When researching to produce articles for this site it is not often that we are able to claim that someone connected with Wivenhoe Town F.C was a part of football history in England however Phil Bloss, who came to Broad Lane in the early nineties, is one such person and his history making moment came in August 1971 by scoring the winning spot kick in the first ever penalty shoot out in Senior English Football.
The occasion was the Final of the Watney Cup which in itself was Britain’s first ever sponsored football tournament. It was played as a pre-season warm up competition which featured the two top goalscoring teams from each of the four league divisions that had failed to win promotion or qualify for Europe. At the age of 18 and on the books of Colchester United at the time, Phil found himself in the line up for the Final against First Division West Bromwich Albion after the Fourth Division “U’s” had beaten Luton Town and Carlisle United. “Ken Jones was going to play in the game, but he got a bad blister.” Phil recalls. “I think I got about an hour’s notice that I was playing after turning up at the ground thinking I was going to be a substitute or something like that.”
The match, which was staged at The Hawthornes, ended in a 4-4 draw thanks to England International Jeff Astle’s late equalizer. When 30 minutes extra time failed to produce any more goals it set up the history making penalty shoot out. “The Baggies” missed twice and Phil, in only his second Senior outing, found himself on the spot. “When it came to taking my penalty, someome asked who was going to take it, but nobody volunteered. I suppose when you’re young you are more naive and you don’t think of the consequences of missing. Was it a good penalty ?. Well, it went in so that makes it a good one. I know at Colchester we all took the Watney Cup seriously. I think we got a bonus of around £50 for winning it.” he recalled.
That year’s competition, with the approval of the International Board, saw the Football League Management initiate an experimental offside law. The normal offside law of the time only operated in the penalty area which left two completely open areas either side of the penalty box for the attacking forwards to manoeuvre without being flagged by the linesmen. The experiment was observed by the great and the (not so) good of FIFA, UEFA and the Football Association and, quite obviously, was deemed a complete and utter waist of time…..just like the appalling “Kick In” rule we had to endure ourselves many years ago.
Having completed a two year spell at Layer Road, midfielder Phil actually went on to join West Bromwich Albion as well as play for Wimbledon in the Southern League and the likes of Clacton Town, Harwich & Parkeston and Willis Faber & Dumas on the local scene.
His association with Wivenhoe Town Football Club was initially as Manager of the Dragons’ Under 18’s in the Eastern Junior Alliance and he did a fine job establishing the base for what was to become a strong and successful Youth set up for several years to come which provided countless players for the First Team during our Isthmian League days. When Chris Symes was sacked in late November 1993 Phil stepped up to take over the First Team and to be fair was battling a losing cause with the club experiencing an horrific campaign on the pitch in the Isthmian League Premier Division (National League South standard today) as well as the constant threat of closure off the field of play. Against the odds Phil guided the team to a 1-0 victory at Dulwich Hamlet in his first game in charge on Saturday 11th December 1993 thanks to a goal by Paul Fraser (we were on the pools that day and were the last result in following what seemed an eternity of stoppage time. I wonder how many people’s predictions were let down by our result that day ?). Alas he was unable to help Wivenhoe avoid finishing bottom of the table and suffering a relegation that, quite frankly, had been on the cards from the opening day of the season !. With a predominately young team (including his son Leighton) he was not able to improve Wivenhoe’s fortunes the following season in Division One and Phil was eventually replaced by Steve Dowman in mid October 1994 and subsequently departed Broad Lane and went on to become First Team Manager of Stanway Rovers.
Sources for this article; Four Four Two Magazine October 1994 & The Football League Paper 31/12/17.