The Championship team that Rovers had so lovingly assembled over years of junior development quickly fell apart. Head coach Keith Cotton had quit and Keith Goulding filled in for the rest of 1977/78. That summer Rovers persuaded veteran forward Terry Clawson, who had operated at prop forward towards the back end of the previous season, to take on the player-coach’s role. Terry is one of the game’s “larger than life” characters and of course needed no introduction to the players having appeared alongside them. Therefore he became after Eric Batten only the second ever player-coach of the Rovers, an unusually small number given that player coach was once quite a fashionable role. Inevitably it was this proximity to the players which led to Clawson’s undoing as he lacked authority in the dressing room and survived just three months in the hot seat.
As a player, Clawson was a rough and ready back rower when he made his Rovers debut in December 1957. With a good kicking game, swift hands and unlimited courage, he overcame a bout of TB to represent Great Britain before leaving Rovers after a dispute in 1965. He had spells at many clubs including Leeds, Bradford and Hull KR, before arriving back at Featherstone in January 1978 after a spell coaching in Australia. He thus a set a unique record of the longest span between first and last game for Featherstone. As his last match was in November 1978 at Rochdale his career therefore spanned a total of 20 years and 11 months, a record unlikely to be even broken. Only Keith Bell, Willis Fawley or Peter Smith could come near to that for longevity, though of course those three players played in an unbroken spell at the club.
Rovers started the 1978/79 season weakened in the forwards by the sale of Farrar and Stone and a year long injury to Bridges. Although the backs had lost John Newlove, there was still plenty of talent there in the shape of Box, Evans, Gilbert, Quinn and Coventry. The young team struggled with a difficult start to the fixture list against Leeds, Widnes and Hull KR. However things failed to improve and Rovers won just two of their first ten games. A heavy loss at Rochdale convinced everyone it was time for a change and Clawson quit. As he wrote in his autobiography, he had grave misgivings about taking on the job in the first place, and so it proved. It was left to Tommy Smales to try and pick up the pieces to salvage the season, which he unfortunately failed to do as Rovers were relegated. One interesting footnote to Clawson’s coaching career was a bit of cheeky nepotism when he selected his young son Neil in the game at Rochdale on 12th November 1978, thus becoming the first and only father and son combination to have played together in the same Rovers team. His bittersweet experience as a head coach discouraged Clawson from any other coaching role, and he eventually finished playing in 1980.
Terry Clawson’ coaching record:
78/79: Won 4 Lost 9 = 30.77%.