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Michael Boulding Interview
By: Richard Lord
IN an exclusive interview as part of The Fishy's new "Slipped Through the Net" series, Richard Lord caught up with Michael Boulding to talk about his time at Blundell Park.
How did you get into tennis?
I started playing tennis when I was 12, just through having knock-a-bouts with my Dad.
Any interesting stories to tell during your time in tennis?
How long have you got? I was deported from Yugoslavia. I landed in Belgrade and I didn't have a Visa and I got interrogated, they kept me in over night and then they deported me the next day. I got chased through the streets of Sofia by loads of blokes from the black market who were trying to rob us. I crashed a jet ski in Thailand after seeing a tiger shark that was in the water. Probably one of the strangest places I've been to is India - I spent a month in India - that was a real experience. I've been to 44 countries in all. A lot of them I've been to three or four times like Mexico. I've been to Indonesia, Malaysia, Borneo, Japan, Hong Kong, India, Sri Lanka, all over Europe, Saudi Arabia, America, Mexico, Cuba - I've been everywhere.
Where were you ranked in the UK?
I was top 20 in the country (18) and I was 800th in the world.
Who have you met in the world of tennis?
I've met everyone tennis-wise. Sampras, Agassi, I knew Edberg well because I had the same coach as him.
Who was the best player you knocked about with?
Petr Korda, a Czech player. He was third in the world when I was training with him. He was probably the most talented player.
When did you give up tennis and why?
I gave it up just over three years ago now, and I gave it up because I got the chance to play football.
How did you get into football?
I came back from America - I was playing in a tournament in America in June - I got back, and I played a local tournament in Sheffield. I trained with Doncaster Rovers with Mike Newell because one of our good friends is Emlyn Hughes, and Emlyn's son went to school with him (Newell). So I went with Mike to Doncaster and then a Mansfield scout invited me over. I played half a game for them against Worksop and then I was signed the next morning.
Any stories to tell from your Mansfield days?
Not ones that I want publishing. We all got thrown out of my Uncle's pub at a Christmas do in Sheffield. My uncle owns an Irish pub and we all got thrown out for singing.
What was your appearance and goalscoring record like at Field Mill?
I scored 12 goals in 28 starts.
How did you get the chance to join up with Grimsby?
After leaving Mansfield I nearly signed for Huddersfield. I went to Huddersfield and then Lennie invited me over for a trial, so I went over to Grimsby - obviously because it gave me the chance to play in the First Division. I actually signed a month's contract, but it was like a trial period. I signed a year's contract after about a week of being there.
Who were the influential people involved in the move?
It was probably Lennie. He was the person who took a chance on me.
How aware were you that your speed was something rarely seen at Blundell Park?
Totally unaware. That's just a part of my game, I don't think about it at all.
Can you remember your debut against Stockport?
Yes, I remember it very well. I came on as a sub in the second half.
And what about your first goal against Bradford?
I came on for the last 30 minutes of that game, and it was a ball over the top by Alan Pouton. I latched onto it - I can't remember the guy who was marking me. Molenaar? Anyway, I cut inside him and the keeper came out. I just stabbed it past him into the corner.
What were your first impressions of the club as a whole?
My best friend at the club was Paul Wilkinson. He probably helped me the most in the time that I was there. He had a massive influence on me. He worked with me a lot individually after training sessions we did a lot of work on finishing, my touch and everything. The whole club was very friendly and close-knit and I think the fans are involved in that as well.
What did you think of Lennie Lawrence?
I got on well with Lennie and I was disappointed to see him go because he was always good with me. But, Paul Groves came in and I think he did an excellent job. He really turned it around.
What's Paul Groves like as a player and a manager?
He's a very, very professional person. He was always very honest and I think that was one of the main reasons why he did so well. He was very workman-like, and as a player he was an extreme professional. He's a thinker, he stays very calm in the dressing room. He thought the whole situation out and he got a good balance in the dressing room and on the pitch and that was one of the reasons why we did so well.
How successful do you think Groves will be as a manager?
I think he'll do really well. It's obviously very tough for him at Grimsby, with no money and a very small squad but I think in time, he'll do well.
How did you feel when you came on as a sub at Anfield?
It was a fantastic experience. It was the biggest game I had played in up to that point. I was very nervous going on but I soon settled into it.
Did you think you were going to win?
I didn't actually. When we went into extra time I was thinking about taking a penalty. Everyone was tired by that point, and they were all concentrating on taking their penalties.
Did Hyypia foul you in the last minute, as TV replays appear to suggest?
He stuck his leg across and I went over his leg, but he's that type of player.
How did the team celebrate?
We didn't, really, because it was a midweek game and we had a game on the Saturday and so we just had a shower, got on the coach and headed back.
Any other memorable moments to describe?
The best memory was the last home game against Burnley because that was the game when we were finally safe and for me personally it was a massive amount of relief. Everyone had felt under pressure and everyone thought that we were going to go down, but the players kept fighting and battling and then, when we had come in at half time 3-0 up, I heard Barnsley were losing - that was the first time I thought that we were going to stay up.
Did you celebrate much after surviving?
After the match, emotionally and physically, I was completely drained. I came back to Sheffield to my parents and friends and had a quiet night in.
Take us through the Wimbledon game.
It was strange because we went a goal down quite early on and it was an unsettled game. The crowd were clearly unsettled and weren't happy with how we were playing on the pitch. We managed to get a goal back, then at half time we had a chat in the dressing room. We thought we couldn't play any worse than what we played in the first half. So we went out second half and had a real good go at them. I obviously scored a hat-trick in that game, but when you're playing you're always concentrating on the next minute and you don't enjoy your goals until after the game.
Who kept the match ball?
Pouton. It was his first hat-trick and he probably thought he wouldn't score another so he snatched it. I was a bit disappointed because I got brought down for two of the penalties - that he took - so I could have had five that game if he'd let me take the penalties I got took down for.
What was it like playing for Town against your home club?
I got man of the match in that game - at Blundell Park against United. I really enjoyed that game. That game, I felt, was the turn-around for us. We played well that day and I felt that was the best game that I'd played in the season up to that point. It was a big turn-around for me as well as I went on to play well in nearly every game up to the end of the season. I got completely abused by a load of Sheff Utd supporters - I couldn't repeat some of the things they said to me, but that's Sheffield people for you!
What did you do to Kevin Muscat to upset him?
Absolutely nothing. The first couple of minutes of the game I'd gone past him down the line, and the second time I went to go past him he elbowed me full in the face. That was after five minutes. Then he did it again with 15 minutes to go. He'd swung about three or four times and missed, then caught me with the fifth swing. To this day I don't understand why he did it.
Describe Bradley Allen as a person and a player.
I got on really well with Brad. Our partnership towards the end of the season really gelled and he helped me a lot. He was a very good friend and I always look out for him to see how he is doing.
And what about Andy Todd?
I actually saw Toddy a few weeks ago in Aston Villa's reserves against Blackburn reserves. He was a crucial signing for Grimsby at that stage of the season. He is a brilliant player who scored some crucial goals as well.
Are you still in touch with many of the players at Grimsby?
I talk to Stacy Coldicott more than anyone. I speak to him most weeks.
What happened in the close-season?
I got offered a contract at Grimsby but as soon as I knew that Aston Villa were interested, then to turn that down would have been foolish. Lots of clubs were interested and I was very close to going up to Middlesborough but I opted for Villa. They're a massive club and it was something I had to do.
Are you happy with where you are now?
Yes. I'm on loan at Sheffield United at the moment. I've been there a month, there's a good atmosphere there and I think they have a good chance of the play-offs.
Are you disappointed with your time at Villa?
Not really because in my last Villa appearance I scored. The only thing I'm disappointed about is not being given a better chance because I felt I was as good as anyone there. But, I'm signed to Villa and I'm on 24-hour recall.
Who was the biggest moaner at Grimsby?
Even though I get on with him really well, it'll have to be Stuart Campbell
Dressing room character?
Any facts about any other Town players?
Well, nothing I think they'll appreciate me saying!
Best players you've played with and against?
Merson and Hamann.
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