The 1994/95 season featured Eric Cantona launching a kung-fu kick at a Crystal Palace fan, and Shearer and Sutton’s goals firing Blackburn Rovers to the Premier League title.

There was plenty of controversy and drama at Taunton Town, too, as Richard Browne explains...

TAUNTON Town had been seconds away from FA Vase glory in May 1994, but their hopes of building on that successful campaign were up in smoke by October of that year.

Manager Terry Rowles quit just weeks after the controversial departure of three key players - John Durham, Derek Fowler and Nigel Jarvis - and Russell Musker took his place in the hotseat.

Things had began well, with Rowles committing to his role for another two years, and 62-goal striker Andy Perrett agreeing to stay on for the season.

As successful as the 1993/94 season had been (the Peacocks finishing runners-up in three competitions), Rowles brought in a host of new players in a bid to build a squad that could challenge Tiverton Town for the Great Mills Western League Premier Division title.

Arriving were Simon Levett, John Wiltshire (both ex-Bristol Rovers), Ian Wilmott (returning from Yeovil Town), Raphael Burke (a tricky winger who spent two years on the books at Manchester United), Greg Taylor and Stuart Minall (both from Paulton Rovers).

Centre-back Taylor would go on to play every game for Taunton that season, but the other signings had less impact; Burke impressed but was dogged by injuries, eventually being released in November.

The first sign that things were not quite right came when centre-back Keith Graddon quit in August, and joined league rivals Elmore.

Graddon told the County Gazette: “I was messed about a bit last season but I was prepared to put up with it because I was a newcomer.

“I want first team football, and I’ve told Terry Rowles I will be leaving.”

Ahead of their opening game of the league season, Rowles said: “I was not happy with our workrate last season.

“I was prepared to accept it last season because the side was so different from the previous season.

“But now it’s total commitment or up the road.”

Calne Town were beaten 5-1, with the strike pairing of Durham and Perrett scoring two apiece.

But the Peacocks were stunned in their next match, losing 2-0 at home to newly-promoted Barnstaple Town, only to bounce back in their FA Cup tie with Clevedon Town.

They won 3-2, a fine result against a Southern League club, and a satisfying one for Rowles, who had left Clevedon under a cloud after an unbeaten 1992/93 season.

Another new player arrived, the superbly-named Barry Flippance, but a trip to Odd Down on September 3 proved disastrous.

Durham, Fowler and Jarvis turned up late, and Rowles announced that they would not be playing for the club again.

Jarvis - who had made than 150 appearances for Taunton - told the Gazette: “We were not sacked - we left the club ourselves. It was our decision.

“I have always given 100 per cent. We have not got the attitude that we turn up for matches when we feel like it.

“We spoke to the manager about the situation [being dropped after turning up late]. I did not hear the things I wanted to hear from him.”

The trio all joined South Western League side Bodmin; without them, Taunton drew 2-2 at home to Southern League side Weston-super-Mare, but lost the replay 3-2, meaning an FA Cup exit to Weston for the second successive season.

Rowles acted quickly to replace the departed players, bringing back Graddon, who came in alongside Gary Lewis (a striker from Forest Green Rovers) and Gary Fulbrook (a full-back from Yate Town), as well as Andy Llewellyn and Gary Campbell, both formerly of Bristol City.

Even so, draws with Saltash United and Westbury United left Taunton down in 13th place and 12 points behind Tiverton (albeit with two games in hand) going into their meeting at the start of October.

The hosts dominated at Wordsworth Drive but could not take their chances as it ended 0-0.

That was followed by a second defeat to Barnstaple, and Taunton’s sixth successive game without a win came at home to struggling Bideford, a 4-4 draw in which Taunton had led by a two-goal margin three times, only for the returning John Durham to score with two minutes left.

That was the final straw for Rowles, who “shocked his players by announcing his resignation”.

He said that the team’s form had not been a decisive factor, but that he had been considering quitting for a couple of months.

Commenting on the departure of Durham, Fowler and Jarvis, Rowles said: “They let not only the club down but also themselves.

“I have built two championship-winning sides and I felt I could not do this again six weeks into the new season. Basically I need a new challenge.”

Club chairman Tom Harris added: “Terry, who has added pressure with his business commitments, never came to terms with the departure of the Torquay trio, whom he felt let him and the club down with their behaviour.”

David Jenkins and Andy Perrett took charge of the first team on an interim basis, but Rowles was replaced within a week by Musker, who took charge hours before a 4-1 defeat at Elmore.

Torquay-based Musker, 32, played half a dozen games for Taunton the previous season but had been struggling with injuries.

Coming in as player-manager, he said: “I am pleased to have been given the opportunity.

“Things need to be put back on the rails, and I intend to work hard to make this possible.”

New signing Matt Messenger, from Pewsey Vale, became the 25th player to wear Taunton’s colours this season, indicating the lack of continuity in selection.

Another of Musker’s big challenges was to restore Perrett’s appetite for scoring.

Gazette reporter Bob Summerhayes wrote: “What demons have invaded the soccer psyche of Andy Perrett?

“This once deadly predator is now a quivering wreck in sight of his natural quarry.

“Time and again [against Crediton United, in a 4-0 win], Perrett worked his way into goalscoring positions.

“Time and again, knees, thighs, woodwork and goalkeeper contrived to deny him.

“Despite his quaking boots, he still set up two of Taunton’s goals.

“He has not lost the ability to lose his marker and Musker will surely reap the rewards of patience in this special case.”

Musker did not have to wait long, as Perrett duly scored twice in the next match, in a run of five goals in five games!

Fowler returned from his brief exile by the end of October, meanwhile, and was soon Musker’s assistant, but Barry Flippance - who had scored six goals - left.

After the defeat to Elmore, Musker oversaw a run of 12 games unbeaten; he was operating with three central defenders, which allowed wing-backs Kevin Thaws and Alex Crook to bomb forward.

Perrett was up to 10 goals for the season with a brace in the 7-0 thrashing of Petersfield in the FA Vase second round and the only goal of the game against Minehead in the Somerset Premier Cup.

Midfielder Tim Reynolds scored twice on his home debut, against Saltash, with another new signing, Wayne Stamenkovic, coming off the bench.

Somerset County Gazette:

BATTLE: Taunton players Trace Norton (top) and Nigel Jarvis

The Peacocks won through to the Vase fourth round with a 4-2 win over Westbury United, and Musker said: “Realistically we cannot win the league so we must channel everything into the Vase.”

Jarvis also returned in December, goalkeeper Paul Edwards came in from Bideford and while Taunton lost their first match in almost two months at Bristol Manor Farm, their good form had taken them up to fourth by the end of the year.

Fourth became third in January, thanks to an incredible 8-0 win away to Paulton - who had been third going into the match.

Midfielder Paul West was used as a makeshift striker alongside Perrett, scored SIX times inside 40 minutes and said afterwards: “I don’t like playing up front.”

The Peacocks gained revenge for their 4-1 defeat in Musker’s first game in charge by beating Elmore 2-1 in front of a crowd of 946 at Wordsworth Drive, sending them into the fifth round of Vase.

But 21 days without a game due to wet weather followed, ahead of their meeting with Isthmian League side Oxford City, managed by ex-Newcastle United and Oxford United player Andy Thomas.

Oxford won 3-0, with Musker “fuming” at his side’s performance as their bid to reach another Vase final petered out in meek fashion.

With the league and the Vase now gone, Musker said that he was already planning for next season.

“We are going to start rebuilding without being ruthless,” he said.

Perrett had not recaptured his form from the previous season, but was still Taunton’s top scorer with 20 goals, so it was a blow when he left for Mangotsfield United in March.

He signed off with two goals against Amesbury in the Les Phillips Cup, and Musker said: “He’s got to be one of the best strikers I’ve ever seen in non-league football.

“But he’s not getting any younger and Mangotsfield is much nearer his home.

“He did not want to leave and we’ve parted on the best of terms.”

Liskeard striker Trace Norton arrived in Perrett’s place, and scored in a 2-0 home win over Mangotsfield; substitute Perrett could not inspire his new team to fight back.

Mangotsfield appointed Rowles as manager soon afterwards, and full-back Wayne Morris left Taunton to link up with his old boss again.

In April, the Peacocks picked up the points to consolidate third spot, but were beaten 2-1 at Tiverton, which proved a priceless win for Tivvy as they went on to win the league by a point from Elmore.

As for Taunton, they reached their sixth Somerset Premier Cup final, and suffered a sixth defeat.

Conference side Bath City won the first leg 1-0 at Wordsworth Drive, and completed a 4-0 aggregate victory at Twerton Park.

The Peacocks’ fourth final in 12 months, and fourth defeat, saw them beaten 2-0 by Elmore in the Les Phillips Cup final at Dawlish.

It had been a turbulent season for Taunton, but better times were ahead - and much sooner than their fans might have expected.