‘They said I was too Small’ – Ron Springett’s Tough Climb to the Top

Former Rangers and England goalkeeper, Ron Springett, sadly passed away one year ago today, aged 80 years old. The following article appeared in a football periodical in 1965:

‘The last England cap I won was against Switzerland, at Basle, in 1963. We beat the Swiss 8-1. It was the last match of a very successful England tour, with the Czechs and the East Germans as our previous victims. That one against the Swiss was my 30th cap – a record for an England keeper.

I’m not climbing any trees to shout this out loud, but I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit to great pride in that record, remembering all the fine goalkeepers who have been on England duty before me – and since.

But no records looked like coming my way when I started out at 17. It’s a hard road to the top, don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. There are disappointments – as I found when I wrote for trials to my nearest League clubs, Fulham and Queen’s Park Rangers.

After a short trial at Craven Cottage, in which Johnny Haynes also took part, Fulham told me I was “too small”. It was a smack in the face for me with my dreams of being a professional footballer. Just pipe-dreams they seemed right then.

I felt pretty low for a week. Then the Rangers answered my letter, asking me to report for a trial. I did fairly well in it, but didn’t expect any outcome because Rangers already had two experienced goalkeepers and Alan Silver, the England Youth choice.

A little later I was asked to play in a Youth Cup-tie for them………at centre-forward. Alan was to be the goalkeeper. I told them I couldn’t play there, so they switched Alan upfield and I went in goal.

After a few more games I was off sick from my job as a fitter’s mate when Rangers asked me to play in the Youth side at Watford. I felt then that something was about to happen. So I forgot my illness, made sure that Rangers never knew the position and off I went.

Stopping a hard shot in the first five minutes I hurt my fingers. I didn’t think much of it and never reported it at the time. But having been kept in pain overnight, I decided to ring the club next day and inform them.

Before I could do so they had rung me…asking me to get to Loftus Road to sign professional forms. Off I went, excited about realising my ambition…and finished the morning at a local hospital, having a broken finger attended to!

That was in 1953. Came the September and I was called up for National Service with the RAMC at Aldershot. Not for me the chance of representative football in the Army…most of my football became Soccer-on-the-sands in Egypt, playing against bare-footed rivals…and very good they were, too.

I made my League debut against Norwich City, in 1955, played for Third South against Third North at Crystal Palace in 1957 and was transferred to Sheffield Wednesday in 1958.
RSThere was a hitch at first. I was about to get married and my future wife wanted to stay in London…so I decided to stay put. Then Alan Brown came along from Sunderland.

After hearing my wish to stay South, he agreed I could stay and train in London. The deal was contingent on “Legs” Fleming going to the Rangers…and he turned down the move.

So Wednesday came back, agreed the same living and training conditions, and this time I signed. That arrangement still exists and Wednesday have always kept to their word. I suppose it’s because there is less need for a goalkeeper being in on tactics and training. So I am still at Loftus Road!

After two Football League honours I was picked against Northern Ireland in November, 1959 – the first of those 30 caps. Each has a story and memory.

One game I’ll always look back on and enjoy the recollection was that 4-2 beating of Spain, at Wembley in 1960. It was a day of lashing rain and mud, and England were the underdogs. It was great to hear an English crowd really behind us as they were that day.

Another game to remember was our 9-3 defeat of Scotland in 1961, when the lads really turned it on after the Scots had got the first goal. We were just filing out on the pitch when word was brought to me that Terry, our first daughter, had been born.

My start at Hillsborough was not so hot. I was in for the last nine games of the 1957-58 season; we were relegated. But the next season we bounced right back and I earned a Second Division Championship medal.

Now my ambition is a Cup-winners medal with Wednesday. We have got so near Wembley. In the semi-finals of 1960 we had most of the game against Blackburn, only for Derek Dougan to snatch two chances and stop us cold.

But I’ve still been very lucky. I have met the greatest players around the world and played in the World Cup in Chile in 1962. I hope Peter, my younger brother, now a goalkeeper with Rangers, has half the fortune I’ve enjoyed.’

Rest in Peace Ron.

Steve Russell