Oct 16, 2010

“The Man With The Hat” Malcolm Allison Remembered: 1927-2010

By Ben Greenwood

'Big Mal', Malcolm Allison, died on Thursday 14th October at the age of 83. Remembered as much for his flamboyant, outspoken nature, his cigars and his “Lucky Fedora” as his time as Manchester City assistant manager to the great Joe Mercer, Allison remains a legend in football.

His playing career spanned almost 250 games for West Ham United as a centre back during which time he helped mentor the club's youngsters, including future England captain and legend in his own right, Bobby Moore.

His career as a player was cut short when he had a lung removed thanks to tuberculosis in 1958, after which he went on to manage 11 clubs in England and abroad. In 1963 he began his managerial career with Bath City, moving on to other clubs including Toronto City in Canada, before Joe Mercer, aware of his ill health, appointed Big Mal as his assistant at Maine Road in 1965.

It was to start an unprecedented run of success for Manchester City. In seven years Mercer and Allison won seven trophies, including the League title in 1968 and the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1970.

There is no doubting that Allison was a fantastic coach and is credited with introducing amazing new fitness levels into English football, and tactics never before seen.

Off the field though, Big Mal was a larger than life character. He courted controversy with a string of alleged affairs and other acts of womanising, not least the infamous incident when he was pictured in the bath at Crystal Palace with porn star Fiona Richmond, who he had invited to a training session. This was 1976 and the likes of Terry Venables were at the club. He said of the incident:

"I was in the bath with all the players and we heard the whisper that she was coming down the corridor." So far, so good. "We all leapt out and hid, because we knew there'd be photos and that wouldn't go down too well. Malcolm and Fiona dropped everything and got in the bath."

Allison received a disrepute charge from the FA for his actions. All in a days work for him though.

Allison will, rightly, be remembered for his coaching skills by the world of football but by fans of Manchester City and Crystal Palace especially for his personality. In Manchester, if you born during or before the 1970s, you can't help but know the name Malcolm Allison. Whether you're Red or Blue, Allison is a Manchester icon in football and will be remembered for many years to come.

A Manchester City statement reads:

“Flamboyant, brilliant and larger than life, Malcolm will be sorely missed by everyone at the Club and beyond.”

Those three words say it all really. Rest in peace, Big Mal. Have a cigar.

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