ISSUE 7 of GLF pays tribute to the former City legend Keith Walwyn - affectionally known as the ‘Big Man’ - who sadly passed away in April of 2003.
In season 1980/81,
GLF managed to arrange a Q&A with Keith late last year,
and he gladly responded to the questions we sent him, many set by readers of
GLF. His answers reached us in February, just two months before the shocking
news broke that he had passed away following surgery on his heart. Keith’s
death left City fans who witnessed his fully committed performances in a
A minutes silence was held at the next home game against
GLF are proud to publish probably his final interview about his career at City and beyond, with kind permission from the Walwyn family. R.I.P. ‘BIG MAN’
GLF: Keith, you were bought by Barry Lyons for £4,000 from
KW: Because they had two good strikers in Ernie Moss and Phil Walker who were playing well together at the time.
GLF: City were a struggling side at the bottom of the old 4th division when you arrived, what appealed to you most about joining?
GLF: Do you recall your debut for City in which you scored a goal?
KW: I remember Roy Kay centering the ball to me. I chested it down, and volleyed it across the ‘keeper but unfortunately I don’t recall who it was against. (Away at Tranmere Rovers, 29th Aug 1981 - Ed)
GLF: You managed to forge an excellent partnership with John Byrne in the City frontline. Why did you compliment each other so well?
KW: John liked to go around defenders. I wasn’t bothered whether I went around, through or over defenders to score a goal!
GLF: During the 83/84 Championship season, you netted 25 league goals and John 27. Did you have a side bet to see who would finish top scorer?
KW: No we didn’t have a side bet. We all tried to make goals for one another.
GLF: Were Denis Smith and Viv Busby a factor in you and John Byrne gelling so well?
KW: Yes, because John would have probably left if they hadn’t come to the club. Denis turned John into a more consistent player.
GLF: What is your most vivid memory from the momentous Championship season of 1983/84?
KW: Watching the fans celebrate after the
GLF: You scored 140 goals for the club. Any favourites?
KW: Left-footed half volley from 25 yards against Orient
away. I didn’t score many left-footers from that distance. Also the headed goal
GLF: Did you have a nickname while you were at the club?
KW: Big Man.
GLF: What do you recall from the titanic matches in the FA
Cup against Arsenal and then
KW: We deserved to win the Arsenal game because they didn’t
like playing us on the frozen pitch. The 5th Round home ties against
GLF: The ‘goal’ you scored at Anfield in the ‘86 replay which was disallowed - are you convinced it should have stood to put City 2-1 up? Looked good to me!
KW: I thought it was a good goal but it was at Anfield. Lower league teams didn’t beat 1st Division teams in those days, especially on their own ground.
GLF: Do you remember being hit by a bottle thrown by Scouse
rogues while celebrating Ricky Sbragia’s late equaliser in the first meeting
KW: I do remember being hit by the bottle and the other players dragging me away. I was just glad it hadn’t broken on the pitch.
GLF: What would you say was the most memorable moment in your whole career?
KW: I would say my most memorable was scoring on my
Professional debut for
GLF: Apart from 1984/85 when you missed some of the season
through injury, you scored over 20 goals each season at
KW: Hard to say, but nowadays if you score six goals in as many games, you seem to be worth at least £5m.
GLF: Who was the biggest influence on your career and why?
KW: Billy Dearden and Frank Barlow at
GLF: Who was the best player you played with at City......and the worst dresser?
KW: Best player - John Byrne; Worst Dresser - Keith Houchen!
GLF: Did you ever suffer any embarrassing moments on the field of play?
KW: Scoring an own goal at Valley Parade.
GLF: Your first son James experienced health problems while
you were at City and he subsequently had life-saving heart surgery at
KW: Yes, the people of
GLF: It was a very sad day for City fans when you left the
club. What was the reason for leaving for
KW: I just felt it was time for a change.
GLF: One of your biggest assets was your physical presence in and around the penalty area. Would you be booked a lot more in the modern game?
KW: I don’t think I would get booked more. Alan Shearer is physical and he seems to cope okay.
GLF: Any pre-match rituals you undertook?.....Good luck charms, etc?
KW: I didn’t come out before games for warm-ups, especially in Winter. I sat on the radiator!
GLF: Did you ever consider going into management?
KW: Coaching, but not management.
GLF: Did you ever encounter racist chanting while playing for City? If you did, how did you cope with it?
KW: I encountered quite a bit of it, so I took it out on their defenders and ‘keepers. But the best way of all was to put the ball in the net. It was harder for my wife sat in the stand, because she had to listen to it all.
GLF: Did you hang out with any team-mates during nights out
KW: Used to hang around with John Byrne, Gary Ford and Steve Senior mostly.
GLF: Did you have a particular favourite place to eat/drink/club?
KW: We did have a few eating places and clubs we’d like to go to, but I don’t think they are still there. I didn’t frequent a lot of bars, due to the fact I didn’t drink.
GLF: Did you gain any further honours in the game after
GLF: What do you make of ex Chairman Douglas Craig’s efforts
KW: There is always a reason why things are done. I don’t want to say too much, but I do recall his booming voice cheering us on from the Directors box.
GLF: What did you most like about the City of
KW: My wife and I enjoyed our time at
GLF: Many thanks, Keith.
He wasn’t always a pretty site - not an artiste in the way of his partner, John Byrne - but he was incredibly effective, full of menace and with those trademark sweatbands on either wrist.
The image of Keith leaping through the air to meet a Gary Ford cross will always be imprinted on my mind. It happened so many times, never more so than in that record-breaking Fourth Division Championship season, when he seemed to score every week. Distance, or in this case time, lends enchantment to the view, of course, however, I can think of no finer lower division centre-forward. And he wasn’t a bad defender either!
But for a piece of weak
refereeing at Anfield, he would have scored a famous FA Cup winner against
Myself and a mate thought it might be a laugh and a good stunt to raise some money by kicking a football to the Easter Monday away game at Donny. In fact we got a lot of interest, and it turned into quite a big project. Keith and Liz were really good in helping us to organise various things, and as a result, I made a couple of visits to their house to sort a few things out with them. I remember on the first occasion sitting on their sofa, supping tea and thinking to myself ”I can’t believe I’m sat in the presence of a legend!”
To be honest, I
probably couldn’t have felt more overawed if I’d been asked over for lunch with
The biggest impression
that Keith left me with though, was his modesty. Already a fans favourite at
Hearing about Keith’s
death in April 2003, was a real shocker; and I’m sure he will be dreadfully
missed by Liz and the boys, as well as
I’m sure for most of us, Keith was the true ‘Millennium Hero’ and for me, the privilege of knowing him, even for a very short time many years ago, will always be a great honour.
“Thanks Keith.” IAN
In September 1999, I was travelling to Fleetwood Golf Club
through a small town near
Earlier this year, it was proposed that I might give Keith a lift to the ‘Legends Dinner’ at York Racecourse so I went to see him. He did say that he might have other commitments that particular day, so I left him my phone number. The night before the dinner, he rang to say that he could not come and apologised profusely. A few weeks later he sadly passed away.
I will cherish those brief encounters with Keith forever. - NEIL JACQUES
I recall Keith taking me under his wing when I was mascot
My son Tim and his friends had been invited to meet the team
in the dressing room before a match. They were so excited that they baked
biscuits and sold them up and down the road to raise some cash for the
The great day arrived and they (and me as accompanying adult) were met by Viv Busby and taken into the dressing room where they handed over the cash. After talking to the players, they got their autograph books out. When it was Tim's turn, Keith took the book, grinned, looked him in the eye and signed his name accompanied with a great big X. - CAROL ABEL
I remember the first time I saw Keith Walwyn play. I decided
that I didn't like him! I didn't like him because he was playing for Chesterfield reserves v
York City reserves at Bootham Crescent and
he ran rings round the City defence and helped Chesterfield to a
resounding victory. A couple of days later it was announced that we'd signed
him and I was ecstatic. For the next few years I witnessed 'Big Keith' running
rings round lots of other defences and I loved it! And who can forget those
piercing cries of: “Byrney, Byrney, give me the ball !"
R.I.P. Big Keith - We'll NEVER forget you. - MARY FRAME
I have many great memories of the big man, but somewhat strangely, my fondest memory actually relates to me playing and Keith being a spectator. I was aged nine, a couple of years before I was forced to retire early from the game due to a serious lack of skill, ability and general ineptness. Anyway, I was playing for my local cub team against our local school, in an unevenly matched annual game. I remember we were losing about 7-0 (or possibly 70-0) and we were nearing the final whistle, when I received the ball 30 yards out and placed it into the top corner, leaving the keeper standing. Either that or it was about 7 yards and took a couple of deflections on the way, my memory is a little fuzzy! Anyway, Keith was at the game doing his bit for football in the community, and after the game, I was awarded the man of the match for our team and remember being congratulated by Keith for scoring. I got his autograph and my photo (see right) taken with him, and was the happiest loser around! - PHIL AKRILL
I recall his high pitched voice clearly as he shreiked for a
pass and getting stuck in the net after flying onto a cross - but most of all,
his shot along the turf at
GLF can reveal that a grand total of £1,400 was raised and the money, at the request of the Walwyn family is to be donated to the Blackpool Hospital Coronary Unit in Keith’s memory. Fantastic effort, City fans!
Thanks to all those who donated.
“ I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at
the club for all the kind condolences that I received and for all the
tremendous support that the
Yours Sincerely, Liz Walwyn