Steve Lynex

Former Player Remembers: Steve Lynex (Part One)

Winger Steve Lynex made 240 appearances for Leicester City between 1981 and 1987, scoring 60 goals. Last week, he spoke to Club Historian John Hutchinson about his career in football. In the first part of the interview, he recalls some of the highlights of playing for the Foxes in the old First Division.

He also looks back on his time at West Bromwich Albion, Shamrock Rovers and Birmingham City and about his move to Jock Wallace’s Leicester City in 1981.   

Steve began by recalling painful memories playing in a match in the old First Division against Manchester United, at Filbert Street in November 1983.

“Peter Eastoe, who was on loan to us from West Brom was playing,” Steve began. “We had been told to stand in front of Gordon McQueen, United’s centre-back. The nice gentleman elbowed me in the face and knocked a couple of my teeth out. Later in the first half, he broke Peter Eastoe’s jaw following a kick out from (Leicester City goalkeeper) Mark Wallington. Peter played on, not realising at that stage that his jaw had been broken. In the second half, McQueen hit Peter again on the other side of his jaw and broke it again… Then he knew something was wrong!

“I remember because, after the game, we were sitting in two cubicles next to each other in the hospital waiting to be looked at. He had to have his jaw wired up and was out for a few weeks. McQueen didn’t get sent off. He didn’t even get booked. It was part of the game then.”

Four weeks earlier, in a fixture at Filbert Street against Southampton, Steve was involved in another memorable match at Filbert Street.  

“That was a weird one,” Steve recalled. “The rain came down and it was horrendous. It came down so fast that there was a lot of surface water. During the game, I fell. I just felt myself going down and sliding so I just thought I’d start swimming through the water, doing the breaststroke! It’s on You Tube. About half an hour after the game had been abandoned, the water had gone. It was really weird.”

The dominant teams in English football in the years that Steve was playing in the top flight for Leicester City were Everton, who were league champions in 1985 and 1987, and Liverpool, who won the title in 1984 and 1986.

He added: “I remember playing against Everton in 1985. (Everton goalkeeper) Neville Southall hadn’t conceded a goal for about 700 minutes and then I scored against him at Filbert Street, although we ended up by losing 2-1.

I scored from just outside the box on the right-hand side and I hit it straight over Bruce Grobbelaar into the top corner.

Steve Lynex

“We always seemed to do well against Liverpool. We were their bogey side. There was a game in 1984 when I scored a cracker at Filbert Street. I think it was a mid-week game and we drew 3-3.  I scored from just outside the box on the right-hand side and I hit it straight over Bruce Grobbelaar into the top corner. The club did an eight-track video of the game and I had the tape, but I don’t have it now. My dad used to video all of the birds in his garden and he ran out of tape, so he put a bit of Sellotape over the back of my football tape and then taped over it! It’s been lost forever! I’ve tried to ask around but nobody has got it. Shame really!”

The conversation then turned towards Steve’s early days in football.

“I was born about four miles away from West Brom’s ground, and I grew up as a West Brom fan,” he continued. “I used to sit on the wall just past the 18-yard area. One day, Jeff Astle scored and he came running over and picked me up off the wall. I never had a wash for a month!

“In those days, my mum and sister used to work for the Red Cross and we’d pile in the back of the ambulance, drive to the ground and park in a corner. As soon as the back doors were open, we just ran and scattered.

“I played in a good school football team and then in a Sunday League team called Sandwell Rangers. We played in the local Warley League. Aston Villa’s youth team played in the same league at that time. They hadn’t lost for about four years and we beat them, home and away. There was a bit of interest in me from the Villa, but my dad wouldn’t let me go there because you couldn’t mention Villa or Wolves in our house! You could swear in our house but if I said Wolves or Villa, I’d get a clout!”

Steve became an apprentice at West Bromwich Albion in July 1974 and signed professional forms in January 1976, the year the Baggies were promoted to the old First Division. The manager was the ex-Manchester United, Leeds United and Republic of Ireland midfielder Johnny Giles.

“We beat Wolves to win the FA Youth Cup (in 1976),” Steve explained. “We’re still the only Albion side that’s ever done this. Derek Statham (who went on to play for England) was in the side. Mark Grew was the goalkeeper. Bob Hazell (a centre-back who later played for Leicester City) was playing against us. I hated him for a bit because he’d done me in the first leg of the final, so I couldn’t play in the second leg, but when he came to Leicester we ended up being the best of mates.

“Just before he left Albion (in May 1977), Johnny Giles released me. He went to Shamrock Rovers (as player-manager and executive director, having bought a part share in the club). At that time, Albion had good players like Willie Johnston, Laurie Cunningham, Bryan Robson, Cyrille Regis and Derek Statham.

I went over to see big Jock and he sold the Club to me straightaway. I couldn’t understand his strong Scottish accent too well, but whatever he told me, I just said yes!

Steve Lynex

“Within a few weeks of releasing me, Johnny Giles phoned me up and asked me to go over there. It wasn’t until a year later that I started to think to myself: ‘Did he release me to get me to Shamrock Rovers?’ He also took Ray Treacy from West Brom, as well as Eamon Dunphy. They were both Republic of Ireland internationals. When we went there, we became the first professional club in Ireland. We got professional contracts and we went on to win the Irish FA Cup (in 1978, beating Sligo Rovers 1-0). There was a big crowd for the final and it was a big occasion. I got brought down to win a penalty… Ray Treacy took it and scored.”

In April 1979, Steve returned to the West Midlands and signed for Birmingham City. They were just about to be relegated from the old First Division, but the following season (1979/80), they were promoted back to the top flight at the first attempt.

Steve said: “Trevor Francis had just left (for Nottingham Forest to become the UK’s first £1M player), but they had players like Archie Gemmill and Frank Worthington. My God, what a player Frank was! Jim Smith was the manager. We had a cracking side there. Because I was young and coming back to England, my first few appearances were substitute appearances and, every time I came on, I scored. I got a good run in the team and that’s when Leicester took an interest.”

Steve moved to Wallace’s City in February 1981, at a time when the Foxes were fighting against relegation, having been promoted to the old First Division at the end of the previous season.

“The move came as a surprise,” Steve recalled. “I was doing well in the Birmingham team. Then Jim Smith came to me one day and just said: ‘Leicester City want to talk to you’. So I went over to see big Jock and he sold the Club to me straightaway. I couldn’t understand his strong Scottish accent too well, but whatever he told me, I just said yes! He was a big guy with a big deep voice. But he was straight as a die. I signed straightaway and that was it.

“Being involved in a relegation fight didn’t worry me. I was young, I hadn’t really earned anything in football terms because I was a young lad and it was quite a privilege, to be honest, to sign. The Club made me feel wanted. It all just clicked.”

Steve hardly missed a game for the next five seasons. Although Wallace’s team was relegated at the end of the season, they reached the semi-final of the FA Cup the following season (1981/82). The run included victories over Southampton, Hereford United and Watford before the win over Shrewsbury Town in an unforgettable ‘three-goalkeeper’ quarter-final tie at Filbert Street.

Thinking back to the Shrewsbury game, Steve continued “This was a time when you only had one substitute. Mark Wallington (who hadn’t missed a match for over six years and who was playing in his 331st consecutive league and cup game) got hurt in the first half. He tried to carry on but he couldn’t really and he conceded a couple of goals. Big Jock made the decision to take him off and put (centre-forward) Alan Young in goal. Then he got injured and, because I used to mess about in goal in training, they swapped me with Alan and I went in goal. I’ll always remember tipping a shot over the bar and afterwards I was telling my mates to watch Match of the Day, but they cut my save… They never showed it!”

I was young, I hadn’t really earned anything in football terms because I was a young lad and it was quite a privilege, to be honest, to sign.

Steve Lynex

Young then returned to take the goalkeeper’s jersey again. Back on the right wing, Steve made a scorching run, before crossing to Jim Melrose, who beat the goalkeeper from close range for a 57th-minute goal.

Ten minutes later, Gary Lineker added a fourth, following up a foiled effort from Melrose. With the support from the packed terraces reaching new heights of emotion and passion, City were on the crest of a wave. 

In the final minute, the stands positively erupted when Melrose scored a fifth goal with a fine header after Wilson, Lynex and Lineker had carved their way through the Shrewsbury team. 

The final score was 5-2, qualifying Leicester for a semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur at Villa Park. 

In part two of the interview, in the next edition of CITY, Steve talks about that semi-final, Jock Wallace’s abrupt departure from the Club, promotion under the new manager Gordon Milne, playing for the Club in the old First Division with Gary Lineker and Alan Smith and how this trio scored 156 goals between them in three seasons. He also reflects on his time at Filbert Street and explains why he left the Club.

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