Monday, December 10, 2018

The Terry Mancini Interview

Our latest interview is with 70's favourite Terry Mancini. Terry talks about his time at Rangers, wearing wigs, national anthems, what he thinks of players today, why he's like John Terry and mooning Jim Gregory. How did you make your way to Loftus Road?

TS: I started off at Watford and was disappointed when they released me on a free but within twenty four hours I had an offer to go and play in South Africa. I decided to take it as it was an opportunity to escape and do something new. It turned out to be the best thing I ever did and it was the making of me as a person and a player. I was able to concentrate on playing and in the two seasons I was there we won the league and cup double. That must have been quite an experience?

TS: It was great, apartheid was there in those days of course but it was a case of “when in Rome”. You couldn’t step out of line and be controversial about it. It was their country, they were paying your wages so you had to get on with it. That aside though it was a fantastic country and I was able to work on my fitness and my skills without the distractions that London has to offer!

I then thought it was time to come back to England and give myself another chance so I joined Leyton Orient. I was there for four years or so, we won the Third Division Championship and then I was sold to QPR. Was that a case of wanting to step up another level?

TS: Well not really, we didn’t have agents in those days so there was no one offering you round to other clubs. Basically if someone fancied you they phoned the manager up, offered some money and bought you. You meet people now and they say things like “why didn’t you play for Chelsea” well it wasn’t as easy as that. You couldn’t pick and choose who you wanted to play for, it was a case of who came in for you. You were sold like a piece of meat really, that’s why when people ask me who I support I say no one, I enjoyed the game immensely but my loyalties were always to the club paying my wages. You made your debut in a 0-0 draw at Hillsborough, do you remember much from the day?

TS: I was signed on the Thursday and went straight into the team for that game on the Saturday. I remember Bobby Campbell saying to me in the dressing room “at last we’ve got a centre half who can head the fucking ball”. We got the draw like you said and a clean sheet is always a good start for a defender. You were a key member of Gordon Jago’s team that won promotion to the First Division, what was the side like to play in?

TS: Absolutely marvellous, we were a very good side with very, very good players. We had a quality team but on top of that we were all quality guys, there were no cliques, we all socialised together and that helped to create an excellent team spirit and a super team. It sounds like all the players had a great relationship then?

TS: They were a great set of lads, we still meet up even now from time to time. People point out to me that Stan Bowles wrote in his book that I was the worst centre half he ever played with but I have no gripes with that at all, everyone is entitled to their opinions. Stan was a star, a real quality player and I say it was a pleasure to be in the same side as him and to play in games that he won for us. I can turn round later in life and say “I played with Stan Bowles and he was a genius” if he wants to say “I played with Terry Mancini and he was a disaster” that’s up to him! It was a fairly attacking team, did that make your job as a defender easier or harder?

TS: A bit of both really, I was an out and out defender, I scored the odd goal and set a few up but my job was to make sure no goals were scored against us. If we came off after a boring nil nil draw then I felt I’d done my job well. Granted the supporters always want to see great football but that’s not possible every game, so as long as we didn’t get beat they could go to work on a Monday and feel reasonably happy.

We were a very good side with wonderful forward players but when our backs were against the wall then they were happy to dig in and do a job. You had quality like Gerry Francis and Terry Venables and then a workhorse like Mickey Leach who would run up and down the field all day for you. You hear a lot of talk about Dave Sexton and his great achievements at QPR but what was his predecessor like and do you think he deserves more credit for his part in starting that team off?

TS: There is certainly some credit due because most of the team was signed by Gordon Jago, he saw something in us all. It’s a bit like Mourinho this season at Chelsea, most of his players were signed by the previous manager but Mourinho is the one that got them to gel and play as a team to win the title. Claudio Ranieri never gets mentioned and Mourinho gets all the credit. Certainly he’s done a great job but I think Ranieri would deserve some of the praise too and that’s a very similar situation to Gordon Jago and Dave Sexton.

I only spent four days with Dave Sexton because by the time he joined everything had been set up for me to move to Arsenal. To be fair to Dave he said that he would have wanted to keep me and I’d have been in his side, I thanked him for that but told him I couldn’t have turned Arsenal down and he totally understood. Dave was a little more adventurous than Gordon and had a little bit more organisation. Gordon learned his management skills in America and he was schooled in a different way, I think Dave’s methods suited the players that were at QPR better than Gordon’s, so he got more out of them. You’re famous for playing with a big smile on your face, was football more fun then or was it less intense?

TS: All the pressures were the same, you wanted to win the league, you hated getting beaten, you got bonuses for doing well etc. We had a side at QPR that wouldn’t let you have a day off. If you had a bad day someone would help you out and fill in for you but you could never sit back and say I don’t fancy this today and if anyone did that then we certainly let them know about it!

The reason I smiled a lot is because I thought I was an extremely lucky man to be playing football with arguably limited ability. I’d worked my socks off to improve the strengths I had and I played nineteen years of football. Most people would give their right arm for that, there were thirty thousand people watching me every week and I bet twenty nine thousand of them wanted to be where I was. What was your relationship like with the fans?

TS: Initially not great, I came from Leyton Orient as an unknown and whether you’re Thierry Henry or Terry Mancini it takes a while to bed into the side. You need to get to know the players, the system, the training methods etc and all those things affect you and can do so for quite a long time. It took me a while to settle in because I came from a side where I was the kingpin. I was captain of Orient, first name on the team sheet and then all of sudden I’m playing with all these great players and I’m a small fish in a big pond so I had to prove, not just to the fans but to the players as well, that I was good enough to play with them.

So while you’re adapting you’re inconsistent, consequently I got dropped and everyone said I was crap and Rangers had made a mistake buying me. Twelve months down the line though it had all changed, things turned round and suddenly I felt accepted. It’s strange I can remember the day it all turned round. We played Portsmouth and I think we beat them 5-0 or something but I was all over the place, overlapping, popping up on the wing, trying to beat the full back and I was a centre half! That day the crowd took to me, if you have the crowd on your side it gives you such confidence.

That’s why I used to feel so sorry for Mickey Leach he had the crowd on his back every game and he was a player that worked harder than most of us but the crowd just didn’t take to him. It was a shame because we as his team mates appreciated the work that he did for us. I’ve always maintained that if you look through the great sides over the years there are normally two or three players who you would consider quite ordinary but you need that type of player to dig in week after week. Mickey Leach was like that for us but he used to get booed when his name was read out. It was totally unfair on him because he’d do his job and half of Gerry Francis’ because when Gerry went forward he’d be there covering for him. Same with me really, I couldn’t have scored the goals that Stan Bowles did but I would do that little bit extra for him because he’d win games for us. How did you end up wearing a wig on the pitch?

TS: We won promotion to the First Division and a scribe during the week wrote what a good side we were and what a credit to the First Division we would be. They went through the team and analysed us all like this, Phil Parkes – should play for England, Dave Clement – future international, Gerry Francis this and that etc etc. The only player that they said should be replaced as soon as possible was me. I think I only missed two games that season so it hurt a bit, you spend all season playing your best, you get promoted then before you’ve kicked a ball in the top flight people are writing you off saying “he’s crap, he’ll never make it”.

So after these write ups came out we played Fulham and I concocted this idea with Venables to wear a wig to confuse everyone. So I borrowed a wig from my wife and put it on before we went out, the place was packed out for the last game of the season, the crowd roared as we walked out and then you could hear this sort of murmuring going round “who the fuck is this, Mancini must have gone”. I always used to have a few headers before the game started and Venables knocked one up for me and I whipped the wig off and the crowd went berserk! I could have fallen over my feet that day and the fans would have thought it was a trick. I probably did actually! You were once charged with “brining the game into disrepute for removing your shorts before leaving the pitch”. Tell us what happened there?

TS: That’s right, I’d already been put on the transfer list and Jim Gregory said they’d let me go for fifteen grand. Arsenal came in for me the next day and Jim Gregory then decided he wanted forty five grand for me! Arsenal said hang on you valued him at fifteen and Jim said “we’ll we didn’t know a big club would want him”! So they went into negotiations for about five or six weeks and it dragged on, Bertie Mee kept assuring me that it was going to go through but I was getting frustrated because I was being left out because of it.

A game came up and Dave Webb was injured so Rangers were forced to play me, we won 1-0 and I had a really good match. As I walked off the pitch I looked up into the South Africa Road stand and Jim Gregory is sitting there with his hands over the railings looking down at me. So I turned round, dropped my shorts and wiggled my arse at him. Unfortunately I forgot the cameras were there, consequently Jimmy Hill had me on Match of the Day asking me why I had done it and I got suspended by the FA for two weeks. It worked though because four days later I was an Arsenal player and I served my suspension at Highbury. I wouldn’t recommend it to young players today though! You made your debut for Ireland in 1973 against Poland, how did you get your call up, was that a family connection?

TS: My Father was Irish, I was born Terry Sealy, my Father died when I was seven and when my Mother remarried we changed our name to Mancini. I never realised that would qualify me to play for Ireland and it was just a chance conversation with Don Givens that brought it to light.

I went over to Dublin for my first international game to face Poland, they’d just drawn with England in the previous match and knocked them out of the World Cup as a result. It was a great honour to be selected and I lined up at the side of the pitch desperate to get playing. All the pre match ceremony seemed to go on forever then the music started playing and it went on and on and I turned to Don Givens and said “for fucks sake their national anthem don’t half go on” and he said “that’s ours Terry”. I didn’t have a clue! If you could compare yourself as a player to someone playing today who would you liken yourself to?

TS: Well I was a bald centre half and everyone’s had their hair shaved now so I must have been twenty years ahead of my time! My strength was my defending and heading abilities. I would never like to get beaten, I refused to be, regardless of who I was up against. If I had to compare myself to someone then it would be John Terry, don’t get me wrong I was a long, long way off being as good as him but he is a good defender and a good header of the ball, I’m a mile from his talents but his qualities are the same sort of qualities that I had. Do you miss playing?

TS: Yeh, it’s a career that unfortunately is very short, if you have nineteen years like I did and avoid injury then you can consider yourself very lucky. I played around six hundred games and consider myself very fortunate to have done so. I’d love to play today, I’d love to play until I die but it’s just not possible. The reasons I’d want to play today would probably be all the wrong ones really, like the money. I certainly wouldn’t enjoy the press attention, that was different in our day you could do stuff then that you’d have no chance of getting away with now!

The game has changed so much now though, there’s psychologists, dieticians, innovative training methods and whilst I have to say that the majority of games today are wonderful, there were many players in my era who were damn sight better footballers than most that are playing today, and they would have been even better if they had the opportunities and facilities the lads have in this day and age. Today you work for Barwell Leisure, tell us about what you do there.

TS: I head up the groups corporate events division, I run conferences and executive trips all over the world. We are the main tour operator for the famous La Manga resort and we run trips there for many top football clubs like Newcastle, Southampton, Tottenham and Chelsea. That was our only destination for a time but we’ve now branched out to many others all over the world. Terry, thank you very much for your time

TS: No problem at all and my best wishes to everyone at QPR. I wish them all the best for the coming season and hope that someday soon they get back into the Premiership.

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