In the first in a series of profiles and interviews, Orginal Fat Bob gives his personal view on the life and career of a footballing guest before sitting down for chat and asking a few questions. Our Diasboro special guest this week is Jim Platt…
1. The Overview – the man and his career
I’ve got to know Jim very well over the last few years and he still looks as if he could play in goal tomorrow for a professional team. He still coaches at the Reds Football Academy with Bernie Slaven, Craig Hignett and Gary Pallister. He has also played regular football into middle age and was once beaten in goal by our own regular of these boards Jarkko! who has never forgotten the experience.
Tall slim and always immaculate, Jim personifies what a former athlete should look like and should not be compared with some of his contemporaries who look a lot older! I’m sure I’ll get some stick from some of them when next I see them for saying that, but Jim does look pretty good.
We signed him for £7,000 from Northern Irish side Ballymena and he went on to become a regular in the seventies and the eighties. During his playing career at Ayresome Park, he had five managers and played 481 games, which makes him (I think), Boro’s fifth highest all-time appearance maker. I’m sure our resident keeper of records, Ken Smith, will check that and correct me though.
One of our greatest ever goalkeepers, he was a great striker as well. Jim always liked playing up front and was a striker when he was at school, before being moved back between the sticks. He once played for the Boro reserves as a striker at Lincoln and scored a hat-trick. If you can remember those halcyon days, there was just one substitute allowed. Jim was travelling with the team as 13th man, but one of his team mates was ill on the bus. So, Jim was put on the bench and then during the game another Boro player pulled a hamstring after 15 minutes and had to go off. The rest is the stuff that readers of the Hotspur or Roy of the Rovers will feel familiar with. Jim came on and got first a good goal, then another one, this time a tap in and finally a great header which puts him in the history books.
I actually saw him play centre-forward for the reserves when I couldn’t get enough football and used to go to Ayresome Park. These were usually mid-week games on cold winter nights when I wanted to see what players were coming through from the juniors. I took an avid interest, as in those days I was a referee who as part of a three-man team, we used to officiate for all the Boro trial and junior games. It was nice to see the players we thought would make it, including the likes of: Mark Proctor, Craig Johnson and Stan Cummins break into the reserves, then the first team. Jim Platt always caught the eye playing up front and could have made a decent living as an outfield player.
During his long and distinguished career, Jim won 23 caps for Northern Ireland. He undoubtedly would have won many more, but at that time there was another one of football’s great players who was also in competition for the International goalkeeper’s shirt. That was of course, the great Pat Jennings, who also played for Spurs. Jim was also in the Irish team that won the Home Championship, the last time it was played. The former chief scout for the Boro Jack Watson insisted: “If it hadn’t been for Pat Jennings, who was world class, he’d have got more than 100 caps.”
Jim was eventually started to be edged out by John Neal, who brought in Jim Stewart, and exiled Platt with loans spells at Hartlepool and Cardiff in 1979.But both times he played his way back and his form in his later years was good enough to ensure he went to the 1982 World Cup in Spain with Northern Ireland, playing against Austria. His testimonial game included international team-mate George Best, someone that I thought I would never get to see play in a Boro shirt. Best even agreed to sign for the club but then went on a drinking spree and sadly it never happened.
Although fans may know he played for Ballymena United he also acted as their manager for a season from 1984–85, after which he had a longer spell at Coleraine, managing them for six years from 1985 to 1991. In 1991, he had another short spell, this time at Ballyclare, for just one season from 1991–92.
For the 1992–93 season he was given the job of managing Swedish outfit Assyriska, in the Swedish First Division. He had a two-season spell managing Darlington one partly with another former Boro player David Hodgson, then the other from 1995–96, before leaving full-time management to take a job with Gateshead.
He has also previously been Middlesbrough’s Chief Coach at their Football Community Centre and now he acts as a match day Boro ambassador and host. He welcomes guests from the world of football and former players, joining in discussions with fans, reminiscing of past glories and hopeful of new ones.
2. The Interview – a quick chat
OFB: What year did you join Boro as a professional footballer?
JP: I joined the Boro in 1970 at the age of 18.
OFB: Where did you stay? Did you rent, or did you live in digs?
JP: I lived firstly in the MFC Hostel and then we moved out of that and into digs. I hated digs!
OFB: Who was your favourite Boro player that you played with at the time?
JP: It was probably Eric McMordie as he was from Northern Ireland as well.
OFB: Who was the best trainer in the team?
JP: There were several players at that time who were good on the training field. These included the likes of, Derrick Downing and Alan Moody. Later in my career, the best players who showed up well on the training pitch were David Hodgson and Craig Johnson.
OFB: Who did you room with for away matches?
JP: I was a groupie! Several of us used to room together in those days but later in my career I used to share with the late, great, Bosco Jankovic.
OFB: Who was the joker in the team?
JP: Eric McMordie was always playing pranks and was the joker in the pack.
OFB: Can you tell us any amusing anecdotes or pranks that were played?
JP: I remember when we travelled on the train as a team, Cliff Mitchell who was the Evening Gazette Chief Sports writer at the time, used to travel with us. One day we were going to an away game and Cliff who was on expenses went for lunch leaving his beloved trilby on his seat. Eric having the “divvil” in him casually picked up the trilby, slid back the window of the coach and threw it out, to be lost forever. When Cliff came back to his seat, he spent the rest of the journey searching high and low for his hat!
OFB: Who was in your opinion the best manager that Boro have ever had?
JP: Oh! undoubtedly Jack Charlton was the greatest manager that I played under at M.F.C, however, great credit must also go to Stan Anderson. Stan carefully scouted and searched for the players and ended up with and assembled some great players. It wasn’t all plain sailing though, I fell out with Charlton and was dropped for 23 games in 1976-77 in a dispute over where I should be standing at corners.
OFB: Why do you think Jack was the greatest manager?
JP: It was his ability to change things. He could read the game that was in front of him and change the shape of the team and the formation by his astute use of tactics.
OFB: Who is your favourite Boro player of all time?
JP: I don’t really have a favourite player of all time, but I admired David Armstrong who played some 300+ consecutive games for the Boro.
OFB: Who is your current favourite Boro player?
JP: Again I don’t have a favourite player. Let’s be honest it’s a team game and that’s why I’m not a fan of Traore! I would hate to have to play with him.
OFB: Do you still follow the Boro, their results and where do you live now?
JP: Yes of course I do, I will always follow the Boro, they are my team. I had over 13 years and played 481 games for them. As you know, I am here every match day acting as a M.F.C ambassador and host and it’s nice to catch up with old friends and make new ones. I still live locally in Ingleby Barwick and I love being here with my lovely wife and we also enjoy our holidays abroad and back in Ireland.
OFB: A huge thank you Jim for taking the time to talk to Diasboro and our readers.