Blackpool FC Memory Match
Blackpool 3, Preston North End 0, September 26, 1987
Former Seasiders’ striker Craig Madden has been part of the fabric of football for decades - but not anymore.
The life of the one-time famed goal-grabber with Bury and Blackpool has taken a completely different turn - he is working in the double-glazing business, quite a culture shock for someone so long immersed in the game and coming as it does as he prepares to celebrate his 58th birthday on Sunday.
His most recent job was as assistant manager at Southport and he is wondering whether that will be his final foray into football after so long as a player and later coach.
Madden, scorer in the featured memory match, said: “Hopefully, I will get back into football, but I have my doubts about that - it is all lap-top coaches now.
“I have just started training for a new job in double-glazing and it is a lot different to the hours I worked in football. I am off to work at seven in the morning and some nights I don’t get back till 6.30pm.
“I have taken this job because I want to test myself all the time and if for any reason it doesn’t work out then I can try my hand at something else.
“It is a big change for me because I have been involved in football since I was seven or eight years of age.”
Before he came to Blackpool, Madden played for Bury and, briefly, West Brom - it was his goal-scoring exploits at Gigg Lane that earned him hero status.
He made the best part of 300 appearances for Bury, scoring 127 goals - he holds the club record for the most goals in a season for Bury, 35 in the 1981-2 campaign.
After nine years at Bury, he moved to The Hawthorns but the move was not altogether successful and he played only a handful of games before the move to Blackpool in 1987 - he was signed by Sam Ellis,
Madden said: “Sam was brilliant - everyone knew their job, training was very good and there was a great set of lads there at the time.”
Madden scored from the penalty spot in this week’s nostalgia match, while his strike partner Keith Walwyn grabbed two.
Blackpool still won despite the fact that they had Tony Cunningham sent off
Of Walwyn, whose life ended all too prematurely, Madden said: “Keith was not the best with the ball at his feet, but he was big and strong a real worker and he was fearless in the way he would put his head in to get the ball.
“Tony was a different player entirely. He had great ability on the ball, pace and movement and good on the turn. I enjoyed playing with both of them.”
Madden’s goal against Preston came on 55 minutes after he himself had been bundled over the box by none other than Sam Allardyce, who was in a Preston side that also included Frank Worthington.
It was all too straightforward for Blackpool or as Gazette scribe Tony Quested said in his match report: “Even with 10 men after Tony Cunningham’s ridiculous sending-off Blackpool were so utterly in command that Preston would have needed plumber-director Tom Finney to plug the leaks.”
In his time at Blackpool Madden was able to pick out a future star in Paul Stewart, who went on to play for England.
He said: “You always knew that Paul would be able to play at a higher level - it was the move to Tottenham that really made him.”
Madden had always been troubled with niggling injuries, which did not help, and his Blackpool career petered out after the arrival of manager Jimmy Mullen and he had loan spells at Wrexham and York.
He later worked on the community side at Blackpool, but when Gary Megson suddenly quit the Blackpool manager’s job, Madden joined him at Stockport County.
Madden stayed at Stockport after Megson left and continued to work with County’s then manager, the late Gary Ablett, whom he held in the highest regard.
He said: “To lose Gary so early was a huge shock. He was so well respected and I never heard him raise his voice to anyone.”
Later came a successful link-up with Micky Mellon at Fleetwood, at a time when Town were battling to get into the Football League
Madden was an important part of the backroom team that saw Fleetwood’s elevation to League status after a rise up the football pyramid.
He said: “We got turned over 8-1 on aggregate in the Conference play-off final and I can clearly remember Micky telling the players that they should learn from the experience and go one better next season and that is what happened and Fleetwood ran away with the title.”
The Cod Army’s promotion to the Football League was notable for the emergence of Jamie Vardy.
Madden said: “Vardy cost £150,000, but Fleetwood had the chance before to pay less than that, but it was obviously money well spent.
“The fact that he scored 31 goals in 34 games tells you how good he was.
“I know about the off-field problems, the tagging and all that, but we never had any bother from Jamie until right at the end when he wanted to go to Leicester sooner than Fleetwood would let him and insisted he stay to the end of the season.
“But he is a great lad and even after he left Fleetwood he came back and one match he stood in the crowd with the fans at the away end at Morecambe.”
Madden last job was as assistant boss at Southport, which he left recently - now his lone involvement is three hours on a Friday night with a junior club.
He said: “There is no point in being bitter about what happened at Southport and I am not.
“I did have other offers in football before I took the Southport job, but I have five grandchildern and taking the jobs offered would not have gone down well with the wife as they would have taken me far away!”
To those who watch the game from outside, it is puzzling there is no place for a man with such experience, but Madden is not disillusioned: “Football has been my life and I have enjoyed my time.”