How good was the 1958 Wales team?
Jack Helsey in goal, Stuart Williams right back, Graham Williams left back, who was centre half at the time? I was centre half but I didn’t go, Colin was there, there were a lot of players there Cliffy Jones, Roy Vernon? Ken Leek? It was a good team, we got to the quarter finals didn’t we, I know that there were some complications with Israel I think or whatever but we got there!
I didn’t go on that trip! Do you know why? Because in Swansea, smallpox broke out. Honest, an outcry, people were dying. The prune as I was, I used to play miniature golf down Ashleigh road with my girlfriend, she’s my wife now, for the last 56 years but she was my girlfriend at the time, I’d just got out of the army and we were courting. I’ve gone down there and we have met another couple there, we got talking and that was that, the next thing we know he is in hospital. They were terry and Barbara and Barbara phoned us up and said that terry was in hospital ‘what is wrong with him?’ I can’t remember what it was, it wasn’t smallpox but we went to visit him in the hospital, Bridgend hospital and then a couple of days later a notice comes out ‘smallpox breaks out in hospital in Bridgend’. Panic station! I told everyone that I was up there last week, I should have kept my trap shut shouldn’t I, headlines in the paper in the evening post ‘Mel Nurse visits hospital with smallpox’ I felt like I couldn’t go outside the door. I couldn’t go anywhere.
I remember that everyone was panicking to get vaccinated and everything else and I joined a queue in the Kingsway towards the police station and I stood in the queue and they all turned around and went ‘hello Mel’ and then realised what they had seen in the paper the night before and so they disappeared. That’s the quickest I have ever seen a queue go down!! I just walked straight in. I was confined to the house for two months. I couldn’t go anyway.
So that cost you a world cup?
Well I am saying it did but I’m not sure because I had just been picked for the Welsh team. My first game was against England at ninium park. We drew one each, Brian Cloughs one and only game. He played twice for England but one was a friendly and the second one was that one against Wales at ninium park. I remember because I had nightmares about it, I was playing against England, my first international and i was playing against Cloughie and every time I played against Cloughie he would score goals, he was cunning and clever, sneak here and sneak there, he would let you go for the ball and tackle people and then he would sneak over there and the next minute ‘bang’ he would be there and score. Every time I played against him he would score!! Except for this day!!! I can remember going on the field with and saying that ‘I WILL KILL HIM, IF HE LEAVES THE FIELD TO GO FOR A TOILET THEN I AM GOING WITH HIM!’ I can remember me saying that to myself.
Game kicks off anyway, he’s centre forward and I’m centre half and he gets the ball and pushes it backwards to someone and they send it out wide, Cloughie pushes into me to break off to create space in front but he wasn’t leaving me! I run with him and the ball goes on his chest and woosh I put six studs down his back!! I’d get a life sentence for it now!! He went flying through the air. The referee had just kicked off hadn’t he, it was so early in the game that he didn’t know what to do and so I got away with it. He never scored a goal and he never played another game. I had his son stay here years later when he was manager of Nottingham Forest sitting on that chair by there and he had a big range rover, his old man was Brian Clough, he had to have one!! So he is sitting there and my daughter is serving and she said to him ‘my father used to play and he played against your father’. ‘who is your father?’ he asked, the next thing and he’s on his mobile phone, I’m going back nearly forty years ago and he had a phone then, that’s how well off he was but he picks up the phone and he’s going ‘Dad, I’m in Swansea, I’m in this guesthouse and there is a young girl here who says that you played against her father; Mel Nurse’. ‘He’s a dirty bastard’ Brian Clough said.