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Malcolm Allen: Battling his darkest demons

3 September 2014

"My two passions in life were drinking and playing football and ultimately I just couldn't handle both."

"You know he was a little hard case, he was a man, like we all like to think we are, and so you don't go asking for help. Actually recognising that you need help in the first place – that's the biggest thing."


Those words, spoken by former Millwall manager Mick McCarthy, are an honest and endearing description of former Lions striker Malcolm Allen, who is central to an unmissable documentary which will be screened this Thursday, 4th September, on channel S4C at 9.30pm.
ne of Wales' - and Millwall's - most talented footballers over the past decades opens his heart about his drinking problems in an emotionally-charged documentary.
Mally, as he was affectionately called at The Den, was one of Welsh football’s brightest stars in the 1980s and 1990s and has been a prominent football pundit for nearly 20 years - but throughout most of this time he has been battling against his darkest demons.

The documentary Malcolm Allen: Cyfle Arall (Malcolm Allen: Another Chance) is a captivating portrayal of the 47-year-old man from Deiniolen, Gwynedd, whose love of the good life almost led to self-destruction because of his weakness for alcohol.

The programme is produced by the Rondo Media production team who made the highly acclaimed documentary film about Gary Speed on S4C two years ago.

Mally played for some of the top football clubss of the day – such as Watford, Aston Villa, Norwich, Millwall and Newcastle United – as well as winning 14 Wales international caps, before his career was cut cruelly short by a serious knee injury at the age of 28.

But as Mally's playing career went from strength to strength, he became increasingly dependent on alcohol and this had serious a impact on his personal life. His story echoes the experience of many other footballers who have been led astray by the pressures associated with being a top professional footballer.

"It was not really in my character to come clean about my problems and ask for help. I was living in a cocoon where everyone was a tough guy. We were in a world where you didn't talk about these things. I should have had the courage to put my hands up and admit that I couldn't cope any more."

"My two passions in life at the time were drinking and playing football and ultimately I just couldn't handle both. One passion took over the other," says Mally, who filmed a chunk of Thursday night's documentary here at The Den earlier this year.

Contributors to the programme include sporting stars such as his former managers Kevin Keegan and Mick McCarthy, plus team-mate Iwan Roberts and cycling coach Sir David Brailsford, who also grew up in Deiniolen. In the early days of his career, his manager at Watford, Graham Taylor, and scout and coach from Caernarfon, Tom Walley (who later went on work as Youth Team coach at the same time Mally was playing for The Lions) kept a beady eye on him.

Graham Taylor said: "There's so much in modern football that can side-track players. If you're not careful, it can turn you into a celebrity. There was always a little worry amongst us that Malcolm might be side-tracked."

The programme looks at how a young lad from a slate quarry village showed immense football talent from a very young age.

In an emotional interview with Mally and those closest to him viewers will hear how he was tempted to drink heavily and kept bad company from a relatively young age as a footballer. He concedes that this led to the breakdown of his marriage and put a strain on his relationship with his children.

"I used to keep everything locked inside until it all came out like a ball of fire, but I'm not like that any more."

But after being on the wrong side of the law a number of times, he has now turned over a new leaf with the help of his current partner, Rhian Griffiths. "What I have learned is that time and love cost nothing to anybody in life and time and love have played a big part in how I have rebuilt my life.

Malcolm Allen: Cyfle Arall

Thursday 4 September 9.30pm, S4C

English subtitles

On demand:

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