Roy McDonough holds a footballing record unlikely ever to be beaten. Playing in the rough and tumble of the lower leagues in the seventies and eighties he was shown the red card an astonishing 22 times. For Roy the early bath was an occupational hazard. Though he insists the litany of brawls and flying elbows that makes up his disciplinary record was entirely a function of self-defence.
“I ain’t being funny, it was self-preservation,” he says, speaking at his home on the Costa del Sol. “I never set out to hurt anybody. Never once entered my head.” He pauses for a moment.
“Well, except that time with Tony Pulis, the Welsh t—.”
His altercation with the now Middlesbrough manager came when Roy was playing for Southend. He and Pulis, then an uncompromising midfield enforcer with Newport County, had squared up in the previous league game, a face-off during which, Roy claims, Pulis had spat at him. In the dressing room before the rematch, Roy had warned his manager Bobby Moore that there may be trouble ahead.
“I said to ‘Mooro’: ‘He’s going to get one, the gobby Welsh get’. And Mooro – who was an absolute gentleman – said: ‘Roy, son, don’t let me down. We need 11 out there. Whatever you do, please stay on the pitch’. I said: ‘you can trust me boss’. I was out there for all of seven minutes. Opportunity came too early. The ball was about neck high, and I kung-fu kicked him. Even in them days, when you could pretty much get away with murder in the first 10 minutes, I had to go. Lucky I didn’t take his head off. Mind, it was worth every penny of the £100 fine.”
It is safe to say that they do not make them like Roy McDonough anymore. As he enjoys a second career as a salesman of Spanish property, Roy’s tales of punch-ups and pint-swilling are another world from our current sanitised football climate. It is unlikely, for instance, in these days of sparkling water, cryotherapy units and mobile phone cameras, that any current player would become renowned for an ability to down a pint in six seconds while standing on his head. But that was Roy’s party trick.