Cheltenham Town officials and supporters were deeply saddened to hear that former Robins player Ronnie Radford had passed away yesterday at the age of 79.
Ronnie was, of course, closely associated with Hereford United for his famous FA Cup goal in 1972 but it's a lesser known fact that he made nearly 300 appearances for Cheltenham Town in two three-year spells, winning promotion with the Robins in 1964.
A former Yorkshire county youth player, Ronnie started his career aged 15 as an amateur with Sheffield Wednesday under Harry Catterick for two years then spent a year as a professional with second division Leeds United under Don Revie. Unable to break into the first team reckoning at either club, he left Leeds in 1962 and received offers from Chesterfield and York City but started an apprenticeship as a carpenter and elected to play part-time.
Ronnie made a clean break and travelled south to join Cheltenham Town in the summer of 1962, one of several players recruited by Arch Anderson following relegation to Southern League Division One. A rangy, hard running player who could play in a number of different positions, Ronnie quickly established himself as a crowd favourite at Whaddon Road. Starting off in the left half position, he was ever-present as the Robins won promotion back to the Premier Division in 1963-64, remaining for the following season at the higher level before joining Rugby Town, allegedly following a dispute with Anderson, in the summer of 1965.
After one season playing as an inside-forward for Rugby, during which he continued to live and work in Cheltenham, Ronnie returned in the summer of 1966 and was voted player of the year in his first season back. An integral part of the entertaining side under Bob Etheridge that finished fourth in the Premier Division in 1967-68 and reached the Southern League Cup final and FA Cup first round the following year, Ronnie spent the rest of his time with the club in either midfield or at left-back.
Following relegation from the Premier Division in 1969 on goal average Ronnie was among several of the better players to depart the club. Newport County paid a £1,500 fee to take him into the Football League and he scored seven times in 63 starts and three substitute appearances in Division Four, winning the club's player of the year award in 1969-70, prior to joining Hereford United for another four figure fee in August 1971.
The 1971-72 season turned out to be one of triumph as the Bulls, under the management of Colin Addison, reached the FA Cup fourth round with a memorable 2-1 victory over Newcastle United at Edgar Street. Ronnie scored an equalising goal four minutes from time with a long distance drive that was captured on BBC Match of the Day and voted Goal of the Season.
Hereford were elected to the Football League at the end of that season and Ronnie stayed for a further two years scoring six times from 61 Football League appearances.
He was appointed full-time player manager of Worcester City in the summer of 1974 with a brief to win promotion to the Southern League Premier. However, City had a financial crisis and some of the best players were offloaded, leading Ronnie to resign in December and he joined Bath City as a player.
After a short spell with Bath and another brief period with Forest Green Rovers, Ronnie retired due to an Achilles injury in 1977. He moved to Wakefield and built his own house, largely retiring from football save for a spell of coaching at Ossett Albion, and continuing to work as a carpenter. He kept in touch with a number of the Cheltenham Town players from the late 1960s who would meet up from time-to-time to re-live a brief but fondly remembered period in the club's history.
Ronnie made his first debut for Cheltenham Town on 18 August 1962 at home to Margate in the Southern League Division One and his final appearance was a County Cup final away to Gloucester City on 8 May 1969. In all he made 279 appearances for Cheltenham Town scoring 19 goals.
Our thoughts and condolences go out to Ronnie's family and friends at this sad time.