A Former Saint
The World Game.com.au
David Ratcliffe is regarded as one of the toughest and most uncompromising central defenders to play for Australia but he so easily could have been lost to the Socceroos but for a special set of circumstances and a quirk of fate.
Ratcliffe was one of the pillars of the St George side that won the 1983 National Soccer League and he played with distinction for Australia in 21 internationals. Yet English born Ratcliffe could have missed the chance to represent his adopted country if the 1983 FIFA World Youth Cup in Mexico did not clash with a three match tour down under of Bobby Robson ’s England.
Socceroos coach Les Scheinflug was asked by the Australian Soccer Federation to take charge of the youth team and his assistant Frank Arok was given the reins of the senior team for the high -profile series against England.
“ I guess I was fortunate that the World Youth Cup in June coincided with the England series and Les took the boys to Mexico, leaving Frank in charge of the Socceroos, ” Ratcliffe said. “Arok was my club coach at St George at the time and I had been playing for him for a while so he knew my game well.
“ Other players could so easily have been selected to face England so I had an advantage. Frank picked his own players and I was one of them. We had a reasonable series against England, losing once and drawing twice. It was not great football. We defended a lot but the team was in transition after the loss to New Zealand in the 1982 World Cup qualifiers. Eventually Arok got the job for the 1986 campaign.”
Ratcliffe was happy to talk about his battles against some of the world
’s finest forwards in a career he
himself admits could have been longer.
What are you doing these days?
“I’ m 61 now and I still work on building sites in Sydney as a formwork carpenter. I enjoy my work because it keeps me fit and healthy. I also still play soccer with Cronulla RSL and I have been doing so for the last 20 years through the age groups. But this might be my last season, to be honest. I have a few injuries.”
Your first club was Bradford City. What brought you to Australia in 1978?
“At 21 I was young and restless. Things were not going as well as I had hoped at Bradford and a new manager came in with his own players so when I heard that former Socceroos coach Brian Green was recruiting players for Australia I decided to join Brisbane City in the National Soccer League. ”
You made your name as a dour defender with City and after three years St George came calling. Tell us about the championship you won in 1983.
“ I was doing well in Brisbane and we won the Phillips Cup for two years. After my third year Saints coach Arok wanted new players for the club which had just come up from the NSW State League and I signed up along with a few others. The NSL had a first-past-thepost system back then and Sydney City won the league. But we did beat them 3-1 in the grand final thanks to a hat-trick from striker Dez Marton. The following season we finished a point ahead of Sydney City to become champions for the first time.”
You made your debut for Australia in the first match of the 1982 Merlion Cup against Thailand in Singapore. What do you remember of that tournament which the Socceroos won?
“ Les was national coach. I played in the first game but was overlooked for the rest of the tournament. Les obviously had his regular players and I was still new. ”
- Phillip Micallef (Part Two next home game)
Source SBS Website