Welshman Malcolm progressed through the youth ranks, captaining the team in the 1985 FA Youth Cup Final and making his first team debut later that year. He remained around the first team squad for another three years before joining Norwich City in 1988.
He also won 14 caps for Wales before a knee injury forced his retirement in 1995. He spoke to Watford Legends in 2012.
Hi Malcolm, thanks for talking to Watford Legends. How did your association with the club begin?
It was through Tom Walley. He is from Camarthen. Tom had his best mate around the place doing some scouting for him. He had heard about me, and I was doing well and scoring goals in my junior league. I had been picked by Bangor City when I was 15.
Tom invited me to Watford for a trial when I was 15 and I played away at West Ham and broke my arm after 20 minutes and I thought my chance had gone. The Easter holidays were coming up and I rang Tom and asked for a final chance, which he gave me for four days during the holidays, and I did very well. I scored twice against Leyton Orient and that was a game where Steve Harrison and John Ward also came along to watch.
Tom then told me that Graham Taylor was coming to watch me on the Saturday. They were only planning on getting in one striker as an apprentice, and they had given that to Richard Sendall. I played in a game against Ipswich and scored a first half hat-trick. Graham Taylor had left after 45 minutes as he was travelling with the first team to West Brom, but luckily he had already made his mind up.
How did you find Tom Walley? He is held in high regard by Watford fans.
He is a unique guy is Tom. We are very good friends to this day and I still see him regularly. You have to get to know him. Every other word is a swear word and that’s just his background. He is from a very big family in Carmarthen and he always seems to know what people need. What I mean by that is that he knows when to give you a kick up the arse and when to put his arm round you. He’s very truthful and honest and only wants the best for the player. He really cares about what he does and still does care very much even now at 67 years old.
How did you enjoy your two year apprenticeship?
It was very good. It was tough at first as they had signed me as a centre forward but I hadn’t scored a goal. I also struggled with a language barrier as I was still thinking and speaking in Welsh. I’m sure Watford were asking questions of me as well at that stage. They must have been thinking to themselves, what have we signed here.
I moved digs which helped, and moved in with some good people. I took over the digs where Jan Lohman was staying. The daughter of my landlady would end up being my wife and mother to my three children.
After the initial three months I started scoring goals and I think I ended the season with around 20. Then in the following season we got to the FA Youth Cup Final against Newcastle, where I was the captain for Watford and Paul Gascoigne was the captain for the opposition. I remember Paul Gascoigne was the difference between the two sides.
And what about when your apprenticeship came to an end?
Graham told me that I was going to go from being an apprentice to going on to a semi-pro contract. This meant that my wages went from £35 per week to £80 per week. Although I now had to pay £30 for my digs, whereas as an apprentice it was paid for me. So it wasn’t about money, but a gesture that they wanted me as a pro. After three months of the new contract, they gave me a full years contract, so I was delighted.
And what do you remember of your full debut?
I remember scoring four goals for the reserves on the Tuesday night, alongside Luther. Luther wasn’t fully fit and John Barnes was playing up front for the first team. We were seventh at the time and we had an away game at West Ham on the Saturday. On the Thursday GT asked me to go in to his office after training where he asked me if I was ready to go in to the first team, which of course I was.
I asked if I could ring my Mum and Dad to tell them, and he told me that he had already done so and had rung my mum’s work to organise some time off. Graham organised to put them in to the Watford Hilton and paid for it all. Graham Taylor was that type of person.
With Graham I have a total respect. With him and Tom Walley they love their football, but also they want to see you develop as a person and as a player. I remember Graham was very thorough with his preparations for a game, so that come Saturday there were no nasty surprises or fear factor.
Was it due to GT that you went to Villa?
Yes it was. I wouldn’t have gone if he hadn’t have gone. It was my biggest disappointment at Watford when Graham left. I think he felt that he had taken the club as far as he could in his eyes, and he wanted a new challenge. He still had ambitions to improve himself.
I didn’t fall out with Dave Bassett, but he just told me that I was not in his plans. However, when I came back from my loan at Villa, Watford were on such a bad run that Dave had no choice but to put me back in, especially as I had scored a couple of hat-tricks in the reserves. I think that in the end I scored 10 goals in 11 games in the first team before he got sacked. So not a bad return for a player he didn’t fancy.
When you left Watford, was it a hard decision?
It was quite sad. Dave had given me a new contract two weeks before he went. Steve Harrison came in as the manager, and he was a completely different person to Steve Harrison the coach. He left me out of the team here and there and our relationship soured and I was transfer listed.
A few days in to pre season training he told me that Norwich had made a bid of £175,000 for me and I was to be sold. More than anything it felt like a kick in the bollocks, because I didn’t want to leave the club.
So fast forwarding from there through to the end of your career, what was the injury that finished your career?
I had a problem with my knee cartilage and I’d had an artificial fibre put in and I was out for 10 months. I played under Mick McCarthy at Millwall for 15 months and my knee was good enough for me to pass a medical to go to Newcastle, but as it was not my own tissue, after every game or training session it would swell up, and as a result I needed knee reconstruction. I had another operation and that kept me out for another 12 months. I started pre season training alongside Les Ferdinand but it still wasn’t right, and the surgeon told me that I will be fine to kick a ball around with the kids in the garden, but I would never play professionally again. So the decision was made for me to retire.
Your knee must have known that Alan Shearer was on his way in to Newcastle!
Yeah I retired in the June and Alan Shearer was signed in the August. So not a bad replacement for £15 million!
So between your retirement in 1995 and now, what have you been up to?
When I left football I did my coaching badges. I was allowed to do them at Newcastle thanks to Kevin Keegan. I also coached the youngsters. After that I did some coaching and watched other coaches coach.
I then moved to a Football in the Community Officer in Wales before spending seven years at Stevenage coaching the youngsters. Whist doing that I was also doing work for the BBC in Welsh, and covering either Swansea, Cardiff or Wrexham games each weekend.
I then moved back to Wales, and left the BBC to join the S4C channel. We have a live game from the Welsh league, but with the scores coming up on the screen. A bit like Soccer Saturday, but with a match. So that’s what I do now. The programme is called Sgorio.
So nowadays it’s a mixture of TV work, coaching and spending time with my kids.
Sounds nice. Thanks for talking to us about it.
You’re welcome gents.
Quick Fire Round
|Favourite Ground (apart from the Vic)|
|St James Park|
|Best Ever Player|
|Team you supported as a boy|
|Don't drive currently, I'm still banned!|
|Favourite Holiday Destination|
|Favourite TV Show|
|Sgorio - Sky Channel 134!
|Never happier than when|
|...I'm with my daughter Ria|
|Desert Island Woman|