of Terry Conroy
by Terry Conroy
Pitch Publishing, £18.99
Reviewed by Andy Thorley
From WSC 346 December 2015
It’s a reflection on both the career of Gerard “Terry” Conroy and Stoke City (the club with whom he played nearly all his professional football and where he still works part time) that for large parts of the country the title of this book might be apt.
However, among Potters supporters, the name Terry Conroy is viewed with about as much reverence as you can possibly imagine – scoring a goal in the club’s only major trophy win, the 1972 League Cup, does that for a person. When the club turned 150 two years ago, the winger was voted into their greatest ever XI. So rather than self-deprecation, the title is in reference to what fans generally say upon seeing Conroy, and he’s honest enough to admit that in the majority of cases he doesn’t.
By his own admission Conroy is a pretty unremarkable bloke, and the story he tells has been recounted many times before; growing up in a large working-class family in Dublin in the mid-1940s, he follows his brothers into the local team, moves to England and plays for Stoke for getting on for two decades, as well as being capped 26 times for Ireland in an era before they were qualifying for major tournaments.
In common with many players of his era, Conroy struggles with injuries during his career, and life outside the game after it. He eventually found happiness back at Stoke in their commercial department, and now in semi-retirement as a compere in the executive suite on a matchday.
If a lot of his story is applicable to plenty of sportsmen, not many players start their book with a near-death experience. In 2011, Conroy fell victim to an abdominal aortic aneurysm and was given a one in ten chance of survival, but still recovered in time to be the club’s guest of honour at the FA Cup final.
He says he wrote his life story because of that scare and along the way there’s the usual stories about drunken team-mates, but this one adds worse for wear assistant managers, and a club doctor who had consumed so much alcohol he couldn’t administer stitches during a league game at Arsenal. There’s also some genuinely funny stuff about end-of-season tours and scary club owners in Hong Kong (where Conroy had an ill-fated spell after leaving the Victoria Ground).
He’s an engaging, witty character, who clearly loved his sport and, helped by his ghostwriter Simon Lowe – who also helped Conroy’s team-mate and friend Denis Smith complete his book – a decent snapshot into 1970s football is constructed. There are one or two annoying factual errors here and there, but such is the esteem that Terry Conroy is held in by those of a red-and-white-striped persuasion that no one will mind too much.