THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

The former boss of Creation Records, Alan McGee, recalls how Robert Fleck lured him to StaMford Bridge and tells how football rescued him from drugs – or was it the other way round?

Did you become a Rangers fan solely because of your upbringing? It must have been at the time when Celtic were the dominant club in Scotland.
When you’re seven it comes down to who you hang around with. I was at a  Protestant school in the late Sixties. I knew some Celtic fans too but the first league match I was taken to by my dad was to see Rangers – although I actually saw Celtic first, in a pre-season match against Queens Park. We lived near Hampden and they were the local club. I used to watch them too for the first couple of years that I was interested in football. You could go when you were ten and you felt safe with a space of your own in this big ground.

What’s your favourite memory of the Rangers team in that period?
Going to the League Cup final in 1970, when I was ten.  Derek Johnstone, who was only six years older than me, scored the winning goal for Rangers.

Were you actively anti-Celtic when they were doing well in Europe?
Not at first. When I got to about 14 I suppose I started to hope they’d lose their big games. But I had loads of pals who were Catholic and it wasn’t really anything to do with bigotry. I’ve got a step brother-in-law who’s a mad Celtic fan. When Mo Johnston signed for Rangers he was the one who ran on to to the pitch to try and punch him out, and got to within six feet of him. He got fined and he’s on the dole so he pays a pound a week off.  That gives you an idea of where my family are at.

What did you think of Johnston joining Rangers?
I just thought it was funny. Everybody loved it because they knew it would annoy the Celtic fans. Rangers tried to do the same thing a couple of years ago when they were after Van Hooijdonk after he’d left Forest. And of course earlier on there was Alfie Conn, with his massive sideburns, who’d started with Rangers, went to Spurs and ended up at Celtic. He seemed to get away with it.

There don’t seem to be as many good players coming out of Scotland any more. Why do you think that is?
The last great generation was the one that came through in the 1970s, Dalglish and the others, who really were world class.  I don’t know where they’ve gone but it must have something to do with the old working class communities in places like Fifeshire and Ayrshire disappearing. I don’t know what kids from there do now. Drug dealing probably.

Who was the first player you wanted to be?
Probably Jimmy Johnstone, funnily enough. And then maybe Willie Henderson, who was the equivalent player for Rangers, a great little winger. Eusebio was probably the first player I spoke to, though. Portugal were playing Scotland and the teams trained at Hampden, so you’d go along with your autograph book.

Have there been times when you’ve lost interest in football?
Rangers were in a trough in the early Eighties before David Murray went there, when Aberdeen and Dundee United were coming up and by then I’d moved to London. I was following them from afar and lost touch a bit. I’d been going to games regularly until I was about 18, when punk happened and that began to take up more of my time. Also, I remember going to a Spurs v Arsenal game in the early 1980s. Even though I wasn’t wearing any colours, at various times in the day fans from both clubs tried to beat me up and I thought “sod this”.  I only really got my big interest in football back when I came off drugs.

Football helped you recuperate?
It did. I remembered that I was a football fan before I became a monster.

Were the groups you worked with into football?
Yes, Primal Scream were always Celtic fans. Teenage Fanclub too. Jesus and Mary Chain I don’t think knew who Rangers and Celtic were. Most of the Scottish bands I’ve been involved with are Celtic fans. They were always seen as the cooler club to support.

Which footballers do you know who liked your bands?
Pat Nevin, Graeme le Saux, John Spencer. The first two definitely got what we did, but Spencer liked coming to the parties mainly. Any time in the mid-Nineties he’d be there hanging around with the glamorous people.

Which other players have you met ?
I used to like Ruud Gullit when he was a pundit. I liked the fact that he seemed quite arrogant. But then I met him and he’s actually not that nice a bloke. He really is arrogant. Dennis Wise I’ve known since going to Chelsea. I like the fact that I’m nearly ten years older than him but he always calls me “son”.

What changes would you like to see in football?
I’d like to see more away fans let in. When you get a cup game against a Second Division team and a quarter of the stadium is away fans and it’s their big match of the season, it’s always a better atmosphere. That’s something that’s been lost a bit lately.

Why did you start going to Chelsea?
A friend was a Chelsea fan and he tried to persuade me to go along. I’d say “But they’re rubbish” and he’d say “Yeah, but it’s rubbish you can enjoy”. So I got back into it and football became part of my weekend routine again. We experienced the glories of Frank Sinclair and Erland Johnsen. They also had a lot of Scottish players at the time – Robert Fleck, Steve Clarke, Spencer.

What kind of people do you think go to Stamford Bridge now?
There’s two sets of fans there now, the people who’ve been coming for 30 years and the corporate set Bates is trying to encourage. I’m somewhere in the middle. I’ve got a season ticket now. When Creation was going and we had Oasis happening all over the world we had a box to use as somewhere to take bands. You’d see a completely different part of football, like being backstage at a gig. It was £20,000 a season then last year it went up by another £7,000, so we didn’t renew.

What do you think of how Ken Bates runs the club?
I think he’s quite ruthless and some of his ways are unsavoury. But if anyone is going to make Chelsea into a major club in Europe then he can probably do it. He’s turned them around, in 15 years they’ve gone from near the bottom of the old Second Division to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.  One thing I didn’t like was the way the club dealt with the Matthew Harding thing. He was a genuine fan and I think they could have been more respectful of him after he died.

Do you enjoy watching football as much now as when you were younger?
I do. I’d been going for seven years to all the home games and most of the aways. But I’ve started a new record label now and I’m getting back into music again so away trips north of Leeds don’t appeal. You want to spend a Saturday night at home. But maybe I’ll try to own a club when I’m 60, try and do a Rushden.

From WSC 165 November 2000. What was happening this month

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