May 26, 2021
You know by now that l have made it common knowledge that Sir Matt Busby offered and wanted Mr Tony Waddington to take charge of the mess he left behind after Manchester United achieved The Impossible Dream when after he lie in a Munich hospital bed and coming around to hear of the devastation that icy runway caused.They won the European Cup in 1968 and although that was the most glorious of dreams come true for so many different reasons it led to the breaking up if the last great United team until Sir Alex overcame his shaky beginning.Tommy Docherty might have something to say about that as his Manchester United team were, in my eyes, borderline, even with my old sparring partner the great Jimmy Greenhoff and along the way another pal Johnny Gidman oddly enough the three of us all got the cold shoulder from Don Revie at the exact same time coming home from Hungary. The shame and ongoing real regret I have is going in the first place but that only came second to my regret of turning up for my second and last cap against part-timers Cyprus where I was man marked by a waiter from a restaurant in North End Road, Fulham, or so he told me as we stood chatting while a player lie injured. I should have said, ‘Thank you, but no thank you’ and left it there with only one cap to my name, and as I always say quality is better than quantity. Three jeers for the Don!Here we are all those years on from Tony Waddington’s passing – the day l sat beside his fragile being in a Crewe hospital bed. I had lost two father’s on that day and there’s not a day goes by when l keep reminding myself, ‘If Only?’On this day the 26 May 2021 a letter from the court came through my door over a three year dispute about a radiator leaking onto my quite expensive carpet, and yes, they blamed me for it corroding, much like most of my clubs and their managers, something I have learned to live with.The marks on my carpet are nowhere as severe as the scars on my legs, abdomen and my head where l had blood clot dispersed, and no, it hasn’t sent me crazier, thank you?I mention the letter because my imagination ran away with me as l thought what would my boss, mentor and great friend have wrote to me about today’s Europa League final between Manchester United and Villarreal? I imagine it would be something like this:Dear AlanI have been gone a long time and l thank you for trying to keep me alive or bring me back, firstly, secondly in all the time l have been away is this really where Manchester United are?With them being so wealthy compared to Stoke City in our day when we topped the championship, yet still couldn’t afford to clean your training kit, l find the present situation rather odd, as we had the most unfortunate ending to our future dreams and had they not have happened l was looking at winning the European Cup, just like my good friend Brian Clough, only a short ride along the Trent.I would have Alan, and l think you know it, however as you love your music, as l do, it would be case of Simply Red once again, yet they have gone sideways much like most football played today that would have been no good in our team, I mean what would be the point of having Greenhoff?.It really is hard to inhale all of this from up here, after all the great, great players in red shirts under both Sir Matt and Sir Alex, players from Charlton, Law and your mate George, to Bryan Robson and those that followed, Cantona, Sheringham, Keane, Van Nistelrooy and our very own Jimmy G what a signing £100,000 from our friends down the road in Birmingham, to name just a few crown jewels at Old Trafford.It will not be the same Villarreal when they have overcome Bayern Munich (ouch) just the sound of their name brings shivers down this old spine.Keep going my dear friend from Chelsea and although you were so close to joining the party upstairs way back in 1997 make sure you delay it as long as humanly possible.I cherished my time as Stoke City manager at that wonderfully crowded Victoria Ground which took me along a path that was so nearly The Yellow Brick Road sprinkled with gold.I so wanted to win that First Division title for those wonderful supporters of our club, and how close we came, plus l wished l had been in the dressing room as your England manager in 1975 after l told the London Press Gang “Alan Hudson will play for the World XI before he does his country?” Someone somewhere listened.Two caps?Too bad?Too incredible!I’ve got to go Alan visiting times over, and it’s George’s 75th birthday, so have a Large Gordon’s and tonic for me, although l can’t believe l’m telling you my drink, it slipped my mind, l thought for a split second l was talking to Roland?Goodbye my friend always!Mr Anthony Waddington.Roland being the longtime bartender of Federation House opposite the Railway Station, a place Tony held court on many an occasion. And it was the only court I have ever enjoyed, as he was as comfortable as George Carmen or better than in his prime and it was one of my great, great pleasures to be there on many an occasion.
Great Britain’s during the Swinging Sixties was all about football, music and fashion. It was the era of the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Manchester United.
According to one former team mate – someone who witnessed first hand the the mayhem at 3pm on a Saturday and then again at 3am in the night clubs – George Best was the biggest superstar of the lot.
On the pitch there was fame, glory, goals and medals as he carved his name into United history.
Off the pitch there were booze, parties and girls.
Don’t tell old Gunnar Solkskaer but his injury time winner in 1999 is not the most important goal in Manchester United’s history.
That accolade belongs to George Best according to Paddy Crerand for the magic he produced in the 1968 European Cup final against Benfica. United fans will return to memories of past glory when boss Solskaer prepares for the Europa League final against Villarreal on Wednesday. The Norwegian will forever be remembered for that most dramatic goal in the Nou Camp against Bayern Munich. But former United legend and great friend of George wound back the clock 53 years for the goal he calls the most crucial in the history of the club.
NOW THIS IS SOMETHING TO CELEBRATE
Following the match in Gdansk, fans can either celebrate or commiserate by watching a new BT Sport documentary on Best, narrated by his son Callum. It has been produced to mark what would have been Bestie’s 75th birthday party. On 29 May 1968, in front of 92,000 people at Wembley, Matt Busby’s United faced Eusebio’s Benfica, ten years after the Munich Air Crash. the score was 1-1 and heading for extra-time as Bobby Charlton’s header was cancelled out by Graca on 79 minutes ‘s equalizer. Crerand recalled: “George was never under any pressure for any game. This was his big moment for a European Cup final at Wembley.
George didn’t have to prove anything to anybody but he went out there to show the world how good a player he was.”
Did Paddy say "good?"
As I read about this I had two thoughts in my mind, firstly, I hope they can live up to the expectations unlike those who made that absurd film his Life Story (Ouch!) and two, it really will be something to invite one or two friends round to drool over my friends incredible existence. I have a painting on my wall which holds the pride of place, a piece of work hand painted by Elwyn James a man I got to know in Barlaston, just around the corner from Wedgwood Estate where he worked as their main man in this particular kind of work. Some people like George, Charlie Cooke, Jim Baxter, Puskas, Messi and today although a little way to go, Jack Grealish, have it not only between the ears but in their feet, those that can make the ball talk, this gentleman had it in his head and his hands. Unbeknown to me drinking regularly on a Sunday night with this very talented boozer he would come up with something that has always been so mysteriously viewed by my visitors and none more so when I lived in northern Cyprus (ouch again!) than Elwyn’s exquisite masterpiece taken from a tiny picture I gave to him, taken by the Mirror’s Monte Fresco and given to me personally, even though years later I had to pay £800 for a copy from those rogues who remain nameless purely because of their name being promoted.
I mean how can they charge me if the photographer gave me the original?
When he asked me if he could paint me, I thought it a bit weird as the whiskey left his glass like an aeroplane taking off a runway when the wheels eventually left the tarmac. ‘What do you mean?’ “AIan, bring me in a photograph and I would like to copy it for you,” which was something that nearly escaped me the following Sunday but my friend little Lennie Bacon – no relation to Francis – the proprietor of the Duke of Wellington reminded me of a couple of times. The outcome a coupe of weeks later was completely staggering and it wasn’t until years later when George fell ill I had to make sure our painting wouldn’t.
Strangest thing is reading another friend, Paddy Crerand, account of his goal although the importance was monumental, mainly because of the incredible work done by Busby to assemble a team of pre-and-post Munich Manchester United players to become the first English team – second only to Jock Stein in Britain – to bring the biggest European club trophy to these shores. What it doesn’t mention in this newspaper is that George become El Beatle in the Stadium of Light prior to Wembley and talking of Eusebio, George probably looked at him and got his inspiration for him playing such a big part in the 1966 World Cup when his friend Nobby Stiles did a “job” on him at the same venue in the semi-final, not only that but his other friend, Alex Stepney, was face to face with the big Portugeezer and couldn’t believe his “Donald” when he smashed the ball straight into his arms. The point is George was not only winning the European Cup for Manchester United but reminding Europe, if not the world, that it was HE who should have been having such a say in a World Cup.
On the other page alongside our good friend Paul Trevillion, who I saw a couple of years ago, any brilliant artist funnily enough, wrote a piece about his friend George telling: “I lost count of the number of times I drew George but there was one portrait he insisted HAD to be in the green jersey of Northern Ireland – I told you so – and he said it was the BEST of the BEST. He continued: George would put a piece of white paper across the face and say: “You’ve captured my Irish, mischievous glint. It’s the perfect portrait.”
Best on Best: We beat Benfica 3-2 in the first leg but they were big favourites to win in LIsbon and go through. As I walked out I told Matt that I would score. “Make it two,” Matt replied. I did just that in the first 15 minutes and we went on to win 5-1. I wore a sombrero on the plane on the way back and was still wearing it through the Airport, and the headlines next day were THE RETURN OF EL BEATLE.
That being the case and me being the biggest fan of the Beatles around that time, and although I was still at school I was the first in the queue, holding my mothers hand, outside the King’s Road record shop, on the first say their album was released.
For the record: The Beatles’ sixth UK album Rubber Soul was released on this day as Parlophone PMC 1267 (mono) and PCS 3075 (stereo). Rubber Soul had advance orders of more than 500,000. It entered the album charts on 11 December 1965, and spent nine weeks at the top from 25 December – and I was in the front of that queue.
The thing about George was that had he became a Beatle I can see him right now sitting behind the drums without drum sticks looking over at Lennon and McCartney as they wondered why he wasn’t playing an instrument yet getting all the attention?
I recall the days having the occasional drink in The Cock in North End Road, Fulham with George’s agent Phil Hughes. I had asked George, through Phil, to write a foreword for a book I had written and of course that was no problem for him, but it was for me, because he was so much more intelligent which might have put my writing in the shade. I was getting close to deadline day, editing etc, and said to Phil, ‘Have you got it?’ and he replied, “George told me to tell you to write it because you are friends and he trusts you.”
This happened. I sat and wrote something quite special – about me. One day I had a book signing in a club in the Fulham Road full of Chelsea supporters as there was a home match. It was packed to the rafters. After an hour or two a few began to leave and stopped on the way out complimenting me on the book THE TINKER AND TALISMAN and added “We really didn’t know that George rated you that highly as a player and person,” to which I replied, ‘Well, you don’t read my books enough do you?’
George’s foreword was so very important to that book, and of course, my importance?
May 22, 2021
I only played at Blackpool for Chelsea and that was enough really for watching them last night brought back memories of a couple of quite extraordinary matches at Bloomfield Road, one where l was greeted by two policeman who ushered off those couple of steps of the team bus through the crowd and into that old falling apart dressing room. The other match was a nightmare for our goalkeeper John Phillips, the hero of our European Cup Winners Cup – in my eyes – when saving us in Belgium against Bruges.
Back to the most incredible experience of being marched through the crowds as if I was Mark Chapman, couldn’t be one/1971 was too early and two/I loved Lennon. Why then? I was going to be assassinated. So the police said. They had received a call to the Manchester Police HQ, and were told we’re going to kill the Chelsea number 10 at Blackpool today. I had to think quickly as to was I wearing my favourite shirt? Of course I was. The dressing room was fantastic and the worry none. I thought, who do I know up here? Who have I upset? Nobody, Manchester maybe, but no, that was George Best territory, and then I thought of our nights in Georges Night Club, no not me. I never got involved in any of the opposite sex in my days then, as I was too interested in enjoying George’s company and by the way I was labelled as the George Best of London – someone had to be and I was the one in the King’s Road, long hair, trendy clothes, in fact, way ahead of George as Liverpool and Manchester were second rate to the Chelsea way of life, and you never saw Bobby Charlton and Paddy Crerand out in all the new velvet suits. Keegan tried it in Liverpool and failed miserably. They come to London with these silly suits on and hair all over the place KK even got a perm, turn it in Kev. Once the police left telling me they had all parts of the stadium covered I put on Osgood’s Number 9 just before we left and left my shirt with no number showing hoping he wouldn’t notice. The jokes before leaving were up there with any of those in Bob Monkhouse book of gems. I knew one thing, I was taking no throw-ins or corners and was sticking to as close to the centre-circle as possible and for their corners I weren’t going to hold onto that near post. We won 1-0 despite being more under pressure from the shooter than those in tangerine shirts. The last thing I recall was looking out of the back window of our bus with relief then it hit me it was only 6pm and he might be at Manchester Piccadilly Station? This had actually happened before at Old Trafford, only this time they didn’t name the target and only the two Peter’s, Bonetti and Houseman, and the two John’s, Hollins and Dempsey were safe. Osgood was my favourite followed by Hutch, Webby and Johnny Boyle, as I say I was in no danger I was more interested in George’s stories of whatever Miss World he was escorting at that time?
I sometimes think of my time coming off that Life Support, but it could not have been that driver 25 years on? That mystery goes on and on and on…….
May 22, 2021
Seeing the time is coming where normality is hopefully going to resume, although my first experiences of being welcomed into certain pubs is not a sign for the better.
In other words they ‘suits’ and managers have had ample time to sit down and make their “Pleasure Places” as Bertie Mee called it to Alan Ball, a far better place than before the pandemic.
No such luck.. ..and it seems that my loving my own company and enjoying entertaining myself in my wee flat and my American experience has stood me in good stead.
I’m disappointed to say the least yet not surprised with people’s attitude, people – dare l say it? – who should not be allowed to both work in and manage a Public House. That’s it!
On the football front l was surprised to read that Frank has done a U-Turn with the Crystal Palace managerial job. It seems he has learned that my initial feelings about the Chelsea job have finally sunk in to him and l believe he now feels he should have seen out his contract at Derby County – I hate saying ‘I told you so’ but I did and Frank should have stayed at Derby and seen out his contract. I am certainly one who has been cheated by football clubs(Chelsea, Stoke City and Seattle Sounders) but I suppose living in a different era I stuck with my contract, did I have any choice?
The truth of the matter is I sometimes think about when Oz and I were abused by Chelsea had it been boot on the other foot and it was today on Bosman’s World. Oh my goodness, as Del Boy says “Lovely Jubbly” as was it Joe Fisher in the Lion? We would have refused to leave and said, ‘We have contracts to honour so you honour your part of the deal.’ It would have been great fun jumping in our helicopters to Windsor, or wherever, although Alexandre was unbeatable! Having lunch in the finest eaterie and sat with the finest wine, port and brandy, planning our next move. I most definitely would have bought myself, meaning buying my contract from Chelsea who wanted £240,000. I would have said that’s ten days work, I’ll train till the middle of next week and I’m off to Spain to see my mate George (Best) of course, where he’ll be sitting with a bevvy of bevvy and girls and talked of joining him at Barcelona or Real, if not I’ll take the low road, just play for fun, who needs to bow down to the clowns “suits.” Or maybe buy that team Jeunesse Hautcharge in Luxemburg and start up there, I loved that team so very sporting in defeat. Play for fun having saved up my fortune, like Fergie bought my own wine store (vineyard) bought my own restaurant and bar, in fact two, one for business and one for friends, everything free, but that’s okay because I only have a few but that’s better much more intimate and they can bring their friends. I think you’d like it. I can dream, but those dreams came true for so many inferior beings, but I look back at Baxter, Shackleton, Carter, Finney and dream of having them there working for me as waiters, only not waiting. I’d put them on top money, the money they never got while entertaining millions of decent hard working folk. They could start a little band, Slim Jim could “jog” with the ball on his knee like at Wembley in 1967, Shack on the harmonica, Tom on the fiddle, no that was Sir Stan, and Raich on the Joanna, my restaurant would need to be extended the length of the street, what a dream. The dream never ends!
He, Frank, has, between the lines, kind of said, “once bitten” by not taking a Palace job which is so much like the Chelsea job without Roman Abramovich’s financial clout and the fine job he did with bringing through those youngsters has come back to bite him as Palace want him to do that over in South London. No chance!
It is like my jigsaw puzzle only his pieces are all over the place and when that’s the case both life and the game becomes complicated, whereas a few months ago things were so very close to simple for Frank. But he was at his lowest ebb at WHU like me before joining Stoke and I helped him move not to Chelsea but the Moon and Stars – I should have been his agent, the wrong people again earned out of my work, I was the one who talked Frank out of joining Leeds, therefore…..
Onto a more positive note with the 50 years of Stoke City’s League Cup success approaching there is a lot of good memories about to flood back. If l have anything got do with it it will be making certain you-know-who gets the credit he has not been given since the move from the Victoria Ground to the Britannia Stadium by those ‘suits’ that continue to aggravate me.
Before the turn of the year l look forward to an Evening with Terry Conroy to talk of such times that turned and changed my life both socially and professionally under the Man.
Terry and l have spoken many times about what the evening will be all about and it’s something that excites me in times where excitement is at a premium.
I’m very fortunate to have the ability, because of my times with Tony, to make a grey sky blue – although our night will be far more red and white. Mr Waddington will be present on that night in Stoke-on-Trent and I think I’ll ask Terry if we can open the show with his Simply Red song HOLDING BACK THE YEARS, I never knew he could work a jukebox but ma and my friend TD caught him in Abersoch playing this song and it all made sense.
I hope that a few old faces, like say Nick Hancock will make an appearance as he has some extra gems to add to our already diamond memories brought to the table by the manager who was so harshly treated – something l know a little about – when the roof caved in, literally.
I have used many a term and song to try to explain such hurt but it is a simple matter of something along the lines of Matthew Harding and Tony Banks at Chelsea, and l know we all lose loved ones but it was the timing of such devastation.
What would have been even more hurtful, unlike with Leicester City winning the FA Cup for their saviour, had Stoke had won the FA Cup ten years ago, when losing 1-0 to Manchester City, my Man would not have been mentioned.
Again, l’d have found my very own personal way to celebrate something that would have thrilled him do very much, involved or not.
This is the time of the year of celebration and disappointment with a sprinkle of dreams that might have been, with promotions, relegation’s, and cup winners and losers, something again l know a little about.
But in the end winning will never be the be all and end all as l see it looking back at my times in a red and white striped shirt more a real case of what might have been, so close yet so far, clichés l could ramble on about forever.
But the simplicity of my time was it was such a special period of my life where coming of the field having played for the Man at the highest level something that lifts my spirits through such times if coming out of a coma being the highlight of what might have been something where the Bee Gees sang: This Is Where l Came ln.
May 13, 2021
Firstly, Bryan Robson. I received a call from Tony Jimenez last night telling me that Bryan was coming on our podcast, what a wonderful surprise as I am one of his biggest, if not his biggest fans. This is like Parkinson luring Sinatra or Ali. Talking of Michael Parkinson I watched his show with Sean Connery and who was on there also but none other than Boris Johnson, yeah, Boris Johnson sitting next to the man who made 007 famous while he went on to become Prime Minister and in all fairness had it been today although Mr Connery is an out and out true Scot, he might have just blasted the PM out of the studio with embarrassment.
Connery talked of his more than humble beginning, in fact, an incredible story which every young school child should be told as to him becoming an actor. It was an education alone.
I don’t mean any Wannabe actor or actress, although I’d love my grand-daughter to become a singer and dancer, what a way to earn a living.
It really reminds me of Bryan Robson, what we touched on, and although this bloke is like most “true greats” of our time is as modest as those I have met along the way from Phil Collins to Jack Jones to Eton John.
Bryan was on the brink of everything that changed certain peoples lives as he had turned Manchester United into a real force after the collapse of United, although Tommy Docherty brought some daylight as did Dave Sexton (both from Chelsea FC), but Bryan was the Master midfield player and “competitor” for both club and country. This was the first of many podcast that even presenter Tony (Jimenez) questioned my good behaviour, and my reply was simple, ‘I would always tread careful with such a Man’ and that is the truth of the matter as Bryan, as I said to him, is the only Man to be compared with the incomparable Bobby Moore, and Bryan sang his praises for Bobby saying he did something with a newspaper where they sat and watched England winning a World Cup match in 1966 (might have been the final?) and Bobby was “out of this world” as I have always said we would and could NOT have won the Jules Rimet Trophy without Bobby Moore in that team. .
We touched on several matters which were and are close to our hearts regarding both football and our social lives with his only hesitation being when I said had I played alongside him – after he mentioned Ray Wilkins – I would have made him an ever better player. But that’s me being me and meaning it in a away that how I would have loved to have played alongside him. There’s one thing for sure there were not many players who could improve my game, but he would have been one – if not the only.
So, look out for a great podcast which I can only say we can perform again at a later date covering more issues because when you’re talking to someone like Bryan Robson it would be hosting a show, as I said, with Frank and asking him his favourite song. It would be as the great Perry Como Sang: It’s Impossible!
A friend Paul Shurvill sent me some photographs and programmes to sign and while doing so I took a look through the Wembley programme, which I wouldn’t have been able to do before 15 December 1997 and came across on centre-page THE LEADING SOCCER WRITERS…HAVE THE FINAL WORD.Brian James (Daily Mail): The single mindedness of CHELSEA’S play in the Cup makes me believe LEEDS will have to take this season’s trophies from elsewhere.Geoffrey Green (The Times): Whatever my secret heart may say, my head says CHELSEA 2-1, I wrote on the morning of the Third Round draw – January 3; “This will be Chelsea’s year.”Desmond Hackett (Daily Express): It has to be CHELSEA. This is neither sentimental nor southern wishful thinking. On their peak, they look unbeatable.Ken Jones (Daily Mirror): LEEDS may have the edge because they have been in the business of big matches a little bit longer. Frank McGhee (Sunday Mirror): Because LEEDS have such immense resources of individual talent, maturity and experience, I take them to win.Maurice Smith (The People): CHELSEA flair or LEEDS UNITED expertise? I plump for CHELSEA flair – by 2-0. Hugh McILvaney (The Observer): To oppose LEEDS UNITED is as quixotic as betting the Indians in a Western, but CHELSEA justify the impertinence. To be plainer, it is time they won something and they are good enough to win today. Peter Batt (The Sun): Both teams play to a style that is as modern as tomorrow. LEEDS “arrived” first but I fancy newly emerged CHELSEA.Bernard Joy (Evening Standard): LEEDS will be attacking – and making it easier for CHELSEA, the masters of the counter-attack, to beat them.Vic Railton (Evening News): It’s the CHELSEA chasers to take the FA Cup. They have the pace and ability to beat the best in the land.Donald Saunders (Daily Telegraph): I take LEEDS UNITED, a team in every sense of the word, to win a very close battle.
They are sounder than Chelsea in defence.Laurie Pignon (Daily Sketch): CHELSEA who have never won the FA Cup now have the appetite and I think it will drive them to victory.Frank Butler (News of the World): Chelsea are the surprise packet of 1970. But LEEDS so professional and such able students of master-tactician Don Revie, are my tip.Alan Hoby (Sunday Express): If CHELSEA can master the murderous Wembley tension, I take the second-half flair and fitness of their talented attack to bring them the cup. Albert Barham (The Guardian): It’s about time the FA Cup came South and CHELSEA have the dynamic drive and skill to do it. Yes, it will be CHELSEA’S day.Graham Taylor (Sporting Life): How can you oppose Leeds? But it may take time but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the first ever DRAW after extra-time at Wembley: Score? 1-1.Graham Taylor of the newspaper I once worked for under Tom Clarke won the King of the Journalists trophy with his tremendous prediction, although he got the score wrong but being from a gambling newspaper if he was betting a draw I think he would have bet both 1-1 and 2-2? When you look back and read their opinions they based them on thinking that I was playing but after that serious chronic ankle injury I missed the FA Cup, the replay and the Mexico World Cup which led to a three -year ban by Ramsey for needing to rest my ankle the season afterward – that’s why they call it FA. INTERESTING?Chelsea’s very own Albert Sewell wrote inside: It was nearly Christmas before Dave Sexton had a full pool of first team players to draw from, but those casualty clouds had a silver lining.
On the eve of the season, with so many good players in front of him, there seemed little chance of an early breakthrough for Alan Hudson, just eighteen. Then came the injuries. By late August Hudson was in, and there to stay. A new star was born, but without that long queue in the treatment room he might have still been a reserve. Also Charlie Cooke had a word to say about the final against Spurs: “I look back on that 1967 FA Cup final with large regret. Apart from losing, the greatest disappointment was that we played way below our best form. Somehow it would have been so much easier to take if we had one down playing some great stuff.” WHO’S WHO FOR CHELSEAALAN HUDSON: If Chelsea claim him as the “discovery of the season”, would anyone argue? Last seasons’s youth team captain at Stamford Bridge, he kicked off in August in Chelsea’s reserves, jumped into their First Division side during an injury crisis and played so commanding in midfield that the Number 8 shirt was his for keeps. Then, after 29 senior matches, he was named by Alf Ramsey for the England Under 23 team against Scotland at Sunderland last month. All this and now an FA Cup final, too, for a starlet not yet 19. Signed professional in July 1968 after two years as apprentice. Born in Chelsea: 5ft 10in: 12st 11lb.
May 6, 2021
11.30am: After writing this piece at 8.30am it struck me that at the beginning of the BT2 showing of this match they showed the first ever winning of a European trophy by our Chelsea team against a Real Madrid team who lacked a Pirri in midfield, even tough I am a massive fan of Modric, however as predicted Chelsea did a job on him in the first 45 minutes, but that’s not good enough as the match last 90 minutes and more these days.If you’re wondering about Pirri look him up on Google, he was a master midfield tactician and technician, if I can use all of the terms of today’s pundits. In my eyes he was a brilliant player who would grace any team in the world at any time, forget the old garbage of players of yesteryear not hacking it today simply ask Graeme Souness?
My main point here is in that opening of the show it showed Peter Osgood scoring in the final in Athens from the only chance he was served up on that evening where we had played on the Wednesday night before the Friday when UEFA could not decided after extra-time of the first game.This point being the modern game talks of players such as Werner, who cost a ridiculous amount of money – who the Hell bought him? – and our Chelsea team could rely on Osgood taking the kind of chance Werner missed last night blindfolded, and if he was playing last night Real Madrid would be out of the competition before travelling to London, trust me.What I cannot understand is ‘How many chances does one have to miss before scoring?’I look at it this way: If Werner came over from Germany on trial he would have been sent back to Germany long ago, plus the fact Frank might use him as a fair excuse for getting the bullet?This is something incomprehensible as the opportunity he missed six yards out with the goalkeeper scrambling on his line was just that: incomprehensible! 8.30am: Had a long day at John’s (Durham) which looked at one stage as if l was both spot on about Chelsea and John and l would win money when Pulisic hit a terrific first goal, but Chelsea defended badly on the equalizer even though Benzema took it brilliantly.I immediately said to John ‘Swap Werner for Benzema and Chelsea win by three or four goals,’ and after the match it was repeated by a certain pundit. Last night l thought Tuchel got it right but he admitted he messed up for one/he should have brought Werner off at half-time and two/it was obvious Mount and the brilliant Kante, who played like three men, needed fresh legs alongside them.Yeah, after a restless night in slumber, nothing new, I woke thinking Tuchel did get it wrong, and this was not in hindsight as he knows his players and he made the age old excuse of tiredness after the tough match at West Ham, something I can understand in our day when we only had sixteen players to choose from but today they have half that number on the bench. Sorry Thomas, poor excuse use your substitutes better, or as in class MUST DO BETTER!Thinking back to 1971 when we played two finals in three nights against Real Madrid, when three of our players were worse for wear on the Thursday, we got stronger as Real pressed for the equalizer.
This makes a mockery of today’s fitness issue, and l always go back to Easter when we played three matches in that four day period on three different pitches, hard, bumpy and muddy yet still produced.In a nutshell, and you can make as many excuses you want, Werner is simply not up to the required standard in world football, he looks like a little boy lost and as I said earlier, or later in fact, he is simply not good enough as we were only talking of Jimmy Greaves a couple of days ago and for those of you who experience Jimmy would have to agree with me Chelsea present day supporter or not. .Sorry to bring Harry Kane into this again, and then there’s the man who defied Chelsea last night, a real front man of the highest order.
April 17, 2021
My friend Ian Hutchinson floored my once hero during a match at the Bridge on 13 April 1975, as Mike Doyle looks on. City eventually won the First Division encounter 1-0 with a goal from midfielder Asa Hartford.
NEVER MEET YOUR HERO? THAT DOESN'T APPLY TO WISBEY
It is quite a famous saying but one that has both come true and two bewildered many people throughout the years. I am fortunate that I have never had or been infatuated by one true hero although I am also very fortunate to have met many I have admired. I remember interviewing Tommy Wisbey, that Great Train Robber and wonderful friend of mine, in the garden of the Shakespeare Public House in North London on the day of his book signing. I must be fair you might call Tommy infamous because of what made him the man he was or in my mind, still is, infamous or not a gem.
He is a man I admire greatly and there are many people who will wonder why? Unlike those in the USA and a few here, although not as many as across the Pond as it is far larger a country and the gun laws are rather off-the-wall to say the least. Death Row had held and has seen many a killer walk that walk but that’s not the case here with Tommy.
He wasn’t even like one half of Bonnie and Clyde.
He was an ordinary chap who got involved with some people who had a great idea go wrong, it happens every day in every walk of life but my friend and his associates were on a far larger scale. Tommy talked another friend Malcolm Molineux into writing his book (memoirs) which really should not have been published because Tommy couldn’t talk about certain aspects for personal family reasons – which is where my admiration comes from. At the end of the interview, which can be seen on You Tube, I ask him the million dollar question by saying, ‘I have just met a lad inside called Liam and must ask you if Liam Brady is your all-time hero at Arsenal?’ As soon as I said it I knew who his real hero was and how he actually got to meet him, so I allowed him to explain about his favourite players at Highbury before bring that fantastic smile to his face with, ‘Tom, your finest moment must have been in Vegas?’
He then explained the night he was in Vegas and sitting all alone in a bar I can only imagine the Sinatra song, “Its quarter-to-three there’s nobody in the place but you and me, so set em up Joe I got a little story I want you to know, we’re drinking my friend to the end of brief episode, so make it one for my Baby and one more for the road.”
Tommy with his North London, almost cockney accent, replied, “Yes, I was in a Las Vegas Lounge Bar when the curtains were pulled back and standing at the door were two huge henchmen who stepped inside and after taking a look around ushered Frank to a nearby table over the other side of the room. I sent a drink over with a message, through a friend, that it was from the Great Train Robber from England.
After Frank finished his few drinks he headed in my direction and thanked me, and said, “So you’re one of the Great Train Robbers, Tommy it is a great pleasure to meet you. I haven’t washed my hand ever since.”
My story goes back to being a foolish youngster who one day witnessed Rodney Marsh’s debut at Craven Cottage and you might say I was smitten. It was against Aston Villa and me and my best mate Billy Boyce were standing right behind him as he half volleyed a 25 yard sot into the top corner of the Villa net, and that was where it all began. Unlike many a football supporter my admiration and love for The Beautiful Game goes way beyond a coloured shirt. Therefore I don’t like conversing with those with the kind of bias that is simply illogical.
Marsh had a swagger I had not seen before on this football field that was only across the water from where Billy and I played at Barn Elms and where they start the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, where if you look across the Thames you’ll see The Boat Race pitch, very historical, but to me nothing. Marsh became “the one” player for me and in those early days I never truly understood the transfer market and why a Football Club would sell their finest assets? Anyhow, that fine line between incredible confidence and uncontrollable arrogance hadn’t yet surfaced. I was thirteen or fourteen just before becoming a 15-year-old Chelsea apprentice when Marsh was sold to nearby Queens Park Rangers. ‘If he was going so was I’ was my take on things and I could not believe that those other Fulham die-hard’s did not take the same view as me and I must say my eye for a great player brought me the great good fortune to follow the Rangers all the way to the 4 March 1967 where at Wembley Stadium, they became the first team to win the Football League Cup over that one single match and as a Third Division team at that. What I did not know at that time was the WBA were the holders who had taken a two goal lead as I stood holding a transistor radio at Stamford Bridge for as a Chelsea player you had to be at their home matches. I know the exact spot I was standing when Marsh hit the third and winning goal.
Thinking back I can only say that it was my agent Ken Adam – who I got started – who by now managed Marsh arranged a meeting in the Markham Arms that wonderful old pub above Alexandre in Markham Square. It was not long after he entered the pub that had become so very close to my heart that my hero worshiping days were not worth it. Our careers kind of took the same path up the M1 and M6 with me going to Stoke City and he, Manchester City, a far bigger club than ours but soon we would put that record straight. Manchester City had won the League before winning the FA Cup and then the European Cup Winners’ Cup the year before we, Chelsea, knocked them out in the semi-final on our way to lifting that same trophy.
But now we were five years down the line and where Waddington saw me as the man for Stoke City Malcolm Allison saw Marsh the man for the other City, which I’ll cut short in terms of Big Mal, as he was known, warned Mr Waddington after another transfer deal between the two clubs, “If you want the money to put towards buying Hudson, I think you’re one/making a mistake and two/he’ll never leave the Bright Lights of London.
By now I had dropped Marsh having played against him after our first rendezvous in the Kings Road and after knocking both Marsh and QPR out of the FA Cup in 1970. As for Waddington and Allison, prior to my signing in the Potteries Allison had a Stoke City player on loan and a loan he wanted to extend while managing Crystal Palace.
Mr Waddington compared to Allison was quite a dab hand in these circumstances, as he was more George Carmen QC to Allison’s Rumpole of the Bailey.
The conversation was something of a management eye opener and one I loved being told as Tony was, in his rebuilding Stoke City, selling off the unwanted to pay for the wanted, if that makes any sense. Malcolm called Tony regarding the loan and Tony said, “Malcolm, you have had the player for a month or two and he has been a regular in your first team, therefore you must like him, therefore buy him, as we are not willing anymore loan deals.”
Malcolm responded by asking Tony, “How much do you want? Tony wanting £25,000 said, “If he can get in your team he must be worth near £90,000 or £100,000,” which Malcolm, like a tennis match, replied, “Come on Tony be fair, I’ll give you £50,000” and Tony although doubling his money immediately went down the middle for the rest. He got something like £70,000 when he only wanted £25,000, so it was no surprise that Malcolm paid £1million for my mate Steve Daley from Wolves in which was a deal, like my friend Durham John would say, “Come on Down, to play The Price is Right?” Yeah, it’s called management of the highest level, where the stakes are high but are the players up to it?
My figures might not be completely spot-on but you have the gist of it.
This was a deal were Allison and chairman Peter Swales accused one another of inflating the fee, but that wasn’t until this was written on Steve’s Wikipedia page: Steve Daley’s record transfer to Manchester City in 1979 was later described as “the biggest waste of money in football history”. The Manchester City manager Malcolm Allison and chairman Peter Swales subsequently accused each other of inflating the fee. Although the price may have been inflated, Daley was highly regarded at Wolves.
Steve later joined our Seattle Sounders team in 1981 for an undisclosed fee.
April 15, 2021
Thursday 15 April 21Through watching Liverpool’s knock-out punch by Real Madrid last night I get up knowing that it’s 32 years ago today of that most shocking of days in Sheffield, at Hillsborough I place I enjoyed in my early days at Chelsea. It was famous stadiums then for holding the FA Cup semi-finals, as was where I was on the day this day when hearing over the tannoy just what had happened, although they didn’t know at all just the severity of it all.I was working for a newspaper at that time The Sunday Sport who rounded up a few former players and have them cover certain matches, while also working on the Sentinel newspaper in the Potteries as well as running a pub and night club. It all sounds very time consuming but ‘me being me’ I looked at it as something nobody else was doing, I enjoyed getting away from Stoke for the day with Terry Bate, occasionally, Geoff Chell and my son Allen. I’d somehow get four tickets and we’d stop along the way and have a pub lunch before matches all over the Midlands, but this was different from word “go” and I went this one alone, which was a strange feeling in itself, as our jaunts in a Saturday were quite memorable.
An FA Cup semi-final was somehow more popular than the final itself and more important, which is very much open to debate as I often think about asking myself ‘What is worse losing in a semi-final or the final itself?’It would be a great podcast with the right players taking part, and the different views would only be like a four chaps standing in a pub having such a discussion, though they wouldn’t know how you feel as a player experiencing both, which I did on three or four occasions. However, this day was far more serious, if serious is the word? Thankfully, unlike so many others in Sheffield, I was probably the best part of a hundred miles south of this most tragic of events but on my way to Villa Park for the Everton and Norwich City match had a strange feeling about the day ahead. The closer I got to this other famous venue the more difficult I saw it was going to be to get a regular parking spot at the stadium so I parked quite some way away and hurried through the crowds but it was when getting to Villa Park itself where this feeling came about as the Everton fans were enjoying their day in the sun and were singing the usual football song and as I walked through on the road watching the police on horse back antagonizing these supporters, or that was the way I saw it.
There is no smoke without fire?The only difference here was that a few minutes before half-time a voice came over the speakers to tell us that the other semi-final had been stopped because of crowd trouble. It was much more than that if only because the Everton and Liverpool link was there and we all know how families divide like being a Chelsea and Fulham or Aston Villa and Birmingham City supporter, just like on Merseyside. The eeriness seemed to drift around the stadium and into the dressing room, unbeknownst to the packed stadium, as the second half started more like a pre-season friendly than such a massive match, it was in fact, sedate. It was as if half the stadium was on the mobile phone and the longer the match went on the feeling of some kind of sadness drifted around the place. The singing from outside had stopped. The last thing I remember was right down in front of me Tony Cottee, a record signing from West Ham to Everton miscontrolled the ball and I can’t tell you what went through my mind, well I could but this is not the time for such vulgar words. Those words were for what was going on elsewhere along with so many prayers from Birmingham to Sheffield and afar. My mind went blank and it was the only time that such a big match meant nothing, although I weren’t to know just how much this was true until coming off the M6 turning and into my place of both work and pleasure – in fact, it was much later that night that it was still going on and on…There are not many times after a good day out that I fail to remember the afterwards. This was most certainly one of those!
There are not many matches I go to and forget the result. I was going to go into that Peter Rhoades-Brown story in Oxford but today is not one of those days, and to this day thirty-two years on, it’s still not. This was about fifteen years before my car ordeal and you already know what I went through with the police, and the repercussions here were a thousand times worse right up to this day and again, as they did last night on TV, reminded those lost loved ones of something they never needed reminding of. What come over the airwaves probably went a lot higher over the heads of millions of viewers, if only because of their age group. I know there are no words but as The Bee Gees sang so heartbreakingly: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart? is both appropriate and hauntingly apt. A SUNNY SPRING DAY IN 1989 On a sunny spring afternoon in 1989, a crush developed at the Hillsborough stadium in Sheffield resulting in the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans attending the club’s FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.It remains the UK’s worst sporting disaster. Since then, many families and survivors have led a 30-year campaign to discover how and why they died. Here are some of the key events.15 April 1989: Fans gather at Sheffield Wednesday’s football ground amid a “carnival atmosphere”. The mood is described as “boisterous” but jovial. As kick-off approaches, a large crowd builds up outside the Leppings Lane turnstiles. Following an urgent request to relieve the pressure, match commander Ch Supt David Duckenfield gives the order to open an exit gate. Two thousand Liverpool fans enter via a tunnel on to already-packed terraces. A severe crush develops in the central pens and people are pulled out in a “human cascade”. Ninety-six men, women and children lose their lives with hundreds more injured. The oldest victim was 67, the youngest just 10 years old.April 1989: As the disaster unfolds, Chief Supt Duckenfield tells key people that a gate was “forced” by Liverpool fans, a claim reinforced in briefings to media sources. The lie goes around the world, in TV and radio news bulletins. Newspapers take up the story pointing the finger at “drunk and ticketless” supporters. The Sun prints its now infamous front page alleging Liverpool fans had “urinated on police officers” and “picked the pockets of the dead”.January 1990: A judicial inquiry is held into the tragedy. Lord Justice Taylor’s report concludes the failure to close off the tunnel was “a blunder of the first magnitude” and match commander David Duckenfield “failed to take effective control”. His final report recommends a move to all-seater stadia, which leads to a ban on standing at football matches, eventually imposed on all clubs in the top two divisions in 1994.August 1990: The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) rules out bringing criminal charges against Sheffield Wednesday FC, Sheffield City Council and stadium safety engineers Eastwoods. It is a blow for the families who had hoped someone would be held accountable.March 1991: The original inquests into the deaths prove hugely controversial. Coroner Dr Stefan Popper rules out any evidence relating to fans’ deaths beyond 3.15pm because, by this time, he said “the damage was done”. This is “strongly disputed” by bereaved families.November 1991: David Duckenfield is medically retired from South Yorkshire Police on full pension, two years after being suspended from duty. A police doctor diagnoses him with “severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder”.March 1993: The 96th victim of the Hillsborough disaster, Tony Bland, dies after being left severely brain damaged in the crush. After nearly four years in a persistent vegetative state, life support is removed after a legal battle. He was 18 at the time of the tragedy but 22 when he died.December 1996: Hillsborough, a controversial drama-documentary by acclaimed Liverpool writer Jimmy McGovern, reveals new evidence claiming some of the 96 were still alive after 3.15pm. Researchers also track down Roger Houldsworth, the stadium’s video technician, who said it should have been “obvious” to police that the pens were “very, very full” when gate C was opened.February 2000: In a bid to hold someone criminally responsible for the deaths of the 96, the Hillsborough Families Support Group begins a private prosecution. David Duckenfield and his deputy Bernard Murray are charged with manslaughter and misconduct in public office. The jury acquits Mr Murray and, after they fail to reach a verdict on Mr Duckenfield, the judge imposes a “stay of prosecution” saying he should not face a retrial.April 2009: At the 20th Hillsborough memorial event at Anfield, fans heckle the then Culture Secretary Andy Burnham demanding “justice for the 96”. Their anger prompts the MP, an Everton fan from Merseyside who is now mayor of Greater Manchester, to join calls for any information held by public bodies on Hillsborough to be made released. A 140,000-signature petition forces a Commons debate leading to the full disclosure of 300,000 documents.January 2010: The Hillsborough Independent Panel (HIP) is appointed to review previously unseen evidence.December 2011: Former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie says he regrets the way his newspaper covered the Hillsborough disaster. “If I could revisit Hillsborough, certainly I’d do it in a different way.”September 2012: After sitting for two years, the HIP publishes a damning report into the tragedy. It is highly critical of the emergency response by a number of organisations and blames senior officers for opening exit gates without thinking about what would happen.December 2012: The High Court quashes the original inquest verdicts that had stood for more than 20 years. Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge also orders new inquests after the HIP report said 41 of those who died might have been saved. Then home secretary Theresa May announces a new police inquiry into the disaster.April 2013: The families’ joy at the quashing of the original inquest verdicts is tempered by the death of campaigner Anne Williams from cancer at the age of 60. She never believed her son Kevin, and 94 others, were dead by 3.15pm on the day of the disaster and led calls to have verdicts overturned.March 2014: The new Hillsborough inquests open in Warrington and last for two years – the longest inquests in UK legal history.March 2015: After six days of questioning, David Duckenfield admits his failure to close a tunnel before opening gate C “was the direct cause of the deaths of 96 people”. Under pressure, he “froze” and failed to consider the consequences of admitting thousands of fans on to already-packed terraces, he told the jury.April 2016: Hillsborough Inquests conclude the 96 who died in the 1989 disaster were unlawfully killed. Jurors agree fans played no part in the deaths and instead blame police failures, stadium design faults, and a delayed response by the ambulance service. Families celebrate as they emerge from court.June 2017: The Crown Prosecution Service announces David Duckenfield is to be charged with manslaughter by gross negligence of 95 people. Under the law at the time, there can be no prosecution for the death of the 96th victim, Tony Bland, because he died more than a year and a day after his injuries were caused.June 2017: Five other men also face charges: Former Sheffield Wednesday club secretary Graham Mackrell is charged with safety offences; former South Yorkshire Police (SYP) chief inspector Sir Norman Bettison is charged with four counts of misconduct in public office; former SYP solicitor Peter Metcalf and former SYP officers Donald Denton and Alan Foster are charged with perverting the course of justice.June 2018: An order imposed in 2000 preventing Mr Duckenfield from being tried on charges relating to Hillsborough is lifted.August 2018: All charges against Sir Norman Bettison, who was accused of trying to blame Liverpool fans for the disaster, are dropped because of insufficient evidence.January 2019: The first Hillsborough trial begins at Preston Crown Court. Hillsborough match commander David Duckenfield denies the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans. Graham Mackrell denies two health and safety offences, one of which is later dropped due to lack of evidence.April 2019: The jury fails to return a verdict on the manslaughter charge against Mr Duckenfield. Prosecutors say they will seek a retrial. Jurors did find Mackrell guilty by majority on a health and safety charge relating to the adequate provision of turnstiles on the day.November 2019: After a six-week trial at Preston Crown Court, David Duckenfield is found not guilty of the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans.
April 10, 2021
It’s Grand National Day after two great days racing at this most fabulous of race courses which makes me wonder, as always, why only two or three meetings a year, if that?
Congratulations to Peter Scudamore and his partner Lucinda Russell for a huge winner yesterday.
I was a regular at Haydock Park in my early days at Stoke City, which was a little closer to me than Aintree, and by early I mean my first time around in 1974/75 and returned there later when moving back and it was there I first met the lovely Reg Hollinshead, the trainer of My Lifetime Lady and many good horses, although better known for the amount of top talented jockeys coming through his care at Upper Longdon. As Dusty would sing: In the Middle of Nowhere much like a lot of training yards and facilities around Britain, but some are in the most charming villages and I remember one morning seeing his “lot” walking through the village with not a care in the world, which might have rubbed off on them through Reg, because although he might have had his own worries he most definitely was not one to show them. As I said to Mike Cattermole, who praised him very highly, he was to racing what Bertie Mee was to football, the quiet hero, who stood back from what has become – through SKY, BT, and BBC – more of a footballing circus act than The Working Man’s Ballet, as Mr Waddington named our game quite aptly.
One of the things I loved about being around players, who are both ‘greats’ on and off the field and great fun, and would exchange stories much like “Pub Talk” but more serious because football management will forever be a great talking point for all of the diverse characters and then there were those with no character at all, those who took it far too seriously. My love for Bill Shankly, and how I would loved to have played for him remains, but as I wrote earlier his tongue-in-cheek quip about football being more important than life itself, as I have always maintained, has come to be proved rather wrong these past twelve months, because health has meant empty stadiums and as I always joked seriously with my nearest friend Tony Davis (TD) is that, ‘Health is more important than money’ which I win on both counts. He agreed with me some years later after being at my beside for many hours through those crucial days in the Intensive Trauma Unit.
I have had several room-mates in my career, like many a player, but being out and about with Alan Ball, especially in the “wee small hours” was quite educational and talking of Bertie Mee the man who took him to Arsenal from Everton, for another record transfer fee of £220,000 in 1971 the year after he and Everton won the old First Division Championship and we won the FA Cup. What a lot of football people tend to forget is when winning the 1966 World Cup AB was still playing his football for Blackpool the club where Matthews, although from Stoke-on-Trent and played under Waddington, made his name at the seaside club.
After he left school, Wolves decided not to take Ball on. The midfielder then started training with Bolton Wanderers but they too decided not to give him a professional deal, as manager Bill Ridding said he was too small.
I had the great pleasure to see him in the following match: At age 17 years and 98 days, he became Blackpool’s youngest League debutant. On 21 November 1964, Ball scored his first hat-trick as a professional, in a 3–3 draw with Fulham at Craven Cottage. It was not long after that my father took me to the Cottage and was told exactly the same thing about myself, but the difference was I was still at school and maybe an inch smaller than the brilliant inside-forward, though he played this role rather differently than any other. If you can imagine telling your young son at seventeen going into his first ever senior match that in two years he’d become one of only eleven players to be on the Hallowed turf to become a World Cup winner?
Incredible to the point of it being fairy tale stuff!
I keep this in mind when I continually hear these pundits talk of the New Golden Generation of our game and compare them to Alan Ball, and in a word there is simply no “comparison” and there isn’t a coach or manager on earth who can clarify his genius. The late Ron Greenwood said, “Simplicity is genius” therefore I can use that word without a hint of hesitation, plus I had the incredible pleasure to play alongside him and the daunting experience of the opposite – and the first time was quite spellbinding. A few weeks before leaving Merseyside for north London he took me and my Chelsea team-mates apart at Goodison Park, with a performance that left one of many scars on me which was the day those Evertonians knew they had the title in the bag. Although I did not wear a watch whenever on the field, unlike Gento in Athens, Everton were 5-0 up on the hour with Ball running riot eventually running out 6-2 winners.
Bertie Mee was the Arsenal manager for a decade from 1966 to 1976 which was only a few months before I joined the club and my everlasting memory of signing was when walking through the Marble Halls from the treatment room and bumping into the rather disheveled looking ginger nut of the man who I thought I was going to play alongside for this great football club. He told me that he had been up to Blackpool and looked like doing some kind of deal but fortunately Southampton intervened and took him to the Dell, which in many ways was a career saving move for him, as he brought that Alan Ball dimension to the club. I find this very intriguing, two men coming together after Arsenal had won the League and FA Cup Double from extreme backgrounds, as Alan was from Farnworth in Lancashire while Mr. Mee was born in Bulwell, Nottingham and here they were at Highbury. You simply couldn’t write the script which goes further as Bertie played for Derby County and Mansfield Town and like Alan in later years made 16 guest appearances for Southampton. After his playing career was cut short by injury, Mee joined the Royal Army Medical Corps where he trained as a physiotherapist and spent six years, rising to the rank of sergeant. After leaving, he worked for various football clubs as a physiotherapist before joining Arsenal in 1960, succeeding Billy Milne. The rest is history as Mee was given the manager’s job and he insisted that if the first season was not a decent one he’d walk.
I spoke of the “wee small hours” which is when AB told me the story about the time he had come back from an England match, at Hampden Park, and as players did in those days traveled back on the Thursday and continued enjoying themselves. Alan was most definitely no exception to this rule, a rule that several of our Chelsea players stuck to and on this particular occasion he was on his way home and stopped at a rather good looking little club and thought he’d have a couple of nightcaps. Having been out since the end of the night before’s match the word disheveled springs back to mind as he walked in and ordered a squeaky, “Large Gin and tonic, please.”
I can picture it now as the barman leaned over the bar and said, “Before I pour this drink Mr Ball I must make you aware that around this time your manager usually walks through that door, so would you….” and Alan was on his way. The following morning he walked into Highbury and was summoned to the managers office where Mr Mee told him, “Alan, you are playing brilliantly for us and England and I’d love you to keep it that way, but there is one thing I must insist, and that is stay well clear of my pleasure places,” and like in the club the evening before Alan walked without another word.
I tell this story because like playing the game there is an art to management and the handling of a certain individual, to treat them like you would like to be treated – and I hope that you understand, like Waddington would have done the exact same thing – that this was great management and not only an “art” but “the art of simplicity.”