U’s double-winning stars of 1991-92, Part One: Roy McDonough

In part one of our seven-part series, we talk to ROY MCDONOUGH, the U’s larger-than-life former player-manager, who guided the Essex club to the non-league double 20 years ago

“WE did it the right way. We entertained!”

Roy McDonough, a good old-fashioned centre-forward with a penchant for goals, and red cards, was not the obvious choice to guide Colchester United back into the Football League.

But the larger-than-life McDonough, who was always ‘one of the lads,’ rather than an aloof boss sitting on his distant hot seat, took over from Ian Atkins in the summer of 1991 and inspired the U’s to a “dream season.”

McDonough, who is now based in Spain, still has a razor-sharp memory of those golden days.


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“At the time, I remember telling Anglia TV that it was ‘a dream season,’ and that’s just what it was,” enthused McDonough.

“And we did it the right way. We entertained and scored loads of goals.

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“I think we scored more goals in our FA Trophy run than anyone else, even though that put more pressure on the league.

“We didn’t do it the Ian Atkins way.

“I always knew that we were going to score more goals than the opposition.

“At the end-of-season (Conference) dinner, I got manager of the year, Steve McGavin got player of the year, and we all got a standing ovation, for the way that we played. We didn’t kick our way out of the league, like a Lincoln City,” added McDonough.

Now aged 53, and living in Spain for the last nine years, McDonough is in no doubt as to who was his key signing of that double-winning season.

The team was full of goals, but it needed an experienced defender to keep the goals out at the other end.

“Paul Roberts was the best signing I ever made,” revealed McDonough.

“I tried to sign him in my first week in the job, and I had tears in my eyes when I was told that I couldn’t, because he would have cost �3,000 from Fisher.

“I knew that he was the man I needed to organise the defence, and in the end I got him for �740, because Fisher owed us money in wages for Steve Restarick and Mark Radford.

“Tony English was the captain and a leader, he led by example, but he wasn’t that talkative. Mark Kinsella was the same, just starting out in the game.

“But Paul Roberts was my key signing. He had had a raw deal from Southend, where I had played with him, and I also played against him when he was at Brentford.

“Robbo is also a character, and you needed characters in your team.

“And we always got on terrifically well. There were never any scraps, an we laughed and joked our way through games.”

In the final analysis, the U’s pipped rivals Wycombe Wanderers by goal difference, to return to the Football League, although they were both 21 points clear of third-placed Kettering.

They netted 98 goals in 42 league games, as well as scoring 20 goals in their successful FA Trophy run.

McDonough himself ended as top scorer with 29 goals, followed by Steve McGavin (27) and Gary Bennett (18).

The squad’s main strength, though, was team spirit. That was as true off the pitch, as it was on it.

“We would go out and drink together after a game, 14 or 15 of us,” recalled McDonough.

“I learnt it was important to socialise together, having played for managers like Jim Smith and David Webb.

“We were a close-knit group. We were basically a group of good old-fashioned professionals.

“But we had no superstars in our team. Steve McGavin had silky skills, and I was the top goalscorer, but there were no stars in the team.

“We were just a good, honest bunch of lads, all striving together. You could put your hat on any one of them.

“There was always a lot of silly talk about me being a big drinker, but us drinking together built up a good spirit. And the achievements of that team will live forever.”

McDonough now works in the Spanish property market, in conjunction with the local ‘Leader’ newspaper, based in Murcia.

He originally moved out to Spain to work for Charlton’s European football academy, a job he stuck at for five years.

McDonough admitted: “I gave it up in the end, because the kids wore me out! They just didn’t work hard enough.

“They all had the colourful boots, the blues and reds, but they also had their walkmans and their Gameboys. I told them to put them all in the bin, but that didn’t go down well with the parents who had all paid their �400.”

But ‘Big Roy’ has certainly landed on his feet in Murcia, on the south-east coast of Spain.

“The weather is better, the food is better, and the drink is better!” enthused McDonough.

It’s a million miles away from Layer Road!

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