Whitby Town give departing boss Lee trophy as ideal send-off in 1985
It was April 9, 1985’s Whitby Gazette that broke the news to the club’s supporters. Tony Lee was quitting at the end of the season.
Disagreements over the playing budget, coupled with losing stars Ronnie Sills, John Gollogoly, Phil Linacre and Derek Hampton had led to Lee’s resignation going in - the second time it had in a year.
The first time, he was talked out of it, this time, it wasn’t to be the case. His assistant, Lennie Gunn, was to go with him.
The club’s secretary Bob Scaife was standing firm on the matter: “We have to be self-supporting. You can’t go buying players when you get only 161 people at the ground.”
And with that matter closed for Scaife, he refused to let the grass grow and set about searching for a replacement as Lee’s tenure was coming to a close.
Early May was the first whisperings of the man to replace the Blues’ FA Cup hero - the name coming to the fore being David Harvey.
The Whitby Gazette’s May 3 edition carried more - Scaife confirming that the former Leeds United goalkeeper had had talks, and would consider his options with a look at the Turnbull Ground, before casting his eye over the side at Spennymoor, in the Northern League Cup final against North Shields.
Tony Lee kept preparing his side week in, week out. The final time that he was to do this would be the opportunity to go out on a high. To add one final piece of silverware.
And it could not have been a more fitting send-off for a manager who had enjoyed nothing but success with the Seasiders.
And while Harvey sat in the stands watching on, Whitby looked strong without threatening a great deal.
After six minutes, the Blues had the ball in the back of the net, though Paul Sharkey was adjudged to have fouled his man when converting Geoff Lilley’s cross.
And it looked like things might not go the way Whitby wanted when North Shields went against the script by opening the scoring; the goal coming against the run of play.
Into the break, Whitby struggled finding a breakthrough, dominating the midfield but failing to produce anything of note in the final third.
The second half was one-way traffic, Neal Granycome stinging the palms of the Robins’ 19-year-old gloveman early in the 45, before testing the opposition another couple of times before the Seasiders finally got through the Robins’ rearguard.
But it was Mick Omoni who levelled for Whitby, forcing extra-time at the Brewery Field and allowing Whitby to show their very best under Tony Lee.
It came as no surprise, when, in the ninth minute of the extra period, Whitby finally got the lead they’d been seeking. David Coleby gathered Mutrie’s corner and quickly found Sharkey out wide, setting Whitby’s attack going and finding Granycome, who made no mistake in ensuring the cup headed back to Whitby and Lee bowed out with another success, after so many at the Turnbull Ground over his five years in charge.
Following the full-time whistle and trophy presentations, there was appreciation, chiefly from the Whitby players for Lee-O, for that tenure - a presentation of a rose bowl in the clubhouse came as the tangible showing of that, but the years after, how they spoke about the gaffer, and how many continued to play under him elsewhere, were as important as anything they could have presented him with that night in Spennymoor.
After the final, the Blues’ FA Cup hero Lee would go on to state his case, in an open letter to supporters published in the an August edition of the Whitby Gazette, shortly before the beginning of the new season.
“Sir, - I feel I must write to let the supporters of Whitby Town FC know that the statement made by Bob Scaife at the club’s annual general meeting, reported in the Whitby Gazette last week, that I had not asked for any money to buy any specific player, is totally untrue,” the letter read.
“I asked on four occasions over the last two seasons to sign specific players and was flatly refused and was told there was no chance of any money at all, as the club was ‘struggling’.
“I eventually felt I had to leave the club after I had given Bob Scaife a £100 donation from a Middlesbrough firm to help buy a player we were after, for whom £150 was being asked.
“I needed £50 from Whitby Town FC to get the player, but I was again refused and told ‘no chance’.
“At that time, we had just lost Derek Hampton and John Gollogly, Brian Andrews was badly injured and Paul Sharkey was working away. We also had a couple of other injuries in the squad and were finding it difficult to field a side.
“After being refused the money to sign this particular player, I had a word with Bob Scaife in the presence of Lennie Gunn, the club coach, and Stuart Coleby, the club captain, and asked whether I would be given any financial backing to sign players I had already lined up to come to Whitby Town.
“I was asking for some of the money we had received from the transfer of Ronnie Sills, Derek Hampton and John Gollogly, and I was told once again that there would be no financial help at all and they would have to look at the wage structure to see if they could maintain the expense of the players.
“After being told this, I realised I was going to receive no support whatsoever and felt it my duty to make way for someone else.
“I would like to take the opportunity of thanking the supporters for their backing in the four and a half years I was with Whitby Town - and from everyone else concerned.
“Apart from this difficulty over money, I enjoyed the success we had and I wish the new manager and the players every success for the future.”
Over Lee’s tenure as Whitby Town manager, the club reached the FA Cup second round, coming back from 2-0 down to beat Division 4 Halifax Town 3-2, before losing out to Wigan Athletic thanks to a late penalty in 1983.
The Seasiders would again reach the first round in 1984, losing out 3-1 to Chesterfield at the Turnbull Ground.
Among Lee’s other successes were consecutive top 3 finishes in the Northern League, and an FA Trophy quarter final, when the Blues took Dagenham to a replay, before losing out 3-0 on home turf.
Harvey would lead the Blues to the FA Cup second round again in 1985, before their run was halted by York City at Bootham Crescent - bringing former Leeds United teammates Eddie Gray, Peter Lorimer and Ray Hankin in to help bolster the squad. A poor run of results, however, would lead to his downfall as manager of the club.