Roy McDonough interview

29 Nov

CULT hero Roy McDonough returned to England from Spain earlier this season to talk about his book, Red Card Roy. All At Sea took the opportunity to catch up with him and get the inside track on his time at Blues.

You’re probably the only player revered in both north and south Essex. How does that feel?
It’s great. People call you a legend and the word sometimes is used quite cheaply. People say ‘you’re a Southend United and Colchester United legend’ which, as a working player is a great compliment.
I had great years at Southend, but I will be remembered most in Essex for taking Colchester to Wembley and out of the Vauxhall Conference so as a player manager, that’s also a big thing for me. But I’ve got great memories of both clubs and if they want to call me a legend, feel free.

What’s your best memory of your time at Southend? We had some big games. We had some promotions but, for me, obviously Gascoigne, Lineker and the Tottenham game. I pulled my party piece and got sent off with three minutes to go for good measure. I terrorised the back four that night. Terry Venables said to the reserve coach, “crikey, your mate is a handful isn’t he?”. Which was a compliment from Mr Venables.
That was a great night and we actually won the game. I think I won the crowd over, which was a big thing for me because there were people who didn’t particularly like me.
At Southend, I met many great players and great people. Bobby Moore – unbelievable. Vic Jobson kept the club afloat for ten years and did a magnificent job. I met some great lads and great players. That’s my fondest memory, because I played for some clubs I didn’t give a monkey’s for.

Who were the biggest drinkers at Roots Hall back in your day? Big drinkers were David Martin – Paul Roberts used to try and hang in there and would struggle. Jim Stannard was a big drinker, our drinking squad was shocking but the team we had with the Dave Martins, the Paul Clarks, myself, Crownie (David Crown), was great.
Crownie was great fun, he’d try and stick in there with you but he’d have eight or nine pints and start getting giggly, which was great for us because we could have a laugh at his expense. He also tried to stay with the big boys.
Me and Dave Martin were two of the big drinkers, 20 pints plus. (reference to the new David Martin); Is there another one now? Nah, there’s only one Davey Martin, that’s for sure.

Is it true you were lined up to be the face of Red Card energy drink but it fell through? Yes. Red Card was a Britvic drink and we launched it at Chelmsford where I was manager at the time. Wayne Hemmingway, I had photos with him in all the national papers and Chelmsford went from claret to red for the first time ever.
But that didn’t last and it went pear-shaped. The unfortunate thing was, it went up on all billboards in Essex and London, but on the day of the photoshoot, I was working away, which was a bit of a shame.

Did any managers try and tame you? Webby did, twice he put me on the transfer list. He once threatened me in the office. Because me and Dave Webb for three years didn’t see eye to eye. The sole reason being I met him at Bournemouth but signed for Chelsea. And he held a grudge. I didn’t shake hands on the deal to go to Bournemouth. I was out of contract at Walsall, but it was a no brainer for a 21-year-old kid. Chelsea or Bournemouth? I went to Chelsea.
But he held that grudge when he came here as a manager, for a couple of years. We used to fight like cat and dog on the training ground. Players being players, in five-a-sides, when Dave Webb was near me, would purposely roll balls short of me so Webby could boot me, cos they wanted me to beat him up. And to be fair it would have been a good fight, I think.
But it never got that far, apart from when I split his eye. One Friday morning, with an elbow. I think he had three or four stitches. It was the last 20 minutes of the five-a-side. I was the centre forward of the first team, for his team the next day – the only one in the building who could do the job I did – and he was coming at me kung-fu style. He lost the plot. But I was clever enough and smart enough to just keep out of his way. That could have got bloody, quite easily.
But in the end Dave Webb let me go to Colchester, and there was mutual respect I think. Because he knew when I played I did my best.
He made me captain at Burnley once. I got sent off after 19 minutes, what a bummer. I was dead chuffed to be made captain of SUFC up at Burnley, playing centre half. That one kippered me. It was the worst sending off of my life. I could have trod all over the bloke’s (Roger Eli) head and I purposefully avoided his head by about an inch. I just stamped, though, to show I could have smashed his face in, and he rolled round so I trod on his face. I wish I had have done. So I got a red card and that was my one and only time as a captain.

Do you keep an eye out for Southend’s results? Always. You know the old teleprinter – when I’ve come off the beach, it’s about 40 degrees, I sit there with a can of beer watching all the results come through. I look out for SUFC, Colchester – I still check Birmingham, because that was my first club – and then the last one is Manchester United.

Did you support Birmingham, growing up? Not really. I was at Aston Villa at a kid and obviously as a schoolboy, that was where my career was going to start so I was a bit of a Villa fan I suppose. But when you play for a club your allegiances change. You’ve got the shirt, you’re now a professional footballer at that club, which is a great position to be in, so you forget about supporting a club.

People say your management career didn’t work out because you were too confrontational, what would you say to that? Bit harsh! You say confrontational but I called a spade a spade. Being a player manager, we weren’t a massive club at Colchester. We got out of the Conference, got back into the Football League and were very close to the playoffs. Bearing in mind I couldn’t play in eight games because I got sent off twice – I got a letter from the board of directors saying if it happens again, they’d have to sack me. So I missed eight games and I’m telling you, if I’d have played four of them games we’d have got the points to get in the playoff, when I had half a squad from the Conference.
After games I’d go to the boardroom because you were expected to. I’d have half a lager, order a bottle of K cider – the strongest drink possible in front of the directors and go and drink with my players because they were my team – they were the people supporting me.
At Colchester, the board of directors gave me no support. They were f**king useless. So I battled against that. Why do you want to stand in a boardroom of directors? What you do is, if you’re clever, you let on “I’m a player manager, I’ve not got any help, I’ve a part-time assistant, I’m running the club on my own, coaching on my own, playing as well.” And people go, “Blimey, he must be doing a good job.” So when I got the sack then maybe someone else would think “let’s give him a go.”
The one thing they got from me was the truth. I was honest. You’d like to think that would stand you in good stead, but it doesn’t.
You’re originally from the Midlands, but you spent most of your career in Essex. Why was that?
I left home to go to Chelsea, it was a massive wrench for me, but of course you couldn’t turn down a move there when you’re out of contract at Walsall and fighting with the manager.
That didn’t work out, and it was then the start of the merry-go-round. Colchester, Southend, Exeter, Cambridge, Southend, Colchester. I enjoyed it in Essex, I like it there.

What do you make of the Only Way Is Essex? I don’t mind a couple of the girls, to be fair. I’d give them a few minutes of my time. It’s nonsense though and I personally don’t think it does Essex a lot of favours. If they did it a bit more tongue in cheek, maybe, but I think they started it for a giggle and now they’ve started to take themselves seriously. That’s the worst thing you can do.

What would you change about football? The money’s crippled it at the top level. Our Premier League is naïve. English fans demand action. Let’s get the ball into the box, let’s see a header at goal or a flying volley at goal. Let’s make the keeper make a save, let’s learn to defend corners and set-pieces because we always launch it into the box. But if you go to the top level – the Spanish level – it’s unbelievable. They play football without a striker. That is off another planet for me. That is the model. It’s similar to a Man Utd system – they pass the ball well, Man Utd – but in Spain, they’ve taken it to another level. Everyone should work towards that.
Our fans demand action, but you give the ball to Spain, you’ll not see it for ten minutes. They don’t give the frigging thing away. So we’ll lump into the box from 70 yards hoping someone wins a header, someone gets on the end of it. Or maybe, Pique gets it, dribbles it past for, rolls it to Iniesta who goes to Xavi, goes to David Villa, and all of a sudden, you haven’t seen the ball for ten minutes.
We’re naïve.

Who’s the hardest player you ever played with or against? With, certainly over my career, David Martin. I call them warriors. Roy Keane on his day, Graeme Souness. They were warriors. Against, Tony Adams and Steve Bruce were no nonsense, proper centre halves. They never said a word, you could headbutt them, tread on them, you could set fire to them probably and they still would never say a word because they were there to win the next ball. But David Martin, honestly, was legendary. Tough as old boots. I smashed Tony Adams right on the bugle. It hurt my arm, that’s how much I caught him. He never said a word. Not a dickie bird. He got me back, and we laughed about it afterwards because he launched me onto the track. So I went, “fair play, you can have that one back”.

Interview by Jamie ForsythRoy McDonough’s autobiography, Red Card Roy, is available now in all good bookshops.


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