SEP
29
2013
Exclusive Interview With Everton Legend Alan Ainscow
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Blue Echo Interviews Alan Ainscow

I was kindly invited by Alan to his home to chat about his career and in particular his move to Everton. Howard Kendall made another 6 signings which were later unveiled by the press as the magnificent seven. I hope you readers find this interview as interesting as the last ones. Enjoy!!

Q1/ HOW DID YOU START YOUR 7 YEAR CAREER AT BLACKPOOL FC?

A1/ It was a mate of mine who always gets a mention, a guy called Dave Crompton. He lived next door to a bloke called Roy Hartle (Ex Bolton Wanderers) who was scouting for Blackpool at the time. So Dave kept asking Roy to take a look at me.

One day he (Roy)came down to watch me in a game and we won 6-0 and I think I scored four! So Roy said to Dave Crompton, "I'll tell you what I'll take you and your mate"

So that's how it initially started with me then having a couple of games for the Blackpool 'B' side. I remember playing at Oldham just at the side of Boundary Park actually then another game at Squires Gate then at the end of the season they had trial games which eventually ended up having final trial games at Bloomfield Road.

They would take on 8 apprentices for the following season but I stayed on at school to take my exams which I had to take again because I failed them all.

I was 17 when I joined them (Blackpool) with a year to do and then I made the squad for the Anglo Italian Cup which we won beating Bologna in the Final with me playing in that.

Q2/ YOUR NEXT STOP WAS BIRMINGHAM CITY. HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?

A2/  It was a bit unfortunate really because all the years I had been at Blackpool I'd been on comparatively   poor pay compared to the others which was probably about a third less than what the others were on. I was playing first team football then as well .

I went on the transfer list and initially I was up for about £80,000, it might as well have been £8m because I wasn't going anywhere. It was also the season where they brought in the freedom of contract.

By the end of the season I had been going to a tribunal every month which eventually came down to about £40,000 which was all quashed then went back up to £80,000.

Then Jim Smith the Birmingham manager came in with a bid of £40,000 which was accepted so that's how I ended up there having three good years there.

I got player of the year a couple of times whilst at St Andrews which prompted Everton to buy me.

Q3/ WERE YOU DISAPPOINTED YOU WERE RELEGATED IN YOUR FIRST SEASON AT BIRMINGHAM CITY?

A3/ I played a lot in that first season and obviously playing in the top division is the best.

When the fixture list comes out it's Manchester United at home, Liverpool away Tottenham at home, West Brom and Aston Villa, Then when you drop down a division it's not the same and you are pretty gutted.

Luckily, we came straight back up after finishing in the second division as it was then as runners up . There are not many sides to have come straight back up and to be fair we had a decent side then. We had Frank Worthington, Archie Gemmil, Mark Dennis, Kevin Dillon and Keith Bertschin.

Q4/ YOU MADE OVER 100 APPEARANCES FOR BIRMINGHAM CITY BEFORE YOU MOVED TO EVERTON. WHEN DID YOU GET TO HEAR ABOUT THAT MOVE?  

A4/ Well funnily enough I had just cooked tea, it was about 5 o'clock on a Friday afternoon and the phone rang and it was Jim Smith (Birmingham manager). He said that "Everton had made a bid for you and we have accepted it, do you want to go"?

So basically the tea went in the bin, we put the kids in the car and drove straight up. My in laws lived in the area so we stayed with them on the Friday night and spoke with Howard Kendall on the Saturday morning.

My wife then was driving around the area looking at houses for sale. As for the move to Everton, those opportunities don't come around very often, the money was acceptable not as much as I thought would be on the table but it's one of them isn't it?

You don't say no to moves like Everton and at the time Howard was signing a few.

Q5/ YOU SCORED ON YOUR EVERTON DEBUT AGAINST YOUR PREVIOUS CLUB BIRMINGHAM CITY. HOW DID THAT FEEL?

A5/ Yeah, it's great scoring no matter who it's for. That was then and this is now so your allegiance changes.  I didn't have anything against Birmingham City or any of the lads it's just a career move isn't it?

I was there (three years and whenever you score it's a great feeling and I had good times there. It was just a great feeling to score for my new club. I had one chalked off that day as well. Mick Lyons gave someone a nudge which the referee saw and so chalked it off.

There was 33,000 there that day and the boss had bought 7 new players including myself so everything came together nicely.

Q6/ WAS EVERTON AN EASY CLUB TO SETTLE INTO AND WHO WELCOMED YOU THE MOST?

A6/ It's like anything else, when you go somewhere new you have to settle in just like I did when I went to Hong Kong. You have to mix in with the lads and adopt their ways.

It was a good club for the craic. Howard liked taking the lads out to wine and dine you. He just liked the lads getting together enjoying the camaraderie and the craic, which was important.

Bails (John Bailey) was always up for a laugh and a joke and because 7 of us signed at the same time you tend to stick with them at first. I was a good mate of Mick Ferguson and Alan Biley .

So when you have been there for a couple of weeks you become more familiar with the other lads and like I say, Bails and Trevor Ross were always up for a laugh as was Garry Stanley but they all made us welcome.

Q7/16 STARTS AND 2 GOALS IN YOUR FIRST SEASON. WAS THAT PLEASING FOR YOU?

A7/ No not really because I got injured didn't I which was my downfall in some ways in fact my Everton carer because I got nobbled at Notts County and I don't know how many games that was into the season.

It was about 8 or 9 games into the season, a midweek fixture, Howard played actually. He played in midfield, we had been struggling a bit and we needed to stop the run of bad results.

Brian Kilcline for Notts County decided that he wanted a piece of me . I got carried off, he got sent off and that was it really. I was out for about 14 weeks with ligament damage and was in plaster for 6 weeks.

It was like the challenge on Alf Inge Haaland from Roy Keane. I thought he had snapped my leg at first because it was a bit numb. It must have been a fair old tackle for him to get sent off!!

I got carried off to the side of the dugout and I remember their manager  a guy called Jimmy Sirrel  giving me down the banks saying that I had got his man sent off.

We got to the dressing room I thought I may have got away with a bad injury but when I came to get my shorts off I sort of tweaked it and the pain was horrendous which told me that I had done something bad. After that I never got back in the side that season.

Alan Irvine came in and had a wonderful time which made it difficult for me to get back in. I did play upfront a couple of times with Sharpy.

I had a two year contract and playing only a handful of games that season didn't help with the continuity of play.

Q8/ WHAT ASPECTS OF TRAINING DID YOU ENJOY THE MOST?

A8/ I think the shooting practices and the finishing. Obviously the physical running side of it was hard work. It was nice when you were in the bath at the end knowing you had got it over with. Most of the lads would have loved to have got onto the training pitches practising the shooting and the 5 a sides to finish. The shadow play things that we used to run through which we used to do more at the end of the week or the practice matches which were hard at times.

Then in the afternoon we would be back again working on the crosses, shooting and things like that and if the lads were honest I think that's what they like doing. And If you did it properly you would reap the benefits.

When I was at Wolves and Blackpool they would have you running down the  sand hills and you would be gasping for water with the staff thinking that you had been out on the ale the night before.

Howard's methods of training were laborious but enjoyable.

Q9/ WHAT CAN YOU REMEMBER OF YOUR FIRST MERSEYSIDE DERBY?

A9/ I think my first one I was injured so I ended up watching it. which may have been the one where Glen Keely got sent off. Keels I knew from my Blackburn days and unfortunately for him the lead up to the Derby he hadn't trained all  week. So there was no way he was able to cope with the likes of Rush/Dalglish that day.

I was sub in the game at Anfield and I played when they beat us 3-1 and we drew 1-1 in the other when Mick Ferguson scored.

Q10/ THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER, WHO WAS THE BEST PLAYER YOU PLAYED WITH?

A10/ Even back in my Birmingham days we had Colin Todd who could play at right back and even in training you had a job to get passed him and it was difficult to take the ball off him. He was getting on a bit then and i played on the same side as Colin and I had to track back at times to help him but he was a funny guy as well.

Andy King was a top player, he had great qualities and again I didn't see him at his best.

Frank Worthington and Archie Gemmil were top, top players. Even when I go back to my career at Blackpool we had Paul Hart and Mickey Walsh who was also a top player.

Q11/ MOST MEMORABLE GAME AND MOST MEMORABLE GOAL?

A11/ It's hard to pick out. I remember getting a hat trick against our arch rivals Preston North End for Blackpool at the age of 19 which was nice. There was two playoff finals for Blackburn, Chelsea did us in one and Crystal Palace did us in the other.

We (Blackburn Rovers) won the full members cup at Wembley which was a good experience. If I had to pick one out then it would be the full members cup against Charlton Athletic.

Because Blackburn hadn't been to Wembley for ages and ages the whole occasion was great so it would have to be that one.

There was one goal I scored for Birmingham against Wolves and it was at the back end of the season. I was on Match of the day which went to goal of the season but unfortunately I didn't win it. It was a free kick which was rolled to me and I just hit it into the top corner.

Q12/ WHO WAS YOUR TOUGHEST OPPONENT?

A12/ There's been a few. When I was up and coming at Blackpool, there was a lad at Burnley a full back whose name was  Alex Elder. He made his name at Stoke City and came to Burnley late on. I played against him in the reserves, the first team and he was just one of those that no matter what I did and I was quick then and he wasn't the quickest but he always had the better of me.

It always sticks in my mind that because I was a kid trying to impress but he always got the better of me.

Q13/ WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE STADIUM?

A13/ That's a hard one that because in my days there were some minging stadiums. There weren't too many top notch stadiums then apart from Tottenham, Everton even Anfield.

They didn't come much better than Goodison and Anfield to be fair. That double tier at Goodison had something about it and still does today.

Q14/ WHICH MANAGER THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER DID YOU LEARN THE MOST FROM?

A14/ A lot of manager's that I had were quite keen motivators more so that tacticians. Bob Stokoe gave me my chance at Blackpool and I had a lot of respect for him because he probably frightened me as did Jim Smith.

Bob Stokoe would be the one that would take me to one side more than any other of the managers and talk to me.

 Jim Smith used to frighten me saying things like how I should be playing. When I first played for him, I used to get an ear bashing at Half time, full time, he used to crucify me.

Managers normally generalise as a team rather than pull you to one side . Like when you were working on certain things in training for example crossing and shooting.

He left and come back and I was about to leave to go to Birmingham and he offered to double my money but my mind was made up to go to Birmingham. 

Q15/ WHAT WAS YOUR FUNNIEST MEMORY IN FOOTBALL?

A15/ No not really especially the things that you could talk about (laughing).  There's always the usual stuff like having your ties and socks cut and things like that.

I remember Blackburn was always a club for the team spirit . I remember one of the lads called Chris Thompson. We were away on a pre season tour and we had been out one night and someone decided to nick his bed.

He came back to find it gone and wasn't too pleased but we thought it was funny at the time.

There was nothing ever broken, nothing unruly and no complaints. Bobby Saxton was manger then  and he used to say I'm going to treat you as men. The lads at Blackburn were a good set of lads who liked a drink but worked hard as well, hence us getting to 2 play off finals.

Q16/ WHAT TOOK YOUR CAREER TO HONG KONG?

A16/  When I left Everton I had a couple of choices. I could have gone to Burnley and Manchester City.

Manchester City wanted to take me on trial for six weeks on their pre season to Germany then make a decision but you want something more concrete than that.

Burnley were in the old second division then but the money wasn't right.  They wanted to pay me up at the end of my contract but who is to say that they wouldn't  have got rid  of me 3 or four weeks before the end of my contract.

I got a phone call from this guy in Germany asking if I would be interested in playing in Hong Kong.

He then drove over from Germany, we had a chat and told me to contact him If I was interested.

My wife and I met up with him in London and this Chinese guy who was one of the owners. I signed a contract for 12 months.

It was demanding because they wanted success right away and to be fair they weren't bad players over there.

I lasted for twelve months and come back signing for Tommy Docherty at Wolves. and had 18 months there.

Q17/ WHAT IS THE BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT OF YOUR CAREER?

A17/ Getting turfed out of Everton to be honest, you work so hard to achieve. Even now If you asked someone who they wanted to play for Everton would be in your top six.

To be fair I had 3 good season's at Birmingham and then you think that you have a chance to go on but unfortunately it didn't happen.

That injury at Notts County really ended my career because I knew I could have done better than I did.

When Howard told me that he was giving me a free that was just devastating as I had just got back into the side.

I remember us playing at Manchester United in the FA Cup 5th round. We really played well that day, we battered them then conceded a late goal. I was sub that day and David Johnson was the 12th man. But 'Johno' had woken up with a stiff neck then I was told that I would be on the bench but never got on.

That was the first time that I had been put in the squad for ages and ages, Alan Irvine had been struggling with his form at that time thinking then Howard would put me back in.

You get into a situation where you want to win the game for the lads but when you are not involved you think otherwise. The lads were great that day and deserved to win.

We played Liverpool the following week and came on for the last 20 minutes and had a good run round. The following week we played Arsenal at home and I think I scored that day against George Wood and  I think we lost 3-1.

We had about 6 games to go before the end of the season thinking I might have a chance of a contract but Howard pulled me in the office on the Tuesday before the last game of the season against Ipswich Town.

Howard told me I was getting a free but wanted me to play on Saturday because he knew I would do the business for him.

I needed to play to do well for myself as there are always people watching but I was devastated to be told I'm being released.

I think he had Trevor Steven lined up from Burnley and you just have to take it.

Q18/ FOR YOU, WHAT WAS THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CAREER?

A18/ Signing for Everton was one because of the name. When I was playing well for Birmingham you just kept looking forward to your next game because you were playing well.

At Birmingham it was a case of let's get the ball out to Alan and people like Fran k Worthington and Archie Gemmil would compliment you then you start believing it.

Then your confidence gets better, you start scoring a few goals and it just gets better.

Q19/ IF YOU WERE NOT A FOOTBALLER WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE?

A19/ You know what,? I haven't got a clue. I did go for a job at a printing company called Wrigglesworths in West Houghton. If they would have taken me on I would have probably have gone down that route.

I thought the longer I stayed on at school I had more chance of getting picked up as I was playing for Lancashire schoolboys as there was always people watching these games.

Q20/ WHAT DID YOU MISS ABOUT THE GAME WHEN YOU RETIRED?

A20/ You miss that going in and that daily camaraderie. You miss the banter and the craic and I was always up for having a laugh.

The players were always slagging each other off and sometimes it could become a bit nasty but there was nothing meant by it so therefore if that's the way it was taken just good banter.

There's nothing like it which I'm sure goes on in everyday work places.

When I came out of the game I was a delivery driver delivering fruit and veg. I tried to carry on that banter with them but somehow it never seemed to work.

They must have thought I was a bit gobby I don't know but that's what I had got used to,

Q21/ HOW DO EVERTON COMPARE TOYOUR PREVIOUS CLUBS FOR LOOKING AFTER FORMER PLAYERS?

A21/ Second to none, (repeating it). Everton are ahead by a million miles.  In fact there is no other association like Everton to be fair.

I've been to Birmingham and done theirs. Blackburn and Blackpool have started one. Rochdale have stared one and have just made contact with me.

It's always nice to go back and see the old faces and talk about the old days.

Everton I think are quite financially well off. Harry Ross is a top man who called me up the other week and let's get you a way for a few days. It's not just me, it's my wife and my son and 4 daughters and 7 grandchildren.

So my wife and I got a way for a few days top got our heads around things.

Q22/ YOU WERE ONE OF HOWARD KENDALL'S FIRST SIGNINGS BEING HAILED AS THE MAGNIFECENT SEVEN. WHAT WAS YOUR THOUGHT'S ON THAT?

A22/ It's one of them isn't it? The press label you and that's basically it.   I always remember that picture in the Echo.

I remember the gaffer saying that the press had arrived and they wanted a picture of us all with these western outfits on with these guns attached with holsters and cowboy hats and I'm thinking "What's going on?"

So the seven of us had our picture taken and after that it just sticks doesn't it?

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Comments about Exclusive Interview With Everton Legend Alan Ainscow
 
3
Did Alan live in Bolton or westhoughton
Jon, Bolton, 1:37 AM 24/11/2014
 
2
I grew up with Alans son and went through school together. The family are lovely and were always very welcoming and friendly. There was never any of the bad attitude that you might expect from footballing legends and the whole family were down to earth and hardworking. Good luck to the whole clan!
Liam, Ormskirk, 8:40 AM 30/09/2013
 
1
I wonder how many of the current crop of players will end up driving a greengrocers van? These oldies are almost inspirational. Particularly in their lack of bitterness about poor rewards and career ending tackles.
Win, Stafford, 2:49 PM 29/09/2013
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