Alan McInally’s time at Aston Villa was short but sweet.
The Scottish forward stayed for only two seasons after signing from Celtic, but he helped the club gain promotion to the old First Division before scoring 14 goals in his lone campaign in the top tier.
In the latest instalment of ‘Every Picture Tellls A Story’, McInally picks out his favourite photos from his playing career and his subsequent time in the media.
Celtic’s Green And White
I’d been at Ayr United which was my home club and there were a couple of teams interested in me but my dad (who was a player too) said to me if I did enough I could go wherever I want afterwards – I was only 20 at the time. I could have gone to Rangers or Celtic, but Celtic came first. I spoke to David Hay and I liked what he said. That’s how I ended up there. I had three great years there - I won the cup, the league and played with some terrific players. Playing in Europe at Parkhead is something you never forget. And, obviously, the Old Firm games. I don’t care what anybody says; all over the world, there is nothing like an Old Firm match. Nothing remotely like it. It’s such an anticipated fixture and I was really fortunate to play in a couple and actually score in one as well.
Claret And Blue Move
The problem about the Villa move for me was that they had just been relegated and I didn’t want to leave Celtic at that particular time: Maurice Johnstone had gone to Nantes and Brian McClair had gone to Manchester United and that left me on my own as the only striker. At that time, I was 23/24 and Graham Taylor had just got the job. He’d tried to get me to go to Watford prior to him getting the Villa job. Once I’d spoken to him and seen Bodymoor Heath and the stadium, he said he really wanted me and they wanted to go up that season. There was Gordan Cowans, Garry Thompson – we played up front together and took the division by storm – Allan Evans was there, ‘Spinksy’ was still in goal, Stuart Gray had arrived too, so we had a good, attacking team. I decided I’d make the change and we managed to get promotion. Millwall won the league but we were second. We had 10/12 away wins that season and were really strong.
Back In The Big Time With Villa
I scored another 24 goals that season and it was fantastic. I knew Villa were a big team, but I hadn’t realised the size of the support that they had. I grew up with Wolves and West Brom being big teams - as well as Villa, obviously - but I didn’t realise how massive the support was at Villa. It was brilliant because we did so well. I’ve always loved it ever since. Now I’ve always thought that was the right time for me to leave Celtic. Graham Taylor wanted me to come to Villa, I started the season well and I knew I’d made the right decision.
On The March With The Tartan Army
I’ll be indebted to Graham Taylor for the rest of my life because although I was in-and-around the national squad while I was at Celtic I was never quite there. It wasn’t until I got to Villa where we were doing well that I got the call-up to go to the World Cup in 1990. Graham was hard on me, but he knew I’d just try harder. I quite liked someone asking questions of me and I liked to prove people wrong. I knew I was good he just liked to tell me I wasn’t as good as I thought I was! I roomed with Ally McCoist at Italia ‘90. He was a top player at Rangers at the time. The first game we played against Costa Rica, ‘Coisty’ wasn’t playing: it was myself and Maurice Johnstone up front and Coisty was doing the crossword the night before the game. I had to remind him that I had a game tomorrow and told him to put the light out. Then I got injured in training and couldn’t play against Sweden but Coisty still wasn’t playing. Then Ally – love him to bits – came into the room, threw me a newspaper and said “here, you can help me with that crossword tonight!” There was always fun to be had but of all the things that happened to me in football, getting beaten by Costa Rica 1-0 in that first game, where they were much better than we thought they were, was the only one I could look back on and be disappointed.
European Giants Come Calling
At the time, Graham had said that he wasn’t selling me to another club in England and I didn’t want to go to another club in England. He’d said to me jokingly that unless a big club in Europe came for me then I can go. That’s when Bayern Munich came in for me. Two people went abroad that year – I went to Bayern and Chris Waddle went to Marseille at a time when it wasn’t known for people going abroad. And it was very hard to leave Villa because if I’d stayed, I think we’d have had a better chance of winning the league. But it was difficult to turn down a team like Bayern Munich. I remember one of my first training sessions, Sepp Maier was taking the goalkeepers and Gerd Muller was doing the strikers and I thought that was incredible. This was my first game at the Olympic Stadium against Nuremburg. A Bavarian derby; we won 3-2 and I scored two goals. I’d played against Dortmund in the Super Cup and scored so let’s just say I got up and running pretty quickly in Munich.
Success With A World Class Team
Winning the Bundesliga was fantastic. We should have won the Champions League twice but got beaten in two semi-finals, once by AC Milan on away goals and once by Red Star Belgrade after extra time. We’d have won that final, no problem. I won a couple of things in Germany but the whole experience of learning a new language and living abroad was fantastic. In 1990 Germany won the World Cup and there were seven or eight players from that side playing in the Bayern first team so to say we were a strong team was an understatement. I’ll never forget we had an open day that some football clubs have in England now. 25 years ago, clubs in Germany used to have this regularly and 30,000 turned up at the training ground on one occasion! There was beer and chicken and pretzels - they watched us train and I thought “this is really different” but it was an eye opener. I moved at the right time, the only problem was I picked up an injury two years later and that finished me.
Sky’s The Limit
At the time of my injury, Bayern were brilliant to me. I was trying to get fit again. They wanted me to stay and gave me every opportunity, but my knee wasn’t the same after a few operations. Sky, in their infancy, had got the Bundesliga rights and had asked me to come and do some TV work. They flew me in from Munich on a Saturday evening, recorded on the Sunday and the programme went out on a Monday night. I did that for about a year, then once we decided that I wasn’t going to continue my career, I was going to move back home. At that time, Soccer Saturday started with George Best, Frank McLintock, Rodney Marsh, Clive Allen, Phil Thompson and myself. That was about 16 years ago now and from those tiny acorns, Sky liked me and with my experience playing it became a permanent thing. I’m still there which is incredible.
Voice Of The Ballon d’Or
My voice is on the EA Sports FIFA games. They held a FIFA Interactive World Cup so, for two or three years. I introduced everybody to the world’s press at the event in Switzerland. We did a mock game – the winner of the FIFA tournament played Alessandro Del Piero –and I did a mock commentary on the game. I actually interviewed Jurgen Klopp one year on stage while he was still at Dortmund. My Sky TV work has taken me into even more things and, with me being fluent in German, it’s helped me do other stuff like this. The only thing Sky won’t let me do is any Villa games – they say I’m too biased plus the crowd still sing “Spinksy and Birchy, Alan McInally!”