Garry Pendrey Interview.

Garry Pendrey was born on February 9th, 1949 in Birmingham .  He had a long career in the game he loves, playing for and eventually managing his beloved Blues and had a long coaching career including four clubs assisting Gordon Strachen but Walsall fans of a certain age remember him as the other half of the terrific management team who, with Alan Buckley, produced teams at Fellows Park who played attacking football in the correct way and gave the fans that terrific 1983-4 Milk Cup season and narrowly missed out on promotion a couple of times. Garry takes up the story of how he made his name in the game from such humble beginnings as a youth. 'Youth!' That was a name Buck referred to in his autobiography 'Pass and Move' of his trusted no2. 


"I joined Birmingham City as an apprentice as a 15 year old and during this time I'd have to catch two buses from my house in Handsworth to St Andrews, jump in a mini van to training at Blues training ground at Elmdon and on return in the afternoon do all the menial tasks that apprentices had to do in those days like cleaning boots, moping floors seeding the pitch - the lot!  It was the norm for lads wanting to make it in the game in those days - far removed from kids starting out in the game today! "


"As an apprentice in the close season there were 10 weeks to fill and try and earn some money in the summer and I had three jobs.  I worked in a scrapyard sorting out metal and handling swarf.  I then undersealed cars and helped out in a glaziers! It was good grounding though doing all that graft as a teenager and if ever there was motivation to work hard and try and make it as a professional footballer it was that. Joe Mallett and Stan Cullis were my early managers at Blues whom I joined in 1964 and signed on as a pro two years later aged 17 and a half and as a Blue Nose myself it was an honour to play for my club. In over 15 years at St Andrews I played 360 first team games and became their youngest ever captain." 


"We had some great players there including Trevor Francis who was a brilliant young player.  Howard Kendall, Kenny Burns, Bob Latchford, Gordon Taylor so many great players.  We never made it to the top bracket in the  First Division  but produced good teams and there were was a great atmosphere inside the place with big crowds. We went up to the top division at the end of the 1971-2 season. I remember playing against Walsall in the FA Cup  in 1975 and to be fair Walsall played well that day. I played against Alan Buckley and we were team mates at Blues in 1978-9. I recall he was into cars and the Grand Prix especially."


"I had my testimonial game at St Andrews against West Brom in 1979 and a month later I joined them with Ron Atkinson signing me.  Albion of course had a great team under him with the likes of Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham, Brendon Batson , Bryan Robson, the list is endless.  I played around 30 games for them and built up a great friendship with Big Ron that's still there today and we see each other regularly still.  After leaving Albion I had spells at Torquay United and Bristol Rovers.  I was under Bobby Gould at Rovers and he wanted me to stay on as a coach there but Alan Buckley at Walsall rang me up and offered me a player / coach role there too, remembering me from our time at Blues.  So it was a decision to make between travelling down to Bristol each day or linking up with my former team mate Buck."  Saddlers fans were pleased he chose the latter as he and Alan Buckley were perfect foil for each other. Garry scored on his debut for Saddlers in an early season away game at Huddersfield and made 8 appearances in our colours before concentrating fully on coaching.


"Buck believed in total football and liked his teams to train with the ball.  He got all his footballers to play the game the right way.  For training sometimes I'd drag the roller over the area to make sure it was flat. There were times I'd have to run on the pitch with the magic sponge to treat the players. I remember running on to attend to Ronnie Green but I could see white bone sticking out so the club doctor had to take over."


"The Milk Cup season of 1983-4 saw us play some fantastic football.  The team that beat Arsenal and drew at Anfield were superb.  Its such a pity we couldn't have won promotion that season.  That really would have been the icing on the cake. There was always plenty of goals in us. Our last season saw us score goals galore and the 1984-5  season  saw us lose to Coventry in the Milk Cup but won away 3-0 which was another memorable night. In our time at Walsall we produced some great talent and Alan made terrific signings. The midfield of Mini, Shakey and Childsy was outstanding and we also had the likes of Kenny Mower, Mark Rees and Brian Caswell.  Ally Brown came in and had a great season."


"As regards our sacking, we were training on the Broadway West playing field and suddenly a helicopter lands near to were the players were training. A man in a pin stripe suit walks over to Buck and I, puts his arms around us  and says, 'Sorry lads, you've lost your jobs, Terry Ramsden has his own team.' It was as simple as that.  We both had sponsored  Montego's. Mine was red and Buck's was a white sports. The guy was keen to sell the cars for a price. Buck said,' I  can't have it, there's writing all over it, stick it up your arse!'


"After Walsall, I had the first of my two spells as coach at Wolves. The first spell I joined them around October / November 1986 when they were bottom of the old Fourth Division.  Graham Turner was manager. The board said that we can't go out of the league and made a bit of finance available. I had a phone call and a voice said, 'I bet you don't know who this is?' I did, it was Ron Jukes the old Walsall scout. They wanted to bring in a centre forward and wanted to sign Simon Morgan.  I told then I had seen this lad playing in a reserve game between Albion and Man Utd.  United won 5-1 but young Bull scored, hit the post and looked the part. Wolves took him and Andy Thompson together and their fortunes changed that by the end of that season Wolves made the play offs but lost against Aldershot."


"I got a call out of the blue in 1987 from a familiar voice - Ken Wheldon - who was by now chairman at Birmingham. 'Do you want the job, ma lad?' Do ducks swim in water! I told Graham Turner and he said, 'You've got to take it.' There was no way I was going to turn it down.  So here I was ,from a snotty nosed kid at 15 starting out as an apprentice and now I'm managing the club I love."  Garry took over at a difficult time for Blues. There wasn't much money available and there was a boardroom taker over in the background in Garry's second season.  He signed Gary Childs from Walsall who was not a regular for Tommy Coakley by that time.  He lost his job when the Kumar's took over and Dave Mackay was drafted in. Garry was offered a place in  the Mackay set up but declined the offer. Garry's assessment of his time in the hot seat at St Andrews was, "I wasn't good enough. I was used to assisting others and I knew after that Birmingham experience that I was best suited as a number two role which was what I did for the rest of my career."


"I returned to Wolves for a longer spell this time before my move to Coventry City. It was revolving doors again as manager Ron Atkinson moved upstairs to director of football and Gordon Strachen replaced Ron as manager there. Strach was similar to Buck in many ways. He wanted to play football the right way and was forthright.  We were at Coventry from 1996 to 2001 followed by Southampton from 2001 to 2004 where we reached an FA Cup final and brought Saints European football.  Then came Celtic, from 2005 to 2009. What a fantastic experience that was working in Scotland. I'd not seen much Scottish football but with Celtic every game was like a cup tie. If you scored first it was great but if you fell behind and had a decision or two go against you it was something else."


" We won the league title for three successive years, two League Cups and one SFA Cup. In the Champions League  we played in games where we defeated Manchester United and AC Milan.  After Celtic we took over at Middlesbrough after Gareth Southgate left but that was not a success and we resigned. When he landed the Scotland job in 2013 he rang me up and said he wanted me with him again but I told him no, its not for me. I have this belief where personnel in charge of national teams should be from that nation. I told him I would be a hypocrite if I came. He said he'd ring me in a couple of days in case I would change my mind but I said he could ring me in a couple of minutes if he wanted it would make no difference. John Gorman was one of the nicest men you'd ever wish to meet but a Scot working under Glenn Hoddle for England, did not seem right to me. So that was it really, my time working in football was finished."


"I have a half sized football net in my garden and seeing my grand kids playing football with their Blues kits on and their names on the back of their shirts enjoying the game gives me great pleasure. I haven't missed a Blues home game in two seasons now and I watch from an executive box. My old mate Ron Atkinson comes along sometimes and joins me. The image of Big Ron with a champagne lifestyle couldn't be more further from the truth.  He's more at home with a pot of tea! He loves football quizzes and is always coming out with some amazing stats!


Garry has expressed an interest to join us down the Railway Club in the future and it would be great to hear some stories from that wonderful time at Fellows Park in the mid 80's. What a career in football this guy had.




Garry Pendrey with Alan Buckley. What a management team at Fellows Park.