rank McAvennie has car trouble. .-\s I sit in (ilasgow's Corinthian. ten minutes after the agreed time of his entrance. I receive a call from his publisher to inform me that Frank is having trouble finding a parking space in the city centre. We all support the same team. so it's OK. I’ll wait for a scoring legend all day long. And it gives me an opportunity to ponder over" one of the more surreal. car—related incidents of McAvennie's post-playing career which was very nearly the breaking of the man.
l‘rank had booked up with an old friend who. in turn. had got himself involved with some very bad people. One night. Macca was taking a ride in the back of a car with these two gents. The car was suddenly pulled to a stop and the pair got out. asking l‘rank to wait behind. ‘l'm in the back seat. the child locks are on. I'm having a cigarette and reading the paper.’ he tells me later. ‘:\fter a while. I thought I'd have a laugh so I moved the car down the road to hide it from them.‘
In court. lirank McAvennie (St Mirren. ('eltic. West Ham and Scotland goalscoring hero) was being portrayed as. not quite the brains of the operation. but certainly in league with some major drug dealers as both the look-out and getaway driver. So he spent a month on remand in Durham prison alongside murderers and paedophiles before the jury finally acquitted him.
Indeed. Macca hasn‘t been very fortunate with many modes of transport. While marching merrily through (ilasgow Airport. he was stopped and arrested for possession of cocaine. Found on his person were amounts that would have barely kept him high for half an hour. never mind posing a threat to the real drug barons‘ patch. But the best story yet was abotrt a ship based in Belgium which he and a business partner had invested heavily in. (‘ustoms got twitchy. wondering if the cash flow might have more to do with narcotics. When McAvennie heard in court that the boat was actually trsed for trawling the high seas to discover strnken treasure. he felt something of a fool. dreaming up the inevitable images of his face photoshopped by the tabloid production gurus onto some Long John Silver image. He was right.
While I end up chuckling to myself in a cheeky Macca manner over the bizarre misfortune of these tales. in he strolls (not quite the broad-grinning. daft-swaggering chancer as portrayed by Jonathan Watson in his Only an litt'use take-off) and plops himself down. before getting stuck into those who have harmed him throughout his career. His autobiography .S't'orrng: rill lirpvrr'v Guide has had to go through several legal minds before being allowed to make it between the covers.
Like the carefree star he appeared on the pitch. McAv'ennie lets rip with his tongue. naming individuals and pointing the finger at groups he believes contributed to the carve-up of his life after the final whistle had gone on his career. But none of it is fit for publication here unless we wish to have the very arse sued from us. ‘lt's OK. you can print this. I‘ll take the rap for it . . .' he insists at one point. I'd have been as well switching the tape recorder off.
What is printable remains highly entertaining. though. ‘When players become managers. they tend to end up being arseholes.‘ he says. ()f Lou Macari. one of his managers at West Ham. he says: “He came into the dressing room and demanded respect; no one had a clue who he was. A deal was done for me to go to Man (‘ity and he pulled the plug because he found out what I was going to eam. That had nothing to do with him. He's a little . . . no. I don't like him.‘
Then there‘s Jenny Blyth. the Page 3 pin-up who Mc.-\vennie
met when he made his first venture into the mid-80s London of
Stringfellow and ‘supennodels'. But his greatest wrath is reserved
‘WHEN PLAYERS BECOME MANAGERS, THEY TEND TO END UP BEING ARSEHOLES'
for a trio of Scotland managers. He has no time for Alex lierguson. W ho took over the mantel when Macca‘s hero Jock Stein died on the night the national team secured qualification for the limo World (‘up. Lergie refused to give the hottest striker he had in the squad a starting berth in Mexico. and Frank hasn't forgiven him.
And then there are the ‘schoolteachers'. Andy Rosburgh and (’raig Brown. ’He was good with the kids.‘ he says of Roxburgh. ‘()r he must have been because he gave the national learn kids coaching. All this keepie uppie; it was like you were a seal at the circus.’ And of Brown: ‘He got ('lyde relegated twice and became Scotland manager. The only decent thing he‘s done is get himself a young “burd”.'
Ah. the ‘burdl‘. The catchphrase that sums him tip even if he never said it. Like ‘.»\nd why not‘." or ‘I want to be alone' or ‘My name is Michael ('aine‘. 'Where’s the burd/I" can belong: onl} to a marginally fictitiotts Mc.’\vennie. lle raises his eyebrows in mock—shame on the two occasions he mentions the word during otrr chat and yes. he's had his share of women (blonde and busty in the main) but champagne- quaffing peers such as ('harlie Nicholas and Maurice Johnston craved fresh female flesh just as much as he did.
But it's for the on-field antics that you‘d like to remember McAvennie. Having kicked off his career with St Mirren. he was poached by the glamour boys. West Ham. He wasn't quite the top signing that the frustrated t'pton l’ar'k faithful demanded: 'la'artk‘.’ Frank the fuck who‘." as Ray Winstone kicks off his foreword. But a raft of goals during his first season there almost took the team to the First Division title. pipped to the trophy by Liverpool.
His second season with West llatn wasn't quite so happy and when his beloved ('eltic came in for him. there was no dotrbts in his mind which liast lind he would be plying his trade in for the foreseeable future. His initial spell there brought about his first tnajor court appearance when an Old l-‘irm rumpus led to Messrs McAvennie. Butcher. Woods and Roberts being tip for a breach of the peace. lior once. Macca got off with it and he went on to help win the double for (‘eltic in their centenary season of IUXb’. Again. though. things went sour when cash owed to him failed to materialise and his final game was greeted by half of l’ar'khead booing their former idol and the other half sending him away with a hero’s farewell.
His career never hit the satne heights after he left (ilasgow. returning to West Ham. then back to Parkhead before hotfooting it to Swindon and ending up where it all started. at St Mirren. From there. the bad times began to roll. But he's contented now. happily wed with a seven-year-old son Jake from his first marriage to keep him focused. The only fear now may be that Jake has a hankering to file into lbrox Stadium for his Saturday afternoon entertainment. ‘.\'ah. no chance. He's taken my name. so they probably wouldn't even let him through the gate.‘
SCORING AN EXPERTS GUIDE
Scoring by Frank McAvennie and Reg McKay is published by Canongate priced £14.99. McAvennie is in conversation with Chick Young at the Arches, Glasgow on Mon 1 Sep, 8pm.