‘If Kane beats my record I will hate it’

Clive Allen be­lieves the Tot­ten­ham striker is the man to pass his 49-goal mark, he tells Jim White

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport | Football -

Here’s a pub quiz ques­tion: which are the only two Lon­don league clubs that have had no as­so­ci­a­tion with the Allen fam­ily? Be­tween the se­nior mem­ber of the clan: Les, his sons Clive and Bradley and neph­ews Paul and Martin, only Ley­ton Ori­ent and Ful­ham have es­caped rep­re­sen­ta­tion. Clive alone played for seven sides in the cap­i­tal over a ca­reer that spanned QPR, Arsenal, Crys­tal Palace, Tot­ten­ham, Chelsea, West Ham and Mill­wall.

If there was any jus­tice, when he hung up his boots in 1995 he should have been pre­sented with a sil­ver trav­el­card. But for all his peri­patetic foot­balling life, Allen is most re­mem­bered for his an­nus mirabilis at

White Hart Lane. In the 1986-87 sea­son he scored a re­mark­able

49 goals in 54 ap­pear­ances. It was a Messi-like re­turn which has not been bet­tered at any English top-flight club since. Though Allen, these days busy as a pun­dit and co-com­men­ta­tor, be­lieves it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore his record goes.

“Harry Kane could do it,” he says, speak­ing at the launch of his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy. “The year I broke the record that Jimmy Greaves held, Jimmy said to me, ‘If you do it, you’ll de­serve it’. I’ll say that about Harry. He’ll de­serve it. If he does it, in all hon­esty, I’ll hate it; it’s a record I’m proud of. But I’ll be the first to shake his hand.”

And if Kane does over­take him on the Tot­ten­ham leader board, there will be a cer­tain irony. Be­cause Allen was a coach at Spurs when Kane was first emerg­ing. He was de­puted to help the young­ster with his fin­ish­ing.

“You can’t teach in­stinct, and scor­ing is in­stinct,” he says of his as­sign­ment. “Harry had that, no doubt. He pos­sessed a real knack of be­ing in the right place at the right time. But he also had the men­tal­ity to im­prove; all I could do was ask the ques­tion of him. And he had an­swers. I have noth­ing but ad­mi­ra­tion for him. He worked tire­lessly on ev­ery­thing he knew he could im­prove.”

Not that, even with Kane’s re­lent­less drive, Allen be­lieves his record will fall eas­ily. “It will be much harder for Harry be­cause of squad ro­ta­tion,” he says.

“Didn’t hap­pen in our day. Though I re­mem­ber I got left out of our last league game of that sea­son when David Pleat [then Spurs man­ager] said, ‘I’m go­ing to rest you ahead of the FA Cup fi­nal’. I was fu­ri­ous. I could have had 52.”

That was the thing about Allen: scor­ing was his rai­son d’etre. He was go­ing to ti­tle his book, with tongue firmly in cheek, Clive Allen: He Only Scores Goals. Be­cause that was the stan­dard as­sess­ment of him in his time: he doesn’t head the ball, he doesn’t hold up play, he doesn’t run; all he does is score.

“Scor­ing is the hard­est thing to do in the game, yet it was be­lit­tled,” he re­calls. “I’d say if you score one ev­ery two games [as he did in his ca­reer], that is some con­tri­bu­tion. One of the things my dad al­ways said to me was, ‘score goals and some­one will take a chance on you’. Ev­ery team needs goals.” And yet he was con­tin­u­ally moved on, play­ing from Carlisle to Bordeaux, with most of Lon­don in be­tween. No more so than at his start when, aged 19, Arsenal made him the first mil­lion-pound teenager when they signed him from QPR. He was a Gun­ner for just over a month, never played a game at High­bury, and was moved on to Crys­tal Palace as a makeweight for de­fender Kenny San­som.

“It was bizarre,” he says of that deal. “Peo­ple who hear about it now can’t com­pre­hend it. If some­one paid what would be the equiv­a­lent these days of £50mil­lion for a teenage striker, they wouldn’t be mov­ing them on without even play­ing them.”

For­tu­nately, de­spite such a trau­matic be­gin­ning, his ca­reer picked up steam. And, as an in­vet­er­ate Spurs sup­porter, he was not en­tirely un­happy with the idea of leav­ing Arsenal. In­deed, his af­fil­i­a­tions were of­ten in ev­i­dence dur­ing his eight-year coach­ing ca­reer at Spurs. There was barely a north Lon­don derby in those days when he didn’t clash with Arsene Wenger, and he once chased him down the tun­nel af­ter the Arsenal man­ager re­fused to shake his hand at the end of a Tot­ten­ham vic­tory.

“I haven’t seen Arsene for a long time,” he smiles, when asked if the pair have rec­on­ciled. “But I have noth­ing but ad­mi­ra­tion for him as a football man­ager. Arsenal were un­for­tu­nately very good un­der him. We clashed be­cause we both wanted to win at all costs.”

The pair’s dis­putes were not un­typ­i­cal: Allen says his de­sire to win has barely dulled. Now 58, he finds it hard play­ing his two adult sons at golf be­cause these days they in­vari­ably beat him. “My wife laughs at me when I’m watch­ing the match on the telly. I’ll be up scream­ing, ‘that should have been a goal’. And she’s go­ing, ‘it’s noth­ing to do with you’. I don’t care – it should have been a goal!”

For Clive Allen, goals have al­ways been ev­ery­thing. He reck­ons he has a pho­to­graphic mem­ory of ev­ery one he scored. In­clud­ing the last, play­ing for West Ham. “That was some goal, pos­si­bly one of the best I scored,” he says. “Sadly, no one will re­mem­ber it. It was one of two goals I got in the Premier League. Yeah, I’m that old I pre­date the Premier League.”

Though there is one thing about his ca­reer that still frus­trates him: he never scored for Eng­land. As a preda­tor, he knew his chances were limited as he was be­hind Gary Lineker. “I was on the bench in an in­ter­na­tional in Spain, was in good form and thought, if I get on, I’ll score,” he re­calls. “He scored four. The one time I did put it in the net for Eng­land was against Turkey, and it was ruled out. Who’s stand­ing off­side? Gary Lineker.”

But he in­sists it was not ill for­tune that pre­cluded him from scor­ing for his coun­try.

“I wasn’t un­lucky, no. I’ve al­ways said when given op­por­tu­nity, take your chance. I did on [my] de­but for QPR, my first game for Spurs, first game for West Ham. For Eng­land I didn’t. I had five caps and didn’t score when the chance pre­sented it­self. As a fin­isher, your ca­reer is de­ter­mined by tak­ing your chances.” As Harry Kane knows all too well.

Up Front, by Clive Allen, is pub­lished today by decou­bertin Books.

Mas­ter striker: Clive Allen scored 49 goals for Spurs in the 1986-87 sea­son – in­clud­ing in the FA Cup fi­nal (bot­tom left)

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