The Colchester United players loved him like a father.
But Jock Wallace’s time in charge at Layer Road was all too brief, as a revealing new book reveals.
“Blue Thunder – The Jock Wallace Story” by Jeff Holmes is a thorough, descriptive and enjoyable account of the charismatic Scot, who spent just under 12 months in charge of the U’s at the end of the 1980s.
Colchester owner Jonathan Crisp had specifically targeted Wallace.
He arrived in Essex in January, 1989 boasting a reputation for being one of Scottish football’s greatest-ever managers.
Wallace had tasted European glory and secured two unprecedented trebles in charge of Glasgow Rangers, where he had enjoyed two successful spells.
But as the book charters, he encountered a very different situation at Colchester, who were officially the worst team in English football when he took the reins.
They were rock bottom of the fourth division, with just three wins to their name.
But after Wallace’s arrival, the Layer Road gates had more than doubled to pushing 5,000.
As Holmes writes in the book, “First up was a match against Tranmere Rovers, and just before kick-off, Wallace said: “I have the hardest job in the world. Colchester are propping up the English League – but I’m back in business.”
Wallace was tasked with keeping the U’s in the Football League and he passed with flying colours.
Alongside his number two Alan Ball (the duo were affectionately known as “Bawl and Ball” to Colchester’s players), the U’s secured nine wins and eight draws from their remaining matches to complete the Great Escape.
When Ball left to take over as Stoke City’s assistant manager and with Wallace struggling to cope with his Parkinson’s disease (although his illness had not been revealed publicly at the time), the Scot stood down as team boss in December 1989 and became a director.
Wallace later returned to Spain but it was during a trip back to England visiting his daughter Karen and her family that he died of a heart attack in July, 1996.
While ‘Blue Thunder’ is predominantly an account of Wallace’s considerable success with Rangers, it is nonetheless a revealing throwback to a time when life was very different at the U’s and a fascinating read for Colchester supporters, particularly those of a certain age.
There are some lovely gems about the wily Scot’s brief spell at the U’s, from his successful working relationship with Ball to the bond he quickly established with the players (the reference to skipper Tony English singing ‘Nae Surrender’ in the dressing room is particularly amusing).
Wallace’s time at Colchester was all too short - but he certainly left his mark on Layer Road.
“Blue Thunder: The Jock Wallace Story”, published by Pitch Publishing, is available priced at £17.99.
For a chance to win a copy of “Blue Thunder – The Jock Wallace Story” answer the following question: How many spells did Wallace have in charge of Glasgow Rangers?
Email your name and answer to email@example.com – closing date is Monday, June 23.