Last evening brought the sad news that Eddie May, who had two spells as City manager in the early nineties, had died in his sleep on Friday night at the age of 68. Although he was born in Epping, Eddie spent the majority of his football life in Wales – firstly as a no nonsense, stopper type lower division centre half with Wrexham and Swansea, but his league career started at Southend in the mid sixties and there was also a brief loan spell with American club Chicago Sting just before he left Wrexham for the jacks . In all, Eddie played nearly 550 league matches in a career that lasted thirteen years – more than 400 of them were for the two Welsh teams, with 334 of them being at Wrexham where he was recently inducted into their Hall of Fame.
After retiring Eddie moved into coaching with spells at Leicester, Charlton and with various clubs in Norway, while his managerial career started with a short spell at Newport County in1988. Originally appointed at Cardiff as a Youth Team coach by Len Ashurst in 1990, Eddie became chief coach (he was manager in all but name) in the summer of 1991 under Rick Wright. After missing out on a Play Off spot in his first season, Eddie established himself as one of the most successful bosses in the club’s history as City completed a double by winning what I still call Division Four and the Welsh Cup in 92/93. The following season saw the club hold on to their place at the higher level and there was a run to the Fifth Round of the FA Cup that included a never to be forgotten win over Manchester City. However, the disastrous Cadman consortium, that were supposed to complete a takeover of the club, in 1994/95, wanted to bring in their own man and Eddie left the club as Terry Yorath arrived as manager. When the takeover collapsed in early 1995 during what was a dreadful campaign that saw the club relegated, Eddie returned for a few months, but left for good at the end of that season.
There were spells in charge of Torquay and Brentford after that and then he became something of a globe trotter as he worked at various clubs as manager and/or coach in Ireland, Africa and Scandinavia before returning to Wales in the late noughties to work with Porthcawl Town – it was during this time that he was invited to manage one of the invitation sides that played in the first match at Cardiff City Stadium in June 2009.
I must admit that I probably never gave Eddie May the credit he deserved for the job he did as City manager. Although I’d place him in the group which includes Frank Burrows, Len Ashurst and one or two others at the level below Jimmy Scoular and Dave Jones, speaking as someone who had been following the club for twenty years before I watched us play in the Fourth Division, I’ve always thought we were only ever there because we were such a poorly run club for the last thirty years of the last century. Therefore, I’ve probably under estimated the job he, or any other manager in that division, did for us. In particular, I’ve tended to think that virtually anyone could have got us promoted out of the basement with the amount of money he had to spend in his first two seasons in charge – in fact, I believe keeping us in the Third Division in 93/94 with no money to spend was, perhaps, as impressive an achievement as the promotion/Welsh Cup double a year earlier .
However, Eddie is one of only two Cardiff City managers that have actually won a division since we got league status ninety odd years ago and, reading the messageboard tributes to him this morning, it’s clear that he was a very important figure in getting the generation that is now in it’s thirties and early forties to support the club at a time when it was at a very low ebb. What Eddie May undoubtedly had was a genuine (as opposed to the sort of cosmetic approach you see from some managers) rapport with the club’s supporters. Eddie’s long playing career in the lower leagues may well have been one of the reasons for the fact that he always seemed to come over as an honest man, with few personal agendas, who was looking for what was best for his club. The fact that, having been dismissed, he came back to manage us for a second spell when the club was in a right mess, says a lot about the sort of man he was and it was great to see him get such a heartfelt, and deserved, ovation when he walked around the pitch at half time during a game staged in Ninian Park’s final season.
R.I.P. to a great servant of Cardiff City, and Welsh football, and my condolences go out to Eddie’s family and friends.
*picture courtesy of http://www.cardiffcityfc.co.uk/page/Home/0,,10335,00.html