The modus operandi of Micky Quinn was to turn up at a club that was flailing and revitalise them with a shed-load of goals. With his barrelled physique stretching each jersey to within an inch of its life, a moustache straight from the Western Front, and a playing style that can generously be described as rambunctious he was a Roy of the Rovers character writ large. This abundance was extended to off the pitch with a string of incidents that included punching John Fashanu over a misunderstanding and serving three weeks at Her Majesty’s pleasure. The rest of the time was spent in the bookies.
In short he was the very antithesis of today’s bland bunch, a charismatic fan-on-the-field titan who was born to be a cult hero. The only thing he shared with your Kanes and your Van Persies was a happy habit of finding the back of the net and for Coventry, Newcastle and others over a seventeen year career Micky did that. A lot.
Now a respected pundit for Talksport and successful horse trainer Micky was speaking ahead of the Newcastle regional heat to find the ‘People’s Pundit’ championed by Carlsberg, the official beer of the Premier League.
DC: How much of your tough upbringing in Liverpool informed the type of player you were?
Coming from the city – from Everton funnily enough with me being a Liverpool supporter – it was a nice place to live. It was semi-detached and we had a bit of garden and I don’t look back as it being a negative growing up on that council estate. I just loved my childhood because all we did was play football morning, noon and night.
And we did have a very well-organised junior league which was a conveyor belt for a lot of professionals.
It was a hotbed of footballers for a while and that’s where I was picked up from. At the time an awful lot of scouts used to come down and take a look at you.
DC: With a strike-rate of nearly one in two throughout your career do you think your prolific record is somewhat under-appreciated?
MQ: I do really because I played for some good clubs but I never really played for a team that blitzed the league two or three seasons in a row or won cup competitions.
When I was at Coventry in the Premier League it was an achievement to finish in the top ten. At Newcastle they loved goal-scorers and I loved scoring goals so we went hand-in-hand. In my most prolific season up there I got 39 and the Golden Boot.
At Portsmouth we got promoted and were consistent under Alan Ball for a couple of seasons but then the chairman cashed in and we got relegated.
These are all big, big clubs but if there is one regret – apart from the money – it’s that I never played for a top four team.
DC: Are there any other regrets? And what are you most proud of in your career?
MQ: Every goal I was proud of. I scored 230+ league goals and once you join that 200 club you’re in an elite band of strikers. I scored the 2000th Premier League goal. I’m the quickest player to ten Premier League goals from their debut and the only one to score in the first six games – Aguero and Costa only managed five! My record is up there with the best.
As far as my biggest disappointment it was missing out on the play-offs with Newcastle. Guess who by? We got f***ing knocked out by Sunderland. That was my biggest low and when they did get promoted – I was in the Premier League by then – I was so jealous because of all the parties up there. It was fantastic to see and Keegan created a fantastic team.
DC: You mentioned Diego Costa there, a player with similar qualities to your own. He’s become such a Marmite figure but I’m guessing you’re a fan?
MQ: I am a fan and he’s horrible. He’s in your face and doesn’t give defenders a moment’s peace winding them up. I was very aggressive as a centre forward myself and that was my forte getting under their skin. I was just 5” 11 and up against 6” 2 centre-backs so I’d stand on their toes and give them verbals and the next minute ‘wallop’ they’ve given away a penalty or got a red card. You were doing your job professionally so I’ve got no problem with Costa. I’d knock my granny over to score a goal and that’s in training never mind a proper game and he’s the same himself, he’s hungry. I like that eye of the tiger attitude and win at all costs which is very rare in modern-day football.
DC: Of those 6” 2 defenders was there one you could never get the better of?
MQ: Those north-east battles were good and Gary Pallister at Middlesborough was always pulling your skirt and trying to wind you up. It was niggly rather than going out and having a war. It developed into a grudge and I probably should have concentrated on the football side of it rather than kicking lumps out of him.
I’d see him afterwards and we got on alright but it did get personal.
DC: How close were you to breaking into the England set-up in 1993?
MQ: I was the leading scorer in the Premier League and England were due to play San Marino. To be fair to the media they really pushed and pushed but sadly for me the wrong man was in charge in Graham Taylor. He went for Luther Blissett who was playing in Italy at the time and he partnered Wrighty.
I did come close but he chose someone he knew.
DC: Coventry fans endearingly nicknamed you ‘Sumo’ while opposition supporters never wasted an opportunity to chant about your weight. It led to you becoming a much-loved cult icon but did it ever bother you?
MQ: Nah, it’s a bit of a myth. If I was that over-weight managers wouldn’t play you and you couldn’t compete at the highest level. I certainly wouldn’t have played over 500 league games for a sustained period.
It was tongue-in-cheek a lot of it and I always got targeted because I was the leading goal-scorer in every team, the chief threat.
But I will say that Coventry kit didn’t do me any favours! It was like a cross between lycra and those Bri-nylon shirts you used to wear to school. My f***ing nipples were red raw after wearing that kit.
DC: You finished your playing career in Greece. What was it like out there? A culture shock?
MQ: No, it was a beautiful place. I was living in Thessalonica down by the marina and it was a fantastic lifestyle. The football was a culture shock because it was so boring. They took about a hundred passes before it reached the halfway line so chances were few and far between and if you missed one, f***ing hell talk about over-reaction. I mean they had three major sports papers – they were massive Thessalonica.
Their style of play didn’t suit me. They played with one up front and I’d be expected to hold it up, bring others into it, then spin around and get in the box. I’ve played with some great striking partners in my career – Paul Mariner, Mark McGhee – and they would hold the ball up which gave me license to get in the box.
But I learned so much in my eight or nine months out there.
DC: Do you wish you’d gone abroad earlier?
MQ: I do because I was a much better player when I came back. My touch improved. But I’d spent so long working my way up to the top level I didn’t want to filter back down the divisions, getting frustrated and kicking f*** out of players.
So I basically retired when I got back.
DC: Did management appeal?
MQ: I went for the Burnley job as player/manager and I got down to the last two from fifty applicants. Sadly the committee asked me about my youth policy. Well they’d just escaped relegation the season before and me being brutally honest said “I think I’d best concentrate on the first team considering how they played last year”.
They chose Adrian Heath and I think they got f***ing relegated the next season.
DC: You played in the last era where the physical side of the game was still prevalent. What’s your view on today’s bunch who fling themselves to the ground at the slightest touch?
MQ: I’m not a fan. They are so quick these days and it is tough for the referees because of how pacy it is. For me you need a midfielder to put a foot on it and slow it down for half a stride, look up and have a think a la Graeme Souness. As far as the physical side I wish a bit more of it was allowed within reason.
The diving wants banning but footballers will always push the boundaries of legality to gain an advantage. There was diving in my day and before my day but it’s the screaming and rolling around these days. You even hear it from the f***ing British players now to try and con the referee.
DC: Gary Lineker said recently that he would have a field day playing up front in the modern game. Do you think it’s easier for a centre forward today than it was twenty years ago?
MQ: Yeah in regards to getting decisions and defenders being s***-scared of tackling you I can understand what Gary’s saying. It is definitely to a forward’s advantage these days. The game is played at 100mph and it’s impossible for a defender to maintain concentration for the duration. They get a bit tired and mistakes are made which is to the forward’s advantage.
DC: Where are you guaranteed a free pint?
MQ: I’m guaranteed a free pint in Newcastle every time I go up there which is humbling. Also Ireland where my roots are three generations back. I once went to a race meeting in the middle of nowhere near to Waterford. I was a bit incognito with jeans on, three-day f***ing growth and in the middle of the crowd I was outed. It was announced on the tannoy, I was introduced in the middle of the parade ring, and ended up having lunch with the directors. I looked like a tramp! So it was a free lunch and free drinks but I was only there on a day out incognito.
DC: You have nearly 100,000 followers on Twitter and never pull any punches on Talksport. Do you think if social media was around in your playing days you’d have regularly gotten into trouble?
MQ: I probably would yeah! Not for anything too outrageous but it would have just been “Wind yer neck in. You’re representing the club”.
I like Twitter for its humour and interacting with the fans. Some take it too far and abuse you but overall Twitter is a great way for fans to air their opinion.
DC: We’re chatting today to promote the People’s Pundit campaign. Who are the pundits you personally admire the most?
MQ: I do enjoy Neville and Carragher. All I want from a pundit is that they’re honest, to the point, and they don’t hold back because they’re looking to get back into management. I never thought as a Liverpool fan that Carragher would say Steven Gerrard shouldn’t start against Manchester United. I would but that’s Jamie’s opinion. So that’s refreshing.
I think pundits have held back in the past because some networks were scared of having too strong an opinion.
The mission of the Carlsberg fan squad is to make football better for fans. That’s why, If Carlsberg did Pundits…they’d probably be just like you. Carlsberg and talkSPORT have joined forces to give one fan their big break on national radio and next Thursday sees the potential pundits face off in Newcastle. If you fancy watching our pundits take each other on, head to Centurion Bar, Grand Central Station, Neville Street, Newcastle at 8pm. Find out more at ThePeoplesPundit.co.uk #PeoplesPundit