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Bradley Allen 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 Bradley Allen to talk about his time at Blundell Park.
What were the circumstances surrounding your move to Town in 1999?
I'd had a frustrating time at Charlton and picked up a couple of injuries. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my stay there, I did have some rough injuries to contend with and I didn't play the amount of games I hoped to have played. I went out of contract and Alan Buckley offered me security and a good contract so we decided, for the first time, to relocate and move away from London.
Was it difficult breaking into the Town side?
Well, there was Jack Lester and Lee Ashcroft - they were Alan Buckley's favoured partnership. For that first season I probably made more substitute appearances than from the start. I scored nine goals so my return was very good in terms of goals per game.
Did you have any preferred strike partner?
I didn't mind playing with any of them. I liked playing with Livvo although Buckley used him at the back quite a bit. Because of his presence and the ability to win it in the air I didn't mind playing alongside him. As it transpired, and in terms of it suiting my own game, playing alongside Michael Boulding at the back end of last season worked well.
Any goals you scored stick out?
I think we played in an FA Cup game at home to Stockport and I came on as a substitute. Livvo scored to make it 2-2 and I scored the winner in injury time to make it 3-2. We pulled that game right out of the bag and that was a goal that I will certainly remember.
Do you recall scoring a goal on your backside against Crewe?
I remember that one. I fell down in the area - it wasn't the greatest of goals and I don't think it was the hardest of shots - I blew it in, I don't know about kicking it in!
What would you say are your best and worst attributes?
I've always been self-critical - that's something that has stuck with me throughout my career. I'd like to think that I give an honest appraisal of my performance in each game. I'm not one to go overboard and say I was man of the match.
Is there anything about your game that makes you unique as a striker?
Nothing in particular. I think you'll agree that for the last eight or nine years I've not been blessed with an explosive sprinting power but my touch and ability to bring other players into the game and create for others is something that I've adapted into my game.
Did Buckley/Lawrence/Groves give you different roles or were you asked to play the same way each game?
As you know Alan Buckley favoured his 4-4-2 formation and tended to play with two smaller strikers with his wide men and full backs working the ball into feet. Lennie Lawrence tended to change his system somewhat. Sometimes he played the 3-5-2 system and he even tried the 4-3-3 system when we played with myself, David Nielsen and Livvo up front. That worked quite well and again that suited me. Livvo could win the ball in the air and hold it up; Nielsen had that bit of pace and a good eye for goal and that freed up a bit of space for me.
What about that partnership between yourself and Boulding? Did you slowly adapt to play well together or was it the way Groves asked you to play?
I think it was a combination of both really. I think Paul looked at what he had in terms of players at his disposal and he said that we had to play to peoples' strengths. That's what the team did and along the way me and Michael realised what each other was good at. His pace, getting onto through-balls, and sometimes myself playing those passes by picking the ball up deep. We had a bit of continuity in the team and we were pretty much unbeatable towards the end of last season.
Are there any teams you always score against as a striker?
Mendonca used to enjoy playing against Ipswich and shooting past Richard Wright.. I think that throughout my career it's pretty much evened out. There were some teams I played against at the higher level back then when I was at QPR and Charlton but because I was there for a number of years - initially there might have been a team I'd struggle to score against - but later on in my spells at the same clubs I might have had a bit of success and scored against them.
Is there one defender you don't like to play against?
I've gone on record before to say that the best opponent I have come up against would have to be Des Walker. When he was at Sheffield Wednesday I always thought he was a very tough opponent, he read the game very well, he was quick, athletic and good in the air. And he's still playing, mainly because of that experience and quality that he has retained.
The Grimsby fans took to you. Are there any outstanding reasons why?
There were two reasons for that. They realised where I had come from and maybe thought that I might not be ready to go because, dare I say, I was a southerner. I was moving up north and might not have warmed or taken to the area but once I became settled, the supporters realised that I was always prepared to give my lot. I had a good goalscoring record to back that up as well so the two gave me that rapport with the fans that I will always remember.
Did you feel under pressure last season?
When I got back into the team at the end of January last year, for me it was make or break. I was out of contract at the end of that season. Up until January I hadn't played a great deal and it looked like we were going down. Unless I played and performed, I was never going to have a chance of getting another contract. So to pull it out of the bag as we did - I don't think we got the credit for it to tell you the truth, in terms of national press. If that had been a Crystal Palace or a Portsmouth then they would have got national press for what we did. I think we won seven out of our last 12 games, which was amazing.
Considering we were second bottom and seven points adrift of safety at the beginning of February..
Yes, we needed six or seven points just to get out of the bottom three. It was an absolutely amazing few months. Some of the results and performances were unbelievable. Wolves away - we played great that day. We hammered Burnley on the penultimate weekend of the season. That was all over after 20 minutes. It was a brilliant time and I look at that now and think, in terms of a squad player, I feel as though I should be at the club and contributing.
Did Town really want to keep you?
I went out of contract at Grimsby last summer. Back in May when the season had finished - the discussions I briefly had with Paul Groves then was that he would like to keep me. At that time, he wasn't made aware of the budget for the next season so as a result he wasn't able to offer me anything.
Bristol Rovers offered you the 'deal of the century' and you turned it down out of loyalty to Town..
I turned down an offer of three years' security, but I turned it down because I wanted to play at a higher level and because Paul Groves had led me to believe I was going to be offered something at Town. With me playing at the end of last season I was more than happy to play and re-sign there. I went back training in the first week of July when the lads reported back for pre-season, but come the end of that first week Grimsby were due to go away to Sweden and I said to Paul Groves "look, if you're not going to offer me anything then I can't start playing games and run the risk of getting injured and I certainly can't hang around waiting. I've got a family to think of and I want to try and get something." As it transpired, Brighton were interested so I went there, then I went to Oxford, Boston, Peterborough for a couple of days and a couple of other clubs as well. The season had come and started and it was literally getting worse by the day. Nobody was prepared to offer me anything longer-term.
What happened when you left Town?
By that time I had got my P45 through from Grimsby. That was awful really, the least they could have done was give me a call, so that pretty much pi***d me off. I was ever so disappointed with that. I managed to get a four-month contract with Peterborough. I got to the beginning of December with them and I spoke to Barry Fry and said: "Can you give me something through until the end of the season?" He was in no position to do that so he said: "If you can get something sorted then by all means do it." There were two or three third division clubs who were prepared to take me, which was on a short-term basis, and fortunately I managed to get six months at Bristol. I've got until the end of the season and the possibility of another year if it goes okay. I've moved my family down here from Market Rasen, so we've relocated and my daughter is in a new school and we'd certainly like to be here next season but now it depends on how goes on from here.
Were you treated unfairly?
Definitely. I felt that if I wasn't to be kept, which as it developed turned out to be the case, I just wish I would have been told. The supporters there were first class. I had a good relationship with them and I think that was proved once the season had started and how the majority of them would have liked me to stay at the club.
So staying at Town was very much your thought-process..
I would have been willing to go on a significantly reduced contract, or even a pay as you play deal for 12 months just to see if the club could stabilise itself and I don't think that was too much to ask for.
Did you ever play alongside Clive Mendonca at Charlton?
I might have had a few games. Not too many but, dare I say it; he was actually keeping me out of the team! He had a special time there as you know, which culminated in the great Play-Off final against Sunderland. I got on very well with Clive, he's a smashing bloke and it's just a shame he's not playing. He worked his backside off to get back playing again, but unfortunately it wasn't to be.
What about that Play-Off victory?
I travelled with the boys on the day. It was a bit of mixed emotions because I've never played at Wembley and most of that season I played for Charlton's reserves and had a really good season but I couldn't get in (the first team) because Clive had a fantastic season.
And what about Martin Pringle (there appears to be a strong Charlton connection with Grimsby!)
It's a terrible shame because he's a great fella and sadly for the Town supporters they didn't get to see the best of him. I think he would have liked to join a club like ours because the supporters took to him in the couple of games he played.
Andy Todd was the other Charlton player to be loaned to Town last season. What was Andy like?
Too good. He was too good for Grimsby. At the end of last season he was awesome. He was so annoyed with himself at what had happened at Charlton. Even though it was the back and beyond at Grimsby, he looked at it and it's worked out better for him doing that than if he had gone to a Wolves or some club like that.
Do you have any plans to follow Clive Allen into TV?
It does appeal to me but I'd actually like to coach. I've got no aspirations to manage but I'm making inroads with regards to coaching. I took a basic coaching qualification last season and I'm due to do the next level at the end of this season. I've been fortunate to have been in the game for 15 years and I would like that to be another 25 because it has been very good to me.
Next: Bradley Allen Fans Piece
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