‘Stel Stylianou and Daniel Dwamena caught up with former Aston Villa, Rangers, Liverpool and England winger Mark Walters to talk about his career and upcoming autobiography ‘Wingin’ It: The Mark Walters Story.’’
ON ASTON VILLA’S SEASON SO FAR
It’s started slow again. Last season was worse though. This is a little bit better, but for a side that wants to go up automatically, they need to try harder. There’s pressure on them to win the next home game, fairly so. It’s really important, given the last loss.
ON STEVE BRUCE
Steve has got the experience to get them out of the Championship. He’s gained promotion at other clubs so there’s no one better to do it; however last season Villa had the biggest budget in The League. Why didn’t the players they signed hit the ground running?
A VILLA FAN FROM YOUNG TO THE DREAM SIGNING
I lived 1km from the ground as a child so was always at games (or sneaking into it with my friends haha). I always dreamed of playing for them. I played for my school team, then New Town Unity, where the manager was scouting for Villa. Aged 9/10, I was invited to training, and started playing with the Youth Team. I signed with them as soon as I left school, aged 16, but was playing for the Reserves from when I was 15 – a challenge against older footballers, but I wanted it. We’d stand behind the goals during training, chasing balls in the cabbage patch. If we didn’t get them, we were punished, made to clean boots and mud out of the changing room tiles. It kept us grounded and encouraged us to train harder to make the team; then we would have to.
‘People say you should make the big name footballers interact with the youths to keep them grounded, but actually it made some big headed.’
DEBUTING AGED 17
At that time, Villa were doing well in the European Cup. The Chairman, Doug Ellis, had recently appointed Tony Barton as manager, who wanted to rest some players in the next match against Leeds. I got my chance. I felt like I was so close to making the Cup Final squad. In reality, I probably wasn’t, but it was a big disappointment. Not giving up, I learned from it, using the experience to toughen up and try harder.
THE MOVE TO GLASGOW RANGERS
After winning the Super Cup, Villa were on a losing streak. We had a great youth side, but were too inexperienced to compete properly in The League. Relegation followed, and I was put on a week-by-week contract. It was time to move on; biding my time, I started looking for a new club.
Had it not been for injury, I’d have joined Pisa (with Paul Elliott), but it wasn’t to be.
English clubs weren’t in Europe at that time, and the draw of Rangers – who were in European competition – was attractive. Everton were also interested, but… European football… it had me. Rangers were good to me. We had some great moments. From the tea lady to the chairman, they were all very welcoming, making me feel at home at a time when I had issues (non-football related). It’s true what they say: once you play for the club, you’ll always be a Ranger.
‘At Villa I was too comfortable. To improve, I needed a challenge. Bring on one of Europe’s biggest clubs, playing alongside Terry Butcher, Ally McCoist and Ray Wilkins.’
ON RAY WILKINS
All of the English players lived nearby, so Wilkins, Spackman and I used to travel to training together. Ray was fantastic. He and his wife really helped me settle in at a very tough time. I was gutted when he passed. Everybody who came across him would say the same, a really nice guy.
ON RICHARD GOUGH
Not only good on the field, but off it too. Leading by example, he put his head in places you wouldn’t put your boot. An important player for us, if not one of the best players Rangers ever had. He played hundreds of games for the club, and always had your back. If someone got bullied on the pitch, all the lads – Gough and Butcher especially – would jump in and deal with the situation.
MO JOHNSTONE, LETTERS FROM THE KKK & BULLETS IN THE POST
We used to joke that he took the pressure off me. I got letters from the KKK. He got a bullet in the post. The club had to hire a bodyguard for him just so he’d get to training safely. He definitely was under a lot of pressure, but he let the football do the talking for him.
ON GRAEME SOUNESS
At Villa the team picked itself, with players heavily influencing the manager’s decisions. At Rangers, it didn’t matter who you were. The rules were the same for everyone. Refreshingly, Graeme picked players based on merit – it was his way or the highway. A lot of clubs today could learn a lot from that. One incident with Graham Roberts stands out. Graham had signed a new contract a few weeks earlier and during a game, we conceded goal. Souness said it was Roberts’ fault. Roberts retorted “If you think it was my fault, take me off.” So he did and you never saw Roberts at the club again.
LIFE AT LIVERPOOL
When you go to Liverpool, you want to win the league. Anything else is secondary. I had some good and bad times there. The Auxerre game special and I met some really nice people, but I have disappointments too, mainly that we didn’t win The League. I wouldn’t change anything, but looking back we should have done better.
MY RELATIONSHIP WITH ROY EVANS
Contrary to what people think, it wasn’t too bad. Ironically, when I spoke earlier about players having influence, that was Roy’s downfall. Little incidents contributed to this, like the younger lads arriving late to training, lack of discipline etc. I wasn’t playing much by the time Roy came in so, yes, he’s a nice fella, but as a player, you want to play regularly, if you aren’t why would you be happy
BEING COMPARED TO JOHN BARNES
John was a totally different player to me, but definitely the best player I’ve ever played with, perhaps even of our generation. We never compared ourselves against each other. Unfortunately, his England career didn’t go as he would have wanted, but as a man, you cant fault him. Generous, a class player and as a person he did a lot of nice things that weren’t public knowledge.
ENGLAND CAP REGRETS
Of course I wanted more England caps, but the fact that I played in Scotland (and a different league) prevented that. Graham Taylor admitted it to me. However I would never have moved clubs to play for England. To me, club football is more important. If you’re not happy playing for your club, go elsewhere. If it doesn’t work, you’ve only got yourself to blame. Playing for England wasn’t an issue; John Barnes, Chris Waddle and Steve Hodge were selected ahead of me so... I accepted it and moved on.
ON ALLY MCCOIST
The type of player who was in the right place at the right time. With the right service, he’d have scored everywhere. It’s difficult to explain to people who aren’t from Glasgow what it means to play for one of the clubs there. McCoist could achieve everything he wanted at Rangers so I knew why he stayed there for the rest of his career. I can understand why people think he should have left, but I can understand why he stayed. He broke records as a player and even managed the team.
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