A Former England footballer, manager and Pundit for Radio and TV. Alan Mullery joined Fulham after leaving school at the age of 15. He was in the Fulham first team at 17, and played over 250 games in 5 years. He was also a co host of the hugely popular football programme – Gillette Soccer Saturday on Sky.
A successful manager and international player, Alan Mullery enjoyed a career in football that spanned over nearly four decades. A tough but quick holding midfielder, Alan came through the ranks at Fulham, making his debut in 1958. He was made captain just a year later after Johnny Haynes suffered an injury. After leaving Fulham just short of 200 appearances, Alan joined Tottenham in 1964 for £72,500 a British record at the time for a midfield player.
Mullery became a key player for the Spurs teams that won the 1967 FA Cup, setting up the opening goal for Jimmy Robertson thanks to his destructive run from deep, going on to win the ‘Man of the match’ award for his cup final performance. He captained the side to victory in the 1971 Football League Cup Final and the 1972 UEFA Cup Final, where his brave header in the 2nd leg was the decisive goal in a 3–2 aggregate victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers. Having made 312 appearances, this would be Alan’s last match for Spurs as he moved on to re-join Fulham in the second division.
Alan picked up 35 England caps while playing for Tottenham making his debut against Holland in December 1964, going on to establish a regular place in the side from 1967 over World Cup winner Nobby Stiles. Mullers was a tough midfielder, in the semi-final of the 1968 European Championships he became England’s first player ever to be sent off in a bad tempered, physical game against Yugoslavia. After the match which England lost 1-0, manager Alf Ramsey approached Alan in the bath, who was expecting a firm dressing down. Instead, he said ‘I’m glad somebody decided to give those bastards a taste of their own medicine.’
1970 World cup
Alan was a key member of Ramsey’s 1970 World cup team, as England one of the favourites attempted to defend the trophy. One of Alan’s jobs in a group match was to mark Brazil’s Pele considered to be the greatest player in the world. Mullery went on to score the opening goal in the quarter-final against West Germany. Sadly, England lost the game 3-2. However, Alan’s performances throughout the tournament were consistently good. On his return he entered into a TV debate with respected football coach Malcolm Alison who had been critical of him before the championships, admitting he had a good world cup.
Alan moved back to Fulham for £60,000 ignoring other club’s interest in him with the promise to be groomed to take over as manager after Alex Stock retired. This never occurred. He was later joined by his friend, World Cup winner Bobby Moore both helping Fulham to the 1975 FA Cup Final against first division West Ham United, losing 2-0. In the same year (1975) Alan was awarded the highly prestigious footballer of the year trophy. The previous season he’d won 1974 BBC’s Goal of the Season competition with a superb swerving volley hit with terrific pace from 25 yards past Leicester’s & England’s goalkeeper Peter Shilton.
1975 was an amazing season, getting to the Cup Final. Alan said ‘We were little old Fulham, we weren’t supposed to go to Wembley. They nearly got there many, many years before when Johnny Haynes was playing, but it was very special for me and Bobby Moore to play in a cup final again, as Wembley was like a second home to us.’
Within days of leaving Fulham, Brighton & Hove Albion (1976-81) sitting in the old third Division offered him the manager’s job. This started the club’s meteoric rise under Alan’s management. The Seagulls gaining two promotions, including the club’s first elevation to the top flight in 1979, signing legends including Mark Lawrenson, Steve Foster, Peter Ward and Robinson along the way. It was a disagreement between club chairman Mike Bamber and Mullery over the sale of Mark Lawrenson to Liverpool, that resulted in Alan leaving the club which he had taken from obscurity to first division status. He went on to manage Charlton Athletic (1981-1982), Crystal Palace (1982-1984) and QPR (1984) and Brighton (1986-1987) once more.
Brighton & Crystal Palace
When he was appointed manager of Brighton’s biggest rivals Crystal Palace, it prompted anger and a short-lived boycott from some of the Palace fans. This rivalry grew during a 1976 FA cup reply between the two sides when Alan was manager of Brighton and Terry Venables his old friend and former Spurs team mate was in charge of Palace. A highly controversial penalty decision resulted in Mullery challenging the referee at the end of the game on the pitch. Being escorted away by police while swearing at the Palace supporters in the stands. Alan then had coffee thrown over him by a Palace supporter. A very angry Brighton manager allegedly entered the Palace dressing room, threw five pounds on the floor saying to Venables: ‘Your team’s not worth that.’ Mullery was fined £100 by the FA for bringing the game into disrepute. The underlined personal competition and power dynamic between the two managers (Mullery and Venables) didn’t help the situation.
Ghost of Venables
At QPR Alan had the tough task to follow in his old rival Terry Venables who had moved on to Barcelona. He found it difficult to get the players and staff on his side, as they could not overcome their disappointment at losing Venables. Mullery only lasted six months. Blaming the players and staff for a lack of support and demoralising his own love of football.
A Seagull again
His short return to Brighton was not going to be the fairy tale it had been before. Accusing the Chairman of using him to sell off a number of players to keep the club going, then getting rid of himself as he was now surplus to requirements.
Video: Alan speaks to Brighton supporters
After leaving Brighton the second time, the offers of work began to dry up. Not knowing what to do next or where his future lay. Mullery entered into a deep depression, worsened by an unsuccessful business venture in a sports shop; he converted to Christianity, though his financial and emotional troubles continued until he began working in the media in the mid 1990’s. Starting on radio with LBC & Capital, he moved into television. His enthusiasm, analytical approach and knowledge of football was put to good use joining Sky’s ‘Soccer Saturday’ programme with host Jeff Stelling. Alongside pundits Rodney Marsh, George Best and Frank McClintock. He also became an after-dinner speaker full of stories and anecdotes from his amazing playing and managerial career.
Back to Brighton
His highly acclaimed second autobiography was published in 2005. He further became a Brighton & Hove club Ambassador in 2013 being seen around the Amex stadium on match days, greeting and chatting to people becoming a Seagulls legend. Later, having the honour of a stadium restaurant named after him. Alan loved the game of football he had seen every side of it and was always willing to enter into discussions with fans on his career and the game as it is today.