“Oh Bally, what have you done?” I muttered as I scuffed away from Fratton Park in August 1984 “You’ve replaced England’s Centre Forward with HIM!”
Those whose lives began at 40 will have already worked out the target of my dismay. The ‘youngsters’ among you are about to learn about a player whose name still sends shivers down the spine of anybody who watched Pompey in the mid-eighties.
A Replacement for England’s No.9
Mark Hateley, Pompey’s prolific striker had played a couple of games for England and as a result had been snapped up by Italian giants AC Milan for near-on £1,000,000.
Manager Alan Ball had to find a replacement and after a prolonged search eventually paid £85,000 to none other than Manchester United for a 21 year old Scot, called Scott.
Now Scott wasn’t your average promising youngster, he had already played first team football. Having debuted at 17 he had featured in nearly 40 games for United and although he hadn’t scored very often or lived up to expectations, Bally was keen to tell the press “The fans are going to love this lad.”
McGarvey’s first showing for Pompey was a pre-season kick-about against Hillingdon and Scott made a good impression by scoring twice as Pompey won 5-0. Later the same week he bagged two more against Salisbury and it appeared the mantle of Hateley had fallen on broad shoulders.
What on Earth?
As I hadn’t attended the friendlies I had to wait until the opening game of the season to see Scott in the flesh, but what I witnessed will haunt me forever.
Out of the tunnel came this blonde curly haired ‘pansy’ wearing what I recognised as a Pompey kit but it appeared that the shorts had been delicately restyled and manufactured from silk so they could be pulled up a little higher.
This bloke didn’t belong in a Pompey shirt; he belonged in a hairspray ad. In fact I wasn’t convinced this bloke was a bloke, he looked more girl (and a very ugly girl at that), but although ‘Scotty’s’ first game didn’t produce a shot on target, if he was going to score the goals we needed, did I really care what he looked like?
Call yourself a Striker?
I might have forgiven (but never forgotten) his looks and the way he minced around had he scored in his second or third or even his fourth game but I, together with the rest of the Fratton crowd, were getting restless. McGarvey wasn’t even trying and seemed more interested in the way he looked than the way he played.
Game five, then six, then seven, still no goals. We saw plenty of running his fingers through his hair, plenty of acting the part, but not a single goal. Eventually, even Bally had seen enough and he was dropped to the bench.
A substitute the following week and the next and the next and still no goals, but then, having come off the bench in his 11th game he scored! At last, he had scored!
In his next game Scott scored again and in the one after that. Three in as many games, maybe I thought, just maybe I had got this guy wrong. Maybe his curly perm is aero-dynamically designed, maybe his silk shorts put the defenders off, maybe his perfume gets up the goalkeepers nose or maybe he had just taken longer than expected to settle.
Another two against Notts. County in November took his season’s tally to five. But then he dried up. For good.
Despite featuring in 21 games he failed to score again for the rest of the season. Why on earth Bally thought this victim of Fratton Parks displeasure was ever gonna fill Hateley’s shoes I’ll never know.
A crowd pleaser? not!
The following season (during which he was loaned to Carlisle) McGarvey made just seven appearances for Pompey but managed just a single goal. He had to go, and soon.
But, a poor scoring record was not the only aspect of McGarvey’s play that frustrated the crowd that taunted him. He was a player with a ‘supposed’ reputation bought for a decent sum who hardly contributed to the game. What’s more, he didn’t seem to care.
It wasn’t just the fans who were frustrated with him either. On one occasion one of his own team mates showed his displeasure. With Pompey defending a corner McGarvey made a comment to Noel Blake that obviously upset the Centre Half. Now, some people in life you don’t mess with and ‘Blakey’ was one of them. Not liking whatever it was he had heard he promptly shoved McGarvey into the back of the net. The response from the crowd was similar to what we would have heard had Mark Hateley re-signed.
All in all, it seemed that McGarvey treated the entire club with contempt and the Fratton Faithful did not like it. His whole ‘I’m better than this’ attitude stank, but if the truth be known, he wasn’t better, and probably never would be.
On your way sunshine!
By the start of 86/87 Scott had accepted a permanent move to Carlisle where he added a further 8 in 23 to his loan stats, before he was once again moved on. This time to Grimsby.
Now Grimsby are no mugs and after 54 games netting an ‘impressive’ nine (yes, nine) goals between 1986 & 88 it was ‘officially stated’ that Scott didn’t settle into their style of play and it was time he moved on… again.
It wasn’t just us!
If the truth be known, it was hate at first sight between McGarvey and the Mariners and this is no better illustrated than by a story I came across from a Grimsby fan.
Apparently, after receiving a barracking from the crowd McGarvey walked over to them and shrieked “You come down here if you think you can do better” – whereupon of course, half the crowd made their way down on to the pitch!
So, with a blessing of ‘good riddance’ from the Grimsby fans some of whom claimed that shipping him off to Bristol City ranks alongside one of the club’s finest ever transfer coups, Scott arrived in the West Country.
One glance at McGarvey’s scoring record for ‘The Robins’ might fool you into thinking that Scott had turned the corner and become the goal machine he always thought he would be, but a conversation with my mate Sid (A Bristol City fan) tells a different story.
Apparently when McGarvey turned up at Ashton Gate the Robins fans knew that he’d had a hard time at Pompey and Grimsby but thought they’d give him the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long and most City fans quickly sussed him out.
Having watched him a couple of times Sid said it was obvious Scott didn’t want to get himself dirty and it seemed that he wanted the other players to do all of the hard work but claim the glory himself.
Sid told me that at least half of the goals Scott scored were going in anyway. Apparently, he ‘finished it off’ so often it became a real annoyance to both the players and fans.
There was one occasion, Sid recalled, where McGarvey ran up the pitch in pursuit of a goal bound ball and despite his own fans shouting at him to “leave it!” he smashed the ball into the back of the net and then, arms aloft, presented himself to the Robins fans to celebrate. Sid laughed as he told me that McGarvey is the only player he knows to have scored and then been booed by his own supporters!
I lost interest in Scott’s career after he left Bristol, but believe he went from club to club trying to establish himself as the player he so wanted to be, but never was.
20 years ahead of his time
A journalist once wrote that McGarvey was 20 years ahead of his time and although written ‘tongue in cheek’, I seriously believe the writer had a point.
The arrogance and egotism displayed by a player who never bonded with any set of fans and spent more time practising his hair-brushing than his balls skills sits perfectly with some of the prima donnas we see in the modern Premiership dressing room.
Some have said that there was nothing more positive you could say about McGarvey other than “He used to play for Man United.” Personally I wouldn’t even go that far. For me he was a big-headed, arrogant pounce who had been chewed up and spat out by a big club but was far too vain to have worked out why.
Officially the worst ever
If I need any vindication in defence of my harsh words I’ll take it from the public, in the form of an article eastneydave passed to me.
In the June 1999 edition of the football magazine 4-4-2 they featured the results of a poll in which fans of each English and Scottish club nominated their worse player of all time……
Pompey was represented by none other than Scott McGarvey. Nearly 15 years after he last played for the club.
Need I say anymore?
Written by Chix.
The views within this article are the views of the individual who wrote and submitted this piece, sometimes solely theirs. They are not necessarily shared by the Vital Pompey Site Journalists.
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