A look back to when Tony Lee’s Whitby Town team tasted the magic of the FA Cup

With the FA Cup Third Round coming up this weekend the Whitby Gazette are looking back at Tony Lee, a man who took Whitby Town to within one match of playing one of England’s elite in the 1980s.
Tony Lee celebrating the win over Halifax Town with the Whitby players.Tony Lee celebrating the win over Halifax Town with the Whitby players.
Tony Lee celebrating the win over Halifax Town with the Whitby players.

Lee began his playing career as a professional at the age of 16 when he signed for Leicester City from Stockton Juniors and he looked at home in the professional game as he secured his place in the Foxes’ first team.

He continued to thrive at Bradford City before returning back to his native North-East with Darlington, but after suffering with knee problems following a car crash during his Leicester days,

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Lee decided to look at getting involved with lower league football and he joined his former team-mate Colin Appleton at Scarborough FC who were then playing in the Northern Premier League.

While at Scarborough, Lee was a star player and once managed to score in 13 consecutive matches.

But the ultimate aim for Lee was to find his feet in management and with Appleton’s help this dream became a reality.

Management wasn’t what brought Lee to the Turnbull Ground though as he did feature for the Seasiders in the 1970s, joining from Goole but his knee problems continued and this saw his playing days come to an end.

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This certainly wasn’t the last that Blues’ fans saw of Lee though and he would certainly leave his mark in his managerial days in Whitby, appointed as team coach in May 1980.

Having impressed at Teesside outfit Smith Dock, Lee made the switch to the Turnbull Ground and after making the club stable in his first of four seasons the tide really began to turn.

He helped Town finish runners-up in the Northern League on two occasions after this and he also saw his side lift the North Riding Senior Cup in 1983.

But nothing could better what Lee’s side achieved in the prestigious FA Cup in the 1983/84 season.

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Having come through qualifying, Lee’s men faced a seemingly daunting task against League side Halifax Town at the Shay and when they found themselves 2-0 down in West Yorkshire many would have assumed the tie to be over.

But the fight and spirit shown by Lee’s players was exceptional and they turned the game on its head with three goals to send the club through to the second round where Wigan Athletic narrowly defeated the Blues with a late penalty at Wigan’s Springfield Park.

Despite not getting the chance to play West Ham United away at Upton Park in the Third Round proper, Lee certainly put Whitby Town on the map with their cup heroics that season.

That same season also saw Whitby reach the quarter-finals of the FA Trophy for the first time in their history and only bowed out of that competition in a replay to higher-ranked Dagenham.

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There is no denying that Lee left his mark at the Turnbull Ground and he thoroughly deserves his status as a club legend.

You can find out more about Tony Lee in ‘Blucerchiati - The Whitby Town Magazine’ which is available to buy from whitbytownfc.com on the club’s online shop.