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.