Big interview: Marcus Stewart – the man with the woolly gloves and shedloads of goals!
- Credit: PA Archive/PA Images
Marcus Stewart will always be remembered for two things with Ipswich Town fans... Shedloads of goals and a pair of woolly gloves! MIKE BACON caught up with him...
Q: Before we start Marcus, where are those woolly gloves by the way? Don’t tell me you still put them on to go for a winter’s walk down Bristol way?
A: Ha, Ha, No. Mike, I don’t have them. But you are not the first person in the last 18 years to ask me. Those gloves often seem to come back to haunt me. People love reminding me of them.
I must admit I look back at pictures of me with them on and cringe a little. But I enjoyed wearing them. That’s a bit of my personality I suppose, being a bit different.
Q: Did you ever think the wearing of a pair of gloves would become such a fashion statement? How did it start?
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A: Well, I just did it mainly because I hated wearing long sleeve shirts and of course getting cold hands.
It was just my personal preference and nothing to do with effect. I felt really comfortable in them and they did a good job for me, so I was happy.
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I simply wore them to keep warm to be honest. Players still wear gloves today but the gloves they are wearing now are far more grippy than my woolly ones!
I can be a bit different at times, that’s my nature. I think I helped make the club a bit of money on the sale of gloves in the Club Shop! So that was good in itself.
Q: You arrived at Portman Road from Huddersfield. Can you remember your first day at the club?
A: I remember I arrived at the ground at night.
We drove down the driveway to the players’ entrance and I walked into George Burley’s office. But quite honestly that was about all I can remember.
I can’t even say I remember the first day’s training. Then again I have done plenty of training sessions over the years.
The one thing I do remember though is that I stood there on the night I arrived and felt ‘wow’, I’m at a club with a great history.
Did I know it was all going to work out so well? No.
To be honest it was all a bit of a risk for me as I was doing ok at Huddersfield and I know many people didn’t want me to leave, especially the fans there.
But I knew Ipswich had been pushing for a play-off final for a few years. They weren’t just pushing for a play-off spot, but pushing to get to the Premiership.
I was fully aware of that and when I did turn up the team were again pushing for promotion.
Q: It was only 75 games at Ipswich, but felt like many more. 27 goals as well. What were your favourite goals and why?
A: My two goals against Bolton in the play-off semi-final, first leg were obviously not just good goals, but so important for the team.
We were 2-0 down against Sam Allardyce’s team and to get it back to 2-2 was fantastic and gave us a real chance in the second leg.
My first goal I went round the ‘keeper and the second was an instinctive long shot.
Did I plan to go round the ‘keeper in the way I did? No. Did I plan to hit the shot in the top corner from 30 yards? No.
For me it was all just instinct.
I played the game with instinct and when I was in front of goal I used instinct. You can’t really coach it and I suppose it was part of my DNA.
Q: So, what is it like to have scored at Wembley?
A: I’m very patriotic.
I love everything about England, so to score a goal at the most iconic stadium in not just England, but the world, was wonderful.
I think of the history of the place. The World Cup win, England in the Euros 1996. This was the old Wembley remember and I scored at that.
Of course my goal for Ipswich contributed to that fantastic win that afternoon.
The only two things I never did in the game was play in the Champions League or play for the full England side. Apart from that I didn’t miss much and I’m very grateful.
Q: What do you remember most about that Play-Off final at Wembley, apart from you scoring?
A: The main thing I remember is the amount of game-changing events during the game.
They scored, we equalised, Richard Wright saved a penalty. Martijn Reuser’s fourth goal at the death. It was a hell of match to play in.
But it was Wrighty’s save when it was 1-1 that was the big one for me.
I knew he’d save it, I just knew it.
In training, me and Wrighty practised penalties, me 10 and him 10.
Then he asked me to take 10 more penalties at him, but tell him which way I was going to put the ball before taking them.
He said it didn’t matter if I put them high, low, hard, soft, but I must put them the way I say I will.
And he saved eight out of 10 of them. On a regular basis. So when they got the penalty, I just prayed Wrighty guessed the right way as Darren Barnard stepped up. Because I knew if he did he had about an 80% chance of saving it.
And that’s what happened. A huge game-changer.
Q: Which European game playing for Town did you enjoy the most?
A: That’s actually quite easy... Helsingborg.
We played the Swedish club and drew at our place and then went a goal down in the second leg.
But Hermann Hreidarsson got us level and I got two goals in the last 10 minutes and we won 3-1 on the night and on aggregate.
It was great as we were definitely the underdogs after the first leg.
Sadly, I missed the two Inter Milan games with injury when Alun Armstrong scored in both ties.
Q: What was the best thing about living in Suffolk?
A: Suffolk was a lovely place to be.
I like the people and the climate. It is very pretty and had loads of pluses for me. Yes, I came for the football, but it was nice living in such a nice county.
Only an hour from London and only 30 minutes from the seaside at Felixstowe and not far from the countryside too. I was more than happy.
Q: There was real conjecture that you were going to be picked for England when at Town that first full season you were here. You must have heard the rumours. Were you disappointed never to get a chance? You were the top English striker in the Premiership that season.
A: Of course I heard the rumours and thought I had a chance. But actually I wasn’t instantly disappointed when the squad was announced that everyone thought I would be in. I was more disappointed that I never actually got a chance.
I’m pretty good at brushing disappointment away straightaway. I could miss a chance in a game and get over it in two seconds. I could lose a game of football and be over it in half a day.
That was my make-up. I think as a professional footballer you do need to get over things as quickly as possible, re-boot yourself and go again.
So, the England thing, although disappointing, never played on my mind.
Q: Do you still keep in contact with any of your former team-mates at Portman Road?
A: Yes, a few.
I saw John McGreal when he was at Colchester and Wayne Brown. I speak to Gary Croft once in a while, he has an estate agents in Grimsby. Tony Mowbray and Mark Venus, our paths have crossed. But not too many of the other guys.
It would be nice to have a reunion if anyone would like to set one up. It’s 20 years soon since we got that promotion to the Premiership.
We had a great team spirit in that team. We had it in abundance, that’s why we were so successful.
Q: You played more than 700 professional games, scored almost 200 goals. Did you ever dream that would happen when you started?
A: I sometimes think I shouldn’t underestimate what I achieved in the game.
But then again I just did what I did and got on with it.
I played till I was 37 and I’ve already been an assistant manager/coach for almost 300 games. I’d love to get to 500-1000 games as a coach/manager. That would be great.
TELL US MARCUS...
Favourite flavour of crisps: Those hot Doritos, with sauce.
Best player played against: John Terry and Rio Ferdinand.
Best player played with: Jim Magilton. We argued like crazy on the pitch but we had a telepathic understanding. He was a real leader – our team was full of leaders at that time.
Favourite TV programme: I don’t watch much TV. But I like the Ben Fogle in the Wild series.
TV programme you always switch off: To be honest I’m not into all those bakery programmes. Great British Bake Off and all that. But I don’t watch a lot of TV.
Favourite radio station: Radio One.
Twitter or Instagram: Neither, thanks!
First car you bought: It was a Ford Escort, four-door, sky blue.
Favourite newspaper: If I do get one, it’s the Daily Mail.
Guilty secret: I eat too much chocolate.
If you held a dinner party, name three people, living or dead, you would invite: My wife, Sir Winston Churchill and Will.i.am.
THIS INTERVIEW FIRST APPEARED IN KINGS OF ANGLIA ISSUE 9