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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Big Mal: The High Life and Hard Times of Malcolm Allison, Football Legend
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on 25 June 2010
Whether modern sportsmen want to admit it or not, there are no characters in sport these days. The financial rewards on offer in professional sport as a result of TV revenues and sponsorship ensure that sportsmen have to toe the party line, and mustn't say anything controversial. Never has this been more evident to me when watching the current World Cup and listening to inane drivel from the likes of Lineker and Shearer. Go back to 1970 during the World Cup in Mexico where ITV introduced their first "Panel", which included Malcolm Allison. Allison was controvesial in this role, referring to the Soviet and Romanian players as "Peasants", and criticising England's Alan Mullery mercilessly, which lead to a confrontation in the TV studio between them on Mullery's return from Mexico. Imagine Lineker, Southgate or Shearer having a pop at Lampard or Gerrard leading to a confrontation going out live on TV later? It wouldn't happen. The game is crying out for people like Allison who wore his heart on his sleeve and called it as he saw it. This is a very well researched and very well written book which reveals the "warts and all" character of Big Mal. There are far too many stories and anecdotes to reveal here, but I would highly recommend this book, which is one of the most entertaining sports biographies I've ever read. I have to say that unlike the previous reviewer, I'm not even a Manchester City fan, or Crystal Palace. Whoever you support, this is a book that will give you plenty of enjoyment and have you laughing and crying. That's what football (and sport in general) lacks these days - someone to ENGAGE with the public and make them think. Excellent.
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on 30 January 2012
Malcolm Allison was an average footballer in the drab Fifties. His playing career cut short by tuberculosis, he became a trail-blazing and innovative coach and manager in the swinging Sixties.

Flamboyant with a capital F, he became a celebrity in the `Life on Mars' Seventies and morphed into `Big Mal', a larger-than-life, outspoken, womanising, gambler - profligate with both money and champagne.

A permanent fixture on ITV's football shows, articulate (some would say big-mouthed), tall, tanned and good-looking with a ready smile, Allison was made for television.

His lifestyle took its toll. Big Mal could not replicate the footballing success of the young, pre-celeb Allison. The money and blondes gone, alcoholism sadly brought on dementia to cloud his final years.

David Tossell, a writer with a proven pedigree in sports' books, has produced a balanced, insightful and sympathetic biography of a genial bon-viveur, disastrous family man, and genuine football legend.
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on 16 December 2009
I have to be honest; as a lifelong Manchester City fan I read this book with some bias. I was six when the Mercer and Allison years started at Maine Road and the following four years would embed my football loyalties for life. The kids of today are bombarded with modern day televised football, in the late sixties I had my Father; he would tell me all I ever needed to know about City and Malcolm Allison.

What I didn't know was the before and after story, how Allison suffered from tuberculosis bringing his playing career to an end, his influence on a young Bobby Moore and later on Peter Taylor and his links with the likes of Clough and Revie. This book offers a fascinating insight into a coach who was without doubt ahead of his time. Loved and respected by many, loathed by others Allison was both a master tactician and loose cannon. Transferring his talents as a coach into management however, often proved a step too far. Whatever your feelings toward Allison himself this book is a fantastic read for any football fan but definitely those of a certain era. Somewhere along the line a memory will be sparked by the events surrounding this flawed genius.
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on 19 February 2013
There were two sides to 'Big Mal,' first the football man, then the showman. David Tossell captures it all in this excellently written, and sensitive book. An excellent read of one of football's real personalities.
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VINE VOICEon 25 February 2011
In years to come it is highly likely that Malcolm Allison will become just another name in footballs long and eventful history. For anybody who was around during his heyday though Allison will never be forgotten, because as well as being a brilliant coach he was also an irrepressible character. Pick up any daily newspaper in the eighties and you would be just as likely to find a story about his latest exploits on the front page as well as you would the back. Usually seen puffing on a big cigar, he led the lifestyle of a playboy and, because he was always good for an outrageous quote he was like manna from heaven for any journalist looking for a storyline. For a while Allison was one of footballs favourite `loveable rogues'.

At his peak he was probably the best coach in the world. Alongside Joe Mercer he built Manchester City into one of Britain's finest teams in the late 60's. His innovative ideas and training methods helped bring out the best out of the players and City seemed set to be in the ascendancy for years to come; unfortunately that all came to an abrupt end when we first found out that whilst he was an amazing coach, Allison was an absolutely terrible manager. Echoing the situation with Gordon Brown & Tony Blair three decades later (except that Gordon Brown has probably never worn a fedora or romped with a naked porn star in the House of Commons bath), Joe Mercer had led Allison to believe that a few years in the future he would step aside to allow Allison to become manager. When this Mercer failed to stand down Allison took matters into his own hands and finally landed his dream job. Unfortunately without the guiding hand of Mercer being around to curve his excesses the rot wasn't long in setting in and City started to drift down the league table.

After leaving City his career never reached anything like the heights it hit whilst he was City coach. Numerous managerial appointments ended in disappointment, scuppered by either bad results or Allison's increasingly out of control behaviour. He lived life to the full and no doubt had a lot of fun along the way, but he should have become one of the immortals. If only his desire to be in charge hadn't got the better of him.....

Although first published a couple of years before his death in October 2010, this book now acts as a fitting tribute to its subject. It is a detailed, well researched book and it is as good a sporting biography as I have read for some time. Reading it made me yearn for the time when football was fun, populated with real characters like Allison, Clough and Mercer.

Oh, how I wish those days could return.
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on 1 February 2012
I've read David Tossel's account on Big Mal's life with enthusiasm. The book is well balanced, unlike a lot of football biographies, accepting Malcolm's virtues and flaws.
I did feel however that Tossel didn't fully realise the impact Malcolm generated in Portugal with his 1981/92 campaign with Sporting Lisbon.
Allison lead Sporting to the perfect season and this campaign was full of anedoctes and funny episodes. The 3 pages Tossel dedicates to this step in Big Mal's life are not near enough to describe his contribute and the legacy to the club. For the next 18 years, Allison's record remained as the reference for the club. Perhaps the fact that Tossel didn't reach Portuguese sources explains this shortcoming in his work.
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on 29 April 2014
As a kid I remember watching Sam Bartram play for Charlton a greatplayetr who should have played for England a great story about a gentleman of foot ball
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on 12 March 2017
Bought this as a present for my husband. He hasn't read it yet, but was delighted to receive it.
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on 8 June 2016
When Malcolm was to on to you had to listen to what he said controversial or otherwise. He was unique but never quite made it to the top in his own write. The book leaves you with a feeling of sadness for the way Malcolm burnt his bridges and went his own way.
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on 5 October 2012
This was a well-written and interesting book.It gave a good insight into the character of Malcolm Allison,and everything is more poignant since his death. Malcolm was years ahead in his footballing thinking.As it stresses throughout the book he was his own worse enemy,and he was never cut out to be a football manager,he doe did not have the skills.His partnership with Joe Mercer seemed to be one of the best relationship that existed or does exist in football,if only they could have recognised their own individual talents,and been suitably rewarded by the Manchester City bord,how different might history had been.
David Tossell interspersed factual information with recollections from the great and good to the bad and misunderstood..What a combination Cloughie and Allison would had made.The mind boggles at the outcome.
This is a good book if your are interested in the development of football,and how quickly it has moved from the static days of the 60's to the vibrant dynaminism of the noughties,godd and enjoyable read.
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