When ‘The Clan’ tried to cash in

In March 1972, seven high-pro­file Lon­don foot­ballers gath­ered at a fancy eaterie to be snapped by le­gendary pho­tog­ra­pher Terry O’neill, hop­ing to ex­ploit their star qual­ity. It didn’t quite go to plan

FourFourTwo - - CONTENTS -

March 1972. In a plush Lon­don restau­rant, a se­lec­tion of the cap­i­tal’s finest foot­ball tal­ent meet for a photo shoot. They call them­selves The Clan. Winger Alan Ball, who had re­cently gone to Dou­ble-win­ners Arse­nal for a record £220,000 fee, is present and cor­rect in his suit­ably stylish polo neck and jacket. QPR’S for­ward Rod­ney Marsh – about to sign for Manch­ester City – is there. So too are Rs team-mates Ter­rys Mancini and Ven­ables. They’re joined by West Ham’s 1966 World Cup Fi­nal hero Ge­off Hurst, plus the Chelsea duo of de­fender David Webb and play­maker Alan Hud­son.

God­fa­ther-style, they pose for lead­ing snap­per Terry O’neill with the iconic shot ap­pear­ing in The Sun the next day.

“Foot­ballers have got to be­come more as­tute and re­alise there are a wealth of pos­si­bil­i­ties out there,” states mid­fielder Ven­ables. “The Clan hopes to ex­ploit this po­ten­tial.” At the click of the cam­era’s shut­ter, Huddy, Hursty, Bally, Marshy and friends were to be thrust into a tur­bu­lent new era of com­mer­cial op­por­tu­nity for top foot­ball play­ers.

Bear­ing in mind the heady at­mos­phere that sur­rounded the shoot – or per­haps more pre­sciently the co­pi­ous amounts of cham­pagne on of­fer – it’s un­sur­pris­ing that the ex­act de­tails re­gard­ing the birth of The Clan re­main open to con­jec­ture.

In The Mav­er­icks: English Foot­ball When Flair Wore Flares, au­thor Rob Steen wrote: “Alan Ball and a busi­ness ac­quain­tance con­ceived the bright idea of form­ing The Clan... the syn­di­cate com­prised some of the league’s no­to­ri­ous at­trac­tions with the aim to gen­er­ate ex­tra in­come from var­i­ous pro­mo­tional ven­tures.”

“It’s all a bit hazy,” Ball later said, “but I re­call see­ing Terry Mancini puff­ing on some enor­mous Cuban cigars.” Mancini did pose with a cigar, though he in­sists: “I’ve never ac­tu­ally smoked one in my life. I’m not re­ally a cigar fan.” And as for Steen’s claim that Chelsea for­ward Peter Os­good was a found­ing mem­ber of The Clan, Ball re­vealed: “Ossie never turned up for the shoot and had no in­volve­ment in it sub­se­quently.”

The idea had ac­tu­ally been con­ceived jointly, not by Ball but by the le­gendary pho­tog­ra­pher O’neill – of­fi­cial snap­per of Hol­ly­wood ac­tress Raquel Welch – and Man City man­ager Mal­colm Al­li­son, who was un­able to at­tend on the day of the get-to­gether. Both Hud­son and Ven­ables in­sisted that the gath­er­ing hap­pened at a restau­rant some­where near the King’s Road (Chelsea fan O’neill’s old stomp­ing ground), but the pic­ture was even­tu­ally taken at Ter­razza Est, near Fleet Street.

“I had never worked with foot­ballers,” re­called O’neill, who em­bod­ied Lon­don’s cre­ative spirit of that time. At night he’d of­ten so­cialise with Swing­ing Lon­don’s ‘in-crowd’ at the Ad Lib club. O’neill also snapped Hol­ly­wood A-lis­ters in­clud­ing Frank Si­na­tra and Robert Red­ford, huge pop groups such as The Rolling Stones and The Bea­tles and top mod­els Twiggy and Jean Shrimp­ton.

“In my eyes they were stars as much as mod­els and mu­si­cians,” said O’neill. “Ge­orge Best mixed with the stars from films and mu­sic, and some claimed The Clan was at­tempt­ing to cling onto Best’s coat-tails. I sup­pose there may be some truth in that, but I was start­ing to look at other ways in which I could bring out the in­di­vid­ual in foot­ballers when I took their photograph.

“The photograph came first, and then the boys looked into dif­fer­ent ways that the group could make money.”

Mancini, who made five ap­pear­ances for the Re­pub­lic of Ire­land, adds: “Some of the boys were a bit more as­tute in the com­mer­cial area, but there weren’t the ad­vis­ers to guide us back in those days. It be­gan with good in­ten­tions, but was all a bit dis­jointed.”

In fact, The Clan failed to make much money at all. “I reckon it just ran out of steam,” Chelsea mid­fielder Hud­son tells FFT. “It gen­er­ated noth­ing for any of us, but that wasn’t quite the point.”

Ball al­ways main­tained that the im­age The Clan por­trayed was paramount. “The photograph was so im­por­tant, be­cause foot­ballers were now be­gin­ning to stand out as in­di­vid­u­als and looked more into pos­si­ble spin-offs.”

As the game be­gan to en­ter the brash Tech­ni­color era, the 1970s foot­ball star flaunted his wealth.

“If you were a lit­tle bit spiky, like Bally, Marshy and I, things would come your way be­cause of it,” re­veals Hud­son. “You be­came a name. I did some mod­el­ling shots and per­sonal ap­pear­ances all over Lon­don. I’ve got no idea if I could have made any more out of it, but I en­joyed the whole thing.”

In­di­vid­ual mem­bers of The Clan, who would usu­ally get paid for their trou­ble, posed on the bon­nets of their flash new mo­tors, show­ing off the most re­cent MG on the mar­ket.

“I used to love bomb­ing around in my car,” said Ball. “A bloke I knew at a lo­cal dealer set me up, but I had to make sure that, in in­ter­views, I kept go­ing on about my brand new MG.”

“Some­times we’d let jour­nal­ists know that we were at such and such disco or casino,” says Hud­son. “It cer­tainly went down well with the man­age­ment of the bar or restau­rant or what­ever – they all loved the pub­lic­ity and would of­ten ply you with free food and drink.”

Foot­ballers’ pro­files soon be­came the ul­ti­mate ex­am­ple of work­ing men made good. “I could iden­tify with that as I had come from a very sim­i­lar back­ground,” said O’neill. “In the 1960s, the East End had taken over the West End – and why not? Foot­ballers were now show­ing that if you had tal­ent, you could do very well for your­self.”

Sev­eral mem­bers of The Clan craved the pub­lic­ity, and free en­try to Lon­don’s hotspots, more than the money. “I had quite a gung-ho at­ti­tude,” adds Hud­son, who won two Eng­land caps. “I never saw my­self as a busi­ness­man – we can’t all be like Terry Ven­ables!”

Though Ge­off Hurst and Rod­ney Marsh both had prop­erty in­ter­ests – the for­mer went on to forge a pros­per­ous busi­ness ca­reer af­ter his play­ing ca­reer came to an end – Ven­ables was the Clan mem­ber who most suc­cess­fully used his pro­file to ex­ploit all the ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­ity open­ing up to foot­ballers dur­ing the ’70s and be­yond.

“I like to ex­plore var­i­ous ideas,” El Tel re­vealed, at var­i­ous in­ter­vals a big-band crooner, nov­el­ist, board-game in­ven­tor, night­club owner and pun­dit. “Foot­ballers shouldn’t feel they are strait­jack­eted to just play­ing the game.”

As the ’70s pro­gressed, so did play­ers’ aware­ness of the many riches avail­able. Show­ing a for­mi­da­ble level of am­bi­tion, Kevin Kee­gan led the way, ap­pear­ing in Brut com­mer­cials with Henry Cooper, BP ad­verts and TV shows such as Lit­tle and Large and Su­per­stars (falling off his bike in one of ’70s tele­vi­sion’s most famous mo­ments). The Bal­lon d’or win­ner also re­leased a solo UK sin­gle en­ti­tled Head Over Heels in Love, which reached No.31 in the charts in 1979.

“I was al­ways keen to ex­plore dif­fer­ent av­enues, al­ways want­ing to work hard,” said the for­mer Liver­pool and Ham­burg for­ward. “Some of the guys ear­lier in the ’70s had dab­bled in it, and my ad­vis­ers learnt from their mis­takes.”

Oth­ers were able to ben­e­fit, too, with Kee­gan’s Eng­land col­league Peter Shilton ne­go­ti­at­ing a prof­itable boot deal with Gola cour­tesy of agent Jon Holmes. And when Not­ting­ham For­est’s Trevor Fran­cis be­came Eng­land’s first £1mil­lion player (af­ter VAT) in 1979, agent Den­nis Roach stated: “For Trevor, there are nu­mer­ous me­dia and busi­ness av­enues he might choose to ex­plore.”

Re­flect­ing on the photo shoot, O’neill said: “It was all quite in­no­cent, but it lit the blue touch pa­per.”

Thanks to this iconic pic­ture, the next gen­er­a­tion of up­wardly mo­bile play­ers in the 1970s were about to en­ter a whole new world of com­mer­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties. They haven’t looked back since.

Clock­wise from bot­tom left Mancini, Webb, Hurst, Hud­son, Ven­ables, Marsh and Ball

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