“If a man can tell the difference between his job and his hobby,
then he’s in the wrong job!”
My streaming was playing up so after writing what you just read l picked up The Waddington Years and was interested in reading about my old boss, and although an avid supporter from those years when we could and would have won the title if it weren’t fore some rotten luck – including four broken legs in a squad of sixteen – this chap contacted me this morning to interview me about a new book he’s writing about Stoke City’s near miss of 1975 – well, Tony really, which I was delighted to help.
As for the quote above, I carried on: They were exactly my thoughts when waking up each morning under the management of Tony Waddington, but as for Saturday afternoon, my hobby took a new meaning!
It seemed that Tony Waddington was surrounded by red, with his love for Stoke City and their red and white stripes, and then of course there was Manchester United, the Red Devils the club he once joined as a youngster and from where he formed a great affinity with Sir Matt Busby. He also was quite partial to a glass of claret and also the finest port, which l believe can be said of Sir Alex Ferguson, and of course yours truly, so all in all it seemed that in Tony’s life you might say that it was all Simply Red, he would hear of no other colour.
I should know. I experienced so much of this with him before him leaving us, but was fortunate to have answered his call on two occasions and although l mention my transfer very soon l must let you, the supporter, into a little secret about this coming about.
A player, in the main, is nothing but a pawn, or was in those days, as Terry Conroy tells us later, in my case, although l was never a Chelsea supporter, it was something l just grew to love; what we were achieving together in those early days at Stamford Bridge.
With me, your performances were always first and foremost and then comes winning and that is how Tony saw it, knowing if your performances were up to scratch you will eventually win much more than you lose, that is if you have the ability to do so, and that was the strength of Tony, he bought players of immense talent with such ability to win those matches.
So when. I was told by Chelsea that l was no longer required l simply had to leave, much to the pleasure of Tony Waddington, who wasted absolutely no time once hearing of my situation, and did not wait to join in any queue to get my signature.
So when, like Stoke City, after the roof blew off, told me to leave for financial reasons, l simply accepted once again, l had no other option.
Here, some years later, is Paolo Di Canio, a player Tony would have bought in a heartbeat and one of my all time favourite entertainers – he was in the George Best class – tells a similar story, “My agent Moreno Roggi told me that several clubs had made inquiries, but Calleri – the Lazio chairman – had reached a deal with Juventus. The official price was three million, but l know it was more like five, and to put things into perspective at that time Manchester United had just broken the British record by paying two million three hundred thousand for Gary Pallister.”
He said, “Paolo, you have got to understand that now that you are a professional footballer, and being loyal to your club is a wonderful thing, you cannot be a fan and a professional footballer at the same time. You have chosen to be a footballer and that means you can be bought and sold just like that.”
Di Canio, along with David Ginola, were without doubt the finest imports we ever had the good fortune to watch play, they possessed the kind of skills that Tony Waddington drooled over and would have moved mountains to sign, especially in this day and age. Players who have supporters on the edge of their seats each time they received the ball – and they’d have got plenty of it from me – l bring this into the story just to let you know the kind of player Tony would have signed today, although their careers have finished, they were the two players over the last few years who would have been on the Waddington scroll of endless talent.
Why l bring Paolo into this story is because he was a little like me in the sense that he was not a managers dream when not in possession of the ball, meaning off the field, not off the ball, because we fought like tigers to get it back, in our very own way. There are several parallels between us, though l never physically fought with the likes of Sexton, Neil, Ramsey or Revie, as he did with Capello and Trappattini, he stood up firmly to the establishment that brought him, as it did me, a reputation that could have been more costly than it actually did, but fortunately he found his “fix” in Harry Redknapp just as l did with Tony Waddington. Although he was a Roman and l was a Londoner, we were so alike in many ways with our passion and hot-bloodedness with our obsession for hard work was always overlooked because if our reputations, but in the end it saved both of us, in his case his career, in mine, my life.
I might mention this elsewhere but don’t apologize because I am always intrigued when writing, and thinking, about my old boss, manager, mentor and more important friend and on this particular day my mate TD and I went to see him in Abersoch, somewhere across the Welsh border. I had been there before, in fact, have a wonderful story about my first visit with the team actually, as Tony wanted to show us off to all of the habitants along the shoreline. His place was the Club House and that was where we were heading, almost straight from Seattle and I couldn’t wait to see him. As we walked in unannounced it was the oddest thing as he was playing the jukebox and the sound coming out was almost eerie, as Mick Hucknall of Simply Red was coming out of the speakers almost soothing Tony with Holding Back the Years which Tony admitted to be his favourite song, and there’s no reason wondering why?
You can tell a lot about a man’s favourite song although I dread to think if those before him ever played such wonderful music, something that will play on my mind all day, as I think one up for Dave, Revie and Ramsey and possibly Terry Neil?
PS: While in a soiree in my Seattle home one Sunday afternoon I played The Greatest Love of All sang so beautifully by George Benson and it almost brought my boss Alan Hinton to tears as he said, “Alan, this is the greatest song ever,” which at that exact moment in time one could not argue with. Whitney sings it brilliantly, as she would, but GB (not George Best) just about swings it.