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Why players adored Allison


Archive - Allison interviewed in 1992

By Tommy Booth
Manchester City defender from 1967 to 1981

The public has a certain image of Malcolm Allison as a flamboyant character and he really was like that - everyone fell in love with him, he was always outgoing.

Everybody on the Manchester City board liked him, and the fans did too. But the players? We simply adored him. He would do anything for you, and he was just a great, great man.

He will go down as one half of one of the greatest manager-coach double-acts in footballing history because of his partnership with Joe Mercer at City.

But he was also the man who spotted me when I was a teenager at City. Mal gave me my chance and I owe everything in my career to him.

Malcolm enjoyed life but he was a really, really top coach. He trained hard and he trained us hard but, I tell you what, he could party as well - and he let us party.

He had no problem with that. As long as we played for him and worked hard on the training ground, Mal was quite content to let us enjoy ourselves and sometimes he would join in.


His death is perhaps more poignant because he is one of the last of that generation of charismatic, and sometimes controversial managers, like Brian Clough and Billy Shankly.

I know there are plenty of well-known stories about Clough but I have a few tales to tell about Mal too.

A typical one happened years ago, when City went on a pre-season tour to Sweden. Mal had us training at 6am and, when we'd come back afterwards at around 8am, the other teams that were in the tournament couldn't believe it. But that was Mal, he just wanted to do something a bit different.

We ended up winning that tournament, but Mal also let us party a bit and have a drink or two. At the end of the trip, he received the bill, which was quite lot of money - so he put it down as laundry.

That meant our laundry bill was an absolute fortune when it went back to the club, so they must have been wondering what the hell we had been up to.

I was at the club during his first spell when he worked under Mercer, and for us he was an untouchable coach. All the lads realised how good the team of Mal and Joe was.

For a start they got on so well together but, as well as that, they bought the players that made City a great side and also brought young players through.

Everything just gelled together and they had this little bit of magic which comes along every so often.

As a manager in his own right, he did not hit the same heights as he had done before and that hurt him, we all knew that, although it was not for the lack of trying. As a coach, though, he was one of the best in the world.

Tommy Booth was talking to BBC Radio Manchester's Ian Cheeseman

Malcolm Allison
Allison coached City to great success in the 1960s

By Rodney Marsh
Said to have cost City the title when Allison signed him in 1972

Malcolm Allison was ahead of his time - Jose Mourinho is probably today's equivalent. When you see Jose calling himself 'the special one' and telling everyone he is going to do this and that, then I think of Malcolm doing that kind of thing 30 years ago.

Why was he so special? Because he understood football and football players. And he took risks - he made some big decisions and was incredibly successful.

As a coach, he was a genius. When he was working with Joe, City won six trophies in five years. A lot of that was down to Malcolm - he organised the team.

He worked under Joe Mercer but it was Malcolm who did all the tactics and techniques and signed a lot of the players. He deserves every bit of the credit he gets for his part in City's history.

I've got so many memoies of him from my time playing for him but the one that typifies him for me as a man came in a press conference on the Friday before a derby game.

He came into the room looking a million dollars, sat down looked around and said to all the press 'OK guys, sharpen your pencils'. Everytime you spoke to him, he was going to say something - he would never duck a question and he knew he was always a story.

Rodney Marsh was talking to BBC Radio Manchester

By Francis Lee
Won the League title under Allison at City in 1968

Malcolm was a tremendous guy, a wonderful coach and a great motivator and an exceptional man to be around after games too.

He worked very hard on his coaching during the week but after the games he would have a few drinks with the lads and a laugh and a joke. He was a great character.

Malcolm studied the physiology of his players and trained the team very, very hard. The current City manager Roberto Mancini has been criticised for holding training in the afternoon but Malcolm, back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, trained his players at 3pm in the afternoon on Thursday and Friday to prepare them for playing at that time on the Saturday.

He used to wind up the opposition and make our job a lot harder - we used to say to him 'just calm down, don't wind them up'. When you were playing Liverpool at Anfield, you didn't have to get them fired up!

But he would have a go in the press and say 'we are going to win by two or three' or something like that and of course the scribes always jumped in with both feet and followed him along.

The reason his partnership with Joe Mercer worked so well was they complimented each other. Malcolm's style was to go barnstorming through everything and, if he caused too much of a storm, Joe could pour oil on any troubled waters.

They had a fantastic run together but unfortunately sometimes partnerships break up and they went their separate ways. Malcolm was never the same without Joe and Joe was deeply upset about the split.

Malcolm was a flamboyant character and Joe used to say 'that Malcolm, smoking those blooming great cigars and drinking Dom Perignon champagne. He doesn't half make it hard work for those millionaires to follow on behind him'.

He only started wearing a fedora and that jacket with a fur collar when he went to Crystal Palace and their chairman Raymond Bloye said he wanted to give the club a big image and get plenty of publicity.

But Bloye's biggest mistake was giving Malcolm a club credit card because he racked up about £30,000 on it in about six weeks. Raymond got him in his office and asked him what he was spending all this money on, and Malcolm said 'well, you wanted a big-time profile - big-time profiles cost money'.

Francis Lee was talking to BBC Radio Manchester.

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see also
Man City great in hospital
09 May 01 |  Man City
Former Man City boss Allison dies
15 Oct 10 |  Man City
Malcolm Allison in pictures
15 Oct 10 |  Football

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