WTTGT caught up with double winning Arsenal captain, Frank McLintock this week to find out more about football during his spell, to see how it differs from today’s era.
The Premier League season has just started and the players would have endured a tough pre-season, what was a typical pre-season for you?
It was very similar to now. It’s more scientific now and more tested but we had some very clever people with us. Professional runners would come and give us training sessions. If we didn’t have a midweek game a runner would come in and do 800m, four forties, two twenties, 160 yard sprints; we got timed on the clock and the next week you would try and beat it.
We done interval running around the pitch, sprinting half then jogging then sprinting. During pre-season we did cross country running which was difficult because as a footballer you’re not used to it. When you have to go up farms and hills it’s not what you’re used to. Bob McNab, Bob Wilson, they could do five miles and not be out of breath. I did well, was always in the top group, but some would be stranded miles behind.
Nutrition is a big part of today’s game, how was it during your time playing?
It changed as I got older. When I started it was steak. Not a big, fat steak, but a slim steak with a slice of toast. Later on, when Bertie Mee came in, he was into the dieting stuff. We had scrambled eggs and fruit, peaches in the tin with lots of sugar in them. I think it’s over emphasised, if you look at Shankley’s teams, they were the fittest in the land. When you played against Liverpool you would think there were 30 men on the pitch.
Also, I cannot remember in 19 years of playing, ever being given a bottle of water. Yet, it’s so important now. I played over 700 top flight games without being given a glass of water; doesn’t that make you think they push things too much now? Players like Johan Cruyff smoked 30 cigarettes a day but could still play today because he was a phenomenal player. The effects of your diet come 15-20 years after not at the time of playing.
Tell me a bit about the worse facilities you came across.
When I first went to Leicester at 17, we trained in the car park! Ten-a-side in the car park, we used to fall over and get cut and bruised. I still used to slide tackle, we were so tough in those days. They’re mamby-pamby nowadays. My mother used to scrub my knees with Dettol to try and get rid of the dirt and grit.
What kind of manager was Bertie Mee?
Very disciplined! Bertie Mee came in after Billy Wright and we were totally surprised; we still regarded him as a physio. We thought we would get Don Revie or Alf Ramsey but Bertie Mee turns up, 5’6, and a little bit overweight. Even as a physio he was extremely disciplined. He would bring you in at nine in the morning so you would catch all the traffic and not let you leave until five, so you caught it again. It made you not want to be injured because you were there all day. He wouldn’t give you tea or let you read the papers. He told you who you were, who you played for, and how you should represent yourself.
With the Fabregas saga of this summer, what did being captain mean to you?
I remember Arsène Wenger saying ‘there’s no such thing as a captain being born, they’re made’ but he’s talking rubbish there. Every captain who was regarded as a good one was captain from 8, 9, 10-years-old. Always the same players would be at the front of a team photo because they have the desire, usually better than other players, you can’t sit back and say nothing, you have an opinion and what things changed. You don’t think ‘oh better not say that,’ it takes over you. You’re a natural captain without even thinking.
I never thought about it, never thought I am captain of Arsenal Football Club, I would have done it at 17. I did that at Leicester. I arrived at 17 in the first-team. We got beat one day 3-1 against St Mirren and I was furious. I told the first-teamers how out of order they were and what they’d done wrong. Looking back, it was probably a bit cheeky! I didn’t care how many games they played, if I thought they were going wrong I would tell them.
Was wages more important that winning or was winning the ultimate for you?
We weren’t interested in the money so much because it wasn’t there. We got double the working man’s wage which sounds good but you only have a career of around 12 years and you get less and less as you get older because you go down from division one to the second division. It wasn’t great money at all, it was all about winning.
What was it like winning the double?
I played every league game, cup game, league cup, every pre-season game and then three internationals. It was my 79th consecutive game and I was absolutely exhausted. We won the start of the double at Tottenham on the Monday and I felt fantastic. I then went to the football writers’ dinner to receive the Footballer of the Year award on the Thursday and didn’t get home until midnight - I never slept well. We then played in front of 100,000 and the temperature was 100 degrees on the pitch and the game went to extra time.
I was playing against John Toshack, 6’0 tall and trying to win headers, when we won I was so tired, the feeling I had at Tottenham wasn’t there. I was exhausted so much that I never enjoyed it. I couldn’t give another ounce. I had a few drinks to try and cheer myself up after the game. I knew we had won the double which was terrific but to this day I never got the wonderful feeling I should have; I was just exhausted.
What did you do during the off-season?
I’d go out jogging to try and keep fit. I was a fitness fanatic! Your body needs rest and we had six weeks back then but you don’t want to go from high to low. I played golf and still do, I love golf. I also had 4 kids so was always on the go. They all played football so on weekends we were like a taxi service my wife and I.
I used to go about with George Graham a lot. George Armstrong lived 20 yards from me so we saw each other all the time. I saw the players during the off-season; we would maybe go the pub on the weekend.
WTTGT Writer: Reiss Silva