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The Horse with no Name
Oct 27, 2003
The wilds of Kent
Born and bred in Yorkshire, Anton, a former international schoolboy gymnast, caught the eye of Barnsley while playing for Ossett Town and joined them in 1975 for his first pro team.

Whilst at Barnsley, Anton was also holding down a full time job as a surveyor with the then Gas Board and he only met up with the Barnsley first team on matchdays. He actually trained with their youth team twice a week instead. This was common in the 1970s, and unheard of nowadays.

After 18 months of solid performances for Barnsley, West Ham, under Lyall and Greenwood, came in for him for £60,000. Although, when the move actually transpired, he amazingly had to serve a month's notice with the Gas Board!

At West Ham, Anton went straight into the first team making his debut at Manchester Utd in front of a capacity crowd of 55,000 - from 3,500 on a good day at Barnsley to 55,000 in not much more than a week.

West Ham struggled once Greenwood became England manager, and Lyall ended up managing a relegated team. In the lower reaches of division 2, Alan Devonshire kept Anton out of the team, and he then joined Southend in March 1979, but Southend were relegated.

In the League Cup epic against West Ham that season, Southend did well to draw 1-1 at Upton Park, and then 0-0 in front of 22,497 at Roots Hall. The rematch was lost 5-0 and Anton was substituted.

Southend were relegated, but in 1981, Southend enjoyed their best season, breaking all number of records. Anton was present for all but 3 games of this season, scored 2, and made many others.

The next few seasons Southend flirted with division three.

Then, George Graham at Millwall, who were struggling at the time, came in and bought you and Dave Cusack for £60,000.

Was your move to Millwall largely against your wishes at the time?

"I think it was a matter of the Rubin brothers seeing the ££££'s sign"

However, the move was inspired as Milwall rallied to clinch safety from certain relegation that season. Anton's first goal for Millwall was against Southend...

George Graham summed Anton up as. "Anton drifts in and out of games," he acknowledged, "but when he drifts in he's class." Millwall finished 7th the next season and Anton was awarded Player of the Year and earned respect from the Millwall fans.

In 1984-85, Millwall finished as third division runners up to gain promotion, where Anton played alongside others, John Fashanu. This season also saw Millwall advance to the quarter finals of the FA Cup but ended up going out after a 1-0 defeat at Luton which is sadly remembered for its sickening violence.

On leaving the Den Anton moved to Crystal Palace for £19,000. Millwall had wanted £100,000 but the tribunal panel sided with Palace. Anton would manage only twelve games for Palace before suffering an injury which would end his league career - after retiring from league football he had a spell as manager of Hastings Town.

Anton also established a Sport Ace programme which coached youngsters in Essex in a variety of sports and he carried that on for over a decade before returning to Yorkshire to be near his family. Now he currently works for himself in the property market, working from home.

Although he doesn't work in football anymore, up to two years ago he scouted/assessed for Tottenham F.C. "George Graham offered me the position when he was manager there", Anton said. He doesn't watch as much football as he used to, and asked if he was enjoying retirement from the professional game - the answer was simple: "yes".

"Looking back at your career - what is your proudest moment, and your biggest achievement?
"I have so many proud moments it would almost seem unfair to single one out. Biggest achievements, being an absolute professional at all times. From staying behind after training to eating the freshest possible food - I was totally dedicated and committed to the professional game."

Anton has played for five professional clubs in his career - does he keep an eye out for their results?

"Of course, they are the first results I look for."

Do you keep in touch with any of your former team-mates?

"Not in the main, however, I do keep in touch with George Graham"

Do you think money has ruined football for you in terms of the big wages and the impact of the foreigners on youth football?

"I am of the belief that as a professional you do deserve a good salary but I do think certain salaries are far too high now. A form of 'capping' within a structured band may allow the clubs to then filter surplus revenue to the roots of the game."

How do you think the way the game is played now is different from when you did?
"Far greater in speed, thought and action. A more dynamic game - I really enjoy watching the game these days."

Can you still do the forward somersault throw-ins?
"kind of - with a limp and on a good day!"

What was your career highlight at Roots Hall?
"winning promotion"

What was it like working under Dave Smith as gaffer?

"Truthfully and honestly it was an absolute nightmare. I have never known such a childish person in all my days as a professional. When I recall some of the events that went on behind the scenes - I feel embarrassed for the man. You cannot compare Dave Smith with the likes of Ron Greenwood, John Lyall or George Graham, they are in a completely different league to him.

"I can remember him blaming our defeat at Brentford one year because I wasn't wearing any shin pads!! The mind boggles.

"He would try to humiliate you in front of other players. For instance - he suggested, in front of all the players after a game within the dressing rooms, that I had been to his office earlier that week 'cap in hand' to ask the club to pay my conveyancing fees which was linked to my move to Southend. He failed to notice that it was written in my contract, I reminded him of this but failed to admit it in front of the players. The stories go on and on."

No questions, but can you thank him for teaching me how to do overhead kicks on the crash mats during Anton Anton's Soccer Schools at Tommy Moore School.

"I hope he is still able to do them!"

How did you feel being substituted during our 5-0 loss at Upton Park in the second replay of the League Cup, With West Ham being his old club?

"It was on the cards before the game had even started, so I had expected it at some point regardless of how I was playing. We had one of those Dave Smith's moments before the game."

Who was your favorite Southend player you played along side in your time at Southend and why?

"Ron Pountney and 'Inch high', for completely different reasons. Ron for his honesty and never say die attitude and Inch high for his passion, cute/canny footballing mind."

What in your opinion was the best goal you scored for the Blues?

"I think I scored from almost the halfway line in an evening game. I think it was against Brentford - I'm not sure though?"

What game really sticks in your mind when you think about your time at Southend?

"Losing to the non-league team in the early stages of the FA Cup"

Why did you pick to come to Southend after your time at West Ham?

"I think at the time I wasn't making the West Ham first team and wanted to prove to myself that I could hold down first team football somewhere. It just happened to be Dave Smith who came knocking on the door first. I also felt that if I did prove myself elsewhere it could be used as a 'stepping stone' onto another club.

What was the worst injury you suffered at Southend and during your playing career?

"Training ground injury, a challenge for the ball in the air with Andy Polycarpou, he led with his elbow. Almost knocked me out, then taken to the hospital where I did collapse and had subsequent surgery to straighten my teeth and jaw line. I think I was out of action for about 5 weeks"

Are you still in contact with any Old Southend players?


Did you enjoy your time teaching youngsters?

"Absolutely, I really enjoyed seeing their progress throughout the years"

When was the last time you saw Southend United Play?

"6 years ago. I was hoping to go to a game last season in the North of England but could not get hold of any tickets"

Will you come back for the last game at Roots Hall?

"I would love too - is that an invitation?"

Do you think Players no longer put 110% into a game for their country just in case they miss out on there win bonuses for there clubs?

"No, I don't think the international players get enough time together. I think they want to give their best but the formation they play never seems to 'click'"

What do you think of Southend's new Ground?
"I'm afraid I don't know much about it"

Was scoring a goal at Roots Hall made even more enjoyable by the complete inability of the PA announcer (Frank Gill) to pronounce your name correctly, or did it annoy you?

"I even gave him lessons in pronouncing it correctly - time wasted I think. No, it didn't make it more enjoyable - it just made me cringe!"

How many points is your name worth in Scrabble?

"1,245 I think?"

Finally, what lessons would you give to any youngsters hoping to make it in professional football at the moment?
"Master the skills and techniques of the game first. Progress positively and not too quickly through your own age levels.Get a good coach behind you and practise, practise and practise. You also need a good footballing brain, this married with a high level of skill and total dedication will certainly give you a good start towards the life as a professional."