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Crumbly Corner: Time for Reds to take Stock.

THE OLD PRO joins the Sunday Mirror football team with memories that will amuse those who remember the "good old days" of the game and amaze the younger generation starved of real characters. We are keeping the name of our new columnist secret, but take it from us he has been there, done that and knows all the old giants of the game. Meet up with him here every week in his exclusive Memory Lane.

COMEDIANPaul Whitehouse bases his hilarious Ron Manager character on a man whose spirit will be warming the Yeovil Town players today as they try to add Liverpool to their long string of giantkilling scalps. I refer, of course, to my late old friend Alec Stock, whose 40 years in football management started immediately after the war as player-boss of Yeovil in his native Somerset. Alec was a master propagandist, who played mind games with the opposition long before Alex Ferguson got stuck into the psyche of Kevin Keegan and Arsene Wenger. In those immediate post- war days the Huish Park pitch had a slope on it that ran 10-feet from corner to opposite corner. When Southern League Yeovil drew 'Bank of England' side Sunderland in the fourth round of the FA Cup in 1949, Alec - at 29, then the youngest player-manager in the game - got to work. Years later he told me in his staccato short sentences so brilliantly impersonated by Paul Whitehouse: "We were not fit to be in the same county as them, let alone on the same pitch. Knew I needed to do something to cut them down to our size. "Couldn't do it by talking about our players. The fact that I could get into the team with a dodgy ankle showed how bad we were. So I decided to make the pitch our secret weapon. "In truth, the slope was not that pronounced. I set about making it sound like the bloody North face of the Eiger. To every reporter who came within hearing distance, I said, 'Wonder if Sunderland's players have the calves to stand up to our hill?' "I knew I must be getting through to them because their chairman rang our chairman to ask if the Sunderland players could train on the pitch. I flaty refused. Told our groundsman in the hearing of a journalist, 'If

you see a single Sunderland player step foot on that pitch before the match take a shotgun to him.' "By the time it came to the kick-off they were convinced they needed climbing boots. We were a team of part-timers, but it was they who ran out of steam when the game went into extra-time. All in the mind, y'see." It is part of football folklore how former Army major Stock shot Yeovil into the lead in the 26th minute. Sunderland, including the great Clown Prince Len Shackleton in their all-star side, snatched an equaliser through Jackie Robinson. Fourteen minutes into extra-time Shack, of all people, miss-hit a pass to let Eric Bryant in for the goal of a lifetime. "In the last couple of minutes," recalled Alec, "Sunderland were awarded a free-kick just outside the box. As we stood in the wall, I announced to the players standing with me, 'Anybody ducks, they're sacked.' Every man did his duty and we cleared the danger." The reward for Yeovil was a fifth round match away to Manchester United at Maine Road (bomb- damaged Old Trafford was still being rebuilt). The result was an 8-0 victory to the Cup holders. The crowd, wait for it, 81,565. "Kept us going," said Alec. "We were up to our necks in debt, and that Cup run saved us." The Stock spirit will be alive at Huish Park today where defeat would be Gerard Houllier's worst nightmare. It's all in the mind, you know. Meet another great character from the past with The Old Pro in next week's Sunday Mirror, the paper that remembers the good old days while bringing you the best of the modern game.

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HERO: Alec Stock celebrates Yeovil's triumph
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 4, 2004
Words:680
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