In November 1986, Terry Connor was selected as an over-age player for England Under-21s, and scored an excellent goal in the 1-1 draw with Yugoslavia in Peterborough. That month, the powerful centre-forward was interviewed in Shoot! magazine:
Brighton’s new England Under-21 cap Terry Connor – an over age player – is horrified at the thought of being called a “veteran”.
“Don’t call me that,” he pleads. “I’m one of the young ones.”
A veteran he isn’t, but it’s a common mistake to assume that he might be older than 24 – his birthday coming just two days before the European championship game with Yugoslavia.
At least one club visiting the Goldstone Ground this season thought he was probably a few years older.
Explained manager Alan Mullery: “You tend to forget that Terry was only 17 when he made his debut for Leeds United:’ “I got such an early break at Leeds because the club were rebuilding their side after those days when they were riding high,” says Connor.
“Eddie Gray was still in the team when I came in. He was the model professional. It was terrific to have someone with his experience alongside you.
“It was Eddie who sold me in part exchange for Andy Ritchie. It turned out to be a good move for both of us. Andy is still scoring at Leeds and I’m happy at Brighton.
“I would like to get 2O goals this season – that’s my target. And if we get it together we could challenge for promotion,” adds Connor.
“We played ever so well against Nottingham Forest in the Littlewoods Cup at Brighton, drawing 0-0, but then went to O1dham and were terrible.
“It’s a problem for us finding consistency. In some matches we’ve learned we just cannot rely on our football. We’ve got to battle. That’s a point Alan Mullery has driven home.”
Watching Connor it’s tempting to believe he must receive special sprint training.
But Connor doesn’t even use spikes, revealing: “A lot of players wear them to help their speed but not me.
“I train in boots. And when do you ever sprint 100 yards in a match? It’s short distance speed that’s important. Quickness off the mark is one of the most vital assets in a striker’s armoury.
“I’m delighted with my international recognition but it’s success at Brighton that’s important for all of us.”
Despite that encouraging showing against Nottingham Forest at the Goldstone, success proved elusive for the Seagulls as the season became increasingly traumatic. In an infamous stitch-up, Alan Mullery was replaced by Barry Lloyd in January 1987 and it was all downhill from there. Bearing the full force of a cost-cutting drive, the depleted Albion side plummeted down the Division Two table and were relegated.
Connor performed admirably, though, amassing a very creditable nine goals in 38 League matches for a struggling side. Unsurprisingly, he was voted ‘Player of the Season’ before joining Portsmouth, newly promoted to the First Division, in July 1987. The fee was £200,000. Not bad for an old man!