How boss Roger inspired the Eye United invincibles to a perfect Peterborough Premier Division season
It’s the 20th anniversary of the most impressive achievement in Peterborough Premier Division history.
As Eye United set out, under the inspirational management of Roger Daniels, to defend their top flight title at the start of the 2000-01 season no-one could have forecast what was to come.
Eye went on to win all 30 Premier Division games to become the local ‘invincibles.’
It’s a tale worth re-telling and skipper Alex Brown was happy to oblige.
When Roger took over the team at Eye he had to pretty much start again,” Brown recalled. “A good couple of years recruitment saw Eye lift his first title in the 1999/2000 season. Wanting to improve, he recruited well in the summer of 2000.
“Roger now felt he now had a squad to defend the title, not one full of superstars, but one he thought would work for each other and push again. A decent pre-season was always Roger’s way. He organised games against higher league opposition to see how his side coped under pressure rather than running them for miles and miles. This seemed to suit the squad and players reacted well to it. It culminated in a Jack Hogg Trophy win v Oundle to end a good pre-season.
“Roger used to finish every pre-match teamtalk the same way. He would say ‘it’s all about effort, it’s all about hard work. Respect the opposition, but don’t fear them’.
“And it worked. Before we knew it we were 11 games into the season and had won every game scoring 51 goals along the way. It wasn’t all plain sailing though. Against Pinchbeck in the 11th game it was 0-0 with 2 minutes to go, they had played and defended so well, but up popped the ever reliable Matt Leftley and Ash Favell to finish the game 2-0.
“The thought of a 100% season was never there, or indeed mentioned. Instructions were always set out to be as good as you can be and be honest to your teammates. Having a good goal threat always would put oppositions on the back foot. But not conceding the other end was a huge bonus. Having a keeper of Gary Hooke’s stature was a big plus for a Peterborough league side. Many forwards would go through 1 on 1 only to find ‘Hooky’ bearing down on them and invariably miss
“There were some very good sides in the league and most weeks there was a challenge to our league record. Moulton, Pearl, Leverington, Hotpoint, Bearings (PSL) all felt they could beat us. Hotpoint were only beaten 1-0 in each game, Moulton at their place were the only side to score 2 against us and Pearl, in the last game of the season, made us work harder than anyone to finally reach that 30-30 record. There was a feeling of not only elation, but a sense of relief once the season had finished. Many had discussed it outside the club, but the players and management didn’t. It was only in the final game against Pearl that it became part of the team talk. Roger was too clever a manager for that. You wouldn’t talk about winning the cup in the semi final.
“I will say this from the heart. In Roger Daniels I found a real football man, not one that had been noticed on the field, but one that had earned his stripes. No matter who walked into his changing room he made them welcome, as long as they wanted to be part of the team. No individuals, no egos or prima donnas and certainly no one who didn’t buy into his one team ethos.
“I not only built good friendships with my teammates because of him, I also learned a lot about being a captain and manager. I had been lucky to captain most sides I played in but in a Roger Daniels side you were an extension to his management on the field.
“Earning that trust from a man as honest as Roger means more to me than any trophy ever lifted. And in truth he will never say this, but Roger won those games as he simply made every player feel like that in his squad. If someone believes in you that much, and can get the players around you to believe too, then success was always going to follow him.”
Ashley Favell top scored for Eye that season with 43 goals with fellow forward Matt Leftley scoring 35 times. The squad was: Gary Hooke, Phil Anderson, Trevor Smith, Alex Brown, Carl Johnson, Paul Smith, Scott Stainsby, Steve Phillips, Paul Johnson, Adam Reagan, Darren Bradley, Andrew Bradley, Gary Roddis, Darren Paling, Steve Laws, Ashley Favell, Matt Leftley, Arif Aziz, Terry Glasgow and Nicky Breen. Assistant manager was Vince Elliott and the club’s linesman was Steve Cockayne.
Eye also won the PFA Senior Cup Final at London Road in May 2001.
More on this remarkable season can be found in the March 25 edition of the PT>