Intervju med David White
Catching Up: David White – The uncut version of interview published in the November2008 issue of the City Magazine.
A legend of the late eighties and early nineties, City Mag catches up with David White – something the majority of defenders couldn’t do during his playing days
Interview: Steve Worthington & Fisher King
CityMag – As a former professional football player; I wonder how it is for you to watch a game now. Are you as passionate as the supporters?
DW – To be honest, I’ve hardly been this season at all. When you’ve played the game, something disappears. You look at it in a totally different way. You struggle to reach the highs and lows like a normal fan would. You try and sit back and keep a level head because the adulation is not you. There’re times when I can get frustrated, but I don’t think you can ever feel the same way as a fan. I go and enjoy the games, but I just enjoy them as a spectator and I can enjoy watching the other team just as much as City. I love to put on a headset and listen to all the games from all divisions on the radio, and I’m quite happy choosing that over going to the stadium.
CityMag – Do you think the game has changed much since you stopped playing?
DW – I actually don’t think it has. I think it’s fair to say that the skill level has been fantastic but I think some of those times have come and gone and it’s now about individual players. There’s no doubt that the game has got a lot more professional. The major difference is maybe the fitness level; it seems players that get injured now recover a lot quicker. The longest I was out at City was 6 weeks with a broken collar bone. I actually came back in a Manchester derby, and it was too early for me. I don’t think that would have happened today, your body is in such good shape throughout the season and the fitness level they build throughout the season makes them able to come back sooner and regain fitness after an injury. It’s also the way they train when they’re out injured.
CityMag – Do you have any comments on your four goals against Villa?
DW – It was just one of those nights. It could have happened on any given night, but it doesn’t. You get a couple of early goals and that gives you a bit of confidence. One of the things about me was that if I got an early goal, I was a miles better player. Quinny was on fire, and I seemed to get to the end of everything he was flicking on. Later on in the game, I got my third goal; I think my fiftieth for the club and my favourite all-time goal for City. It was the manner in which I scored it, a side foot bending shot, something that I had been practising for hours and hours whenever as a kid, it was like my trademark in training. To score that goal simply made all the hard work worthwhile.
CityMag – Until recently, you were the last player capped for England that came through City’s youth system. Now we’ve had SWP, Joey Barton, Micah Richards and Joe Hart who all played for England. What do you think of City’s youth set-up at the moment?
DW – I don’t know City’s set-up intimately. I think the important thing when you have your academy and bring your players through, is you give them a shot at it. Maybe they should have done it a little bit more, but they’ve certainly brought some fantastic players through recently. At one time there were about 6 lads in the team that had come from the youth ranks, which included winning the FA youth Cup in 1986. Within 6 months of that victory we were all in the first team. The big problem was that although we were all good young players, there were too many of us too soon. We weren’t in the team because we were better than what was already there. We were there to complement the team. They were very experienced players, but with all respect, they didn’t manage to bring out the best of the new raw material. We went down to the second division, and that’s where we learned our football. We won a lot of games, a couple of us scored a lot of goals and we went on from there. You’ve got to give these young lads a chance, and that seems to be happening at the moment. And that’s good!
CityMag – And that takes us straight to the Huddersfield game!
DW – Paul Simpson on the day was just unbelievable on the left. And it was just one of those days when everything seemed to be going down our left hand side. Andy was playing fantastic as well. They had a few shots early on, but I got an early goal. Next thing I know we’re 10-nil up! They were just playing this stupid offside trap that didn’t work for them and after I just sort of belted in the ninth, the crowd kept asking for number 10! I got the tenth by beating their offside trap again. I think I was still in my own half when I started running at the goal. This was not the FA cup-final or anything; it was a game in the second division. But still, at any level of football, I think 10 goals in a match is a great achievement. It’s not something many are ever able to accomplish in senior football. To be involved in that for my hometown club and get the 9th and 10th goal is something I’ll always treasure.
CityMag – Could you say anything about how your time at City came to an end? Personally, I would have liked to have had you longer there!
DW – Looking back, whatever I would have done, I was in a mess with my ankle, much more than I knew myself. At the time I was just getting a lot of discomfort, it’s something every player has and you go and have a little cleanup operation. I think we finished 9th in my last season, not a disaster by any means. We were only a couple of wins from finishing 5th again. At the time, the whole Peter Swales thing was going on because of all the stick he was getting, which I personally think was totally ridiculous. I was the PFA rep, and I remember a strike once regarding TV-money about how much the clubs should give their players in wages. I remember Peter Swales called me and said “You need to talk them out of it” and I said “What do you mean?” “Well” he said, “it’s just ridiculous”. At last, football has got some money coming in and the PFA is trying to make us give all the money to the players. He said, you will benefit eventually, but right now the football club needs this money. In hindsight it was probably one of the most sensible things, although I didn’t feel like it at the time.
I think the whole thing with Peter Swales troubled me. I think he was a great guy. Everything he said has been proven right in terms of players ending up with too much money. All this money is coming into football, and it’s only really now that football clubs have benefited properly from that. It’s because you’ve got players who would be quite happy earning ten grand a week which is a fantastic wage for anybody, now earning twenty, thirty, forty grand and it’s simply totally disproportionate to what they do. I earned good money, but the right money, certainly nowhere near five grand a week. Back to the money that’s now coming into the game, just about now the levels start to justify paying your average players 10-15 grand a week possibly. I’ve got no problem with the superstars making money through merchandise and advertising. That’s been a problem, and that was what Peter Swales was trying to avoid. I’ve got thirty trucks running around Manchester and if Coca Cola came to me and said, we will pay you a thousand pound a week per truck to advertise, I’d say that’s great! And if I were to give it all to my drivers, that’d be just stupid. That’s what’s actually happened in football.
In the end I think he (Peter Swales) just lost it, and I think it was all down to the poor treatment from the fans. I didn’t like that. I wasn’t really getting backed, I wasn’t playing well and when Brian Horton came, and said something like this is a four year job I thought, well hang on a minute, twelve months ago we finished 5th in the league.
When I left City, Brian Horton came in and I had a chat with me, I told him that I didn’t think I should be there anymore. It didn’t feel right, and I just hated the way Francis Lee became chairman. I don’t think he wanted it, but the fans had this massive wave of optimism. Why was he made chairman? I could never understand it. I just didn’t like a lot of the things going on. I’ve read in a couple of books what the deal could have been when I went. The offer they had on the table for me was actually miles away from what they eventually accepted for me, and I’m pretty sure it’s right. When Brian Horton did the deal in the end, he swapped me for David Rocastle, if he had done it a month before, they could have had both Rocastle and money. He wouldn’t speak about it in November, but come December he had to do something. In the meantime I had been out 5 weeks injured. I had 4 ankle operations in the next 3 years, and that was it really.
CityMag – Who was the best manager you had?
Howard Kendall was fantastic, Peter Reid was very good, Brian Horton was okay. Kendall was the best manager I ever had. He was tactically very knowledgeable, kept things very, very simple. He was a strict disciplinarian without you knowing he was, in terms of treating you like an adult. If you stepped out of line, you would be told but in a very respectful manner. Training was straightforward and simple. I definitely believe we would have gone on and won things if he hadn’t left.
CityMag – So who was your worst manager then?
DW – I didn’t get on with Howard Wilkinson. I was no one to him, and he was no one to me. I suppose that’s just the way it is sometimes when you’re being left out of the team. And then again, I’m probably his worst player…
CityMag – When you won a penalty at Old Trafford beating Steve Bruce in that tackle. You bent over him and said something to him. Can you remember what it was?
DW – I can picture the thing quite clearly, I’ve seen it on telly several times. But I have really no idea.
CityMag – Do you remember something about your game for England in Spain?
DW – You know its coming, the call, because obviously the England manager talks to your manager. I remember going to a match at Maine Road, and Sam Ellis called me in saying Graham Taylor’s watching you. So when the squad was announced believe it or not, a journalist told me, that’s how things happen. I scored a lot of goals, like 7, 8 or 9, and we were playing Wimbledon; early that morning a journalist called and said I’d been picked. I asked “When’s the press conference?”, it made me a bit pissed off to be told like that. Anyway, I scored a goal against Wimbledon that night, a good game which we won 1-0. It was between me, Rod Wallace and Paul Merson; only one of us could play. Then Rod Wallace got injured playing for Leeds, and as a result he never made the squad. So at training a day before the game when the team was announced, it didn’t come as a major shock. It was great to be picked. The most memorable moment was probably when the whistle went; it was like; now no one can ever take this away from me! I remember I had really good chances. The first one was the one that most people would remember and was the first kick. In the second half, the ball came out to me about 6 yards out, I caught it great, but the keeper saved it. Overall I think I did all right. For the next squad, I think John Barnes was back to fitness and I was out and that was it.
CityMag – Did they actually physically send you a cap from England?
DW – Yes, my Dad has got that and my shirt.
CityMag – So you didn’t swap your shirt?
DW – No, but they give you two kits. My Dad has got one, and the other one is in a frame at home.
CityMag – I was surprised you didn’t get more caps than you did. I think you scored 79 for City
DW – It was 96, 79 in the league.
CityMag – Were you disappointed to constantly being overlooked for the England team?
DW – There were a lot of good players at the time and I can’t really remember thinking “I can’t believe I’m not playing”. Looking back, it would have been nice to have more, but it would have been worse not to have any.
CityMag – Who’s the best player you’ve ever played with? Kåre Ingebrigtsen?
DW – (Laughing!) Tony Coton was the best keeper I’ve ever played with. Curly was the best defender, Lakey the best midfielder and Quinny the best striker. Other than that I’ve played with Alan Shearer, although I don’t remember much from that occasion. I played with Gazza for England U-21, and he was just unbelievable. McAllistair at Leeds was as good as anybody in passing and scoring. But you can’t underestimate the job that Carlton Palmer and Gary Speed did for him.
CityMag – What do you think of Lakey, were we robbed of something special there?
DW – Yes, we definitely were. He could have been fantastic. But you never know, if Paul Moulden had got injured when he was first in the team would we have been saying the same thing about him? But he definitely had the potential of being absolutely fantastic.
CityMag – What was your sweetest win, maybe the 5-1 game?
DW – You know, it troubles me a bit the 5-1 because it’s the only time we beat them. Take that 5-1 away and give me 5 victories; that would have been a lot nicer. City’s had some good results recently against them. I’d rather be in the teams now that seem to be able to compete with United, because we never seemed to be able to. The United of today is better than the United we had to deal with even though we finished above them in the league; we never seemed to get victories against them. Within two months of the 5-1 we got beat 6-0 at Derby and a week after Mel Machin had lost his job. So we couldn’t have been doing an awful lot right could we?
If I have to be dead honest, it was Bradford away. That’s probably the game that made me a premiership footballer. If we hadn’t won that game, everything could have gone so differently. It was a turning point in the career of all of us.
CityMag – So what was your worst defeat then?
DW – My last ever 90 minutes of professional football was at Sheffield United. It was the play-off final. It was like the Bradford game all over again. I was 29 and wondering, can I get myself back in the premiership with all my injury issues, and we got beat! I never played a minute of league football again.
CityMag – Do you have any regrets?
DW – The only thing I regret is not scoring a hundred goals for City. I just totally regret it. I’d be desperate to come back for nowt just to do it! Funnily enough, when they knocked Maine Road down, a lot of the old players had a game. The Nineties against the Eighties; something like that, I scored four! In hindsight, I wish I would have hung on and got those four goals! So there you go…
CityMag – What’s your personal best on the 100 meters?
DW – When I was thirteen, I did 11,37. I never timed it after that; I guess I was at my quickest around the age of 16-17. Later on, as I developed physically, I think I was a better 200 meter runner than at 100 meters. I’m certain I could have done it in less than 11,37 at my peak. Curly was miles quicker than me though, he was just unbelievably fast.
CityMag – What would it take for City to stabilize themselves amongst the top?
DW – The secret to that is a good manager, and it also takes an awful lot of money. The teams that do okay seem to have a bit of consistency. They don’t change the team a lot.
CityMag – Why does so many City-fans believe that City belong in the first half of the table, when history tells a story of a team that more often than not has finished below?
DW – I’ve never looked at it like that, but there’s obviously a period most City fans remember and that’s the 60’s and 70’s. City was consistent in that period. In the period in-between, we finished 5th a couple of times and I’m sure our fans would love that now. We don’t have a God-given right to be there. I think possibly because the fan base is there, and you know if City were among the top 6 teams, the ground would be full. But the longer we go without winning anything, memories fade and move on.
CityMag – Your thoughts on the new ground?
DW – It’s brilliant, it’s vastly different and it needed changing. Facilities are great and times move on don’t they!
CityMag – What have you been up to since you retired?
DW – I’ve messed around with a few things, but basically I’ve been here (the White Group). Even when I was at Sheffield United, I spent a lot of time here because I simply wasn’t fit enough to train. It’s a family business started by my Granddad in the forties. It’s been a limited company for fifty odd years. It started out with scrap metal, now it’s more of waste management and recycling company. I was lucky that it was here for me, because it was already here. When you finish as a footballer, you just can’t go straight into business even if you’re intelligent.
CityMag – Have you got a funny story you’d like to share with the readers of the CityMag?
DW – The funniest thing that happened when I was playing was a night we had a dinner function with Andy Hinchcliffe. When he used to get the Player of the Year ballot forms, Andy Hinchcliffe used to fill it in with all the bad players. He voted for all the crap players! It was when we were in the Premiership I think. So he starts filling in this year by filling in who he thinks is the worst left back, centre back, right back; a really crap team. He struggles to find a goal keeper though. He asks who the idiot was who played for Wimbledon against us? He said “I scored two, a penalty and one straight from the corner”. It was this guy Ron Green so he writes Ron Green on his ballot form and he’d just signed for us on loan and he was stood right next to him! He never said a word; I think he thought Andy was taking the piss!
CityMag – Thank you very much for being so generous with your time when speaking to us!
DW – You’re welcome.
© 2008 Manchester Evening News, City Magazine