Malcolm Allison and Bobby Moore

I’ve just been reading David Tossell’s excellent biography of Malcolm Allison, Big Mal: The High Life and Hard Times of Malcolm Allison, Football Legend. In it, Allison joins that small but oh-so-familiar band of men whose intelligence and forward-thinking threatened to transform English football but who found themselves marooned by drink and the cowardice or incompetence of lesser men. One of Allison’s closest compadres was England captain Bobby Moore, and in place of a review, I’m giving you three short excerpts that involve the two men.

In the first, Allison, having lost a lung to TB, has fought back, like Clough at Sunderland, to the brink of a first game in the top division:

Moore himself recalled the early days of the 1958-59 season before his first-team debut. ‘It’s not like Malcolm to give up. By the start of the ’58 season we were battling away together in the reserves, Malcolm proving he could still play, me proving I might play one day.’ Moore was torn emotionally by the fact that selection for the United game camde down to a straight choice between the two men. ‘I’d been a professional for two and a half months and Malcolm had taught me everything I knew. For all the money in the world I want to play. For all the money in the world I want Malcolm to play because he’s worked like a bastard for this one game in the First Division. It would have meant the world to him.’ (..)

Almost two decades after that night, (Jeff) Powell wrote: “Through solitary hours spent counting shadows on bedroom ceilings, Moore still nurses the guilt that his own precocious arrival on the centre stage of English soccer denied Allison the fulfilment of his own playing career. In the moment of Moore’s accession to the number six shirt, Allison lost his folorn chance of playing just once in the First Division for West Ham United. Allison, the man who taught Moore all he knew. Allison, his idol. Allison, friend. The immaculate Bobby Moore was conceived out of Allison’s most grievous disappoinment.”

Sixteen years on, Allison was manager of Crystal Palace and Moore was out of the England team and out of West Ham:

One who had hoped to be in a Palace shirt was Bobby Moore, released by West Ham in March 1974 after winning the last of his 108 England caps earlier in the season. Having previously indicated his interest in Palace to Ray Bloye he was convinced Allison would attempt to sign him. ‘I believed Malcolm could give me the lift and the appreciation I needed to go on playing well, raise my game again. I wanted Malcolm to tell me where I went wrong and to pat me on the back when I did well. I wanted to play for Malcolm so much I decided in my mind that if Palace were a bit tight for money I would take £5,000 less on my contract to go there instead of any of the other clubs.’ Allison didn’t make a move and while he was attempting to steer Palace out of the Third Division, Moore was helping his new club, Second Division Fulham, to an FA Cup Final appearance against his former team.

The last word is Jeff Powell’s again:

Malcolm had this long, red leather coat and when Bobby saw it for the first time he’d said, as a joke, “Love the coat.” Typically, Malcolm had given it to him. The last time I saw Bobby we had lunch in the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington. He never went out again and he had come to say goodbye. It was quite a warm day, certainly not one where you needed a jacket, but Bobby had this coat on and he sat and wore it through a long lunch. I commented, “I see you have got that old coat on again.”

Bobby said, “Yes. This might be the last time I ever go out. I wanted to wear the coat Malcolm gave me.”