Hanging Up Your Boots | John McAlle

Wolves’ Hall of Fame defender, John ‘Scouse’ McAlle, talks about life after football once he had hung up his boots.

How did you feel after retiring?

I knew I was approaching the end of my career because when you reach 31, 32, you start thinking about what you are going to do for another job. It’s a funny life being a footballer, because it was all I’d known. I first came to play for Wolverhampton Wanderers when I was 15, when I was an apprentice, and it was strange because I’d left home so early and went to live with a landlady opposite the police station in Dunstall Road, and because I’d come from Liverpool, I wondered if that was why they put me down near the police station! I’d met my wife, Jill, here and we got married when we were 18, and my life was great, I was getting paid to play football – I would have played for Wolves for nothing! But then all of a sudden it goes ‘bang’, and it stops and you have to find a job.

How did you replace football in your life?

I always had an interest in gardening. I had a nice garden and liked to look after it, so when I was retiring from football, I got a job at Bonningale Landscapes, out near Albrighton, and I started to work in the professional side of it. A year later, I went on my own and I was lucky enough to go over to the Merry Hill Shopping Centre and I got a job there where I landscaped the whole of the Merry Hill Shopping Centre, which was fantastic. It took me 15 years to complete that job. Straight out of football I went into gardening and then 15 years later, I had a good business which was thriving and allowed me to retire at 55. That gave time for my wife, my daughter and I to go on holiday and we really enjoyed ourselves. I’ve almost been retired 20 years now and I don’t know where the time has gone – it’s gone so quickly, but that’s because I’ve lived a great life.

Did it take time for your life to adjust?

I found it quite easy. I knew I had to get a job because football didn’t pay much back then. I had a pension scheme with the Professional Footballers Association and I used to put as much money away as I could into this scheme and I was very lucky to have this as I’m still earning from it now, that helped keep me in good stead. You’ve got to have a bit of luck and I got a lot of luck, but I appreciate what I’ve got and what the game has done for me.

What did you miss most about football?

It was just getting the chance to play a game for a living which you loved to play. Playing with a load of great guys your own age and have fun. There was nothing better than that. I played 508 games for the Wolves and about 60 odd for Sheffield United and Derby County, and it was just a fabulous life. Especially when you get to go to America, New Zealand and Australia like I was able to do. I would never have been able to go to any of those places if I hadn’t been a professional footballer.

Do you still watch and follow football?

I always look at the scores. The first score I look for is Everton and as long as they’ve won, I’ll be happy. Then I look for the Wolves, as well as Sheffield United and Derby County, but Everton is my team and they always will be. The last game of my Wolverhampton Wanderers career also came against Everton. I love Everton and it’s great to see both Everton and Wolves doing well in the Premier League now. I’ll be at the game today, and I’ll be taking my grandson because he is a massive Wolves fan, through and through, so I will be rooting for both teams – I’d love a draw!

Do you still catch up with your teammates?

As part of the Former Players’ Association, we meet up quite a lot, because most of the players from my era all still live around this area. It’s great to be able to join up and see them every few months. There are times when I can’t make it, but I do try to come to as many of the FPA events as possible, but we’re always talking on the phone and meet up at some of the pubs out in the countryside. 

If you could play again now, would you?

100 per cent. Although I was a defender and I won the ball, I tackled and liked to win the ball back, I feel I could do just as good in this game of football as I could in my day. Saying all that, I love the life I’ve had, and it’s been there and done. I was born in 1950 and I came right up through the ranks with the Wolves, I hated school, I loved playing football at school, and it’s been magic. I’ve never looked back. I’ve had a great life.

What do you hope you’re remembered for at Wolves?

I never think of being remembered. I love Wolverhampton Wanderers, I loved playing for this football club, and I look out for the results and always want them to be in the top division, as I do Everton. All of us as players are individuals, we’re all different, and I just enjoyed being able to play football for a living.

This article originally featured in Wolves' official 2023/24 matchday programme. Last season's programmes are still available to purchase online through retailers Curtis Sports

Old Gold #Summer2024