Interview: Former Bournemouth striker Ted McDougall

Man of many clubs ' and goals ' Ted McDougall as a Manchester United player. Picture: Getty
Man of many clubs ' and goals ' Ted McDougall as a Manchester United player. Picture: Getty
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THE former striker recalls his nine goals in an FA Cup tie, the goalkeeper who found a grenade under his cap and his joy at how the club he loved has hit the big time

From Grant Street Park, home of Inverness Clachnacuddin, football took the nomadic Ted McDougall right round the world. An epic sojourn in search of goals involved 20 stop-offs but Bournemouth must have been special, the only club to get a return visit, and he can’t quite believe that this afternoon they will officially join England’s elite.

Ted McDougall playing for West Ham, left, vying with Frank Worthington of Leicester City. Picture: Getty

Ted McDougall playing for West Ham, left, vying with Frank Worthington of Leicester City. Picture: Getty

“This is funny,” says McDougall. “I’m talking to you from Palm Coast in Florida, which is kind of where old people go to die, and that was what I thought of Bournemouth before I went there. But it was beautiful and sunny from the first time we trained on the beach and I just fell in love with the place. I’m really proud and so excited about what they’ve achieved. It’s marvellous.”

What’s also ironic is that McDougall, now 68, is once again talking about football in the same week as the prime minister with whom he shared a nickname in the 1970s – Edward Heath – has himself returned to the spotlight, albeit in a wholly unwanted way. But for Cherries fans there has only ever been one Super Ted.

“I never thought Bournemouth would get to the Premier League, not after all the hard times,” he continues. It was very nearly curtains for the club which McDougall, years before, had only joined on condition they throw in a set of new drapes. “When the old ground was broken up to raise money, I was the auctioneer. I was flogging turnstiles, toilet seats, turf – you name it. I even turned out for them when I was 50. It was a friendly against Southampton when the club were about two minutes away from shutting the doors for good. I came on near the end of the match but didn’t score. Goals were my trade and right from kids’ football in Inverness I was always annoyed when I didn’t get any. That was a nice day, Matt Le Tissier came down, and we collected a few more bob. But I had to have a word with my lads afterwards. The service up to me was deplorable!”

McDougall is a bit of a joker, as you might expect of a footballer who was in his pomp in the 1970s, such a rich era for comedy material. For a reminder of his feats – 256 goals in 535 games – check out YouTube footage of Bournemouth playing Aston Villa, who just happen to be today’s opponents. I’d never seen a player score with a diving header until McDougall hurled himself across a gluepot pitch in front of an astonishing Third Division crowd of 48,110. He says the most astonishing thing about it was him starting the move from inside the centre-circle: “I’ve no idea what I was doing there. I was a poacher. I never fetched the ball.”

Chic told me he was the unluckiest keeper in the world. One time he went to pick up the cap he wore in games and there was a grenade in it. He was attacked by a Jack Russell during a match....and a crossbar fell on his head

But his greatest deed in Bournemouth’s red-and-black stripes – the one which did most to secure him his own stand at Dean Court – was the nine FA Cup goals netted against Margate in November 1971. McDougall played alongside Eusebio and George Best in his career so can tell you stories about these two, but they really pale next to his anecdote featuring Margate’s Scottish goalie Chic Brodie. “Chic told me he was the unluckiest ’keeper in the world. One time he went to pick up the cap he wore in games and there was a grenade in it. He was attacked by a Jack Russell during a match and, just before the cup-tie, a crossbar fell on his head. We won 11-0 and to be honest I was miffed I didn’t score our other two as well. I said as much to the BBC when they eventually caught up with what had happened in the match. News travelled a bit more slowly back then.”

McDougall has had just as interesting a life away from football. The first thing he did when he left Britain for Colorado was take up skiing, which was denied him as a footballer for insurance reasons along with riding a motorbike. Did he suddenly want to do that as well? “Not while skiing, no,” he quips.

Just like in his playing days, he continued to roam: Vancouver, which he loved, and Atlanta, which he didn’t. “Then I thought I’d made it, thought I was going to Hollywood. But it turned out to be be North Hollywood, which isn’t quite the real deal.” He built houses; he used his pure Invernessian tones to teach call-centre workers how to talk on the phone. Most of these adventures were in the company of his French-Canadian wife, Lyne St-Amand.

“I always say I don’t know what happened to football in the 1980s because I was in ladies clothes. Lyne was a fashion designer. She hired me twice and fired me twice as well. It’s quite difficult going from football, which is obviously quite macho, to fashion, which is a bit more camp, let me tell you. I was in charge of these female reps and went about the job in my normal style, having been brought up in a man’s world, which is: ‘You’ve got a problem with me? Let’s sort it out’. There were lots of tears. Lyne said: ‘You can’t speak to women like that. Be nicer to them’. I tried. ‘Lovely shoes! I like your hair!’ I couldn’t help thinking that Bill Shankly had been my first boss and if only he’d been able to see what had become of me.”

McDougall, winner of seven Scotland caps, trained at Clach’s ground as a kid. “My dad, Alex, known as Ecky, had been a goalie with them, part of the 1947 team which won everything, and I remember him putting a slipper on my right foot to encourage me to kick with my left. Inverness is a beautiful place and I had a lovely upbringing. Everyone knew each other and, as they say, no one had to lock their doors. No one had any more than anyone else or any less and yet you never felt you were poor. But Dad worked on the railways and they were shutting down a lot of the lines. We moved away because he was worried about that but also, I think now, because he and Mum wanted to give me a chance to become a footballer.”

Just before his 12th birthday, young Ted swapped the clean Highlands air for the cloggy atmosphere of industrial Lancashire where his mother Cath had grown up. “You smelt Widnes before you saw it. The chemical plants dominated the town which is why the rugby league team were nicknamed the Chemics. And rugby league was very much the sport. Only the heavy kids and the ones who wore specs or those pink NHS eyepatches played football – but me being quite good at it amused the bullies at school and they left me alone.”

McDougall’s goal-hanging hit the headlines in what amateur leagues there were – which, he jokes, may not have been unconnected to the fact he’d begun an apprenticeship as a compositor with the local rag. His foreman had contacts at Shankly’s Liverpool and helped get him a trial and although he had to take his place behind Ian St John and Roger Hunt, only making one appearance as a sub, he speaks with reverence about his first mentor. “Shanks was the supreme motivator. His house overlooked Everton’s training field and he’d come over to Anfield and tell us: ‘Boys, they’re no’ fit. Their big, fat arses are ripping their shorts’.”

From Liverpool he moved on to York City who had to seek re-election both seasons he was there, and then Bournemouth, whom he couldn’t prevent being relegated to the bottom tier. Was he starting to hanker for a more secure existence – at least back then – in newspaper print-rooms? No, because he was still banging ’em in, 60-plus in those three traumatic seasons. After so much media-trained mush from the modern footballer about how it doesn’t matter who claims the decisive strike because it’s the team that matters, how refreshing to meet a goal glutton, who can recall every one, who’d shove his granny off the penalty-spot to claim another, even now.

“Then a character turned up at Bournemouth who changed my life,” he continues. “John Bond was a bit like Malcolm Allison – larger than life, flamboyant dresser, full of ideas. We didn’t hit it off right away. He told me later he thought I was trouble and wanted to sell me but by Christmas I’d scored 28 goals. I thought I deserved a wage rise because I was on £28 a week and the other guys got £35. John said he’d give me £2000, a lot of money back then, to stay until the end of the season. I finished with 49 goals and it still niggles me I didn’t beat Dixie Dean’s record of 60.”

He remained on the south coast for another campaign. How many that season, Ted? “Forty-two,” he says, which included the mauling of Margate, with that barrowload earning him a glamorous night in London for Geoff Hurst’s testimonial in the company of Eusebio, Uwe Seeler and Jimmy Johnstone. McDougall scored in that one, too, and by then a minor sensation, won a £220,000 move to Manchester United.

But this was Frank O’Farrell’s United when the Holy Trinity were reaching the end of their gloriousness. “Denis Law was my hero. I thought the world of him and he was great with me. Bobby Charlton was a strange one but Georgie Best used to get changed with me and Ian Storey-Moore in the reserves’ dressing-room – we were the only ones who went there. He was the greatest ever, as far as I was concerned, but he was starting to go missing. I remember a stop-over in Edinburgh en route to a friendly up north when a big search had to be organised. He was found in bed with two blondes. United were in transition and unfortunately I couldn’t help them.”

McDougall never had pretensions to be anything other than a goal-grabber. “I told Scotland that if I was scoring they should pick me and if I wasn’t they shouldn’t.” At next club West Ham, Billy Bonds blamed him for the goal which fired Leeds United to a romping win. “Bonzo got out of the bath and confronted me. I got my retaliation in first and smacked him. By the Monday I was gone.” Let the records show, though, that McDougall scored the Hammers’ consolation.

At York and Bournemouth, he’d enjoyed a fruitful partnership with Phil Boyer but missed him at both Old Trafford and Upton Park. “I’ll be honest, Phil did all the running and I took all the credit. So at Norwich, where I was reunited with John Bond, I told him to sign Phil.” McDougall topped the scoring charts in the First Division and finally earned international recognition, although now this ebullient character has gone all pensive on me.

“What did I feel playing for Scotland? Excitement, pride, disappointment. I loved pulling on the shirt for my debut, a friendly against Sweden, and managed to score our equaliser. I thought of my parents who’d helped me get that far. But the rest of the trip was such a let-down: just a big jolly for the officials with the players almost forgotten about.”

The manager was Willie Ormond. “We called him Donny Osmond to fit a song we made up about the backroom team: ‘There’s Hughie and Ronnie and and wee doc and Donny.’ One of my games was the 5-1 defeat at Wembley. Don Revie was the England manager and he would have had dossiers on each of us. Our team-talk from Donny went like this: ‘Right lads, I want you to get bloody stuck into them. Get right up their bloody arses. These Scotland fans will have walked eight bloody miles to get to the game because the Underground’s on bloody strike. Give them something to bloody shout about.’

“He repeated it then asked: ‘Any questions?’ ‘Yes boss’, said Sandy Jardine, the captain. ‘The lads would like to know: When are we getting our expenses sheets?’ In the tunnel I thought about Mum and Dad again. Then I thought about all the great players who’d stood there and for the only time in my career said to myself: ‘I don’t want to be here’. I was all right when I saw those 80,000 drunken Scotsmen – I was blowing them kisses. Of course we know what happened next.”

McDougall’s stint in dark blue ended in circumstances he now regrets. Asked by a journalist in Norwich if he’d be joining up with the next Scotland squad, he complained of tiredness and added: “What’s the point? We all know the press pick the team.” “It was an off-the-cuff remark but the story got relayed north and caused such a rumpus that I wasn’t picked again. I shrugged it off but as I’ve got older the fact I played for my country means more to me. My dad suffered Alzheimer’s and unfortunately he gave away my caps before he died so I no longer have them.”

With McDougall resuming his scoring exploits at club level, another old YouTube clip intrigues because he’s seen extolling the virtues of the power of positive thinking - who was doing that outside of California in the ’70s? “Well, Charlie Cooke for one. ‘Ted’, he said, ‘you’re lost in the desert. What you don’t think is: ‘I need water’. You think: ‘What a great suntan I’m getting’.” McDougall’s last great hurrah was at Lawrie McMenemy’s Southampton alongside Alan Ball, Mick Channon and Peter Osgood. “A team of rascals. First game, quarter to three, deserted dressing-room, I asked Lawrie: ‘Where are they?’ ‘Watching the 2:45 at Haydock, of course’.”

McDougall must be going. He works for GotFootball, which helps with the administration of youth football in the States and has just expanded into the UK, but right now he needs to get out of the house in Palm Coast because Lyne needs peace to paint.

“She’s given up the fashion and is now an accomplished artist. Has she ever painted me? Not yet, but her work is abstract and I’m sure you know by now that’s not a description which would apply to me.” Then he tells one last funny story after I ask about the whereabouts of Phil Boyer, who followed McDougall to Southampton as well.

“I haven’t heard from him for years – he’s a bit of a recluse. When we were a double-act I liked to carry on playing during the close season – Canada, South Africa, wherever – to stay sharp. ‘I’d love to go with you, Ted’, he said to me once. ‘Come, then’, I said. ‘I can’t – we’ve got a budgie and the wife won’t leave it’. A few weeks later he said: ‘You’ll never guess – the budgie died’. ‘Right’, I said, ‘let’s have an adventure’.

“ ‘Sorry, but the wife went straight out and bought a replacement’.”