Friday, 8 June 2012

Exclusive interview with Rodney Marsh

"Football was my life, it is my life."  Marsh speaks to TSBV

By Aaron Leggott (Interview by Archie Barnett)

Born in October 1944 in Hertfordshire, Rodney Marsh is arguably one of the greatest football players to ever grace this planet. After making over 500 appearances in his career, he had the honour of playing with and against the likes of Johan Cruyff, Pelé, Eusébio, Gerd Müller, Carlos Alberto, Franz Beckenbauer and Bobby Moore. 

Photo: Bob Thomas/Getty Images

However, despite this line up of all star talent, Marsh told us that the one of the greatest ever players he saw was one who entertained the crowds of Maine Road during the late 1960's and early 70's. He said: 

"If you look at the Man City team, I played with Colin Bell. Colin Bell, in my opinion, was one of the world’s most underrated footballers in the history of the game. 

"I played with Colin for three seasons and I played with him for England as well, but Colin Bell never got the respect that he should have done. In my opinion, Colin Bell is one of the greatest players that ever played football."

Before his move to Manchester City, Marsh arguably enjoyed some of his greatest football when playing for the team he supports, Queens Park Rangers, where the 1966/67 season saw him scoring 44 goals in 53 games, a tally that played a big part in QPR's promotion to the Second Division. 

It was his dazzling skills which convinced Malcolm Allison to part with a club record £200,000 and bring him to Maine Road on the back on City's most successful period in their history.

It seemed like a good move at the time for Marsh and he said:

"It (the reasoning behind the move) was justified only for the fact that I looked at Man City as being the best team around. 

"I used to watch Match of the Day and see how the other teams play and City played the most fantastic style of football and I loved it. They had great players, great coaches and it was just a brilliant football club."

At the time of his move, City were four points clear at the top of the table, and Marsh knew there was added pressure to the situation, considering what City needed to do and the price tag on his shoulders:

"I was put under unbearable pressure really because all of the national papers were saying that City were running away with the Championship, signing Rodney Marsh as a player to combat George Best at Manchester United because they wanted to win the league with style."

Unfortunately, it seemed like the pressure got to everyone. With a four point lead in March, it was a typical City scenario as the greatest team in England somehow managed to mess up their title challenge and ultimately finished in fourth place. 

Marsh has himself claimed his style of play wasn't suited to the way City played at the time, and put a lot of the blame upon his shoulders, saying that he upset the balance of a team that was flying at the time. 

His style of play gained him many plaudits throughout his career, and you can understand the comparisons with the likes of George Best. However, despite the natural talent he possessed, Marsh had to work hard on the training pitch to become as good as he wanted to be:

"As a very young player (11-12 years old) I had more intrinsic skill than I did when I actually played as a professional. When I was a very young player, I could do anything with a football. This was the same throughout my career but I had to train every single day over the year. Football was my life, it is my life."

Despite his claims to have been the reason for City's failure that season, Marsh still looks fondly back on his career at Maine Road.

"It was the only club I would’ve left Queens Park Rangers for. I was very very happy at QPR. I had the most fantastic relationship with the fans; we had an incredibly successful 7 seasons. 

"From going all the way from the Third Division to the First Division, as well as winning the League cup along the way at Wembley against West Brom to finally getting my cap for England, I had seven fantastic seasons there.

"I had the opportunity to go to Newcastle, Aston Villa and Spurs but I turned them all down as I would only leave for Man City. "
However, losing the league title after being in a commanding position wasn't the only disappointment Marsh faced during his lengthy career at the Blues. A defeat against Wolves in the competition he won with QPR just seven years earlier was another blow to his City career, where his performances were putting him amongst the key personnel at the club. 

It must be disastrous to come so close but fall at the final hurdle, so when asked what it feels like inside the dressing room, he said: 

"No, it’s impossible to relate that to other people. I always say the same thing when asked that question. Unless you’ve been an professional athlete, I don’t think you can possibly fathom the disappointment you have when you lose. It’s something that is impossible to explain and I am sure as you go down, amateur players and pub players, it’s a different kind of hurt and disappointment. 

"But when you’re a top professional athlete and all you do is train day in day out for a massive amount of time and then you get to the pinnacle and just fall short I cannot begin to explain the pain that I feel and felt. I had other disappointments in my career so that wasn’t the only one."

Marsh's influence as a footballer has been huge, as he enticed many Mancunian's to start making frequent visits to Maine Road with his glamorous football and regarding his influence, he said:

"Well, I have a great amount of pride about the way I played football. I played football with a smile on my face, I played football to win but I also played football for the love of it and to entertain people."

Unfortunately, he was not to be a City player for much longer after disagreements with manager Tony Book and chairman Peter Swales, who funnily enough summed up the influence Marsh had during his time at the Blues:

"Peter Swales was the chairman of Man City in the 70s and Peter was the one that fired me. Tony Book wanted me gone because we had a massive bust up. I was captain at the time and after being moved on, I moved to America. 

"About seven years later, I was in a restaurant with a friend, and Peter Swales was in there as well with a group of friends. I think he was still the chairman of City at the time and it must have been in the 80s. He came over to my table and bought me a bottle of win, saying 'Rodney, I just want to let you know that when we fired you I had 7,000 letters of complain from the Kippax.' That is the greatest compliment I could ever have been paid." 

After enjoying a very healthy and successful career, he moved into coaching in America at New York United, Carolina Lightnin' and the Tampa Bay Rowdies, where he claimed to have always enjoyed coaching the young players. According to Marsh, they were the most acceptable and receptive to how the game should be, and he has also added that he is backing the FA's decision to create smaller sided games for young players, something suggested by himself when he was coaching.

A glamorous career like Marsh's is always prone to see people being jealous of his remarkable achievements, and the creation of the "Plebville Jail" with Francis Lee on Twitter has certainly shown off Marsh's laid back approach very well:

"Well, I’m sure Franny will tell you what that was. I’ve been on Twitter now for around about a year, and I quickly noticed that there are a lot of people on there that just want to come on and just swear and you and scream and rant, with nothing to say really than just to trash talk.

"When I first was on there, I simply said 'I'm not going to waste my time on plebs' and they all quickly found out what it meant.

"Plebville Jail was Franny’s invention and Franny has also invented the “Plebville Times Newspaper” and it’s just a bit of fun where, instead of getting all carried away and getting all hot under the collar, we just send people to Plebville Jail, who are basically arseholes."

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(c) The Sky Blue View 2012

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