Whenever talk turns to the central defenders who have made indelible marks on the history of Cambridge United over the years – and there have been many – it won’t be long before someone mentions Terry Eades.
Terry was a stylish but formidable centre back with a football brain the size of a planet. If he didn’t beat you in the air – a rare occurrence – he would certainly get you on the ground, and then he would be looking for the best and quickest way to get the U’s on the front foot.
He played in amber more than 370 times over nearly ten years, and his United career spanned two eras – the late-1960s push from the Southern League to the Football League and the club’s first few years at the higher level.
Terry made a huge contribution to the successes of both periods, and it was a source of wonder to many, including the great Brendon Batson, that he never performed at even more elevated heights.
To get a measure of the man it’s sufficient to look at some of the admiring descriptions his managers resorted to: he was, said Bill Leivers, ‘masterful’, ‘magnificent’, ‘a colossus’, ‘inspirational’ and ‘outstanding’, while Ron Atkinson called him ‘out of this world’.
Leivers had been aware of Terry’s qualities long before he signed him. At Chelmsford City the young Banbridge-born defender had done his best to stop United’s rampant forwards in their tracks in many a top-of-the-table battle.
There were smiles aplenty around Newmarket Road in February 1969, when Leivers completed his shopping expeditions in Essex by persuading Terry to join his fellow ex-Clarets Tony Butcher, Bill Cassidy and Peter Leggett in United’s assault on the Southern League title and the seemingly impregnable bastion of the Football League.
Perhaps he thought his career had taken a wrong turn when his first U’s game turned into a 5-1 floodlight league thumping at King’s Lynn. If so, he must have been reassured when, in his Southern League debut at Bedford, he flourished in an adventurous role and scored the first goal in a 2-0 win.
The second of his 12 United goals came just two days later when his strike, the only one of the game, did for Nuneaton.
As the Southern League and Cup double of 1969 gave way to another title win and election to the Football League in 1970, and then United’s first forays into the big time, Terry was always to the fore, earning accolades wherever he went.
And in 1974 his name went into the history books when he became the first man to score in an English senior match played on a Sunday with a historic FA Cup equaliser against Oldham.
As the years went on, the injury toll mounted – no one as committed as Terry could expect to escape scot-free – and a brief spell at Watford presaged the granting of a free transfer from United in 1978.
It speaks volumes for his reputation that West Brom brought their household names to the Abbey for Terry’s curtain call in 1980.