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Brian Kidd interviewed

David Blake talks Collyhurst, cancer and cleaning boots

Published on May 7th 2013.

Brian Kidd interviewed

FOR some reason or another, House of Fraser had invited along Brian Kidd to launch their recent Menswear event.

When we used to clean the boots we’d drag them in a wicker basket all the way down the tunnel at Old Trafford. 

Possibly because he, like many other men, wears clothes. We can’t be sure, but what we can be sure of is that we weren't going to miss this opportunity to chat with genuine Mancunian footballing royalty.

An ex-United and City player racking up over 300 appearances, Sir Alex Ferguson’s old No.2, Roberto Mancini’s current Assistant Manager and just an all-round bloody nice fella.

Hello Brian, So on the theme of menswear, who would you say is the worst dressed footballer you’ve come across?

I think you’d have to go back to my United days, Steve Bruce and Pally (Gary Pallister) weren’t the best. If I had to make a choice I’d go for Pally, it was outrageous some of the stuff he use to turn up in. He was 6ft 13” as well so he was hardly model material. He should have stuck to what Denis Law did, just blues and greys. Keep it safe.

Pallister with a fashion not of his own makingPallister with a fashion not of his own making

And the best?

Think I’d have to go for Roberto (Mancini). Obviously he’s Italian so very sharp, he’s got it all. He’s just had his hair cut short today actually; it was getting a bit long.

If Roberto insisted that all of the coaching staff had to wear one of his famous blue and white scarfs on match days, would you comply?

No because I think I’d look like Steptoe wouldn't I? I just don’t think I could carry it off like he does, you've got to know your place haven’t you? Maybe the other coaching staff could but not me.

Oo iz dis Steptoe?Oo iz dis Steptoe?

You grew up in the Collyhurst area of Manchester during the 50s and 60s. Was it tough?

Well yeah, it was inner city and it was a bit tough but I think people embellish the worst elements of it. We were always brought up with manners and to respect people. I think we had a lot of empathy towards people as well. In those days, if anyone in the community had any problems then they were shared problems. People these days don’t even want to know their next door neighbour.

When I was lucky enough to get an apprenticeship at United I felt the warmth in the community, everyone wanted me to do well. Even now when you get a local lad coming through the ranks I think the crowd takes to them and tries to will them on. They see that lad as one of their own.

Do you think growing up there gave you a thicker skin?

Well, we wouldn’t be fragile coming from there. It makes you appreciate the opportunity, you feel blessed. It’s the chance to do something with your life. In those days when you left school you took on a trade. You’d become a joiner, plumber, electrician or bricklayer. I remember going down to the Youth Employment Office on Quay Street. They asked me what I wanted to be and I said a footballer. The man there must have thought I was just another big daft lad from Collyhurst.

How did your apprenticeship at United go down with your family?

They were very apprehensive to say the least. You can imagine, we had three European Footballers of the Year with George Best, Bobby Charlton and Denis Law plus loads of other star players. When you go in to that environment it’s going to be tough, you think your chances of making it are small. I actually wanted to leave at one point because I didn’t think I would be good enough to make it. I went down to ask to be released and Sir Matt Busby called me and my Dad in. I told him that I didn’t think I’d get a chance at United and he just looked at me and said, "Son, if you’re good enough you’ll make it here." He threw down the challenge, my Dad just gave me a look and I stayed on.

Did you use to muck in at United?

Absolutely, we use to clean all the boots. I had Paddy Crerand’s boots. I use to clean his shoes as well, actually I think that’s the cleanest Paddy’s shoes have been in his life. He used to give me half a crown for doing it. There’s a funny story with Paddy, his family hails from Donegal and my wife’s family are from Donegal. When I first started courting my wife, Paddy comes over and asks me if I was knocking about with one of his relations. Anyway it turned out that their mothers were cousins, I was courting one of his family. I always say to my wife Margaret, whatever you do don’t ever say you’re related to Paddy.

Paddy PowerPaddy Power

When we used to clean the boots we’d drag them in a wicker basket all the way down the tunnel at Old Trafford. We’d clean them out by the pitch and just sit on the maroon benches and daydream. We’d daydream that one day we’d get to play with all those great players’ whose boots we were scrubbing. I think that’s gone away from the game now, the kit-men do all that.

I personally think it’s good for the kids to get stuck in and help out; it keeps them grounded around the club and gives them a bit of work ethic. When I was at United we wouldn’t leave the ground until half five.

In 2004 you were diagnosed with prostate cancer whilst serving as a coach for the national team, how did that change your perspective?

Yeah, it’s nine years ago now. When I was diagnosed it was a shock because there wasn’t really anything physically wrong with me. It’s much better now because there’s much more awareness with it, particularly with men. When it happened to me the people I grew up with became more aware. They looked at me and thought I was a fit person, so they all started going to get the blood tests done. There are no guarantees with cancer though, whether you’re poor, wealthy, young or old. You just battle away and hope that things go your way. Luckily for me they did.

How tough is it being a football manager?

I think to become a successful manager you must have that tough element, definitely. There have to be no sentiments with managers. We all have to make tough tough decisions and I think that’s what sets a good manager apart. They can handle big names.

Was that the case when you worked under Sven Goran Eriksson at England?

Sven was mentally tough, very much so. He got on very well with his players as well. He had a tremendous amount of empathy towards his players and they responded to that.

Brian and Sven: Have I shown you my Jimmy Hill impression?Brian and Sven: Have I shown you my Jimmy Hill impression?

How are the preparations for City’s FA Cup Final against Wigan?

Well at the moment our priority is to nail the second spot down in the league, so that we don’t have to qualify for the Champions League. That’s got to come ahead of the final right now, we can’t take our foot off the pedal. It’s paramount that we get that second spot. We’re still very much aware of the upcoming final; it’s certainly not a gimme against Wigan, far from it. It’ll be a tough game for us.

Do you think that the significance of the FA Cup has dwindled?

Definitely, but that’s to do with all the money that’s come in to the game. If you look at the teams that could drop out of the Premier League now, it’s ridiculous the amount of money they’re going to lose. I think it has all had a knock-on effect because I honestly don’t think the best team wins the Cup anymore. You look at Manchester United, look how many times they’ve won the league in recent years, but then how many times have they won the FA Cup? The last time they did was in 2004, so that goes to show. The top clubs and managers now are looking for a run in the Champions League and obviously to do well in the League, that’s your bread and butter. But then it dilutes a bit for the FA Cup and the League Cup.

Do you find it sad that money has had this effect on the game?

Well not really because look what it’s brought. Just look at Sky, all the football that they have on, it’s a great product. I know people moan about kick-off times changing to midday or whatever. They say that back when every game kicked off at three o’clock you knew when it was on and you knew where you were. But you’ve got to think, they’ve bought the rights so they get to set the kick-off times, that’s just how it is. You can’t take the money and then not conform to it.

What about football at the lower levels? Do you think it's in good shape?

If there’s one thing I would change in football, it would be at the grass roots. You look at school football for example, at my school in Collyhurst, Nobby Stiles went to that school. Just a little city centre school in the slums of Manchester and it produced a World Cup winner and two European Cup winners. We played football, we boxed, we played cricket.

I think that because there are not as many men going in to teaching anymore, football at a school level has suffered. That’s not at all in a chauvinistic way, it’s fact, sport has been diluted in schools. It’s all well and good for you to say that you’ll pump millions in to coaching youngsters, but who are we going to coach?

You’ve got to be competitive in life haven’t you, competitive in a good way. If you don’t have that competitive aspect you’re producing fragile people and fragile players. You can’t be protected all your life, you’ve got to go out there on your own. 

David Blake interviewed Brian Kidd at House of Fraser on Deansgate Follow David Blake on twitter

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