News has reached us of the passing of Sam Ferris, a forward with the Spireites between 1972 and 1974.
Motherwell-born Sam attended Our Lady’s High School in the town. Our Lady’s produced a number of footballers, most notably Billy McNeill, so it was not a surprise when Sam and a team-mate were invited to join Queen’s Park in 1968, earning a place in their under-18s. Albion Rovers were also keen that he should join them, and got their man in December of that year. Rovers farmed him out to a junior side called Lochend Rovers for the rest of the season, recalling him for the 1968/69 season. Sam was still at school and would often play for his school side on a Saturday morning, and for Albion Rovers in the afternoon.
Sam would later say that, in many respects, his happiest times in the game were had with his school side, the highlight of which was an under-18 cup final played on Hampden Park. He also made it to the final trial game for the Scottish Schoolboys side that played England at Firhill in March 1969.
Sam’s most memorable game for the Wee Rovers came in the 1971/72 Scottish FA Cup against Celtic, at Parkhead. The Hoops included the likes of the aforementioned McNeill, Bobby Murdoch, David Hay, Kenny Dalglish and Lou Macari. Unsurprisingly, the minnows were beaten 5-0 and Sam remembered that, “I never had a kick of the ball. All our players were Celtic fans and could not handle them or the nerves on that day.”
Not long after, Sam met the Chesterfield manager Jim McGuigan, who had come up to Coatbridge to watch a game. Jim saw a player who had pace and good close control, who stood out among the other part-timers on duty, and invited him south for a trial period. Sam started three Football League games, scoring one goal, after a deal was done for around £5,000 on March 8, 1972. Sam’s move to Chesterfield put an end to hopes of his studying architecture at Strathclyde University, but the club agreed to release him from training for one day a week to attend a building course at Chesterfield College.
Sam’s first season as a full professional began with pre-season training in July 1972. In his trial period he could barely complete the warm-up laps before the training proper began, but he soon built up his fitness. Still, he thought training too fitness-oriented: “To this day I believe that somehow we over trained,” he explained, “and it is my opinion that all the players were exhausted and jaded the second half of the season. We were pushed through the pain barrier in most days training where that sort of performance should have been saved for match days.” Sam had to wait until October for his first start but scored a late winner against Rotherham and didn’t look back. McGuigan spoke of him as having the same eye for goal as Denis Law.
The following season was less of a success for Sam, whose only run in the team came in October 1973. Although he argued for inclusion in the first team, Sam realised that names like Ernie Moss and Frank Large would always be written on the team sheet before his. Sam left for Kettering in the summer of 1974 with happy memories of his time at Chesterfield, during which he had made 38 appearances, scoring three times. One of Sam’s significant but less well-known contributions to the club came in the phone call he fielded from Jim McGuigan before the start of the 1972/73 season, when he put in a glowing reference for Albion’s young goalkeeper, Jim Brown.
Sam helped Kettering to creditable finishes in a Southern League dominated at that time by Wimbledon. Games between the Poppies and the Dons were often feisty, and Sam remembered Frank Large (by now, a Kettering player) leaving the Rockingham Road pitch to a standing ovation after being sent off for “straightening out” one of Wimbledon’s players.
Sam enjoyed four seasons with Irthlingborough Diamonds in the United Counties League before finishing in his late 30s with Whitworth’s, a Wellingborough team. Sam’s studies in his early playing days earned a career in the construction industry as a building inspector, and he worked for Northampton Council as a senior building control officer.
We send our condolences to Sam’s family and friends.