‘I paid 82.5pc tax for most of the Seven­ties’

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Money - John Wright Mal­colm’s mem­o­ra­bilia col­lec­tion will be auc­tioned on October 23 at Stacey’s Auc­tion House in Rayleigh, Es­sex. To bid on­line go to the-sale­ and for in­for­ma­tion email: foot­ball­wanted@ vir­gin­

Mal­colm Mac­don­ald, 67, found fame as a pro­fes­sional foot­baller in the Seven­ties play­ing for Lu­ton Town, New­cas­tle United, Arse­nal and Eng­land. His pro­lific goalscor­ing (210 from 435 ap­pear­ances) earned him the nick­name “Su­per­mac”.

He has since been a foot­ball club man­ager and worked in me­dia. Now he lives in Northum­ber­land with his wife, Carol, and their dog, Billy.

Did your child­hood in­flu­ence your at­ti­tude to money?

Greatly. I lived in Ful­ham, west Lon­don, in a ram­bling semi-de­tached house and when I was 16 my father died. He’d been a self-em­ployed painter and dec­o­ra­tor and for four years had been ill with a dodgy heart.

So at 12 and the el­dest of four broth­ers, I felt it my re­spon­si­bil­ity to bring money home. I did Satur­day jobs at a butcher’s and green­gro­cer’s, and morn­ing and evening pa­per rounds for six­pence each.

I was play­ing foot­ball, but when I kept ar­riv­ing to school late be­cause of the pa­per rounds, the head­mas­ter in­structed my sports master to drop me from the first team.

So my father said he knew I wanted a ca­reer in foot­ball and ad­vised me to leave school and I did.

What was your first full-time job?

At 15, work­ing in a sports shop for £8 a week. I also played for lo­cal sides. My father died the fol­low­ing Christ­mas and I com­mit­ted to sell­ing the house and buy­ing a to­bac­conist and con­fec­tioner’s in For­est Row. I did the busi­ness han­dover and for six months ran the shop, learn­ing the or­der­ing and book­work.

I took driv­ing lessons and my driv­ing in­struc­tor, who was an ex-foot­baller, re­ferred me to a side in Sevenoaks, where I was spot­ted by Ton­bridge Foot­ball Club and signed with them.

I’d close the shop and ar­rive late for train­ing. My first pay packet was so heavy I thought there was a bonus in it, but it was £5 short and there was a wrist­watch inside. My man­ager, Harry Haslam, said: “No ex­cuse for be­ing late now, son.”

With ap­pear­ance money, bonuses and trav­el­ling ex­penses my £8 be­came £13 to £20 a week.

Are you a saver or a spender?

I spend on ne­ces­si­ties and I’m prof­li­gate in al­ways buy­ing high­qual­ity hand­made shoes.

Do you use cash, debit cards or credit cards?

All three. Credit cards I pay off at the end of each month.

Have you in­vested in prop­erty?

This is where I’ve al­ways made my money. My wife and I have a port­fo­lio of three buy-to-let prop­er­ties (to­tal value £1m) and have a rea­son­able in­come from it.

We’d have more but the exwith Chan­cel­lor added an ad­di­tional tax when you buy a sec­ond prop­erty.

Now coun­cils have sold off so much prop­erty that peo­ple have turned into buy-to-let, these in­vestors are do­ing the job coun­cils used to do: put­ting roofs over mil­lions of peo­ple’s heads, but be­ing pun­ished for it.

I know there are nasty peo­ple in the buy-to-let in­dus­try but they’re very much the mi­nor­ity.

Have you ever been ripped off ?

Yes, an un­savoury busi­ness episode in the Eight­ies when we took some­one to court three times. The judge in the High Court ripped him apart and he was banned as a com­pany di­rec­tor.

We’d done some busi­ness with him and he’d forged my sig­na­ture on all the doc­u­ments; the com­pa­nies went bust and they were com­ing af­ter me.

He’d shifted ev­ery­thing into bank ac­counts in Scot­land and you couldn’t touch it, but I didn’t lose money.

It caught me up in a hor­ri­ble whirl­wind but, for­tu­nately, I got le­gal aid.

Does money make you happy?

Not nec­es­sar­ily. What does make me happy is that my wife, Carol, and I get on won­der­fully to­gether and have been to­gether 21 years.

Have you put money aside for your re­tire­ment?

Yes but I’m not sure any­body can say they’re well-off be­cause the cost of liv­ing has risen so dra­mat­i­cally. I’ve got a cou­ple of pen­sions but they’re not mas­sive. I haven’t taken my state pen­sion: I’m leav­ing it to keep build­ing. I un­der­stand it goes up by 8pc a year.

I also have my buy-to-let in­come.

What has turned out to be your best fi­nan­cial de­ci­sion?

Buy­ing an Amer­i­can-style ranch house here in 2000.

The owner worked for a com­pany that went bust, so they had to sell quickly and I got a hell of a deal. I bought it for £230,000 and sold it five years later for £450,000.

Was foot­ball a good liv­ing?

Ton­bridge sold me for £1,750 to Ful­ham, who sold me for £17,500 to Lu­ton, who sold me to New­cas­tle. One day af­ter train­ing, the Lu­ton man­ager, Alec Stock, took me out to the cen­tre cir­cle, looked over his shoul­der to make sure we weren’t be­ing over­heard in an empty sta­dium and said: “We’re not go­ing up, which means our lit­tle club has to sell its most ex­pen­sive as­set, and that’s you, old son.”

In the last game for Lu­ton I scored a hat trick against Cardiff, and he sent me to Joe Har­vey, New­cas­tle United’s man­ager, who said: “What did you think you were do­ing scor­ing a hat trick in your last game for Lu­ton Town? Your man­ager’s been here this morn­ing, af­ter al­ready agree­ing a fee of £155,000, and put it up £10,000 per goal you scored!”

But from 1971 to 1979, when I re­tired, I was pay­ing 82.5pc tax, so even when I was on £500 a week Arse­nal I never took home more than £100.

Through­out the Seven­ties all the pop stars eloped to Amer­ica and be­come tax ex­iles, able to make mu­sic sold in Bri­tish shops any­where in the world, but foot­ball had to be played here.

What did Arse­nal pay for you in 1976?

I was with Arse­nal’s man­ager Terry Neill when he rang Lord West­wood, the New­cas­tle United chair­man who he ac­cused of twice reneg­ing on his orig­i­nal of­fer for me of £275,000.

He said: “Now, my Lord, I am of­fer­ing you pre­cisely one third of a mil­lion pounds [more than £2m to­day] and I would like an an­swer that you stick with.” And he agreed.

Club sec­re­tary Ken Friar showed me a pho­to­copy of the cheque to New­cas­tle United for £333,333.34.

I said “shouldn’t it be 33p on the end?”, but he said the chair­man had in­sisted on 34p be­cause a third of a mil­lion would be 33.3p and he wasn’t hav­ing them quib­bling that we’d done them out of a third of a penny.

What was your busi­ness in Italy?

I started a com­pany there in 1990, fit­ting premium phone lines for Tele­com Italia. I saw an op­por­tu­nity, as the Ital­ian govern­ment in­sisted its Ital­ian com­pa­nies be for­eign-owned.

I found fi­nan­cial back­ers and it took off re­ally well, but one Christ­mas the govern­ment pulled the plug, tak­ing all the equip­ment from 138 com­pa­nies.

I’d had a feel­ing some­thing was go­ing on and got £500,000 out and our in­vestors put it else­where in the world. I’d saved them half a mil­lion so they looked af­ter me quite nicely.

Do you gam­ble?

When play­ing for Arse­nal, I bought the leg of an old grey­hound.

We’d go to see him run, and the trainer would give us the word if he was in good form. So I’d have a bet and usu­ally won be­cause of this ad­vice.

Has your “Su­per­mac” nick­name helped your ca­reer?

It’s very nice but can be a weight around your neck.

For ex­am­ple, I could never be­come an in­sur­ance sales­man be­cause as soon as I’d start talk­ing about my poli­cies they’d say: “Yes, but do you re­mem­ber that game in…?”

Ma­colm Mac­don­ald said he made his money from prop­erty in­vest­ments, rather than his wages play­ing foot­ball

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