Manchester City legend Mike Summerbee has paid tribute to 'one of the greatest coaches there has ever been in England' following the death of Malcolm Allison.
Former Manchester City manager Allison dies
Manchester City legend Mike Summerbee has paid tribute to "one of the greatest coaches there has ever been in Britain" following the death of Malcolm Allison.
Allison, who had been living at a nursing home in Sale, England, and had suffered from dementia for several years, died at the age of 83.
He enjoyed a long and colourful career as a player, coach and manager, and is perhaps best remembered for his time at City, where he initially worked under Joe Mercer and then had two spells as manager in his own right.
Summerbee, a member of the City side which won the league title, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the European Cup Winners' Cup under Mercer and Allison after emerging from the second tier of English football, had little doubt about his standing in the game.
He said: "It is sad to lose not only a great character, but one of the greatest coaches there has ever been in this country.
"He was the best coach this country has ever had, without a shadow of a doubt. He was a great coach, a very special person and a nice man as well.
"He turned that side into a championship and cup-winning side because of the confidence he gave them and the belief he had in himself.
"He couldn't get into training early enough, and we trained in match situations.
"We worked so hard during the week that when we played on a Saturday, it was our day off. He was that good.
"He was a great character and a very sociable man. We worked hard for him and we were exceptionally fit, but we could enjoy ourselves and he went along with that.
"The club itself at that particular time came from nothing under Joe Mercer and Malcolm and became very, very successful.
"It was a great era, a great period in the history of the club. He was a special, lovely man."
The flamboyant Allison will be remembered off the pitch for his trademark cigar and fedora.
However, Summerbee and his former teammates will instead recall his talent for preparing players both physically and mentally.
He said: "I would say his major contribution was he brought the fitness levels up to what they are today, and that was in 1965-66. He was a forerunner for what we have today.
"He lifted the fitness levels of players, and he knew the game inside-out. He could change a game without writing it down on a piece of paper. But also, the players on the field could change it without looking over to him.
"He gave us a football brain and if things weren't going right, we could change it ourselves because he made sure we had football brains. He had a wonderful character and that spread right through the side."
Dartford-born Allison, who had a lung removed in 1957 after contracting tuberculosis, began his playing career at Charlton, but made his name as a defender at West Ham, for whom he made 255 appearances in two spells at Upton Park.
Hammers chairman David Gold told the club's official website, www.whufc.com: "The club offers its sincere condolences to his family and friends.
"He was a great footballing man who I admired as a youngster. He was one of those great characters in football. In a way, he was at the beginning of big personalities in football.
"I have great memories of that time. It was a great side under Ted Fenton and it all really started then. It was that philosophy that started this amazing West Ham way."
Allison's interest in the coaching side of the game began at Upton Park, and was fostered in non-league football and then at Plymouth before he was appointed as assistant to Mercer in 1965.
His time in sole charge of the club either side of spells at Crystal Palace and Plymouth was less successful, and he also took charge at Middlesbrough and Bristol Rovers, as well as Galatasaray and Sporting Lisbon abroad, before effectively retiring from the game.