12th February 1966 Nigel scored 5 goals in a 13-1 win. Nigel also made 6 reserve team appearances in 1965/66, scoring 8 times, including one hat-trick.

Mike Tooley was the leading scorer with a massive 77 as he appeared in all 43 competitive games, playing alongside his new striking partner, helping Town to retain the Eastern Counties League title.

1966/67 saw Nigel virtually an ever present in the first team in a phenomenal season making 55 appearances and scoring 67 goals in all competitions. He also scored five goals in a pre season friendly against Newmarket. He totalled 10 hat tricks during the season and on one other occasion scored four in a league match. With this grand total he still was not the top scorer as Mike Tooley had that honour with 91 goals in competitive games.

Lowestoft reached the 1st round of the F.A.Cup for the first time since before the war. Town were drawn away to Leyton Orient on 26th November going down 2-1 with Nigel scoring eight minutes from the end, after Whitehouse had put Orient in front on 20 minutes and Metchick got the second 15 minutes from the end. Around 1,500 Blues supporters in the crowd of 6,623 cheered Lowestoft on.

Teams that day were: -

Leyton Orient: Willis, Jones, Forsyth, Whitehouse, Went, Bradbury, Wenge, O’Brien, Holton, Metchick, Price. Sub: Carter replaced O’Brien

Lowestoft Town: Mutton, Saunders, Dowe, Moran, Thurlow, Butcher, Grice, Cassidy, Tooley, Mills, Foan. Sub: Stephenson not used [a member of Ipswich Town’s 1962 Championship winning side].

Lowestoft won the Eastern Counties League title for the third consecutive season by 9 points scoring a massive 157 goals on the way.

To this day Nigel is still ranked the fourth highest goalscorer at Lowestoft by strike-rate playing 94 competitive games scoring 103 goals at a ratio of 1.096 goals per game.

Finally in July 1967, Nigel who had been attracting scouts with his good scoring form was persuaded by Second Division Norwich City manager Lol Morgan to rejoin City and sign professional forms for them. His first goal for the ‘Canaries’ was in a pre-season friendly defeat against Lowestoft on 14th August 1967.

At Norwich Nigel found himself understudy to Hugh Curran and his first team appearances were restricted. He made his Football League debut in the home match against Cardiff City 8th May 1968. Cardiff had John Toshack playing up front but the Canaries won 1-0, with Nigel playing the whole game.

1968/69 was little better for first team opportunities as he was only to make two more. On 16th November 1968 he came off the substitutes bench in the 1-1 home draw with Oxford United and then played the whole game on 30th November 1968 as Norwich lost at home 1-0 to Blackpool. He did however appear regularly in the reserve team making 53 appearances scoring 27 goals.

On 13th December 1968 Scunthorpe United manager Ron Ashman, the former Norwich player and manager signed him for the Fourth division club.

Nigel went straight into the ‘Irons’ first team making his debut for them on 26th December 1968 in the away defeat at Halifax Town 2-0.

He was on the scoresheet in the very next game as Scunthorpe beat Notts County 2-1 at the Old Show Ground on 4th January 1969.

He soon became a huge crowd favourite at Scunthorpe, with his supply of goals, the dark-haired man with the drooping Mexican pancho style moustache soon became a huge crowd favourite at Scunthorpe with his steady supply of goals. He played alongside George Kerr and Terry Heath, and the fans appreciated his contribution with both head and feet.

He did not miss a game for the rest of the season making 25 consecutive league appearances and scoring 8 goals, as the Iron finished 16th in Division Four.

At the start of the 1969/70 season Nigel’s name was one of the first on the team sheet. He was only to miss two games all season making 44 league appearances as well as being the club’s top scorer with 21 goals. He also made 8 cup appearances scoring another 4 goals.

It was in the F.A.Cup that Nigel made a name for himself with bigger clubs starting to take notice, as the Iron reached the 5th round. This was only the second time the club had achieved this in their history, the last time being 1957/58.

On the way to the 5th round Scunthorpe beat non-league Macclesfield Town in the first round, after an away 2-2 draw. They won 4-2 at the Old Show Ground in the replay, after being behind twice. Third Division Stockport County were next in the second round, being drawn away again the Iron and held out for 0-0 draw. In the replay County were outplayed as United won 4-0 with goals from Cassidy, Kerr 2 and Keegan.

In the 3rd round the Iron were drawn at home to Second Division Millwall and a crowd of 7,675 saw Millwall beaten 2-1 on 3rd January, with goals from Deere and Heath.

Into the 4th round and the Iron were rewarded with an away trip to First Division Sheffield Wednesday. The tie was watched at Hillsborough by a 38,047 crowd, of which around seven thousand were from Scunthorpe.

The team line-ups were as follows:

Sheffield Wednesday: P.Springett, Pugh, Megson, Ellis, Prophett, Craig, Sinclair, Witham, Warboys, Smith and Coleman. Sub: Burton.

Scunthorpe: Barnard, Foxton, Barker, Deere, Atkin, Welbourne, Keegan, Cassidy, Kerr, Heath and Davidson. Sub: Rusling.

After only four minutes had been played United went one down when Prophett headed on to the bar. The ball rebounded into the path of Jack Witham, with his back to the goal smashed it into the roof of the net with a magnificent overhead shot which gave Geoff Barnard no chance.

Barker’s 21st minute equaliser was nothing short of superb. Heath had made a typically surging run, only to be brought down by Ellis midway inside the Owl’s half.

George Kerr swung over the resulting free kick that was chased by Cassidy out wide who neatly turned it back for Deere to centre the ball. Fullback John Barker came from nowhere to bravely dive full length and head a glorious goal. So low was the ball when Barker reached it, that he got the full force of Prophett’s boot in his head. While the goal was being celebrated, Barker lay motionless; and barely conscious in the penalty area and there was a lengthy delay before he was finally led from the field unable to continue. Scunthorpe struggled on for 10 minutes with ten men before Barker was replaced by substitute Graham Rusling.

The second half was to belong to Scunthorpe, Terry Heath was allowed more space and time and time again ran at the Wednesday defence.

In the seventieth minute came the decisive move of the match when Keegan made a run down the left wing and had his cross-turned behind for a corner by Smith.

Kerr placed it perfectly beyond the far post where Nigel Cassidy was lurking. He rose majestically from at least two yards beyond the far post to score with a well-placed header, which just dipped under the bar. Scunthorpe were 2-1 up and held out against all odds to the final whistle, to achieve the result of the round.

In the fifth round Scunthorpe were drawn away yet again this time to Second Division Swindon Town. On 7th February 24,612 watched the tie The pitch was in an awful state, due to heavy rain and resembled a ploughed field with many parts covered in standing water.

Despite the conditions the Iron gained the lead on ten minutes. Steve Deere cleared the ball to Kerr, who put a through pass into the path of Cassidy who beat Burrows to the ball and hit a low shot past ‘keeper Downsborough. It was the last high United enjoyed during the game. Three goals followed for Swindon scored by Noble, Horsfield and Trollope and Scunthorpe were out the cup and returned to the bread and butter of league football, as Scunthorpe finished in 12th position an improvement on the season before.

The 1970/71 season opened with Nigel leading the attack again. Scouts from various clubs started appearing at Scunthorpe to watch both Cassidy and Keegan.

Nigel played in 19 more League games for Scunthorpe scoring 6 goals, and only missed one game. Although Nigel never scored a hat trick in the league he did score 7 braces in his time with the Iron.

Nigel recalled that “In one game against Newport County, having already scored two goals, and then getting the ball in the net for my third, only to see it ruled out because a certain young Kevin Keegan, having strayed in an off side position”.

Nigel’s last appearance in the Iron’s colours came in the 2-0 home defeat by Chester on 14th November 1970.

Scunthorpe were offered the then considerable fee of 20,000 from Second Division Oxford United manager Gerry Summers for the signature of Nigel. This was easily the club’s record fee paid at the time [he was preferred to Kevin Keegan], and the move was designed to arrest the slide in Us fortunes.

Nigel said “I had been happy at the Old Show Ground and was not really looking to get away, but you have to take the opportunities to try to improve yourself when they present themselves.”

Derek Clarke had failed to convince Summers that he was man to provide Oxford with a cutting edge and Nigel was signed in time for the home game against Swindon Town on 21st November, which ended goalless.

He was to make 19 League appearances in his first season scoring 4 goals, his first for the club coming in the 1-0 home win over Cardiff City on 5th December. He was also to feature in every F.A.Cup game as Oxford reached the 5th round, beating First Division Burnley at home with an impressive 3-0 victory in the 3rd round tie with Nigel scoring once.

 In the 4th round after a 1-1 home draw in which the game was delayed by a wall that had collapsed at the London Road end as a crowd of 17,814 gathered, they beat Watford at Vicarage Road 2-1 in the replay.

Oxford were drawn away in the 5th round to First Division Leicester City and after a 1-1 draw, the Us lost the replay at the Manor Ground, after extra time 3-1. 17,948 watched this match with thousands more locked outside.

After Oxford had started the season well topping the Second Division in September their form dropped off and they finished the season in 14th position.

The 1971/72 season started with Nigel as substitute in the opening game of the season at home to Orient 14th August, coming on replacing Skeen up front, as the game finished 1-1.

More pictures of Nigel Cassidy

More pictures of Nigel

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He did not make the starting line up the following week one of only two matches he would miss during the entire season. He established himself as the swashbuckling leader of the attack during the season, making 39 appearances one as sub with a return of 13 League goals to finish the season as top scorer. United finished in 15th position in Division Two.

1972/73 saw Nigel make 33 appearances 2 as sub scoring 10 goals. He also played in all cup games during the season including the League Cup encounters with Manchester United. The Old Trafford side fielded ten internationals at the Manor, including George Best, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law.

Manchester took a third-minute lead. Charlton’s fiercely struck 20-yarder could only be parried by the diving Roy Burton and Law cracked in the rebound. Only one minute later, however, Oxford were on level terms when Ken Skeen rifled Steve Aylott’s cross home from 20 yards.

Alex Stepney was called on to make three magnificent saves before the second half was 15 minutes old, with Aylott, David Sloan and Nigel Cassidy each going close but being denied. Stepney’s 57th minute save from Cassidy’s close-range diving header was described as one of the best of the goalkeepers’ career.

After 78 minutes, Dave Roberts who headed the ball down won John Evanson’s corner-kick. Stepney could only parry it and Roy Clayton hammered home the rebound.

Manchester United were three minutes away from defeat before a long range Charlton thunderbolt brought an equaliser. He took a pass from Law and rocketed a right-foot shot from 30 yards past the outstretched Burton’s arm, it hit the stanchion with such power that it rebounded back onto the field, the final result was 2-2 watched by of over 17,000 spectators.

Oxford had played brilliantly and most national newspapers thought they deserved victory.

Teams that day were: -

Oxford United: Burton, Lucas, Shuker, Roberts, C.Clarke, Evanson, Sloan, Skeen, Clayton, Cassidy, Aylott

Manchester United: Stepney, O’Neill, Dunne, Buchan, James, Sadler, Morgan, Charlton, Law, Best, Storey-Moore. Sub: McLlroy replaced Dunne

Oxford went to Old Trafford for the replay losing 3-1. Two days after the defeat in Manchester, Oxford paid a new club record 50,000 for Wolves striker Hugh Curran. He had five Scotland caps and had featured in the UEFA Cup Final the previous spring with Wolves. Teaming up again with Nigel, but this time unlike in their time together at Norwich they played up front together with good results. Hugh finished the season as leading scorer with Nigel 5 behind him. It proved to be the Us best ever finish in the league to date as Oxford ended a creditable 8th in the Second Division.

Its not a well know fact that during the summer of 1973, Nigel nearly left Oxford to return to Lowestoft Town, as they looked for a player coach. The following is an extract from ‘Echoes Across Crown Meadow’ The History of Lowestoft Town F.C.

During the spring of 1973 placed several adverts in various papers advertising for a player coach for the forthcoming 1973/74 season over several weeks with out a result.

The situation was then highlighted on 25th June, with news that; Mr. Bullent had been in contact with a Second Division player in regard the Player-Coach position, but would not name him. It transpired that the player was former player Nigel Cassidy who he thought might sign for 35 to 40 a week.

Resolved that the club negotiates with the player concerned at a maximum of 40 per week. Mr. Bullent then telephoned the player, who was also interested in a business deal outside the Club, and would want at least a four-year contract. Matter to be left to the next meeting.

The following week, 2nd July: Mr. Bullent informed the committee that Cassidy was likely to accept a three or two year deal and had ideas to make the Club powerful again in the E.C.L., wanted a free-hand with players and a scouting system operated.

It was proposed that he be offered a two-contract at 40 per week including bonuses and expenses and he be known as Player Coach. The motion was lost nine votes to three.

The secretary telephoned Mr. Cassidy of the Committee’s decision, and player said that a one-year contract was no good to him, but asked to meet the Committee the following evening, which was agreed.

The following evening, at the Special Meeting with Nigel, the Chairman informed Cassidy of the Committee’s decision of a one-year contract with one further year option. Nigel felt the Club was not taking much of a gamble, for him to leave a Club of his standing, a two/three year contract was essential as he felt he still had five years of League football in him.

The Chairman felt the Club was taking a big risk at 40 for one year let alone more, and felt it was up to the player to take the gamble.

Nigel was looking for a business to bring his family to the Town and would still join if offered a two-year contract.

A further Special Meeting for the 5th July was called, where it transpired that: Chairman had contacted President, who thought that the Club ought to take a gamble of some sort or there would be no members or no crowds in the ground!

It was then moved that Cassidy who has requested to come with Club and can obtain his release from his present Club [Oxford United] be offered a two-year contract at 40 per week. Voting was unanimous 12 votes to nil in favour and carried

However Nigel never re-joined, the reasons why though unfortunately are not recorded.

On speaking to Nigel in compiling this article he dismissed the possible return to Lowestoft Town,“as pure speculation on their part.”

However back at Oxford, Nigel was a regular first choice until January 1974, when Keith Gough was introduced. Nigel made 22 League appearances scoring 6 goals during 1973/74, again finishing second top scorer behind Hugh Curran who had played in many more games.

His last game for Oxford was in the 1-1 home draw with Hull City on 19th January. His last goal for the club was on 29th December 1973 in the 3-1 home win over Aston Villa. 

He was transferred to Third Division Cambridge United who were managed by Bill Leivers on 14th March 1974 for 28,000 [another club record fee paid out for Nigel]. He was signed to help save Cambridge from relegation to Division Four, but unfortunately it came too late. He managed to make 9 appearances scoring 4 goals.

His debut for the Abbey Stadium team came two days after signing for them at home to Blackburn Rovers on 16th March 1974, which they lost 2-0. Nigel’s first goal for the club came at home in the 3-3 draw with Rochdale on 6th April.

1974/75 kicked off with the flamboyant Ron Atkinson in charge of the team, who had played in the same side as Nigel at Oxford.

Nigel was appointed club captain at the start of the season and club secretary Colin Benson said of him: “He reads a game well, communicates with the players, and is a good organiser on the field. Nigel is infectious, gets stuck in and the ideal skipper.”

He also started as first choice centre forward playing alongside Bobby Shinton, who like Cassidy had signed for Cambridge from Walsall in March of 1974. He was to make 31 consecutive league appearances from the start of the season until February 1975 when injury struck. This restricted him to only 3 more appearances in April, but Nigel still manage to score 7 league goals plus 2 in the F.A.Cup 1st round replay against Hitchin. Cambridge finished in 6th position in Division Four.

At the end of the season Nigel got the opportunity to spend the summer of 1975 playing in the North American Soccer League with Denver Dynamos managed by John Young.

His debut for Denver was in the 5-0 defeat on 27th April away to Dallas Tornado. The shirt he wore was in true American style as everyone who played for the Dynamos incorporated their nickname on the back of their shirt. Nigel’s nickname was ‘The Walrus’. He was to make 20 appearances over the season, scoring one goal against Los Angeles Aztecs on 4th June in a 4-1 win.  Nigel’s last appearance in the States came on 7th August in the 3-1 home win against St. Louis Stars, who had topped the Central Division

Back at Cambridge for the 1975/76 season and disaster struck Nigel as he was forced to retire from the professional football with a serious injury to his Achilles tendon.

He only made 9 starts plus 2 as sub scoring two goals. The first game of the season was on 16th August just nine days after his return from the States in which Nigel played. The last two goals he ever scored in the Football League came in the

4-1 home win over Watford, on 23rd September 1975

Ironically his last ever league appearance came on 4th November 1975 in a 1-0 away win at the Old Show Ground against Scunthorpe United, on a ground that held many happy memories for Nigel. This was just a few weeks away from his 30th birthday, and brought his career to a premature end.

After retiring at Cambridge United where he had taken a coaching course, Nigel tried his hand at management. He spent four years as player manager of Bicester Town [Hellenic League] and another two years at Banbury in the Southern League, before finally quitting football to concentrate on his hotel business commitments.

Nigel went on to run The Black Bull Pub in Bicester for ten years and the Shakespear Pub at Bicester for three years.

He then moved to The Molesworth Arms Hotel in Wadebridge, Cornwall that Nigel has both owned and run for the last 15 years at the time of writing [March 2004].

Many thanks for their help to: - Nigel, Mike Pearce [Lowestoft], Martin Brodetsky [Oxford, Rage On], and Paul Ancliffe [Scunthorpe]

Thanks very much to Phil Moody for sending these pictures


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Bob Dunning
26 January 2005

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