by Terry Rowley
These pages chronicle the playing legends of Altrincham Football Club. The texts have been kindly supplied by Terry Rowley, joint editor of the Robins' Review matchday programme. The profiles have previously appeared in the Robins' Review.
A true 'Alty' legend and a natural successor to previous long-time centre back Gerry Casey. Mal was a typically solid no-nonsense centre half and was the rock upon which Altrincham's defence was built. He blended perfectly with fellow centre-half John Owens to give Altrincham one of the best centre back pairings in non-league football.
He started his career by joining Port Vale in May 1967 and played 2 league games before moving down into non-league football firstly with Northwich and later with Runcorn. He joined Altrincham for the start of the 1977/78 season and made an almost instant impression. The most lasting memory will be the FA Trophy semi-final where he scored the all-important winner in the 2nd leg against his old club, Runcorn, at Canal Street. The Final saw Altrincham beat Leatherhead and Mal had an FA Trophy winner's medal in his first season. (He had also scored against Runcorn in the 2-1 FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round defeat earlier in the season). The following season he played in the 1-1 draw with Spurs at White Heart lane but missed the replay due to injury, (something that was to plague his career in future seasons). The next season saw him win the inaugural Alliance Premier League title and a League Cup finalist's medal. He also saw Altrincham through to the Third Round of the FA Cup again beating Crewe and Rotherham in the First and Second rounds before going out to Leyton Orient after a replay. Season 1980-81 saw him achieve the League and Cup double but, by this time, injuries we forcing him to miss an increasing number of games. He missed much of the 1981/82 season but still picked up a Cheshire Senior Cup winner's medal and an FA Trophy finalist's medal, playing in the 1-0 defeat against Enfield. He remained at Moss Lane for a further season and a half but his appearances became more sporadic, though he never gave less than 100% whenever he played.
He eventually moved on to Telford in 1983-84 and finished his playing career at Hyde United and finally Caernarfon. Mal cared passionately for the club, a fact shown by how, when his playing career was over, he returned to Moss lane on match days to help out in the sponsors' lounge. [Mal is now (2002) part of George Heslop's Altrincham Youth team coaching team].
HONOURS WON by Mal Bailey as an Altrincham Player
Some players have a low profile but are still remain very effective performers, Phil Gardner falls into this category. He arrived at Moss Lane as a 19-year-old, just as the double winning side was breaking up and the re-building was beginning under Tony Sanders. He was still at University when he joined Altrincham having previously been with Everton, where he had worked his way up through the junior sides as far as their reserve team. He very quickly slotted in and became the natural successor to Ivan Crossley as a 'play anywhere' sort of player. He was the ideal 'club man' that every side needs- playing wherever he was asked with no complaints and never giving less than his best. His professionalism, coupled with his friendly outgoing personality earned him the respect of fellow team-mates and spectators alike. Never a great goalscorer in his time at Moss Lane he did however score the winner in Altrincham's, 1-0 Cheshire Senior Cup victory over Runcorn in 1982. He missed out on the Wembley defeat against Enfield in the same season but made up for it by gaining a winner's medal in 1986 when Altrincham beat Runcorn 1-0. Unfortunately John King left Altrincham to manage Runcorn immediately after the final, with Runcorn's John Williams taking over at Moss lane. It was unfortunate for Phil Gardner because it became very obvious that Williams didn't see a role for Phil and midway through the season he was transferred to Northwich, moving later on to play for Harrogate Town for a number of seasons.
A great attitude and an unsung legend, but Phil is one the editors [of the Robins' Review] always remember with affection.
Paul Showler was a player who spent only one season at Moss Lane but, in that one season, he was to leave an indelible memory on everyone who watched him play. He gave a series of consistently outstanding performances that fully justify the title "legend". Paul started his footballing career in 1981 as an apprentice at Sheffield Wednesday and despite making the final 32 at England under-18 level, he was not offered a contract at Hillsborough. Following an unsuccessful trial at Sunderland (1984) he left the senior game. He first worked in the operating theatre of a busy hospital before eventually joining the police force. He returned to soccer with Bentley Victoria (84-85) and Goole Town (85-89), eventually moving to Colne Dynamos but that was to last only one season before the club folded.
John King signed him for Altrincham for the 1990/91 season and he quickly established himself as a key player in the Robins' assault on the Conference title. In the views of this author he was probably the best winger that the club has seen in this or any other era. He was fast, direct and his crossing was pin-point accurate. In a season in which Altrincham scored 127 goals, Showier was so often the catalyst, as well as scoring 13 goals himself.
His performances were so good that they earned him international recognition with a substitute appearance against Italy and a starting berth against Wales.
A disappointing series of events led to his departure to join Barry Fry at Barnet. After two seasons there he moved to Bradford City where he was again part of a promotion squad, this time going into the First Division. After three seasons he was transferred to Luton but unfortunately his three years at Luton Town were mainly spent on the treatment table but he was able to study for his physiotherapy degree at Salford University.
Paul quit playing during the summer of 1999, at the age of 33, and re-joined Barry Fry at Peterborough United. As Peterborough United's physiotherapist and over the past two seasons he has dealt with just about every conceivable injury problem and helped the club achieve promotion from the Third Division through the 2000 play-offs.
Paul never forgot Altrincham though. Whenever he was in the area he would drop by the ground for tea and a chat and he always provided something for the Christmas Draw, such as an autographed ball or shirt. He often said that his ambition, if possible, was to play for the Robins again once his professional career was over. Sadly it never came to be. He graced Moss Lane for just one season but anyone who saw that season will never forget Paul ShowIer, class act!!