Peterborough United star Steve Welsh on being seduced by Chris Turner’s sweet-talking, telling John Beck to ‘do one’ and how Barry Fry told him Posh were broke, plus life as a League One Academy Head

A meal at Mannings Cafe delivered Steve Welsh to Peterborough United, but it took a financial crisis at the club to force him to leave London Road for the final time.

By Alan Swann
Tuesday, 7th April 2020, 11:00 am
Steve Welsh in Posh colours.
Steve Welsh in Posh colours.

In between the craggy Scottish centre-back played 196 times for Posh in two spells and scored two goals. The first goal came 24 hours after first-team manager Chris Turner bought the club in a 1-0 win at Bristol City - a game in which Andy Cole failed to get the better of Welsh.

Welsh was seduced into signing for Posh in the summer of 1991, just a month after promotion from the old Fourth Division had been secured, by Turner’s sweet-talking. Welsh, a former soldier, had just told Cambridge United boss John Beck where to go after he offered him a third season at the Abbey Stadium.

“I joined Cambridge straight after leaving the army and I felt I did well in pre-season and friendlies, but I couldn’t get a look-in in the first team,” Welsh recalled. “In fact my first game for Cambridge Reserves was against Barnet and their manager Barry Fry signed me that night on loan for the rest of the season. We went on to finish second in the Conference.

Steve Welsh (left) in action for Posh.

“I performed well the following summer, but again I was loaned to Barnet so the following season when Beck offered me a contract on the same terms I told him to ‘do one’.

“I was quite pally with Graham Scarff at Cambridge and he knew Chris Turner well so I reckon he told him about me as Chris rang me and invited me over.

“I went to see him on a Friday with my wife and after a brief discussion he threw a £50 note at me, told me to take her out for lunch and come back and see him on Monday. He was such a clever operator I signed that morning even though we only went to Mannings Cafe for our lunch.

“It turned out to be one my better decisions!”

That first season which included a sensational League Cup win over Liverpool and promotion after a play-off final at Wembley was covered in part one of Welsh’s story yesterday.

The following season Posh finished 10th in the second tier which remains the highest finish in the club’s history, but the good times didn’t last.

“That first season in Division One was brilliant,” Welsh added. “We had a good side and we were used to winning. We enjoyed some excellent results beating Derby twice for a start and playing against big clubs like West Ham and Wolves.

“Lil Fuccillo took over from Turner who moved upstairs and did well at first, but the following season quickly became tough and we went down.

“I stayed for the following season under John Still and started well, but I picked up an injury and couldn’t get back in ahead of Greg Heald and Gary Breen, two players Stilly had signed.

“‘Turns’ then pulled me and told me he’d had offers from Bournemouth and Partick Thistle which the club had accepted. I’d spent time in Dorset when I was in the army and I didn’t fancy dropping down a division to go back down there so I went to play in the Scottish top flight with Partick.

“I enjoyed it, but after a couple of seasons Mick Halsall, who was now Posh manager, asked me to come back. I said of course, partly because we’d struggled to sell our house in Peterborough, but the day before I was due to sign Barry Fry bought the club and installed himself as manager.

“He still signed me and when I looked on the training pitch before the season started I saw the likes of Martin O’Connor and Scott Houghton out there and I felt we had a hell of a chance of being successful.

“But it wasn’t long before rumours of financial problems surfaced and sure enough it all came to a head when I was with Barry at my transfer fee tribunal.

“He turned to me and said I’m going to have to sell you. Bloody hell I thought you’ve only just paid £50k for me. That’s a bit quick, but he said the bank had been on the phone while we were in the meeting and said the club was broke. I was bothered as I was owed a signing on fee and the Spalding branch manager of Barclays rang me direct to say I’d be getting no money without his say-so!

“It was such a shame and I’m just glad for the club’s sake that Peter Boizot came along. By then I’d moved back to Scotland with Dunfermline.”

Welsh finished his playing career at Lincoln and from there he entered the world of youth coaching. He’s still at it 20 years later and is now the Academy Head at Doncaster Rovers.

“I started my coaching badges while I was playing in Scotland,” Welsh added. “I had my UEFA A licence by the time I was 33 and after finishing playing for them Lincoln let me coach their under 16s. I then did 10 years as Boston’s Academy Head, the first three under Steve Evans which were interesting to say the least.

“I came to Doncaster towards the end of last season. Grant McCann saw me before I was appointed. We were on nodding terms as his son Bayley had played against my Boston teams, but of course Grant left at the end of last season so I didn’t really get to know him.

“There’s more paperwork than I’m used to, but I love the job. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing an Academy lad reach the first team and go on and have a great career. I saw it when I was playing at Posh with Mark Tyler.

“And I think Academies are going to become more important when this lockdown is over. Recent events have shown us how fragile finances in football can be and it could be more pressure is put on an Academy to produce players.

“When I’m coaching I still preach some stuff ‘Turns’ used to do. The great mantra from ‘Turns’ was to keep things as simple as possible. He’d say football is a simple game made complicated by idiots like us.

“He’d also say supporters are idiots. He’d tell me if I hit a ball into a channel and Worrell Sterling chased it, but just failed to keep it in play, the supporters would clap Worrell’s efforts rather than moan at me for a poor pass!

“When I watch training sessions now they don’t seem as intense for as long as we used to endure at Posh, but sports science has really changed things. There are certain things you can’t do at certain times in the week now. There’s more technical work.

“Doncaster is a great place to be. The facilities are excellent. First-team manager Darren Moore is a top man and I hope they do well when the season gets going.

“I hope Posh do well also. You don’t spend as much time as I did at a club, and enjoy so much success there, and not retain a soft spot for them.”

Welsh was adopted into the Posh Hall of Fame last season.