McGarry…….A Man Not To Be Messed With

Reporter’s Insight Into Fiery Manager

Bill McGarry and Sammy Chung with Ipswich’s Second Division title-winning players in 1968.

It is as far removed as you can imagine from the game we now see dominated by press conferences, social media soundbites and live screenings…….

Football and the people in it were once much more accessible to those who wrote or broadcasted about it, as relationships with Bill McGarry clearly indicate.

We have written on here several times about how the Molineux dressing room and even the press corps found the manager something of a firebrand; a stern disciplinarian who was better not crossed.

Now we are grateful to veteran East Anglian reporter Tony Garnett for lending an ‘outside’ perspective and opening up about his memories of the man who achieved considerable success in the hot seat at both Ipswich and Wolves.

Tony is well known to us, having covered his local club’s affairs home and away for several decades going back as far as 1958. And the early part of that long service took in the culture change that struck Portman Road after McGarry was appointed in succession to Jackie Milburn and the title-winning Alf Ramsey.

“Neither Jackie nor Alf swore, so Bill’s industrial language came as a shock to the old-timers,” he said. “He ruled the players here by fear and, although his bark was worse than his bite, he was still capable of biting pretty hard.

“I recall some eyebrows being raised when we were coming home via Liverpool Street once and Bill was laying into our Scottish full-back, Joe Davin, who he accused of having a yellow streak down his back. The train had an open-plan seating arrangement, so there were general passengers within earshot as well as the players and directors.

“On another occasion, he slammed the door almost in the face of a member of the board, Harold Smith – a man who later served on the FA’s disciplinary committee. He was told in no uncertain terms that directors weren’t welcome at training!

“Bill and I had some early difficulties when he came to Ipswich and it was only when I told him I played golf that our relationship changed for the better.

“He loved several sports and later came to play cricket for my team, Saxmundham, on the Suffolk coast.

“He also told me to teach him to play squash, so we booked a slot at Ipswich Airport, where there were some courts. We don’t have an airport any more but Bill became obsessed with the game and used to take on young professionals like Mick Mills, Derek Jefferson and Colin Viljeon.

“Sammy Chung was already a good player but far too diplomatic to beat the boss.”

The managerial duo oversaw the winning of promotion from the Second Division and the bond between gaffer and reporter remained strong after the switch to Molineux in 1968.

Garnett is now 77 and still busy reporting on golf for the paper on which he was the sports editor for a time. Football no longer greatly interests him – but his memories are in the process of being converted into possible memoirs.

“When I was over at Wolves for a match with Ipswich some time in the mid-1970s, Bill invited me to his house in Tettenhall for lunch beforehand,” he added.

“Then he drove me up to the ground and poured me a whisky in his office, where we chatted over old times in Suffolk, mainly about his cricket and golf past. Football was hardly mentioned.

“He eventually said: ‘I better go to the dressing room but pour another drink for us for when I come back’. Can you imagine that happening just before kick-off these days?

Ray Crawford with Malcolm Finlayson on a trip back to Molineux in 2002.

“I regret that some of the fun has gone out of reporting football. I recall being so close to Bobby Robson that I was asked to find a phone number for the Plymouth manager, Tony Waiters, when Ipswich were signing Paul Mariner from down there in 1976.

“I also remember going to Danny Hegan’s house and asking him why he misbehaved on occasions. Jackie Milburn was still in charge and the answer I received was that he did so because the discipline wasn’t there.

“Danny was a nice enough lad but a bit uncouth and nothing like another former Wolves man, Ray Crawford, who was a tremendous player and did absolutely everything here by the book.”


Thomas Publications