The FOX interviewed Chris Garland in November of last year, here is a short extract…
FOX: You moved from Chelsea to Leicester in March 1975…
CG: Yes I had a choice of Leicester or Everton at that time. I spoke to Jimmy Bloomfield and he struck me as a nice genuine guy. Leicester reminded me of Bristol City as it was a friendly club and the Leicester people were nice and friendly. They were warm and kind, not so severe as your Cockneys. Mind you, there were six or seven Cockneys in the Leicester team at the time, and Jimmy was a Londoner. Jimmy was a good coach, he knew what he could get out of his players. It was nice of him to say he thought I was the best buy he ever made, because I kept them up! I gave them another couple of seasons in the top flight.
FOX: You once said that one of your regrets was not talking to Everton…
CG: Well, it’s just that I was always so naïve. I liked what I saw at Leicester so I didn’t talk to Everton. When I went from Bristol to Chelsea I signed a blank contract. I just signed it said to Dave Sexton, you sort it out. I was on £50 a week and then when I signed for Chelsea it went up to £80. I was happy enough with that until I found out that Peter Osgood was on between two and three hundred a week! At Leicester I was on £125 a week and I was still on that when I returned to Bristol. You used to get a signing on fee which was spread out over the years of your contract, but if you asked for a transfer then you didn’t get it. So I didn’t get it when I moved from Chelsea to Leicester or Leicester to Bristol despite Jimmy Bloomfield and Alan Dicks saying they would sort it out for me. I think from two £100,000 transfers I ended up with one and a half payments out of eight. I always took it gratefully because I loved playing the game, but I was done really. But I really enjoyed my eighteen months at Leicester, the fans were really good to me and I couldn’t say a bad thing against them. FOX: You settled in quite quickly at Leicester, you lived next door to Alan Birchenall didn’t you? CG: Yes, he’s a good lad Birch, he’s harmless really. We used to have a good social after away games. We’d usually go to Granny’s (and it was grannies I can tell you) and we would give the coach driver extra cash if he got us there quicker. If he could get us there for 10.30 instead of 11 then he was in for a good few quid.
FOX: When you arrived at Leicester they were in trouble, in the relegation zone and ten points behind Chelsea. But after you arrived things really picked up…
CG: Yes I think we drew the first couple of games against Coventry and Liverpool and then we beat Wolves 3-2 at home and I got a hat trick. Getting that win then really lifted everything and there was just a different atmosphere about the place. The only person who didn’t seem to welcome me was Len Glover. The first thing he said to me, as I walked out of Jim’s office having just signed for City, was: “You’ve just made the biggest mistake of your life.” I think he was on his way out to the States by then but I just thought, okay Lenny thanks for that, I’ll just go and prove you wrong now. I don’t know why he was like that, he was a great player at the end of his career. Anyway, I got eight goals in ten games and we ended up getting clear of trouble.
FOX: Have you ever had a purple patch like that before?
CG: I did at Bristol City when I helped them stay up. I got four goals in three games at Manchester United, Leeds and Liverpool and we stayed up. I think we needed five points out of six and we got them. It was only two points for a win then of course. It was quite a run in. I remember reading the programme and thinking: “Man United, Leeds and Liverpool… right.”
FOX: What do you remember about that hat trick against Wolves?
CG: Yes, I think the first one was from a corner, the second was a header and I think it was Keith Weller who set the third one up for me.
FOX: You also scored a hat trick for City against Sheffield United in the FA Cup the following season…
CG: Yes, I am one of very few players to have scored a hat trick in league, FA Cup and League Cup and I did mine within twelve months. I know my hit rate wasn’t that great, but hat tricks in three different competitions, I’ll settle for that.
FOX: The following season, 1975-76 we played Birmingham City at home on the opening day…
CG: Yes, I think we had gone twelve games undefeated pre-season but we then had a terrible start to the season.
FOX: City didn’t get their first win until November…
CG: Yes, we kept drawing, but a draw wasn’t such a disaster then when it was two points for a win.
FOX: You were sent off in that game against Birmingham, what happened there?
CG: It was big John Roberts, the Welsh international. He did me off the ball. I was watching the play quite a way away and suddenly he whacked me on the back of the leg. It hurt and I thought ‘Christ! What was that for?’ I had one eye on the ref when I whacked him back but the linesman saw it and I was off. We were down to ten men and it was very early in the game.
FOX: It was 3-3 in the end and it was Roberts who scored an own goal for us…
CG: Did he? Good lad!
FOX: City were down to nine men by then because Jeff Blockley was carried off after the subs had come on…
CG: That was a good point then.
FOX: By the end of the season City had pulled it together and finished 7th. How did you rate that side?
CG: It was probably the best I’d played in to be honest. There were some great individuals in that side but they also worked well as a team. We just missed out on Europe in the end, wasn’t it to do with Man United?
FOX: When Manchester United lost to Southampton in the FA Cup Final it meant they took our UEFA spot instead of the Cup Winners Cup…
CG: Oh, thanks Ossie!
FOX: Towards the end of that season City beat Leeds 2-1 at Filbert Street and Terry Yorath was sent off for throwing sand in your face, do you remember that?
CG: There was always a lot of sand at that end of the pitch and he picked up a handful. I saw him coming towards me with his fist down by his side and I thought he was going to thump me. But then he just threw this fistful of sand in my face. It wasn’t too clever. I’ve seen Terry since then and he’s been as good as gold. He never owned up to it though…
FOX: You were diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease when you were 39, when did you know that something was wrong?
CG: I used to have a bad neck for two or three years, so eventually I went to the hospital. I thought it was from heading the ball too much. I mean those leather balls used to be quite heavy when they were wet, certainly a lot heavier than the balls they use today. I went to the Bristol Royal Infirmary and I was in the doctor’s office for fifteen minutes before he said: “You’ve got Parkinson’s Disease.” He could tell from me sitting there with slurred speech and shaking hands.
I didn’t even know what it was. They put me on a load of tablets that had to be changed every now and again. They told me I would be mumbling and shuffling along and probably in a wheelchair in ten years time, but I said there was no chance of me being in a wheelchair, not if it was down to me. My kids saw me shuffling down to the shops to buy a paper like Charlie Chaplin.
After a while I was on 32 tablets a day and I was still all over the place, so I thought: “This is getting stupid.”
My wife suggested that I ring the PFA and see if they could do anything for me. This new operation had come out, deep brain stimulation, and it was being performed at the Frenchay Hospital in Bristol. It wasn’t available on the NHS so my wife Ruth kept on at John Barnwell at the PFA to see if they could help. Rang them every day she did! Christine Matthews, who had been secretary at Chelsea when I was there, was also fighting my corner and between the two of them they managed to persuade the PFA to fund the operation. That was 2006, I had a seven hour operation.
I now have a stimulator in my chest [Chris taps it and produces a knocking sound!], I have wires going up my neck under the skin which are connected to a probe in my brain. Upstairs I have something like a tv remote control which I place over the simulator and it surges through into the brain producing the dopamine which stops the shaking. It’s a vast improvement. I am more in control now. I don’t fall asleep when I’m driving down the motorway, which is a relief for Ruth. I don’t have to take Miropexin any more, which was a dreadful drug which gives you nightmares. There are several law suits underway from former Miropexin users.
I’m about 30% better than I was before the operation so it was all worth it. Though the stimulator costs £5,000 and it will need replacing in two years, so I’ve got to find that from somewhere.
FOX: Is that why you decided to have your book published?
CG: Not really, if I make any profit out of that I’ll put it into Parkinson’s research. This was quite a new operation when I had it so I feel like I’m at the forefront of it.
The book is going quite well, we launched it at Bristol City for the Forest game and the club shop shifted about 300. I’d like to thank James Ryan and Mark Leesdad for the great job they did helping me with it.
‘A Life of Two Halves – The Chris Garland Story’ – Redcliffe Press – £16.99
Photo – Neville Chadwick: http://www.chadwicksphoto.co.uk/