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Clive Mendonca 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 Clive Mendonca to talk about his time at Blundell Park.
Who was the Sheffield United manager that let you go?
Dave Bassett. I was a young lad at Sheffield United, I started off as an apprentice there, scored a lot of goals in the youth team and then I got a professional contract. I got into the first team quite early, did well, and then the new manager came in - Dave Bassett - and brought his own kind of players in with him. He said to me 'look, your not in the first team, I've had an offer from Rotherham for you, it's up to you if you want to go'. I was 19 at the time and I thought that if I wasn't going to get involved here I may as well move on. He (Bassett) at the time said he would watch my progress and 'you never know, I might sign you in the future'. Anyway, I went to Rotherham for three years - did quite well there - and then Dave Bassett signed us back. He sold us for thirty-odd grand and signed us back for about one hundred and thirty grand, three years later. They were in the Premier League at the time, I didn't really get a chance because the two strikers there were doing really well so I went on loan to Grimsby. I enjoyed my time there and they ended up signing us.
What was your record while you were on loan at Town?
I think I played ten games and I scored three goals.
At what point did you think the move would become permanent?
Towards the end of the loan because I had done quite well. The situation was that I suited Grimsby and Grimsby suited me because the way they played. The manager Alan Buckley really wanted to sign us. In the end I was signed up for about eighty-five grand.
Can you remember your first goal for Town?
My first goal.. I think it was against Blackburn in the league.
Who was your preferred strike partner out of all the forwards you played alongside with during your time here?
I was there for five years and I played in all sorts of different partnerships. I really enjoyed playing up front with Tony Rees and Neil Woods. I enjoyed playing with Woodsie because he was an intelligent footballer. At the end of the day, with Buckley as manager, we played a certain way and with the strike pair up front you knew your own job. Not being big-headed, I played most times and I was probably his number one striker. As long as I was getting the games I wasn't bothered who I played up front with.
Are there any special games that stick out in your mind?
I was out for practically a whole season with trying to find out what was up with my back, and I came back to play 45 minutes away at Stoke and I was absolutely shattered - we won 2-1 though. That game was on the Saturday and then on the Monday we played Ipswich without really having a rest. That was my first game for nearly a year so you can imagine how tired I was. We won 3-1 and I scored a hat-trick. That really sticks out because I had been through hell and then I came back and scored a hat-trick, which was great really. All the hard work I had done suddenly seemed worthwhile.
Do you regard yourself as a real goal-poacher or did you ever score some spectacular and classy goals?
I remember playing against West Ham at Blundell Park and I was thirty yards out. I just turned and lashed the ball and it flew into the top corner.
What about penalties?
I used to pick a spot in my mind of where I wanted to put the ball and I would never change my mind. The worst thing is to walk up there and change your mind. Even before the match I would make up my mind. I was very successful at penalties. I don't think I missed many.
What was Alan Buckley like?
His knowledge of football was good. He loved playing football, he wasn't a manager who would boot it up top. If you watch his teams, they always play in a certain style and I think that's what suited me at Grimsby - especially the strikers because he liked us to get it into feet and play off each other. Alan Buckley used to love his teams to play good football. He got you fit, he worked you hard and he demanded 100%. Looking back I have a healthy respect for him.
Was there a particular team, defence or players you used to like to play against?
As a striker you do come up against teams that you score against all the time, and you get other teams that despite everything, you can't score. I always used to score against Ipswich, past Richard Wright. I think I've scored more goals past him than any other keeper. Even for Charlton I always seemed to score against Ipswich. I never used to score against West Brom for some reason. Every time we've played them I don't think I ever scored.
How would you like to be remembered by the Grimsby fans?
I hope that they remember that I gave it my all as a player, I used to work hard for the team and always gave it my best. As a fan, if you're watching a player who always gives it his best then they appreciate that. I really came alive in and around the box and I used to score goals. Fans appreciate that.
Do you keep in touch with any players still at Town?
Yes, I keep in touch with Macca. John's been there all his career. He's a great professional and has done really well for the club.
Was your back injury due to the car crash you and Futcher suffered?
No it wasn't. It was just a footballing thing, like. It was nerve-related, coming from my spine and we couldn't find out exactly what it was.
So the car accident was an unrelated matter?
Yes, Paul Futcher was driving, it was in the fog and we had an accident and I got the worst of it.
Unfortunately you did suffer from a few big injuries throughout your career. If you hadn't have suffered one injury after another, how far could you have gone?
I'm not sure. I was always touted at Grimsby as a decent enough striker and while I was playing there a lot of clubs offered to buy me but in the situation that we were they wouldn't let me go. I loved playing for Grimsby, I really enjoyed it but in the end I did score 20 goals in the First Division and we got relegated, so I had proved myself. I was out of contract and I knew I was going to leave. There were a lot of clubs interested but it was just the way it was.
Are injuries just down to bad luck?
I never suffered from bad injuries, except the one at Grimsby and the one that finished us at Charlton. I always played 40-odd games every season. With the hip injury at Charlton I was fighting a losing battle.
You played under three different managers at Town. What was it like in the post-Buckley days?
In the end there was a bit of desperation with Brian Laws because we were looking like we were going to be relegated. Kenny Swain brought in quite a few strikers, the likes of Jason Lee and when you're down there the football goes out the window. He wanted to play football but in the end, if you put a big man up front you just end up hoofing it. I think Kenny Swain believed he got a raw deal and didn't deserve to be sacked.
Have you ever over-celebrated a goal, like strikers often do these days?
I've been quite boring really. I'm a bit like Alan Shearer, I just used to put my hand up and that was it. I tell you what was funny, was when we (Charlton) played against Grimsby. I got a great reception beforehand, and I scored that night and the fans were booing me after that! I didn't make a big fuss of it, I had scored at the away end and I ran to the Charlton fans and back to the half way end and I remember thinking 'oh no I shouldn't have done that'.
Have you ever made any blindingly obvious mistakes or missed an open goal?
There's one that sticks out while I was playing for Grimsby down at Southend. I remember the ball coming across the box and I was about six yards out but stretching, and I just tapped it but Roycie's (Southend's keeper at the time) raced across and kicked it out. I couldn't believed he'd saved it.
So it was a good save more than a bad miss?
No, it was a bad miss. I should have scored - 99 times out of 100 I would have definitely scored.
And you scored a couple past the same team and the same keeper in your last game for Grimsby.
Yes, I got a couple that day. I got my revenge.
Your most successful season was when Town were relegated. What did you put that down to?
It was a funny season. Every team we played we took a 1-0 lead. Every first half we played we went 1-0 up, no doubt about it. If we were playing the top team we would go one up. We were the best team in the world for throwing away leads. We'd play anybody off the park on the day, but for some reason we'd lose. We'd get beaten 2-1 or 3-1 or something like that.
There's one particular goal that sticks out in my mind and it came in the 4-3 win over Bradford at Valley Parade. Town's second goal was so obviously going to be an own goal but you raced onto it to score!
I was credited with that because I had headed it on the line. Eddie Youds watched that game and he said to me 'I couldn't believe you raced round to put it in!' But you've got to claim every goal.
Is there any part of your time at Grimsby that you would like to change?
Obviously I would have wanted to change the relegation, and the injury that I had, but apart from that I have a healthy respect for everyone who live there because they were great to me.
Were you close to signing for any other team apart from Charlton?
Birmingham wanted to sign us, Sunderland were interested in us. Peter Reid phoned us up but in the end he didn't want to pay that type of money and he signed Phillips for Â£300,000-odd.
Your in an elite group as a footballer. You have scored a hat-trick at Wembley. What was that like?
I wanted to do really well against Sunderland for not signing us and I ended up scoring a hat-trick against them. The Sunderland fans weren't too happy! I'm a Sunderland fan, it's just funny the way it worked out. Peter Reid went on record after to say it was a toss up between me and Phillips of who he wanted to sign that season. Looking back, I've done well for Charlton and Phillips has done even better for Sunderland. I scored 28 goals that season and he scored 35, but that one game we beat them I was really chuffed.
And you scored a hat-trick on the opening day in the Premiership!
I did. I played the first 18 games of that season and scored eight goals. After that I got injured, missed the rest of the season. We got relegated but in the next season I played the first 19 games and I scored nine goals. From Christmas onwards I was struggling with my hip.
Were you advised to retire or was it your own decision?
It was a medical decision. He said if I kept going I will need a hip replacement.
How many years do you think you missed out on?
I definitely had another three or four seasons in us. I was quite a fit lad and I looked after myself.
Whilst you were trying to overcome the hip injury, several sources had you linked to a loan move back to Town. Any truth in that?
That was just a rumour. It was paper-talk really.
Do you still look out for Town's results?
Yes, I've got great affection for Grimsby. I think the home form keeps them up. Not a lot of teams like playing at Blundell Park. I look for their results every week.
Has any opposing player or manager said anything that has upset you?
I remember once when I was playing for Charlton against Tranmere and we drew two each. We got a penalty, it was me who got it when the keeper came out and touched us and I went over. It was a definite penalty but John Aldridge was saying 'Mendonca's experienced and he's cute.' basically slagging us off. Headlines in the paper the next day were 'Mendonca's a cheat' and I didn't like that. I mean, I always thought I was a bit of a gentleman on the pitch. I'd let defenders kick the s**t out of me and I would take it as a compliment.
Did Charlton offer you a role as coach after you decided to retire?
They wanted us to be the youth team coach with the under 17s and under 19s but I couldn't accept it because I wanted to move back up north. I've got my house up for sale.
Have you got any aspirations to become a manager or coach?
I'm enjoying life outside of football. There's no substitute for playing football but I'm not too bothered about coaching. I'm quite happy to live a normal life now!
What about being a TV pundit?
Ah, well. It's my accent, isn't it?
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- Slipped Through the Net
- Slipped Through the Net: Clive Mendonca
- Slipped Through the Net: Wayne Burnett
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