Ormsby’s Not Bitter
by Shane Murphy
(first published in the March 2011 Finn Harps match programme)
“We only drink Hoffmans and bottles of rum, the Waterford boys are in town!” So goes one of the long-standing songs of the Blues faithful, but if you ever happen upon The Spa Complex bar in Scarborough, you might want to sample the local brew, Ormsby’s Bitter, named after the former Leeds United captain, European Cup winner and Waterford United manager Brendan Ormsby.
The mid ’90s was an unsuccessful period for Waterford United – languishing in the First Division for five seasons (finishing as low as 8th) and changing manager once a year until Tommy Lynch lead us back into the top flight. The first of those seasons actually held some promise as we moved into our new stadium and appointed a player-manager with vast experience in England.
Ormsby, who turned 50 last October, came to Waterford with great pedigree. He captained the England Youth team and came through the Aston Villa youth system with Gary Shaw and Gordon Cowans, making his senior debut in 1978. His greatest moment came in 1982 when he gained a European Cup winners medal as part of the Villa squad that beat Bayern Munich in the final (having started three of Villa’s nine matches in the competition). A centre half, he only scored 4 goals in 8 years at Aston Villa, but is fondly remembered for one in particular in 1985. No TV cameras were present so we have to trust the memory of the fans at Upton Park when Brendan hit a 45 yard rocket to the net that some described as the greatest goal they’d ever seen. It was from such an unlikely source that it was met with stunned silence before Villa right back Gary Williams burst out laughing!
In 1986, Brendan moved to Leeds United where he became captain. In his first season, he scored the goal that put Billy Bremner’s Second Division side through to the FA Cup quarter finals. However, a bad mistake from the centre back helped Coventry to win the semi 3-2 and cost Leeds a place in the final. He played with Strachan, Speed and Vinnie Jones when Howard Wilkinson managed Leeds to promotion in 1990, but left that summer for Doncaster Rovers. After two seasons there and a short spell with Scarborough, his next move was into management when the Blues came calling.
Waterford’s tenancy in Kilcohan Park had come to a heart-breaking end in 1993 with a relegation play-off defeat to Monaghan. Alfie Hale stepped down as manager and was replaced by 32-year-old Ormsby. Having become the epitome of a yo-yo club with 3 relegations and 2 promotions in the previous five years, United were expecting to bounce straight back up in our first season at the RSC, but when we drew our first five matches the signs were clear that the yo-yo’s string was about to be cut. In total, we drew 13 of our 27 matches which was both critical and ironic given this was the first season when three points were awarded for a win. In fact, we only claimed maximum points six times – the highpoint being a 6-0 hammering of tonight’s visitors, equalling Finn Harps’ record defeat. Paul Stokes finished top scorer with 7 of our 32 goals as the Blues came 7th in the ten team First Division. A tame 1-0 home Cup defeat to Cobh on a wet, miserable Thursday afternoon just about summed up the season. When the League finished in April, the club wanted a change and, despite being regarded as a popular character here, Brendan left by mutual consent.
Later that year, in a Leeds United matchday programme, he gave his views on his time with the Blues. “Let’s say it was a learning experience. It was quite amateurish in some ways. The facilities were bad. We were expected to train on car parks. Then in one game, I had to take the goalkeeper (Paul Flynn) off just after half-time because he was a big star for Waterford at hurling. The sport is really big over there. Waterford had a hurling semi-final that same day and that took preference. After coming out of our game he was given a fast car police escort to the hurling tie!” Despite his clash with the GAA, Brendan said he really enjoyed his time in Waterford and would’ve liked another year.
After Waterford, he played a few games with Wigan before becoming a postman. “I start work at 4.30 am which is about the time I used to get in from a night out when I was a footballer”. He writes a weekly column about Leeds United in the Yorkshire Evening Post, and two weeks ago went back into management after a gap of 17 years. He is now in charge of the mighty Pontefract Colleries FC of the North Eastern Counties League Division One (the tenth level of the English football pyramid – five levels below the Conference). And whenever he feels like it, he can have a pint of Ormsby’s Bitter – official beer of the Scarborough branch of the Leeds United supporters club. Maybe he’ll raise a glass next November to toast Waterford’s First Division title success!