Trophy win at Wembley with Dagenham was dream come true for deadly striker Duck
PUBLISHED: 15:00 28 May 2020
All George Duck ever wanted to do as a footballer was play at Wembley Stadium – and he got to fulfil that dream and more with Dagenham in 1980.
Duck had been a prolific goalscorer for Wealdstone – where his 251 goals fro 1972-79 remain a club record – and helped clinch a Southern League Division One title as well as a run to the FA Cup third round.
But he desperately wanted the chance to play on the hallowed turf under the Twin Towers and suffered an extra-time loss in the quarter-finals of the Trophy with the Stones.
Then he got a call from former teammate Eddie Presland, now Dagenham manager in 1979.
“Playing at Wembley was a big ambition of mine and Eddie called me after Dagenham lost in the semi-final to Kettering,” said Duck, now 68.
“He’d been speaking to me for a time. I liked how he did things. He said ‘come to us and I guarantee we will win the Trophy. You’re the missing link.
“When Eddie got the Dagenham job he always said come and play for us. We’d played them and had some good battles and we usually came out on top, I always seemed to score against them.
“I said I’ll come and going there was like starting again.”
Despite his impressive record in front of goal, Duck had to win over his new teammates – and it took some time.
“Your reputation counted for nothing and they were looking at me saying ‘come on then, show us what you’ve got’,” he added.
“It wasn’t easy to start with and we were not playing well or scoring goals. Eddie said ‘wait until the Trophy comes around’.
“We played Dorchester away in January and it was freezing cold, almost snowing, a horrible surface. It was a battle in the mud but I was lucky I managed to score and we won 1-0.
“I saw exactly what Eddie meant. It was deathly quiet in the dressing room before, much more serious. That started out run.”
After taking the train up to Manchester, Daggers claimed a 5-0 win at Stalybridge despite another tricky surface.
“We didn’t know what studs to wear. It was firm in places and had a lot of give in others,” said Duck. “It was the best performance we gave. We played them off the park and Ricky (Kidd, who hit a hat-trick) was on fire.
“We had a great relationship. I think he finished with 34 goals and I had 29 and at the end of season dinner he got the club’s player of the year and I got the supporters’. I said to him ‘we must have delivered!’”
Burton Albion included Ian Storey-Moore and Kevin Hector in their side in the next round and Duck admitted Daggers rode their luck in a 1-1 draw, before winning the replay back at Victoria Road.
“They hit the post and you get bits of luck go for you like that. We survived to fight another day, were confident for the replay at home and then well fancied against Nuneaton,” he said.
“But we were 2-0 down in no time! I got two back before half time and it was a different game. Instead of getting the hairdryer at half time we knew what we had to do.
“Ricky got the winner in the second half. Nuneaton were a good side, but we got out of trouble.”
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Woking were comfortably dispatched in the two-legged semi-final, 7-2 on aggregate, with Duck surprisingly not making it onto the scoresheet in either game.
“I had my share of assists and Ricky said ‘you’ll score in the final’ and we all laughed. They were prophetic words.”
Daggers then met Mossley on May 17, 1980 – seven days after West Ham had upset Arsenal to lift the FA Cup.
And Duck can still recall so much about the big day.
“When we got to Wembley it was a relief. You were worrying about getting injured leading up to the game and poor Jimmy Holder injured his knee in the semi-final and was gutted,” he said.
“On the day I was so calm. In my mind I knew so many great players had not done this and played at Wembley so I felt I couldn’t lose.
“I wanted to go and savour every moment of the experience. I never thought about scoring. All I wanted was to play there.”
As it was, the match was only 14 minutes old when Duck broke the duck to put Daggers in front.
“Joe Durrell went down the right and checked back onto his left foot – his right foot was only for standing on! – and I drifted away from my center-half,” he added. “Joe was a great crosser, ex-West Ham, and flighted in a great ball and as soon as I headed it, I knew I’d scored.
“It was just inside the postage stamp and the keeper was rooted. We were off and running, but it could’ve gone either way.
“Ian Huttley played well, we were a bit lucky as they hit a post and had a header bounce over, but Ricky had a couple of chances and played one ball in for me when I thought I was destined to score my second, but I was blocked just as I was striking it.”
Mossley got back on terms in the second half and it remained all square heading into the closing stages, until Daggers won it eight minutes from time.
“Chris Maycock, a lovely lad, ex-Spurs, was like the wind. You couldn’t catch him,” continued Duck.
“Ricky used to say he was like Roadrunner and in his innocence he got in there and scored. What a day for him. I texted him the other week about it!
“If anyone deserved a goal it was Ricky. It would’ve been lovely for him. We always scored goals between us, we really complemented each other.”
The final whistle led to emotional scenes as Daggers celebrated, capping an unforgettable first season at the club for Duck.
The former Tottenham schoolboy and Millwall apprentice only stayed one more term, moving on when Ted Hardy came in to replace Presland, but said: “I’ve got a picture of me collapsed on the ground at the end, crying my eyes out. It was for my mum who sadly wasn’t there to see it.
“Tom Finney was the guest of honour, a legend of the game, and he said ‘great goal’ when presenting my medal.
“The Twin Towers, it was everything and more. The home of legends and so many more didn’t get the chance to play there.
“It’s not a place for losers. I was 28 and it was my reward for sticking it out after having some knocks along the way. I stayed at Dagenham the season after we won the Trophy and must’ve scored 50 goals for Daggers.
“But Eddie was sacked and Ted Hardy came in. We got on okay, but I left.”
Duck had already achieved that Wembley ambition and done his bit to write his name into Daggers folklore on that never to be forgotten May day.
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