Malone Again, Naturally #1

I’ve wanted to add more stories to the site to make it even more diverse. I’ve been a fan of tenthreeleader over on the SI forums for quite some time. For me, he is one of the best storytellers around. So I contacted him about his current story and he agreed that I could post it on this site. If you’re not familiar with his work then you should check out these stories he’s written in the past;

Rob Ridegeway’s “Rat Pack”

The Ace Of Spades

American Calcio

Those are just a few of the thing he has written. You can check out more by visiting this link;

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You can also follow him on Twitter  @umdpxp

Now looking back down the years
And what ever else that appears
I remember we cried when old Roger died
Never wishing to hide the tears

At the top of Division One
But our soul was truly gone
Couldn’t understand, why the only man
Who we loved had just been taken

We had to restart, with our words
Hurt and unspoken
But then a young man came along
Roger’s son, unbroken

And when the time came to play
He scored and scored all day
Malone again, naturally
Malone again, naturally

(With apologies to Gilbert O’Sullivan)

# # #

I remember him with the sadness of a boy who has lost his world.

Roger Malone was my dad.

They called him “Quicksilver”. Small, almost a nugget of a man from the films I saw, but with a truly gifted right foot and an ability to worm his way into the smallest of openings to score the biggest of goals.

He was a pace striker before the term became popular. And he was a good one.

You know the numbers: 79 times capped for England with 29 goals, an excellent rate of return. He could provide an instant impact off the bench or, starting a game, tire out a back line through his never-ending work rate.

You name it. He could do it. Everything except outjump a big defender, that is. At five-foot-nine inches tall, that was about the only thing he couldn’t do well. But the sky, in every other sense of the word, was his limit.

Until December 30, 1980, that is.

That night, while returning home from the Birmingham FC team New Years’ Eve mixer, prior to their New Year’s Day game, my dad’s car was struck by a van driven by a drink driver. Dad was killed instantly, and my world was never the same.

Dad was 29 years old the night he died. I was six. I remember it all too well.

I remember what Dad’s death did to my mother, Sara. Dad talked a great game on the pitch but off of it, he was quiet and adored his family. We loved him too, and in my case as a six-year old, I remember my dad with great fondness.

Mom didn’t really know how to handle Dad’s death, which was of course completely senseless and daft and all the stupid things vapid sportswriters say when they try to encapsulate the grief of a football club and the community it serves.

Dad scored 119 goals for Birmingham. To honor his memory, I determined that I wanted to carry on in his footsteps. And I worked extremely hard to make that happen. I wasn’t the most skilled player on the park, but no one was going to work harder to succeed.

Dad drove my career, even though he didn’t know it in an earthly sense. I’d like to think he was looking down on me as I grew up and signed schoolboy terms with his beloved Blues.

As a 15-year old, I wore Dad’s club colors for the first time in a youth game. I almost couldn’t take the field that first day against Portsmouth. People understood, but then, the game is a business too and eventually I’d have to toughen up.

I did. I got tough. Very tough, in fact, to the point where I was almost encased in an iron shell. I became a blue-collared nightmare for some opposing teams to face.

I’m taller than Dad was – six feet on the nose. I didn’t have his pure pace but I had the ability to leap and also the gift of the same type of right foot he had.

By age 19, I was called up to the senior squad, where I spent the next fourteen years. My haul was bigger than Dad’s – I scored 202 goals for the club – but then, if he had lived, I’m sure he’d have outpaced me.

That was the way Dad was. He had to be first – not because of any sense of ego, but because he simply wouldn’t rest until he had won. He gave me that gift, too.

Because of my dad, my relationship with the Blues fans was deep and special. They even sang that little song about me you may have read earlier. It was a nice way for them to pay tribute to my dad while supporting me as a player in my own way. I enjoyed that and certainly did nothing to discourage it.

But after a series of niggling injuries that kept me out of the eleven, Birmingham sold me to Watford for £500,000 at age 33. That hurt. A lot, actually.

The Malone family name had become synonymous with Birmingham FC and the club got no small amount of stick the day it was announced that I wouldn’t be coming back.

I felt like I still had some football left in me, though, so I accepted the transfer and moved on. I played two seasons at Watford and then had single-season stints with Leyton Orient and finally, as a 37-year old player-coach, at Bury.

The goals didn’t come as easily, though, and that’s not uncommon as a player ages. My career haul was a nice, round 235 goals in club football – and when you add in the 18 I tallied for England, that’s not a bad career. I didn’t get the callups my Dad did – but that was okay.

Dad was first, and that was just fine with me.

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