‘What a Start – I Broke a Leg!’ – Ray Drinkwater

The following article was written by Ray Drinkwater and appeared in Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly in July 1962:

‘I haven’t always been a goalkeeper. I was an outside-left when I went to Northmead School in Guildford, Surrey. If I had stayed in that position I don’t suppose I would have got into League football.

I took a fancy to goalkeeping in Sunday morning ‘kickabouts’ in a field in Guildford. Then came my first real matchfor a local club named Westway. I was carried off that daybut not in triumph. I was taken off with a fractured leg. What a debut!

An opponent dashed goalwards. I went out feet first, and I suppose with all the awkwardness of a novice. He jumped on my ankle, and that was that. It was nearly eighteen weeks before I was fit again. But it didn’t put me off. My enthusiasm for goalkeeping was as strong as ever. And my father encouraged me to go on playing.

From Westway I joined another Guildford club, Northway. It proved the right way! Northway had a really good spell, and we reached the Guildford and District Cup Final. The game was played on the Guildford City ground.

That in itself was a thrill. I had supported Guildford in the days when Freddie Monk, later Brentford’s trainer, was their centre-forward. But I never thought I would one day trot out as a player on the Josephs Road ground.

Things went well for me in that local final. After the game Bill Lane, who was then Guildford’s manager, offered me a trial. And that wasn’t all. A Wolves scout also watched the match, and I was asked to go to Molineux. I let that Wolverhampton chance slip by. I was not much more than 16, and had no wish to leave home. And I didn’t think I had much chance of making the grade with a big club like Wolves.

The Guildford offer sounded more realistic. I played on trial, and after the game Mr Lane signed me as an amateur. About three months later I became a professional. My Southern League debut was at Chelmsford. We lost by the only goal of the match, and I was dropped for the next game.

Football is full of ups and downs, and experience has taught me to take disappointments in my stride. But it is not always easy, especially when you are young and bursting with enthusiasm.

Back in season 1951-52 we had a good cup run at Guildford. We beat Hereford 4-1 in the first round proper, and were then drawn away to Gateshead, then a leading club in the old Third Division (North). Playing at Gateshead may not be everyone’s idea of a Soccer thrill, but it mattered to me.

You see, I was born at Jarrow, just a few miles from Gateshead. Although I left the North-East when very young, I still had plenty of relatives on Tyneside. So that tie at Redheugh Park would have been quite an occasion for me. But, when the team was picked I was not in it! I still long to play on Tyneside. Newcastle’s ground has a fascination for me.

I stayed on Guildford’s books while doing Army service. When I returned to civilian life my Soccer prospects were low. Guildford had about six goalkeepers and my chances looked pretty remote. For half a season I could get only the odd game. Then my luck changed, and I was back in Guildford’s first team.

By then Archie Macaulay had become manager. Archie’s help and advice improved my game, and League clubs began to take an interest in me. During one Thursday evening training session, I was called into the club office. Waiting to talk to me was Eddie Lever, then manager of Portsmouth. I agreed to join them.

Guildford to Portsmouth was a big step, but when I was transferred to Queen’s Park Rangers five seasons ago, I carried a heavier responsibility. I was signed as replacement for Ron Springett, who had moved to Sheffield Wednesday, and who has since risen to England rank.

Ron, a friend of mine, is a truly great goalkeeper. It was no easy job to follow in his footsteps.’

Ray made 214 league and cup appearances for the R’s before moving on to Bath City. He sadly passed away on 24th March 2008.

Steve Russell

3 thoughts on “‘What a Start – I Broke a Leg!’ – Ray Drinkwater

  1. One of my first hero’s when a young kid across the road on the white city estate , first mike pinner then frank smith neither in my view , ray was my fav , over two hundred apperences proves it ,

    When you consider woods Ingram ,keen Rutter and angell all players that proved a solid defence .

  2. Good article and pic.

    Ray although never spectacular was usually a very solid keeper. He gave good service to the R’s and was unlucky to miss out on promotion with us when we fell at the final hurdle in 1960/61 and 1961/62.

    I was also wondering if he was related to a Drinkwater connected to Durham County Cricket Club up in the North East?

  3. Yes Kerrins one of our early heroes and as you say without being a spectacular showy keeper he was Mr. Dependable.
    A good professional who got on with his job at a time they were all paid the proverbial peanuts without the baggage of today’s pampered poodles.

Comments are closed.