Ex-Newcastle utd star Malcolm Allen reveals how booze cost him his family – and almost his life

BATTLE ... former Newcastle striker Malcolm Allen.
BATTLE ... former Newcastle striker Malcolm Allen.

IT was a historic, if almost forgotten, night at St James’s Park.

Just over 21 years ago, Newcastle United claimed their first Premier League win against Everton.

malcolm allen.JPG

malcolm allen.JPG

But more important than the three points was the belief that the victory gave Kevin Keegan’s side, the club’s fans and the city.

Newcastle, so long in the doledrums, were back in the big time.

And the man who scored the goal? Malcolm Allen.

Allen took a pass on the edge of the box with his left foot, and beat his Welsh countryman Neville Southall with a rising right-footed shot.

United were on the up.

Yet Allen – whose talent had taken him from a slate quarry village in North Wales to the bright footballing lights of the Premier League – had started on a descent which he candidly admits could have seen him lose his life.

Allen seemingly had it all that night against Everton.

But football wasn’t his only passion. His other was alcohol, and he couldn’t handle them both.

Now 47, he has opened up about his long-standing alcoholism in a documentary, Malcolm Allen: Another Chance, for Welsh language channel S4C, which is being broadcast tonight with English subtitles.

“The programme is all about a period in my life, not just my football career, when I was drinking heavily,” Allen said.

“The drinking took over the football at times, which, looking back, was sad to see.

“It started long before Newcastle. When I left Norwich, really, it started to get momentum.

“I lost my family in the end through it. It was just a sad time. I couldn’t get myself out of it – I didn’t know how to – and the drink took over.

“I never drank until I was 18 – I never touched a drop.

“I played for Watford’s first team when I was 18. I played my country, Wales, when I was 18. I did get a lot very quickly.

“I couldn’t handle that and the finances that followed.

“I mixed with the wrong people outside football, which got me into trouble further, but the main fault was the drinking. It causes you to act and think differently.

“It caused myself, and I can only speak for myself, to get into a lot of trouble.”

Allen’s life unravelled further when he was forced to retire from playing at United, aged 28, by a serious knee injury.

“I had to ask for help, and when I was at Newcastle I actually got some help from the football club, which was really, really good of them,” said Allen.

“I had some great support from the club and the fans as well.

“I made some really good friends up there. It was through no fault of theirs that I went down the path that I did.

“And the drinking gained more momentum when I finished playing.

“It was very hard for Kevin to tell me that the surgeon couldn’t do any more. That hit me hard.

“Maybe I thought football owed me a living, but nothing or no one owes anyone a living.

“I was in denial, and I didn’t do anything about it. It got worse.

“I was a binge drinker. I didn’t put it on my cornflakes in the morning.

“I just a binge drinker when I went out, and I didn’t really come home, and more times than not I spent the night in the cells.

“I had to reach the bottom before I got up out of it.

“That’s the moral I hope to get out of the story – that there is another choice or chance for people.”

Allen – who won 14 full international caps for Wales – found help in London, where he met a former jockey who had written a book on alcoholism.

“I was in London,” he recalls. “My wife had left me and my children wouldn’t speak to me. I was at my wits end. I saw an advert in the paper which said it was a disease of the brain.

“I picked up the phone to this bloke John – who wrote the book – and he answered.

“I told him my story and where I was, which wasn’t a nice place to be.

“He said ‘look, I was a professional jockey, and in the same position as you – why don’t you come and see me?’.

“I stayed there for a month and he got me to change my process of thinking. I got to understand how my brain works.

“I could turn negative thoughts into positive thoughts. It’s been a long process.”

Keegan speaks on the documentary about Allen, who he feels should have achieved so much more in his career.

“I saw in him someone like myself,” said Keegan, who signed Allen from Millwall for £300,000 in August 1993.

“I saw a guy who had been given an opportunity and you felt he really wanted to take it.

“Malcolm was the sort of guy you’d love to have as a friend, someone if you were a footballer you would like to have playing right alongside you.

“He could and should have done so much more with his career.

“It’s not just god enough to have a lot of ability and play for a big club, you know it’s how you handle that. You’ve got to get a lot of things right, and it doesn’t take much to get things wrong.”

That night in 1993, it certainly went right for Allen and United.

“It was against Everton in midweek against my old pal Neville Southall in goal,” he recalls.

“The ball broke to me, and I just managed to clip it into the top corner.

“Neville keeps saying it was a deflection, but I keep seeing him about now and I say ‘no it wasn’t!’.

“It wasn’t the first goal I’d scored against him either!

“It was great times up at Newcastle, but with the injury it was just a disappointing end on the football front. It nearly saw me go down the route which could have cost me my life.”

Allen has slowly and painstakingly rebuilt his life.

“I’ve learnt that time and love costs nothing in life, and time and love are a big part of how I’ve rebuilt my life,” said Allen.

“I didn’t make a decision overnight to do this programme,” said Allen.

“It took me a year to do the programme, and I just hope it’s a help, even if it is just for one person.”

n Malcolm Allen: Another Chance is bring shown tonight on S4C, with English subtitles, at 9.30pm.

Twitter: @milesstarforth