We continue with our chat with Paul, starting with Paul’s high points with us as a player.
OK, well we’ve talked about your low points – can we focus on some of your high points. We’ve mentioned some in passing already, but can we maybe get a bit more specific? One of the things that sticks out for me is that you were the first player in an English competition, to win a match with a golden goal against Swansea in the quarter final.
Yeah it was a really wet night and we’d had a player sent off. I was put at right back where I’d never played before. I remember I played a one two with Jose and put it past the keeper to win the match. It was a good feeling, but I liked it whenever I scored. As I’d said, I used to score all the time when I was younger. I was a pretty good forward player.
I got moved and converted into a midfielder by Dave McKay because I was the best runner at the club and he needed someone like that in the middle. I’d never played there before. I hated it. I was at my best with my back toward the goal. Creating little runs etc. I was now getting the ball in the middle and expected to use it and getting kicked up the air!
When I went one on one with the keeper in the Swansea game, it was like going back to being a kid again. I was always going forward and getting shouted at to get back and keep my shape, but I loved pushing on. Of course as managers came in, they only saw me playing as a midfielder – they didn’t know I was really a forward. I fell out of love with football for a while because of playing in the middle.
Back to Swansea, I didn’t really think about it that we’d won – to be honest it doesn’t really stick in my mind like the final did.
Oh come on then, tell us about the final!
Well it had more of an impact because of the crowd and that it hadn’t been a good game.
No It wasn’t a good game you’re right.
They never are.
Well the Leyland Daf was a pretty good game.
Yeah but they aren’t often. It’s the whole occasion though. The huge pitch as well. Honestly it really does get to you. You get tired quickly, saps your energy, it’s the whole day.
It had been a long season for us too hadn’t it. We didn’t need extra time.
Yeah we had a really important game coming up on the Wednesday against Brentford. Credit had to go to Carlisle though, they organised themselves, they had a few chances and to be honest and played pretty well. They were no mugs and they were top of their league. But when I came on scored that was that, they couldn’t do anything – it was over.
Tell us about your experience of it.
Well I’d had a virus during the week and it was touch and go whether I’d play or be on the bench. I played a reserve game with Ricky on the Friday and we both come through that, I scored actually. Ricky and I then drove down together and Baz put me on the bench.
I came on with about 30 minutes to go. It’s hard to get the pace of the game. It was an amazing atmosphere and occasion. You can’t treat it as any other game with that many people. You just don’t want to get beat. We knew we weren’t playing well. Also our minds were on the Brentford game because that was more important – but we didn’t want to lose at Wembley either. But our main priority was promotion. We knew extra time wasn’t good for us.
The goal – I touched the ball in midfield and fell over as usual, it went wide and Ricky bombed forward and crossed it with his right foot which was unheard of, and I put it in the top corner. I just went crackers then, and off I went.
Go on Paul, talk us through it!
I went off on a run. When you score, it’s amazing and I just jumped over the hoardings to the fans to celebrate. I ripped my top off the fans were all cheering my top and all the photographers were all over me. I thought oh no.
It’s difficult to explain how the press are all over you. Obviously you’re playing at Wembley there wasn’t any other top games that weekend. It took about 30 seconds to think – oh no what have I done here.
All of a sudden Baz was there, shouting what have you got on – he threw a top at me and shouted cover it up you’re going to get us killed! Anyway I came out of the dressing room. All the reporters from the nationals. The mirror bloke came up to me and said could I have a few words about your tee shirt. He wasn’t impressed and gave me a lot of grief. Baz then got me away.
It was only a couple of weeks after the Cantona kick you see, they had really cracked down. There wasn’t any Premier League games – so I was the main story.
What was the thought behind it Paul?
Right, I honestly don’t know where it had come from. Players often wear other shirts under their tops to warm up before the game. That was the only shirt that was in the box. I think Pooley had worn it to warm up and it was the only one there. So I didn’t have a choice.
So it wasn’t planned?
No, I’d never seen it before, it was just in the box. The night before at the hotel, I shared room with Steve Robinson, and I said if I get on today I’m going to score. He laughed at me, but I said no really – I dreamt it. So I suppose I had an inkling that it would be a nice thing to show. But I never took it to the ground with me.
(Silly question alert!) So did you get into trouble?
Oh definitely! It was a nightmare. I had death threats from Villa fans and non Villa fans. I was getting contacted by complete lunatics from all over. I dog mess sent to me, pictures of what they were going to me. I had loads of support too – mind you a lot of them were lunatics as well!
Most of them didn’t put their addresses in, although some did and they asked for an apology. So I got a tea bag and stuck it in a card and said they can have a drink on me! I had apologised, I thought I’d have a bit of a wind up!
I had one from Yorkshire who wanted stage a pile of things for me like jumping through a paper hoop with the tee shirt slogan on it. Absolutely crackers! I’ve kept all the letters both the threats and the support. I thought it’s just gone mad.
In regard to me, we had a meeting at St Andrews and they tried to ban me. They wanted to ban me for 5 months. They had these old farts in the board room and they had all the evidence. It was like being in the Magistrates court, (I knew about them!), and I said what’s going on I only wore a Tee shirt. I was there for 5 hours and Jack Wiseman was working on them. The ban came down from 5 to 4 to 3 months. By this time I’d had enough and said just ban me, I’ve been here for 5 hours now!
In the end the club fined me 2 weeks wages and the FA fined me 500 quid and they said if I appeared in front of them again for anything they would ban me. The next game we played was Peterborough and Baz made me Captain to show me support.
At the time Paul McGrath was having his testimonial against the Blues and I obviously got banned from that! I had to have a meeting with Paul and shake his hand and publicly apologise and all of that and they sent me to Boro to play for the Reserves. It was Bizarre.
Danny phoned me up and said have you seen Heros and Villans. I said no what’s that, and he said it’s a Villa website and there are 14 pages of hatred towards you. So I joined and started winding them up and they banned me. Mind you I was a bit off the rails at the time!
Looking back though, I don’t regret it. It’s made Blues fans happy and I’m a Blues fan. I don’t particularly like Villa so there you go.
Well you certainly went to legend status in about 30 seconds!
Yeah I know. Well to be honest, I’m a season ticket holder I’ve grown up in Blues areas, I follow the Blues home and away, sitting with the fans – and that’s that. If Villa fans think I’m wrong that’s up to them – but I’m a Blues fan.
That’s what you’re known for really – but it’s a shame in some respects because you did score some really important goals for us.
I am remembered for the wrong reasons. I was often in trouble with the Police. I was a bad lad. I was often knocking about with the wrong sort and the club said I had to stop being seen with hooligan elements. But I found it tough because I grew up with them. I know I should have done, but I can’t forget where I was bought up. I always went drinking in rougher pubs. I couldn’t be one of those footballers who drunk champagne and drove in a posh car. I drove a battered up Rover and drunk in rough pubs. It’s who I am.
Looking back maybe I should have broken away. Maybe I would have had a better career. The club tried to change but they couldn’t.
So we got promoted, the other highlight must have been the Huddersfield game.
Yeah that was amazing. I came off the bench again and put us 2 up and they scored late on. It was brilliant that day – with us doing the double. We were moving forward. Of course next season we didn’t start too well and Baz got the push. He wanted to sign Marcus Stewart who was knocking in the goals. If he’d been given the opportunity to sign 2 or 3 more quality players I think we’d have done all right. Actually I think David Sullivan has gone on record saying that they got rid of Baz a season too early. We needed to refresh the squad and they didn’t finance it.
I think they used Barry actually. They knew he’d get us up and then they thought they would get higher profile manager so they sacked Baz and bought Trevor in.
Before we talk about Trevor, do you have a Bazza story?
We were playing Palace away, Bazza’s first away game I think. We were staying in a hotel. Anyway, he’s gone through the team and and there was silence. He said what’s the matter. Well you know so and so – he’s not here he’s injured. Oh **** said Bazza, that’s that ****ed then! So then he said, right I don’t want anyone back until 06.00 in the morning I want you to go out on the beer. I said I can’t do that, if I go out I won’t come back at all. I said to Daishy to tell him. Daishy said yeah he’s right – he has to stay here. In fact I’ll stay with him. So me and Daishy had about 6 pints of Guinness in the bar!
So tell us about your experience of Trevor.
Trevor was the strangest person you’d meet. Knew his players and knew his tactics about the game and so on, but NOT a man manager. Hadn’t got a clue. That’s where he failed. If you’re not a man manager you won’t get on in football.
You’ve got know how to deal with the dressing room. The players he bought like Mike Newell, Brucie etc they had never ever come across anyone as strange as Tricky! Mike Newell hated him. Tricky, (Trevor), got the fans to turn against Newell.
We had a lovely players coach with plush seats, and Tricky Trev had a partition put in to separate himself from the players. Newell couldn’t believe it. He said to Trevor what have you done. He just said, there is no way I can play for him – what have I done signing for him. Tricky had the adverse affect on senior players.
I played 31 games for him in his 1st season. The next season I didn’t play any. I wasn’t allowed to train with the first team or be in team meetings. I was totally ostracised. It was my testimonial year and they weren’t going to let me have one. Actually they didn’t promote it. I was totally left out in the cold from being a first team player the season before.
Part of the problem was that Mick Mills and I hated each other. I lost the plot in the end, I had to get away otherwise I was going to attack him. To be honest to be at a club for 17 years from the age of 11 and then them not to even tell me what I’d done wrong – but just ignore me, he just hid.
He tried to offload me to Wolves, but I said I’m not going to Wolves on loan. I said I’d go permanently but I’m not going on loan and then coming back to Blues no way. He said you’re wrong, I said I’m not – I said I don’t even like Wolves. I said I don’t like Wolves, I don’t like Villa and I don’t like Celtic. I wasn’t going to play for anyone just for a few quid!
Scotland approached Trevor asking him to confirm that my Dad was Scottish because they were interested in me playing for them. But I didn’t even consider it. I’m a Brummie Englishman. I’d rather a young Scottish lad got picked. I said if you think I’m singing flower of Scotland at Hampden, you’re mistaken.
Tricky was gobsmacked. He said so you’re willing to turn down an international call up? I said I’ve got principles. I’m an Englishman and I’m not playing for Scotland. He thought I was mad. I told him he could think what he liked! Of course I know Devs did it – but we’re all different and I couldn’t have done it.
I was asked to play for England when I was 17 v Russia, but Blues wouldn’t let me go because they wanted me to play at Barnsley even though we were relegated already. One of the coaches said they’d never ask me again, I tried to get the club to change their mind but they wouldn’t. So that was another thing I had a bee in my bonnet about!
Going back to Tricky, me refusing to play for Scotland was another nail in my coffin however the one that REALLY put the final nail in my coffin was when Tricky invited the players and the wives to a meal. I said to him why are you inviting me when you don’t consider me part of the team? He said no I really want you to come. So I said OK.
I’d been promoting my testimonial going from pub to pub, (the club wouldn’t advertise it), of course I was pretty hacked off about that, so I had a half in each pub I went in and was completely wrecked by the time I got to the restaurant.
I wasn’t the only one, some of the others had too. Anyway, I was on the same table as Devs, who is a mate, but he follows Celtic and I follow Rangers. Anyway we’d both had had too many and started doing Celtic / Rangers songs at each other. Brucie and Ablett didn’t have a clue what was happening! We were having a go at each other – both stood on our chairs.
Next thing we know the lights go off and everyone starts singing happy birthday. Out of the double doors comes the chef with a big cake. It was Gary Ablett’s birthday. None of the players knew. The thing is the chef was wearing a Villa top. He made a bee line for me and made some comment about Villa and Blues so I attacked him. I’m chasing the chef into the kitchen.
Tricky was absolutely disgusted. At the end of the night he said right we’re off to a nightclub be have VIP passes except for you Paul. He said you’re banned from the club. So I went home. That was it I was out the door then. Devs got sold as well.
I went to Oxford on a 3 year deal. They were in the same league but got relegated the last day of the season. The decent players left and it was awful. Ian Atkins joined and we didn’t get on. I then went to Cyprus. They were absolute fruitcakes. Over there you are either far right or far left. There were all sorts of dodgy results.
I finished playing and lived in Cyprus for 2 years and then came back home. I did all sorts of jobs to get money. I wanted to get active so became a postie for a year. In the evening I did my coaching qualification and now I have bought into a coaching company and have my own now. Midland Soccer Coaching kids all over the Midlands. Got about 500 kids. I take them to the Albion academy because they get well looked after there. Blues are poor with the kids to be honest in my experience.
I think they should get ex-pros running the academies. They are run by qualified coaches who have never played professional football. I’ve never met a manager yet who has used their ideas on a pitch in a match situation. The kids aren’t taught proper ball control. Ex-pros should be encouraged more to be involved in clubs working with the kids. I’d love to do that. I’m really passionate about this.
What do you thank about this season’s performance?
Absolutely amazing. When you consider we would be happy just to stay up. It’s barmy that we’re not playing for anything. Normally we’re fighting to stay up. Since the records began we have the most promotions relegations. We’ve always had controversy whether it’s the board or mad manager like Baz and now we’re like a normal club!
This season has been fantastic I’m proud of them. Barry Ferguson has been immense. He’s been a calming influence on the midfield. I just hope they give McLeish money to spend. I don’t want us to buy superstars. Gardner is a good signing. We want players that give 100% and will fight for each other. You can’t fault the existing players.
I tell you Cameron Jerome I know his finishing is hit and miss, but he don’t half work for the side. Chucho needs someone to explain the offside run to him. The bloke just runs and runs. Actually i think if they opened up the Tilton he would just carry on running straight through it and straight through Small Heath! He’s done well but I wouldn’t pay 9 million for him.
Listen Paul Thank you so much for giving me the time. There is a lot of very interesting stuff there.
No problem mate.
Ladies and Gentlemen – Paul Tait.