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The Owlsonline Interview… With

A career cut cruelly short.
The Owlsonline Interview… With

It's been a while, but we thought we'd bring one for the slightly older Wednesday fan.. So we have been given the chance to speak to one of the most promising players of my younger years, a defender who had a glittering career ahead of him, according to many he had a chance of becoming a full international and this was after just a handful of first team games for the Wednesday.

Unfortunately though his career at the Owls was cut cruelly short, one tackle ended it all, and for anyone that was there the sound and sight of that challenge will be with them forever. Wednesday welcomed Chester City to Hillsborough in a FA Cup Fourth Round replay in February 1987 and with just a few minutes on the clock Gary Bennett steamed into a challenge with Ian Knight, the visiting player's timing was less than impressive and the 20 year old England Under 21 international was left screaming in agony. His leg shattered, the broken bones pierced Knight's flesh; a truly horrific injury. After a couple of years of rehab he was transferred from the club to Grimsby Town and although he knew it was never to be the same he couldn't have forecasted another leg break in only his second game for the Mariners; and then he broke his ankle during rehabilitation and floating bone fragments were then to bring the curtain down on a cruelly short playing career in some five or so years and just over 20 games after the original injury. A moment which he said was 'heartbreaking'.

After the curtain came down on his playing career he remained with Grimsby working behind the scenes as community officer before getting back into the training side of things to then moving across to Canada.

'When working as Head of Youth at Grimsby Town FC, I had made the connection with two clubs in Canada (London, Ontario & Abbotsford, BC). We used to host teams/players from these clubs on an annual basis.' Knight told Owlsonline.

'Then when my contract ended at Grimsby in June ‘02, I was offered the position of Club Head Coach of a new club being formed in London, Ontario. I took the position in Jan ’03 and worked there until accepting a similar position in BC with Chilliwack Youth Soccer Association (now Chilliwack FC). After 5 years, I accepted the Technical Director position with Abbotsford Soccer Association. I am now moving into my 5th season with the club. The club has approximately 1,000 players.'

Talk quickly moves back to things SWFC, and his debut for the Owls and his debut against Aston Villa in the 85/86 season and he recalls how it came about.
'I was added to the squad list posted by the gaffer on Friday after training. Glynn Snodin failed a fitness test on the Saturday morning and after lunch at the hotel, the gaffer pulled me to one side and said I would be starting…
'The world became hazy and my head was spinning!!! I remember the start of the game didn’t go very well for me, as my first decision to go for a ball I messed up and allowed it bounce over my head!! I think I settled down, got a few good touches and passes in and overall did ok after that ‘dodgy’ start!!!'

There were many experienced centre halves at the club, the likes of Paul Hart, Peter Shirtliff, Lawrie Madden and Mark Smith when you were picked for your debut...what was their reaction to your selection?
Yes, the club had some great CB’s at the time and all the guys were all very supportive…And I felt privileged to be around them every day.'

Ian's spell in the side coincided with a successful time for the Wednesday who finished 5th in his first season and being 5th at Christmas the following season. With the dominance of the teams from Merseyside in full flow was there a belief that the club could seriously challenge Liverpool and Everton for the title?
'I think the feeling was a general one of just trying to always perform at our best, out-work any opposition and see where it got us. It was terrific that the ‘unfancied’ SWFC were amongst the big boys…!'

During this spell many of the mainstream media and other football fans were criticising the Wednesday style of play, Howard Wilkinson had fostered a side full of endeavour, getting into the opposition's faces and it certainly unsettled a lot of teams but he says it wasn't something that bothered him or any of the other lads.
'It was our job to play and not worry about what others thought…as you said earlier, we were somewhat successful at the time, so our results did the talking, the players didn’t have to.'

Success in a Wednesday shirt brought a call up to the England u-21s and the list of players in the side alongside was quite list of future stars, and he was to replace a future SWFC stalwart when he made his debut for the three lions and he remembers it vividly.

'To get the news from Howard Wilkinson that I was being called up was unbelievable and so humbling. I had been released by Barnsley only 18 months previously… You could say I was on cloud 99!
'I had the honour to be amongst some of the best players of that time and played alongside Tony Adams in the two games. Des Walker was injured away to Sweden and I came on at half-time. Tony & I played against Yugoslavia.

'Others that I recall are; Ian Andrews, Perry Suckling, Tony Adams, Des Walker, Stuart Pearce, Simon Morgan, Tony Dorigo, Garry Parker, David Rocastle, Franz Carr, Martin Allen, Rob Lee, Nigel Clough, Jason Dozzell, Neil McDonald, Neil Adams, Terry Connor, Paul Simpson.

'Dave Sexton was the U21 boss. Again, with the passing of time, I don’t recall too much about what he told me to do or any tactical information…With only a few days of preparation before each game I don’t seem to recall a lot of tactical advice… We had to get to know new teammates and play to our potential.'

Can you remember any of your international opponents that went on to greater things?
'The two that I recall…
Anders Limpar of Sweden and Yugoslavia's Dejan Savićević.'

In a previous interview with the Independent some years ago you said that Alan Smith kept you going and 'he would pick me up every morning and drop me home every night. And I was made to feel included in everything, even tours.' So it's probably fair to say you have a lot of time for him...

'Were these questions submitted by Paul?' Ian joked...
'I cannot speak highly enough of Alan. His professional knowledge, dedication and commitment is only surpassed by his humility, empathy and sincerity….A truly “first class” guy!'

After picking up the injury there was for a while a thought that Ian may lose his leg due to the devastating injuries, thankfully that wasn't the case and thoughts soon returned to pulling the blue and white shirt on again. In January 1989 away at Coventry the dream of a playing return came true before then stepping out onto the field to play again at Hillsborough against Arsenal in a 1-1 draw..

'Once I knew my leg was going to be saved, I wanted to make a successful return to playing. Two long, hard years of rehab gave me the opportunity to play again, although never to be at the standard as pre-injury.

'The first game (result) could have been better, for sure! On a personal note though, my leg came through OK and I was pleased about that!! But to be honest I don’t recall too much about either game.

You played in a Wednesday team with really mentally and physically strong individuals (the aforementioned centre halves along with Gary Megson, Gary Shelton, Lee Chapman, Zico and the young David Hirst) - did you find it daunting as a very young pro? Who was the real team leader?

'Not sure we really had one team-leader…as you mention, there were many within the squad that had those qualities but, they also had a tremendous amount of respect for each other which made a strong collective. As a young pro’ at that time (and Hirsty is younger than me…lol), I found it an absolute privilege to be amongst them all.

Another leader at the club was Mike Lyons, a player who lives in the memory for many Wednesday fans, so do you have a Mike Lyons story?
'I only knew Mike briefly but my most vivid memory was his pre-game warm-up…having two young apprentices help him….one would toss the ball up, while the other stood as an opponent for Mike to come through him like a train to head the ball…classic!'

You played on the day Martin Hodge let Steve Ogrizovic score directly from a drop-kick in his own area. What was said to Hodgy by the players on the pitch when it happened, and by Wilko and the players in the dressing-room afterwards? And what was Hodgy's response?
'Again, with the passing of time it is hard to recall any specifics, but I think the overall reaction was one of shock! “What the f**k are you doing?” was a likely comment!!''

Howard Wilkinson is someone who is obviously someone who had a big influence on Ian's career and his move to West Yorkshire came as a total surprise to everyone. When Peter Eustace came in to replace Sgt Wilko he was a polar opposite and Ian suggests this may have not necessarily been the best appointment at the time.

'Howard gave me my career, so what can I say?…He was tough, focused and determined to do well, no doubt it. He wanted success and bred that into us players.
'When he called a meeting to inform us of his move to ‘another part of Yorkshire’, I think the players were genuinely shocked and disappointed. It was a sad dressing room for me that morning.

'Peter was good bloke. He was the go-between the gaffer & players. Having been the player he was, he wanted to be the players’ friend…To many of us, he was. In hindsight, this might have been his downfall…?'

How big a difference did Ron Atkinson's arrival at the club make? What changed?
'I think the Board at the time showed an ambition with Ron’s appointment and I think his appointment certainly raised the expectations of everyone…
But he moved me out on loan and sold me to Grimsby!'

We thank Ian for spending the time to answer our questions and wish him all the best in his future, wherever in the world that may be.

I'd also like to thank our member, Baresi, for supplying the questions.

Give us your thoughts and memories of Ian, on the forum HERE.....

Unread article 18/07/2014 at 09:02



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