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Malcolm Allison
Replace this image male.svg
Personal information
Full name Malcolm Alexander Allison
Date of birth 5 September 1927 (1927-09-05) (age 82)
Place of birth    Dartford, England
Playing position Centre half
Senior career1
Years Club App (Gls)*
Erith & Belvedere
Charlton Athletic
West Ham United
002 0(0)
238 (10)   
Teams managed
1980 –1981
Bath City
Toronto City
Plymouth Argyle
Manchester City (assistant manager)
Manchester City
Crystal Palace
Galatasaray SK
Plymouth Argyle
Manchester City
Crystal Palace
Sporting Clube de Portugal
Vitoria Setubal
S.C. Farense
Bristol Rovers

1 Senior club appearances and goals
counted for the domestic league only.
* Appearances (Goals)

Malcolm Alexander Allison (born 5 September 1927 in Dartford) is an English former football player and manager. Due to his charismatic and larger than life personality - he was known as 'Big Mal'.


Playing career

Allison joined West Ham United in February 1951, after seven seasons at Charlton Athletic. A promising career as a centre-half was ended prematurely by a bout of tuberculosis. He fell ill after a game against Sheffield United on 16 September 1957 and had a lung removed in hospital. This turned out to be his last senior game for West Ham, and although he battled on in their reserve team. For a period he left football altogether, and worked first as a car salesman, then as a professional gambler and nightclub owner.[1] He came back to football to play a final season for non-league Romford in 1963.

Management career

Allison's first taste of coaching was at West Ham, where - under Ted Fenton - he took charge of coaching sessions and acted as mentor to a young Bobby Moore. After gaining further experience of coaching at Cambridge University, Allison moved into management at non-league Bath City. He replaced the veteran Bob Hewson, who had retired.[2] One of his first moves was to double the number of training sessions. The players, who held full-time jobs outside football, were required to train four times every week.[3] Allison's first season as a manager was a moderate success; he led the club to a third-place finish in the league, and to a third round F.A.Cup tie with First Division Bolton Wanderers. City were leading 1-0 at Twerton Park until a late equaliser from the penalty spot. They lost the replay 3-0.

At the end of the English season Allison accepted an offer to coach in North America over the summer, with Toronto City.[4] After a matter of weeks he was back in England. His success at Bath had alerted a number of Football League clubs, and in May 1964 he joined Plymouth Argyle, where he had been offered a £3,000 per annum salary. He soon returned to Bath to sign full-back Tony Book. However, Allison knew the Plymouth board would be reluctant to permit the purchase of a player with no League experience, who was approaching his thirtieth birthday. Allison encouraged Book to doctor his birth certificate, making him appear two years younger.[5]

The flamboyant image, with fedora and cigar, only developed later. His management career included clubs such as Plymouth Argyle, Manchester City, Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough. He also managed overseas, in Turkey with Galatasaray (1976-1977), and in Portugal with Sporting. With the Lisbon club he won the championship title, and the Portuguese Cup, in 1981-1982. That would eventually be the only Championship title won by Sporting for the next 18 years (until the 1999-2000 season), a fact that made Allison fondly cherished to this day among Sporting Lisbon fans.[6]


Manchester City

At Manchester City, Joe Mercer was named manager in July 1965. As ill health had hindered him in his previous job as manager of Aston Villa, Mercer sought a younger, energetic man to be his assistant. He offered the position to Allison, who he knew from coaching courses at Lilleshall.[7] Allison was due to meet Raich Carter to discuss a position at Middlesbrough, but Mercer was able to arrange a meeting the day before, and persuaded Allison to accepted his offer.[8]

The Mercer-Allison era is believed to be strongest in Manchester City's history - they won the First Division (1967-68), FA Cup (1969), League Cup (1970) and Cup Winners' Cup (1970), with a team including such greats as Colin Bell, Mike Summerbee and Francis Lee. However Allison's reputation was blighted by his second spell at the club when he sold crowd favourites such as Peter Barnes and Gary Owen and replaced them with unknowns such as Michael Robinson and Steve Daley. He is also fondly remembered at Crystal Palace for taking the then third division side to an FA Cup Semi Final in 1976, beating first division Leeds United, Chelsea and Sunderland before losing to Southampton in the semi final at Stamford Bridge. During this cup run his image was iconic, being associated with his lucky Fedora hat, large cigars and sheepskin coat.

Crystal Palace

Allison was certainly one of the most flamboyant characters in Crystal Palace's history and his time at Selhurst Park was a rollercoaster ride for Palace supporters.

On 31 March 1973 Malcolm was appointed Palace manager after previously holding the role at Bath City, Plymouth Argyle and Manchester City where he helped the club to top domestic honours along with Joe Mercer. Despite his arrival the Eagles were relegated, losing five out of their last seven games.

Malcolm immediately instigated a huge stylistic shift both on and off the field, raising Palace's profile with his charismatic media appearances, rebranding the club’s rather homely nickname ‘The Glaziers’ as ‘The Eagles’, and ending the club’s 68-year association with claret-and-blue kits. Palace’s highly recognisable red-and-blue striped home kit was introduced, and later, the all-white strip with red and blue sash, changes which still reflect in the character of the club today.

The following season, 1974, was even more disastrous because of a second successive relegation. Malcolm completely restructured the side in an attempt to halt the club's decline and he angered many fans with his decision to replace favourite John Jackson in the Palace goal. Malcolm's larger than life image was a mixed blessing in Division Three for it raised hopes and aspirations of supporters while also serving to motivate other clubs when they visited SE25.

However 1975-76 was the most successful season for Malcolm at Selhurst Park as he spurred his side on to an FA Cup semi-final appearance. Brilliant victories against higher league opposition in the shape of Leeds United, Chelsea and Sunderland led to the club's first FA Cup semi-final appearance but unfortunately eventual winners Southampton proved too strong in the match which was played at Stamford Bridge.

With the team failing to reach Wembley and win promotion (despite building up a big lead in the league table in the early part of the season) Malcolm resigned in May 1976. He returned to the club in 1980-81 for a two-month period in a doomed attempt to avoid relegation from the top flight.

In January 2007 Crystal Palace fans organised a tribute to Allison, which they named 'Fedora Day'. Fans set up a campaign on, an unofficial forum dedicated to the club, to mark the 31st anniversary of the famous FA Cup run which Allison masterminded. The date chosen was that of the game against Preston North End in the 4th Round of the FA Cup on 27 January 2007. Fans sporting Allison's favoured Fedoras smoked cigars and drank champagne while cheering on their side. This generated major national press coverage, including The Sun newspaper, Crystal Palace – managed by Peter Taylor, a star of the 1976 side – were unable to match their predecessors and were knocked out of the cup 2-0.


  1. ^ Ward, The Manchester City Story, p68
  2. ^ Book, Maine Man, p41.
  3. ^ Book, Maine Man, p42.
  4. ^ Book, Maine Man, p42.
  5. ^ Book, Maine Man, p46.
  6. ^ "Happy Birthday Mister Allison". Retrieved 2008-09-06.  
  7. ^ James, Manchester City - The Complete Record, p248
  8. ^ Penney, Manchester City: The Mercer-Allison Years, p14


  • Book, Tony; David Clayton (2004). Maine Man. Mainstream publishing. ISBN 1-84018-812-X.  
  • Hogg, Tony (2005). Who's Who of West Ham United. Profile Sports Media. p. 18. ISBN 1 903135 50 8.  
  • James, Gary (2006). Manchester City - The Complete Record. Derby: Breedon. ISBN 1-85983-512-0.  
  • Penney, Ian (2008). Manchester City: The Mercer-Allison Years. Derby: Breedon. ISBN 978-1-85983-608-8.  
  • Ward, Andrew (1984). The Manchester City Story. Derby: Breedon. ISBN 0-907969-05-4.  
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Hungary Lajos Baroti
Cup of Portugal Winning Coach
Succeeded by
Sweden Sven-Göran Eriksson


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