Following the passing of Eric Winstanley, we reflect on his career which included three seasons with the Spireites…
An England youth international, Eric realised early promise that came to the fore with the Barnsley Boys’ side that won the Yorkshire Shield in 1960. He made his Tykes debut at 17 and recorded his 100th Barnsley game before passing 20.
He went on to assume legendary status at Oakwell, making a club record 410 Football League appearances and skippering the side to promotion to Division Three in 1967/68. Despite playing at centre-half, he was their top scorer in the following season, which included a performance against Watford that has entered club folklore: with his side two-nil down, he was pushed up front and responded with a match-winning hat-trick. In all, Eric scored 35 goals for Barnsley.
Eric should have joined the Spireites in the summer of 1973 in exchange for Charlie Bell, but a £15,000 fee was agreed instead after Charlie failed a medical. Eric helped hold a team in transition together as the likes of Sean O’Neill and Les Hunter became established.
Hunter played 13 times with Eric before taking over his no. 5 shirt halfway through the 1975/76 season. The loss of Eric’s experience to the team may well have influenced the signing of Len Badger a month later, and it is a sad coincidence that they should both pass away on the same day.
After three seasons as the rock on which Chesterfield made their defence, Eric left to take up a coaching appointment with a leading club side in Zanzibar, having earlier worked in Africa on an FA sponsored coaching scheme. African politics at the time were particularly volatile, and matches between the different states’ clubs occasionally mirrored this: Eric’s team played one match in Ethiopia in a highly charged atmosphere that saw the crowd subdued by troops with tear gas as the referee unashamedly fixed a penalty shoot-out so that the home club could win – in the interests, presumably, of his safety and that of the visiting team.
The outbreak of a succession of wars on the continent led to the abandonment of such games and Eric returned home halfway through a three-year contract. Back in his native Barnsley, he joined the Oakwell coaching staff.
He had a brief spell as caretaker manager between Allan Clarke and Mel Machin, and served as assistant manager to another former Spireite, Danny Wilson. A testimonial against Manchester United in November 2001 was a fitting reward for his service which lasted 21 years (August 1980 to June 2001). He had left Barnsley following backroom changes in the wake of a new manager’s arrival.
Eric coached the St Kitts & Nevis team for three years before returning to England to take up coaching roles with Doncaster Rovers, Scarborough and York City. After York, from September 2009, he was the technical director of the club’s development wing at SuperSport United, South Africa.
Our sincere condolences are extended to Eric’s family and friends.