Roy McFarland’s association with Derby County over the last 50 years meant that not everything could be crammed into the usual two-part series of RamsTV Meets - so he recently returned for a second sitting.
McFarland joined Derby from Tranmere Rovers in August 1967 as one of Brian Clough’s early and most inspired signings.
The central defender racked up over 500 appearances for the club, making him one of the Rams’ all-time greats, over the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
He was a Second Division title-winner in 1968/69, as well as claiming medals for the First Division championship triumphs in 1971/72 and 1974/75.
McFarland, the scorer of Derby’s first goal in the European Cup, succeeded Dave Mackay as captain and, as well as being capped 28 times by England, he was named in the Rams’ all-time XI in 2009 as part of the club’s 125th anniversary celebrations.
After spells as assistant manager to Peter Taylor and Arthur Cox, he was named as Derby’s manager in 1993 and came close to promotion on two occasions prior to his departure at the end of the 1994/95 campaign.
Now 72, McFarland remains associated with the club, as well as being a director, and was appointed as a club ambassador in 2015.
Another achievement which perhaps goes under the radar is Derby’s FA Charity Shield win over West Ham United in August 1975.
McFarland was on target at Wembley Stadium as Dave Mackay’s side ran out 2-0 winners, adding the second from close range following Kevin Hector’s opening goal.
The defender made his way up the famous steps at the old Wembley to lift the Charity Shield for the only time in the club’s history to date.
It was a poignant moment for McFarland, who had been forced to much miss of the previous season’s title success owing to a long-term Achilles problem which required surgery.
Ironically, his injury came on international duty with England and he was able to enjoy a memorable moment at the same venue where he had suffered such disappointment just over a year beforehand.
Speaking to RamsTV in his most recent RamsTV Meets interview, McFarland said: “It was a great day for us and there was a bit of history at Wembley for me after sustaining my bad injury there which forced me to miss a lot of football and most of the 1974/75 season.
“I got a goal as well, which was great, from all of a few yards out. How it didn’t go over the bar, I’ll never know!”
McFarland admits he had to adapt his game when making his comeback from such a long period on the sidelines.
While it meant he had to make adjustments to the way he played, McFarland remained a regular for many more years although his spells out of action were more frequent.
He said: “I got back to the level where I could play for England again.
“Inside, though, I didn’t have the same sharpness. I felt I lost a touch in terms of pace and I also started to get a few niggles, which was very frustrating.
“I had to adjust, which was important. I had to be more cautious and I needed to get used to it. It helped me to carry on playing.”
Mackay had stood up to the challenge of replacing Clough as Derby’s manager in late 1973 and was in the hotseat for the 1974/75 First Division title triumph.
The resignation of Clough and his trusted assistant Peter Taylor came as a shock at the time and Mackay had the unenviable task of picking up the pieces with a disengaged squad at the time.
The Scotsman did an impressive job, aided by some smart recruitment, but in November 1976 he was dismissed.
Like Clough and Taylor, he lasted only 18 months after winning the First Division title.
Colin Murphy, brought in by Mackay as Reserve Team Coach, was initially temporary manager and was asked to continue after Derby’s unsuccessful attempt to bring back Clough and Taylor.
It proved to be a challenging time as the Rams slipped down the league standings and Murphy and the subsequent appointments of Tommy Docherty and Colin Addison did little to revive the Rams’ fortunes.
In May 1980, Derby were relegated back to the Second Division and McFarland still remained part of the set-up although his appearances remained less regular as he approached the latter years of his career.
“It was sad when Dave left and it was the start of the decline,” McFarland admitted.
“It didn’t happen for us under Colin Murphy and then Tommy Docherty and Colin Addison. We lost a lot of quality in a short space of time and it affected us, like it would at any club.
“But that’s football. Teams can go up and down; we’ve seen teams rise up and we’ve seen teams drop down too.
“Success is hard-earned and those players that were at the club in the 1970s will know that. We had to wait on some other results to win the league, which was extreme.
“The players knew what it was about and that you had to give everything, committed and be able to last the distance over the course of a long season.”
McFarland became the seventh and, so far, last to complete 500 appearances for the club in October 1980 in a 3-1 home win over Sheffield Wednesday.
By that stage, prior to leaving at the end of the season, he was beginning to think about management and he took over as player-manager at Bradford City in the summer of 1981.
“I’ve got Colin Addison to thank for me going into management,” McFarland admitted.
“He sat me down and asked if I felt it was time for me to start being a manager.
“He treated me like an adult and as an ex-player who had been there and done it in terms of his career coming to an end and looking at the next step.
“I was preparing to be a coach or a manager and I had done some of the courses. Colin sat me down and suggested Bradford City. It then hit me with a bit of reality that I was going to be leaving this great club.
“I had to move on. I met the Chairman at Bradford and we hit it off straight away - and I relished the challenge. It was a lovely experience and I really enjoyed it.”
McFarland’s first season as a manager was a memorable one as Bradford gained automatic promotion from the Fourth Division.
However, his time at Valley Parade was short-lived.
After Peter Taylor was appointed as Derby’s manager in late 1982, he moved to bring McFarland back to the club as his number two.
Derby were still in the Second Division at the time, where they were when he first joined as a player, and the pull of coming back to the Baseball Ground and working with Taylor was too good to turn down.
His return angered Bradford, who complained of an illegal approach and the Rams were fined.
McFarland regrets little from his time in football, but admits he could have handled the situation better with hindsight.
“We worked hard and we got promoted from the Fourth Division,” McFarland admitted.
“I then made the decision to come back to Derby. Peter Taylor was the manager at the time and he wanted me to come back. During the successful time I had with Brian Clough, Peter was a strong influence as well.
“I wanted to come back and more than anything because of Peter. I knew the club was struggling and the quality of the players wasn’t so high, so I knew it wasn’t going to be a quick fix in terms of achieving success.
“If there’s one thing in football I regret it’s probably walking out on Bradford City to come back to Derby. I think it was a mistake at that time.
“The club got into trouble for it and it was a difficult time, on and off the field, and it needed a season or two to get things right. I was the assistant manager and Mick Jones came back too and under Peter we had a go to get things sorted, but it didn’t work out how we wanted.”
McFarland played a handful of games in the 1983/84 season and, sadly, Derby were relegated to the third tier.
Taylor left in the April and McFarland oversaw the final nine matches as caretaker manager.
It rounded off a tough season which was dominated by financial trouble with Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise instigating winding-up petition in the High Court.
“It was a sad and difficult time when we were relegated,” McFarland admitted.
“Peter left and I took the team for the closing weeks of the season. One thing which remained was the supporters and they stuck by the club.”
Brighter times were on the horizon and Arthur Cox was appointed as Taylor’s permanent successor in the summer of 1983.
McFarland had applied for the job at the time, but Cox was deemed as the right man to lead the club forward and he acted as his assistant.
Cox went on to lead Derby to back-to-back promotions in 1985/86 and 1986/87 to return to the First Division, before they went on establish themselves back in the top-flight once again.
In total, Cox was in charge for nine full seasons and the opening stages of the 1993/94 campaign.
“Without doubt the club made the right decision to bring in Arthur,” McFarland admitted.
“At the time I wasn’t ready for the job in terms of the size of the club that Derby County was and would become.
“I applied for the job, spoke to the directors and put my point of view across.
“They made the right decision, without a doubt. Arthur dropped down a few leagues and he knew about the level. He was passionate and he loved football. I got on with him so well and I gave him respect, which he showed me in return.
“Over nine years as his number two, maybe I should have left to be a manager elsewhere, but I loved Derby and a manager who gave me the opportunity to coach and work with the players and him.
“It was almost like the early days of Clough and Taylor in what we achieved. I am grateful that I was part of the journey and we did some good things. Arthur taught a lot about management and coaching.”
The return to the First Division saw the Rams spend big to bring in the likes of Peter Shilton, Mark Wright, Dean Saunders, Paul Goddard and Trevor Hebberd.
Their highest finish in recent history saw the club occupy fifth spot at the end of the 1988/89 season but they missed our on a place in the UEFA Cup as English clubs were banned in the wake of the Heysel disaster in 1985.
McFarland believes the chance to compete in Europe would have been a great opportunity for that particular group of players at that time.
“Winning football matches isn’t easy,” he said. “We could tell the players were gelling and engaging with each other; something was building and without a doubt it came together with Arthur.
“We had good characters and you can’t beat togetherness and success and they marry together very well.
“Once we got up to the top flight we made some good additions and we had a very good team. In the First Division; to finish fifth was incredible. We would’ve qualified for Europe if English clubs hadn’t been banned.
“It’s a shame we didn’t get that opportunity because I think the squad would have benefited from the experience.
“We wanted to sustain what we achieved and when we wouldn’t add to it and make us that little bit stronger, it became a tougher job.”
After more than nine years at the Baseball Ground, a severe back problem forced Cox’s resignation in October 1993.
McFarland was handed the job on a permanent basis to succeed him and Derby finished in the play-off places for the second First Division season in a row.
They breezed past Millwall over two legs, winning 5-1 on aggregate, to reach the Play-Off Final against Leicester City.
However, a dramatic late 2-1 defeat at Wembley saw the Rams miss out on promotion to the Premiership.
“I got the job and we managed to finish in the play-offs,” McFarland said.
“We faced Millwall, who had finished ahead of us by three points. We drew both games 0-0 in the league so there wasn’t much between us. When it came to the play-off matches, we applied ourselves so well in the semi-finals.”
The last-minute loss to the Foxes was hard to take as Derby had created plenty of chances on the day.
They didn’t take them, and they were made to pay as Steve Walsh scored from close range in the final minute.
“I think back to the Final, we should have won,” McFarland said. “I don’t think we were as stretched as much as people said or I thought; I think our football was good on the day and we had chances. We just didn’t take them.
“You can be the better team and lose in a Final. That’s what happens when it’s one game. It was a sad day and I can tell you there wasn’t much conversation on the way home.”
Derby had spent heavily on their squad in the early 1990s as they sought to return to the top division.
Marco Gabbiadini, Paul Kitson, Craig Short, Tommy Johnson, Gary Charles, Paul Williams, Mark Pembridge and John Harkes were just some of the signings at that time.
By the following season, Kitson, Johnson and Charles had moved on and others were being linked with moves away.
Derby were inconsistent and missed out on a place in the top six, which resulted in McFarland not having his contract renewed beyond the end of the season.
“The play-off final was a major blow to us,” he admitted.
“It was almost like the beginning of the end in a sense and I felt that with the players. They gave us everything, so I didn’t blame any of them for moving on. I certainly had never been in a dressing room where so many players were crying after.
“The following year didn’t work out. When you sell your best players, it is hard. I had seen it after Dave Mackay was sacked, so I knew it would provide a massive hole to fill. We tried hard to do it, but it is very difficult.”
McFarland went on to have further spells in management at Bolton Wanderers, Cambridge United, Torquay United, Chesterfield and Burton Albion.
McFarland now acts as a club ambassador back at Derby and has also sat on the board of directors since May 2017.
He enjoys both positions and remaining part of the club he has a great affinity with.
He said: “I enjoy the ambassadorial role and working with the other lads (Roger Davies, Michael Johnson and Marc Edworthy); we have a bit of fun and banter.
“We do various things and I like meeting the supporters and chatting. The fans are great and we have always been so well supported.
“Mel Morris offered me the chance to be a director and I do wonder what Jim Smith and Brian Clough would say about that! If I can do anything for this club, I will.”
He added: “I know I can bring some experience having been in football for a long time, both as a player and a manager. I love the role I have here.”
Want to hear more from Roy McFarland on his Derby County adventure? It’s one not to be missed and his RamsTV Meets, Parts 3 & 4, can be found embedded within this article.