The world of Notts County boss Martin 'Mad Dog' Allen

06 May 2011 12:17
ShareMartin Allen, more commonly known as 'Mad Dog,' was last month charged with keeping Notts County in League One.

A colourful character throughout a playing career that spanned clubs including Queens Park Rangers and West Ham, his days in management have followed a similar route. He is an unconventional man with unconventional methods.

Yet plenty of clubs - Brentford, MK Dons and Barnet among them - have prospered under his guidance.

Sportsmail's Neil Moxley went to find out who put the 'mad' into the man and who he considers suitable proteges ahead of a game against champions Brighton on Saturday that will determine the Magpies' future.

'Mad Dog': Notts County manager Martin Allen

Who was it that created the 'Mad Dog' legend?People are products of their mentors. And my dad, Dennis, was my first real mentor. He was very strict. I was treated as a professional footballer from the age of seven. He threw me into matches against 11-year-olds and ordered me not to be intimidated.

I didn't have a conventional childhood. There was none of this 'picnics in the park,' or 'kickabouts with your mates'.

I sat on the bench at Cheltenham Town, where my dad was manager. I went into dressing rooms, travelled on the team coach, warmed up with the players.

People ask about strength of character, which you must have if you are to be a successful professional footballer.

Unconventional: Allen is renowned for his eccentricity

I can identify where I earned it, almost to the day. I was eight, playing in Under 11s football. There were no lower age groups in those days.

I was hit in the face with the ball. I cried. When I got into the car my dad turned to me and said: 'Don't you ever cry if you are hit with a football again, do you understand?'

He was hard on me. I was competitive, even in those days. A few months later, bearing in mind I'm not even nine years old, I played for Southcote United boys in the Reading League at a place called Thatcham Tornadoes. It was a top-of-the-table clash.

They had a player, lad with ginger hair, playing in midfield. My dad told me that he was useful en route to the game. In the second half, when we were winning, I fouled him. I caught him in the follow-through. I won the ball but I knew what I was doing.

Mad Pup: 14-year-old Allen (right) signs on at QPR under the watchful eye of his cousin Clive Allen (left)

His parents were not happy at all. They were on the side of the pitch and let me know it. So I told them to 'F*** off'.

There was uproar.

As I walked to the car afterwards, my dad turned to me and said: 'What happened?'

I told him. He said: 'Well done. When you are on that pitch, you stand your ground and never, ever let anyone get the better of you.

'And by the way, I never, ever want to hear you use that language off the pitch.'

The second one was George Graham. My life changed when I met him. I didn't really know him.

Happy Hammer: Allen signs for West Ham in 1989

I knew he used to play for Arsenal. He was a playmaker as a player but he was very impressive when he managed the youth team at QPR.

Everyone knew their role. The behaviour, the conduct, the discipline, organisation. There were no stars in George's team. They had to play to his style.

When I was 16, I challenged it. He took me off in one FA Youth Cup game. I didn't agree with it. I went into the showers, then off home. George banned me from the club for a week, fined me two weeks' wages. I had to go and see Terry Venables, who was the manager at the time.

I was told off - properly. They told me it wasn't good conduct or what they expected.

Thereafter, George hated me. I hated George. Eighteen months later, I was his captain. Two-and-a-half years later, he tried to sign me for Arsenal.

He shaped me. I had an unbelievable respect for that man.

Top dog: Allen's Labrador Monty shows off his skills

Do you deserve this 'Mad Dog' image? Oh yeah. I did a corporate hospitality at West Ham before the Liverpool game a couple of months ago. I had half an hour with the punters and, together, we raised ?10,000 for a little lad's cancer charity.

We didn't do an auction. I just said to everyone: 'Bring up ?10, now.' And they did. Everyone did. We just kept collecting tenners until we got to ?10,000. But it went a bit wrong at half-time.

I don't know what happened. I had to go on the pitch to do an interview for the crowd. I was fine. I was in a good mood - West Ham were winning.

But I stood in the tunnel and my nostrils started to flare again. I had to take deep breaths. It reminded me of when I used to play there.

Midfield general: Allen takes on Rob Lee as Tony Gale watches on

That used to happen to me, physically. I could feel my shoulders going back, I could see the crowd again. It felt like: 'Oh my life, I'm back.'

The interviewer, I think his name was Geoffrey, asked me beforehand: 'What do you want to speak about?'

I'm sorry to say that I mumbled something, but I was in the middle of getting myself worked up.

He didn't take the hint. Anyway, we are on the pitch and Geoffrey, a nice guy, asked me why they called me 'Mad Dog'.

I replied by asking him whether he was a Spurs fan. And that he should know if he was a West Ham supporter. Then I asked him what his problem was. His interview lasted seven minutes and I tortured him. I didn't do it intentionally. I'm sorry about it.

But it was good fun.

D-Day: Notts County face champions Brighton on the final day as they look to avoid relegation

Can you give three examples of your most unconventional but successful methods?I have done things that are 'off the wall', but they have been done with meaning.

People laugh - some of them think I'm a figure of fun - but I'm not. They say I'm mad; they may have a point. It makes me smile now. It irritated me at first, but they don't see the meaning of it.

I've done it throughout my career. The first, when I was a player with Portsmouth, the dressing room was so quiet, I took in the biggest ghettoblaster I could find and was belting out the naffest tunes possible.

I wanted a reaction - and obviously I got one.

Short stay: Allen was in charge of Leicester for just four games in 2007

Bear in mind, I was still a player in those days. It brought us closer together and I drew out some personality from the team.

I had just been made assistant manager at Reading, working alongside Alan Pardew. We hadn't won away all season.

We went to Preston when David Moyes was in charge. They were riding high. We were in the relegation zone when I first joined. We got to Deepdale early. I set up a warm-up in the Preston half of the field.

We had a stereo playing party numbers, by Dexy's Midnight Runners, Slade, you name it. First, it relaxed the lads. Second, I wanted to demonstrate there was no fear about taking Preston on.

So, we warmed up in their area in their half of the pitch and I refused to move, despite Preston's first-team coach asking us. Then the assistant manager told me to move. Then the safety officer repeated the warning. I still refused.

Family affair: Martin and Clive Allen celebrate

In the end, the match superintendent walked the length of the pitch towards me. I could see him coming, down one side of the pitch. I moved the lads to the other side. I was getting dogs' abuse from the Preston fans.

Finally, the policeman gave me 30 seconds to get into our half of the pitch, otherwise he would arrest me for breach of the peace. We came off, rather than move. But the players had shown no fear and we won.

I remember dancing in the corridor outside the dressing room to all these Dexy's numbers. Mad? If you look at it and studied it, it was nothing of the sort. Unconventional? Yes. Mad? Are you sure?

When I went swimming before an FA Cup tie with Hartlepool, the Brentford lads were talking about swimming across a small river adjacent to where we were training. But no-one took the plunge.

I collected ?1 off each of them for charity and did it myself. If you say you're going to do something, do it! The players loved it. Again, it got them relaxed and gave them something to talk about other than the game coming up. We ended up winning and reaching the fifth round. I loved that Brentford team.

Barking up the right tree: Allen has made a good start at Meadow Lane

Who are the three 'maddest' players you've managed? Brentford's Jamie Lawrence. A very calm and pleasant man. He had a 'man bag' before they were fashionable. No-one ever knew what was inside. He was one of those guys who you didn't ask. No-one dared take the mickey. I still, to this day, do not know what he used to carry in that bag. I have my suspicions. Shall we just leave it at that?

John Moncur, Julian Dicks, Don Hutchison, Ian Bishop (a tie). I was in with that group at West Ham. Harry Redknapp used to ignore it and let us get on with it. We knew we would step into line whenever he told us to. I need to think of something printable, here.

On Friday nights before matches, I used to have my dinner, eat my pasta and sit around talking football at the team hotel. Those four weren't interested in that. Before one match at Leicester they went to the petrol station next door and bought some dog biscuits, put them in my bed and poured water on them. They then turned the bed over. It was just a gigantic, soggy brown mess.

Seeing red: Allen is sent off

Hutchison, Moncur and Dicks were sitting in the restaurant when I left to go to my room - but I just knew something had been going on. They followed me upstairs and couldn't stop laughing because I just went mad. The madder I got, the more they laughed.

Once, five minutes before we left to go to play Oldham at Boundary Park, we were in the team hotel and Dicks smeared my head in butter.

He got me in a headlock. I couldn't get out of it. Stood there, washed, changed and ready to go in my club tracksuit and I stank of butter. All I could smell later on when we were playing was butter.

What's the strangest thing you've ever seen on a football pitch? Mark Robson, playing for West Ham, some dreadful Tuesday night in November at Blundell Park against Grimsby, was about to take an inswinging corner.

I moved from the edge of the box to take a short one with him. His body position now has to change. Instead of hitting the ball first, his boot connects with the corner flag.

Happy memories: Allen and his Brentford squad in 2005

The pole springs to the floor and when it comes back again, smashes him straight in the mouth, chipping his two front teeth. The ball moved two feet.

I swear, the Grimsby player and myself, who were running to the ball, could hardly move because we were laughing so much. And Robson is standing there, holding his hand to his mouth in a fair bit of pain. In fact, everyone was laughing. It was one of those moments.

The three worst dressing rooms you've been in? There is only one. At Wembley after the 1986 Milk Cup final against Oxford United when I was playing for QPR. I had been substituted and we lost 3-0. Horrible. Horrible. Horrible.

And the three best? Again, there is one that sticks out. The semi-final of the same competition. At Anfield, having drawn 2-2 to go through to the final.

That was the best footballing night of my whole career. We were applauded from the pitch. It was my career's highlight.

Bargain: Allen signed DJ Campbell for ?5,000

Three best players you've managed? Michael Turner - bought him for ?20,000 from Charlton. Gives me immense pleasure to see him in the Premier League (with Sunderland).

DJ Campbell - again, I bought him for ?5,000 from Yeading. Six months later, I sell him to Premier League Birmingham City. He's still in the Premier League (with Blackpool) and is into double figures for goals this season.

Jay Tabb - he's only 5ft 5in tall but a really good ball player. We put him on a development programme to build him up and I'm delighted he has carved out a good career for himself.

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Source: Daily_Mail