Tuesday, April 25

An evening with Alan Devonshire

PHOTO: AtTheMatch Business, Sport & Football Networking Event sponsored by Moving Forward Sports

Enjoyed meeting Alan Devonshire at last night's AtTheMatch networking event. Devo, who’s currently managing Maidenhead United, held a Q & A session with Simon Maurer and had much to say about his West Ham days.

As a schoolboy the West Londoner was almost signed by Crystal Palace’s Bert Head, but new manager Malcolm Allison cancelled the contract offer without seeing him play. Alan’s dad talked him out of quitting the game at that point. Playing for Southall with “defenders kicking the s**t out of you” was the making of Dev as a player, he revealed. It was at Southall that he learned to ride tackles and develop his brilliant dribbling skills. He went from famously being a forklift truck driver at Hoover to playing for West Ham in the old Division One and winning the FA Cup in 1980 and the Division Two Championship in 1981.

At £5000 he was probably West Ham’s best ever signing. It was a big step up for the young left-sided midfielder. Alan recounted how he was on £120 a week, soon increased to £500 a week. On his first day’s training he fainted in front of Billy Bonds and Trevor Brooking. He still has great respect for Bonzo and Trev and remarked that the most successful players are often the nicest, while it’s the lesser ones who are arrogant.

He recounted having, “One of those games where everything came off” against Everton in the 1980 FA Cup semi-final and joked that he wished people would remember his goal as well as Frank Lampard’s header. Dev also took the audience through the lows of his career such as his knee being clattered from both sides in an FA Cup tie against Wigan and missing 18 months with a terrible injury. He lost his speed after that, but modified his game through playing one-twos rather than dribbling and had a brilliant season in 1985-86 when the Boys of ’86 came third in the league.

Devonshire told the audience of football folk that John Lyall was a brilliant man manager and that Lou Macari was his lead favourite gaffer. He particularly objected to having to run on hard surfaces for Macari, feeling this would aggravate his dodgy knee. Alan refused to sign for Sheffield United after learning that Dave Bassett planed a pre-season trip to an army camp and opted for Watford instead, where he ended his career.

Dev was joined on stage by his record goalscorer at Maidenhead, Dave Tarpey. Alan says his players deserve promotion from the National League South — they’re currently top.  As a boss he’s managed Hampton & Richmond and Braintree Town as well as Maidenhead twice. He has something of the John Lyall philosophy and goes for, “players who can surprise me.” Devonshire is not a fan of possession stats and believes that, “it’s what you do with the possession that counts.” He also thinks that young players can be over-coached and, “you have to learn the game yourself” as he did at Southall.

The proudest moment of his career was playing for England against West Germany and having a fine match despite a 2-1 home defeat. While his fondest memory of the Boleyn Ground was when the fans cheered off the side after a 1-0 home defeat against Leeds. “For other crowds the result was all that mattered, but the West Ham fans could see we’d given everything.”


mj said...

Thanks for a very interesting article. Dev looked great from my view on the south bank!

Pete May said...

And what a partnership with Brooking...