Privileged to have served at all levels

BRIAN Talbot will celebrate 20 years as a football coach and manager in July.Talbot, who attended the old Tower Ramparts school in Ipswich, joined the full-time staff at Portman Road when he was 17 and has been involved with the game ever since as a player, coach and manager.

Nick Garnham

BRIAN Talbot will celebrate 20 years as a football coach and manager in July.

Talbot, who attended the old Tower Ramparts school in Ipswich, joined the full-time staff at Portman Road when he was 17 and has been involved with the game ever since as a player, coach and manager.

The 54-year-old, who is currently coaching in Malta, where he spends about six months of the year, said: “It has been a privilege because I have been paid to play and then coach and manage.”

Talbot left Arsenal in June 1985 to join Watford, where Graham Taylor was the manager at the time.

“I have got to say Graham Taylor is a first-class man. When I first met him I had no intention of leaving Arsenal, but he had done his homework and Watford made me a good financial package which I could not turn down. He also made me captain.

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“I learnt a lot from his organisation and attention to detail in the 15 months I was there. I played 41 league games as captain, but the only problem was that I didn't like the style of play with the ball going over my head, and we agreed it was best that I went to another club.

“Colchester and Manchester United were both interested in me, but he said he could not let me go to Manchester United. Ron Atkinson was the manager there and wanted me as understudy to Bryan Robson, although I told him Robson was always injured and I would end up playing more games than him!

“Mick Mills was manager of Stoke City and I called in one night before a home game. They were bottom of the old Second Division at the time and Millsy said 'I mentioned that you are here and I have called a board meeting for after the game!' They came out at 11.15 and said they wanted to sign me.

“I had a tremendous 15 months at Stoke and we went from bottom to fourth. We had as good a team spirit as anywhere I have been - I loved every minute of it.

“I eventually went to West Brom, where Ron Atkinson was then manager, at the age of 35. They were bottom of the league in Division Two in January and by May we had stayed up and I was player of the year and Ron had been offered a job in Spain.”

Although Colchester wanted him as player-manager, West Brom would not allow him to leave on a free transfer and on Atkinson's recommendation he was appointed caretaker manager, on the proviso he could leave when the new manager took over.

“We won the next five games and they gave me the job. By the following January we were top of the league but then sold two of our best players and got injuries. Then after 18 months in the job we lost to non-league Woking in the FA Cup and I got the sack.”

After brief spells as a player with Fulham and then player-manager at Aldershot, Talbot spent four years coaching in Malta, winning the league title with Hibernians in 1993 and 1994, before returning to England.

He was working as a coaching director for the PFA in the south east when in March 1997 he was approached by Max Griggs to coach and then manage Rushden and Diamonds, where he spent seven years that he described as good as any time he had in football.

After three near misses Rushden won promotion to the Football League in 2001 and after losing in the play-off final in their first season Talbot and Rushden were promoted as champions from the old Division Three the following season.

Talbot, who employed former Ipswich coach Terry Westley as his assistant, said: “It was a roller-coaster ride. He certainly lived the dream. I had a five-year contract and he said he would never sack me. He was a one-off. My contract was so good that when he left I went too because the new owners would not have wanted to take it on.”

Next stop was Oldham, where he succeeded Iain Dowie as manager in March 2004, before resigning a year later for personal reasons following a fine FA Cup run which had included defeating Manchester City.

Then it was Oxford United, where he signed a two-year contract before the final game of the 2004/2005 campaign, but was sacked in March 2006 when the club were 22nd in League Two and destined to lose their league status at the end of the season.

“It was certainly an experience to work for Mr (Firoz) Kassam, the chairman, but taking the Oxford job was a big mistake. It is the only job I haven't enjoyed,” he reflected.

Talbot was lured back to Malta as coach with Marsaxlokk, who won the domestic title last season and qualified for the Champions' League.

Talbot's contract with Marsaxlokk finishes in May, when he will return to spend more time with second wife Sandra and their four children - two from Sandra's first marriage - unless, of course, he is tempted into taking another job.