Documentary reveals former Norwich City footballer’s battle with alcohol
PUBLISHED: 17:08 03 September 2014 | UPDATED: 19:17 03 September 2014
Former Norwich City footballer Malcolm Allen has opened up about his drinking problems in an emotionally-charged documentary which will be aired tomorrow.
The striker was one of Welsh football’s brightest stars in the 1980s and 1990s and has been a prominent football pundit for nearly 20 years - but throughout most of this time he has been battling against a weakness for alcohol.
The documentary Malcolm Allen: Cyfle Arall (Malcolm Allen: Another Chance) will be shown on Welsh channel S4C tomorrow, and tells of the 47-year-old man from Deiniolen, Gwynedd, whose love of the good life almost led to self-destruction.
Allen played for some of the top football teams of the day – such as Watford, Aston Villa, Norwich, Millwall and Newcastle United – as well as winning 14 Wales international caps, before his career was cut cruelly short by a serious knee injury at the age of 28.
But as his football career went from strength to strength, he had serious issues in his personal life. He became increasingly dependent on alcohol and his story echoes the experience of many other footballers who have been led astray by the pressures associated with being a top professional footballer.
He said: “My two passions in life at the time were drinking and playing football and ultimately I just couldn’t handle both.
“One passion took over the other.
“It was not really in my character to come clean about my problems and ask for help. I was living in a cocoon where everyone was a tough guy.
“We were in a world where you didn’t talk about these things. I should have had the courage to put my hands up and admit that I couldn’t cope anymore.”
Contributors to the programme include sporting stars such as his former managers Kevin Keegan and Mick McCarthy, his team mate Iwan Roberts and cycling coach Sir David Brailsford, who also grew up in Deiniolen.
Roberts said: “He was a goal scorer, he had a brilliant first touch, he wasn’t the fastest, but the way he received the ball, turned players…give Malcolm the opportunity and nine times out of 10 he’ll finish it off.”
In the early days of his career, his manager at his first professional club, Watford, Graham Taylor and scout and coach from Caernarfon, Tom Walley, kept a beady eye on him.
Graham Taylor said: “There’s so much in modern football that can side-track players. If you’re not careful, it can turn you into a celebrity. There was always a little worry amongst us that Malcolm might be side-tracked.”
The programme looks at how a young lad from a slate quarry village showed immense football talent from a very young age.
In an emotional interview with Allen and those closest to him, the documentary hears how he was tempted to drink heavily and kept bad company from a relatively young age as a footballer. He concedes that this led to the breakdown of his marriage and put a strain on his relationship with his children.
But after being on the wrong side of the law a number of times, he has now turned over a new leaf with the help of his current partner, Rhian Griffiths.
He said: “What I’ve learned is that time and love cost nothing to anybody in life and time and love have played a big part in how I have rebuilt my life. I used to keep everything locked inside until it all came out like a ball of fire, but I’m not like that anymore.”
The programme is produced by the Rondo Media production team who made the documentary film about Gary Speed on S4C two years ago.
It will be shown on S4C at 9.30pm on Thursday, September 4, with English subtitles and will also be available on demand at s4c.co.uk/clic