When people think about famous footballing brothers, they probably think about Jack and Bobby Charlton, Michael and Brian Laudrup, Gary and Phil Neville or Yaya and Kolo Toure. Alongside those, you can add the Wallace brothers, Danny, Rod and Ray. They may not enjoy as high a profile as those mentioned previously – unless you’re a Southampton fan perhaps – but nevertheless, they deserve to be mentioned in the same breath. The Wallace brothers made footballing history.
The Wallace brothers were born and raised in South London. Danny was the eldest, while Rod and Ray were twins.
Danny was a sought after youngster, and attracted attention from a number of London’s top clubs. But in February 1977, he joined Southampton as an associate schoolboy at the age of 13. On 29th November 1980, he became the youngest player to appear for the Saints – a record he held until the emergence of Theo Walcott – when he was chosen to replace the injured Kevin Keegan for a trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United.
It took him a couple of seasons to properly establish himself as a first team regular at the Dell, but during the 1982/83 season, he started to come into his own, scoring 12 goals in 35 appearances.
The following season, Danny became a key player in a very good Southampton team that saw them become shock title contenders. His explosive pace and agility saw him trouble most opponents, and this came to the fore in spectacular fashion as the Saints battled Joe Fagan’s Liverpool side towards the end of the campaign in what was the first game to be televised live from the Dell.
Southampton beat Liverpool – who pipped the Saints to the title by just 3 points – 2-0, and Danny scored two superb goals, the first a spectacular overhead kick which was named Goal of the Season, and the second a bullet-like diving header to finish a great team move involving Mark Dennis, Mark Wright and Frank Worthington. The following month, Danny was at it again, scoring a hat-trick in an incredible 8-2 win over Coventry City.
The Saints proved that they were no flash in the pan when they finished fifth in the following campaign to qualify for the UEFA Cup, though they were unable to compete when English clubs were banned from European football following the Heysel disaster. Danny was again at the heart of things, netting 10 goals.
Despite being a regular with the Under-21s, and three seasons of exceptional form behind him, it was 1986 until Danny won his first full England cap when he was called-up for a friendly with Egypt. England won the game 4-0 and Danny marked his debut with a goal. It was to be his only appearance for his country. And it was during 1986 that Danny was joined at the Dell by his two younger brothers Rod and Ray who both signed for Southampton as apprentices.
As with his elder brother, Rod was an attacking player, while Ray was a defensive midfielder or occasional right-back, and both became a part of Southampton’s first team squad during 1988. And it was in October of that year that the three brothers made footballing history.
Southampton started the 1988/89 season with three straight wins, but by the time Sheffield Wednesday visited the Dell on 22nd October, the Saints were four games without a win. Their winless run continued as Howard Wilkinson’s side ran out 2-1 winners. But the game was memorable for the home side for other reasons.
By this time, Danny Wallace was a fully established first teamer, and Southampton’s star man, while Rod was starting to appear regularly too. Both Danny and Rod started the game with the Owls, while Ray was named on the bench.
But in the second-half, Ray came on as a substitute to make his Southampton debut, replacing Gerry Forrest. It was the first time in 67 years that three brothers has appeared in the same team in the First Division. And even more importantly, it was a major landmark for black footballers.
Both Rod and Ray did well for the rest of the season, Ray becoming a virtual ever-present, while Rod outshone them both, finishing the campaign as the Saints’ top-scorer with 14 goals. But by the end of the season, Danny had begun to get itchy feet, and made it clear that he’d grown restless at the Dell.
The following season was a mixed one for the Wallace brothers. Danny departed for Manchester United in a £1.2million, which – at the time – was the biggest transfer fee that Southampton had ever received, while Ray harshly lost his place following a suspension around the time Danny headed north, and he was only to make one more appearance for the Saints. However, Rod made a huge impression, finishing top-scorer for the second successive campaign, netting 21 goals.
Danny didn’t make the impact he’d hoped for at Old Trafford, but he helped the Red Devils win the FA Cup during his debut season – the first trophy of the Ferguson era – and was a non-playing substitute when Manchester United beat Barcelona to win the European Cup Winners Cup the following campaign.
In the summer of 1991, the Wallace’s links with Southampton were finally broken when Rod and Ray followed Danny north, the twins both signing for Leeds United.
The 1991/92 season was a great one for Rod Wallace, as he formed a very good partnership with Lee Chapman, the two helping Leeds to win the First Division title. However, it wasn’t so good for Ray and Danny. Ray hardly figured for Leeds and had a short spell on-loan at Swansea City, while Danny found himself squeezed out on the other side of the Pennines thanks to the emergence of Lee Sharpe and Ryan Giggs, and struggles with injuries and fitness.
The problems that Danny faced led to him leaving Manchester United for Birmingham City in the summer of 1993. But he made just 16 appearances in two seasons at St Andrews, and in 1995 joined Wycombe Wanderers where he made just 1 substitute appearance.
It was during his spell with Wycombe that Danny was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a condition which forced his retirement at the tragically young age of 32. Danny described his diagnosis as a “relief”, as it provided the explanation for the fitness and injury problems that had blighted the latter days of his career.
Rod Wallace had become a very popular player at Leeds. He eventually left Elland Road in the summer of 1998 after seven years, having made more than 200 appearances for Leeds, scoring 53 goals. He joined Rangers and enjoyed a three year spell in Glasgow, scoring 41 goals in 78 games, winning a domestic treble in his first season, and a double in his second. He ended his career south of the border with Bolton Wanderers and Gillingham.
Ray Wallace left Elland Road before his twin brother, signing for Stoke City in the summer of 1994, and it was with the Potters that he enjoyed the best spell of his career. He failed to make much of an impression during his first season in the Potteries, and was sent out on loan to Hull City. But during the 1995/96 season he became a regular at the heart of the Potters’ midfield as the club reached the First Division (Championship in new money) play-offs. Razor was an extremely popular player, and during the 1995/96 season was named the club’s joint Player of the Year with goalkeeper Mark Prudhoe. He went on to make 179 appearances for Stoke, scoring 15 goals. But after leaving the Potteries, he never really settled anywhere, and retired in 2002.
The Wallace brothers were ground-breakers, and deserve to be remembered.
Danny was one of the most exciting players to emerge in the 1980s, and was central to a very good Southampton side that came very close to winning the title in 1984. It was a mystery as to why he was overlooked so much by his country, and his illness a tragedy. If he’d emerged during the Premier League era with advent of wall-to-wall TV coverage, he’d have been a superstar.
Rod too was a very, very good player, and popular at each of the clubs he played for. As with Danny, he built a great reputation at the Dell, before leaving to win trophies, and became a big part of the last Leeds side to lift a major trophy. As with Danny, he too probably deserved a crack for England.
Ray is probably the least remembered of the brothers, but that’s a real shame, as he was a decent footballer and became a key player in a tidy Stoke City team that came very close to winning promotion to the Premier League long before Tony Pulis arrived in the Potteries.
It is highly likely that their achievement back in October 1988 will never be matched, and as such, they should be remembered alongside the likes of Viv Anderson, Brendon Batson, Laurie Cunningham, Cyrille Regis, and Justin Fashanu as black footballing pioneers.
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