David Munks: The Big Interview

David Munks
David Munks
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Short, back and sides.

An unusual prerequisite to David Munks’ May 1969 Pompey arrival that rather aptly described on-field events during his eventful five-year Blues stay.

It was a bizarre demand made and exacted by boss George Smith, who insisted the player had his hair cut before a £20,000 switch from Sheffield United.

And though the flowing locks grew back over time, Munks, who became a firm fans’ favourite, saw an enjoyable south-coast stay defined by Smith’s three-word stipulation.

Short – his tenure in midfield.

Back – a revelatory switch to a central-defensive role.

Sides – his side’s best player, after picking up the prestigious Pompey player-of-the-year award in 1971.

Munks said: ‘George Smith was manager and one of the stipulations of the deal was that I had to have my hair cut – short, back and sides – not that there was much of it at the time, though.

‘You could say he won the battle, I suppose.

‘He came out of the armed services and he was a bit like that.

‘This was the man who said

only fish come out of the sea at Pompey when he got rid of the youth team.’

Smith’s decisive streak benefited Munks, though, as he spotted potential in the man, signed initially as a midfielder, in a defensive role.

Munks, who was shown the door at Bramall Lane after more than 100 Blades apperances, changed positions for a Blues game against Preston in December 1969 – impressing as a sweeper in a 4-0 victory.

The match signalled a permanent move to the centre of defence.

He said: ‘Sheffield United changed managers and, as is often the case in football, new managers don’t always take to the players they inherit.

‘Arthur Rowley came in and he obviously wanted a different type of player to me.

‘There was quite an upheaval there, so the move came up and I came down and everything was sorted (haircut permitting).

‘I came down as a midfielder but finished up in the back four.

‘That was down to George Smith, really.

‘He saw it a different way and I can’t fault him on that.

‘It was a long time ago so I can’t remember the game (Preston) but it probably was a success because I just seemed to kick on from there.’

It was a seamless transition for Munks that paid dividends as he performed steadily in the role over the next four years.

His best season was his second at the club in 1970-71 when he played every single game for the Blues and won the prestigious player-of-the-season award.

Munks said: ‘It wasn’t hard (to switch from midfield to defence).

‘I never had the greatest pace but then again Bobby Moore never did either!

‘I read the game well, though, and played alongside some very good centre-halves at the club who probably made my life a little bit easier at times.

‘The 1970-71 season was the highlight for me.

‘I played every game and won the player-of-the-year award so that was very good – I enjoyed that.

‘I think it’s great that it was an award voted for by the fans.

‘It’s a feather in your cap to win that award.’

Munks was privileged to enjoy a good relationship with the Fratton faithful and his team-mates both on and off the field of play.

And while results on the pitch prevented second-division Pompey scaling the top-flight heights Munks had experienced with Sheffield United, he could not question the Blues’ ability.

He said: ‘There were a lot of good players at Pompey.

‘Brian Bromley was a very good player and I enjoyed my time in the back four with the likes of Freddie Smith, Billy Wilson and Colin Blant.

‘We then had Ray Hiron, who was quite prolific up front.

‘We were reasonably successful but never actually got promoted.

‘We did have some good cup runs, though.

‘The game against Arsenal (a 1-1 home draw in January 1971) was one of our best results.’

For Munks & Co, the chance to toast performances such as the Gunners draw alongside Pompey fans is another happy memory.

He said: ‘I think one of the great things from when I played at the club was that you used to have supporters’ clubs.

‘The players used to go back there after the game and have a drink with the fans and chat and what have you.

‘Now unfortunately, the modern-day players have all got their own lounges.

‘We always used to go out and play darts once a week at different pubs and push coins and do all this and that.

‘There was certainly a togetherness with supporters and players.’

That particular togetherness was ended rather abruptly, though, when new chairman John Deacon came in flashing the cash at PO4 and put 11 of the club’s squad – including Munks – up for sale in 1973.

With new boss John Mortimore being dictated to by Deacon, fans’ favourite Munks was the first to leave when he joined second-division strugglers Swindon for £19,000.

A five-year spell, including 149 appearances and two goals, ended in rather bitter circumstances for Munks.

He said: ‘I know what happened – John Deacon came in and ploughed a few quid into the club.

‘That was the time that Peter Marinello and Bobby Kellard arrived.

‘There became a gap in the wage structure and transfer fees – the club paid £100,000 for Marinello.

‘A new manager also arrived in John Mortimore, who unfortunately was not his own person.

‘He was ruled by Mr Deacon, who ploughed the money in and that’s what happened.

‘Over a period of time, all the players who were under George Smith and Ron Tindall gradually went.

‘That was the reason I went to Swindon.’

For Munks, a difficult decision on paper to leave a club he had served for five years with distinction was made simpler by the knowledge he was going to be given game-time elsewhere.

He said: ‘I have got all the time in the world for Pompey but, as a footballer, you want to play don’t you?

‘You can sit on the bench and pick your money up but you want to be playing. That’s the be all and end all.

‘I went to Swindon which was not great.

‘And then I finished up at Exeter, which I thoroughly enjoyed as Nicky Jennings (his former Pompey team-mate) was down there.

‘A knee injury ended my career, though.

‘But I have to say Exeter, like Pompey, is a terrific club.

‘And funnily enough I was at the game between the two last Saturday.

‘I went with my brother-in-law, who is season-ticket holder.

‘I enjoyed it, it wasn’t a bad game.’

Now aged 67, Munks lives in Portsmouth – where he met his wife – having enjoyed a post-football career in the leisure industry.

DAVID MUNKS ON...

...PITCH NOT SO PERFECT

David Munks was at Fratton Park last weekend to watch Pompey defeat Exeter in the battle of his former clubs.

What really was an eye-opener was the state of the pitch.

When I came down to Pompey in 1969 it was absolutely superb – the pitch was second only to Ipswich Town then.

Portman Road was always a terrific pitch but I couldn’t believe how bad the surface at Fratton Park was last Saturday.

That said, it wasn’t a bad game for League Two, though.

I think Pompey struggle against physical sides.

Thankfully for them, last weekend, Exeter weren’t – they wanted to play a little bit which gave Pompey a chance.

...PLAYING AGAINST THE BEST

I have had a pretty good time in football, particularly at Sheffield United, where I played against the best, literally – George Best and Bobby Moore in the top flight.

I then came down to Pompey and had a great time all over again.

If I had my life to live again, I wouldn’t change it (apart from the injuries!).

... POMPEY’S PLIGHT

I think Pompey will be alright this year.

They could still make the play-offs, you never know.

If they can string something together where they get three or four wins on the spin then you don’t know what is going to happen.

It is still one of the best-supported clubs and deserves to do well.