Gavin Maguire: It’s nice to see Southampton lose even after all these years
I started out as a centre-forward for Northwood in a Middlesex Sunday League and it was only because our centre-half broke his ankle in a match that I moved back to the centre of defence. I felt very comfortable there so that’s where I stayed.
I was recommended to a scout from Queens Park Rangers and I was soon taken on at Loftus Road as an associate schoolboy. I made my first-team debut as an 18-year-old in a 1-0 win away to Oxford United in the old first division.
I wasn’t told I was playing until half an hour before kick-off so I didn’t have any time to be nervous.
David Seaman was then at QPR and we had other fine players such as Paul Parker and Mark Dennis. Terry Fenwick was also there but I was given my chance of regular football once Terry moved to Tottenham Hotspur.
I moved to Fratton Park in January 1989. I had had a few injuries plus I wasn’t getting on with the manager Trevor Francis. It was Alan Ball who brought me to Pompey but he was sacked almost as soon as I arrived and was replaced by John Gregory who I’d known at Rangers.
Pompey were in the doldrums at the time. They had just been relegated from division one and it seemed like the years of under-achieving was hanging over us.
Frank Burrows was replaced as manager by Jim Smith, another person I knew from my QPR days.
Jim and I had our ups and downs but it is impossible for me not to respect him. He is a great bloke and his enthusiasm is infectious.
I felt different at Pompey than at Loftus Road. At QPR I had come up through the ranks but at Pompey I was that bit older and, of course, had been bought in.
There was a good social camaraderie at the club and I am still close to Martin Kuhl and Warren Aspinall. We meet up once a year to play a game against Southampton Old Boys and it’s still nice to get one over them even now.
I didn’t particularly want to leave Pompey when I did in March 1993 but I was at loggerheads with Jim and he sold me to Millwall.
I have fantastic memories of Millwall. I felt we had to fight the world in order to get anything and the supporters were so fervent – just like Pompey’s.
I retired from football at the age of 26. I’d had bone grafts and skin grafts and knew it was going to be a long time before I was fully fit so I packed it all in.
I enjoyed my career and wouldn’t have done anything differently. I was fortunate to play for Wales although I was born in Hammersmith.
I was ribbed by other players who said things like, “You weren’t good enough for England so you had to play for Wales.”
My mother is from Wales and it was Wales I wanted to play for as a boy, never England.
Moving from the world of teasing crosses to teasing hair
I went travelling around America for a year and a half but came back and became a fitness trainer and did this for two years. I couldn’t see myself doing it forever but wasn’t sure what I was going to do. Then one day a friend suggested I should go into hairdressing.
At first I thought he was being stupid but I attended a nine-month course and really enjoyed it. I now have my own hairdressing business in Somerset and it is a bit like football in as much as it doesn’t feel like work. One of the reasons I left London was because I was known as Gavin Maguire the footballer where in Somerset not many people know I was a player.
I’m a very happy man these days. I got out of the rat race and love living where I do. I have a wife and two lovely children. Grace who is nearly eight and Toby is nearly seven. I look out for all my former teams but I was never a great watcher. The players are technically better and much fitter than in my day but I don’t think it’s as much fun.
It is more business than a sport and the players are not so accessible to the supporters. My generation would have played for nothing but I’m not sure that today’s players would. You don’t see a good tackle now. Players aren’t taught to tackle, the emphasis is more on keeping possession. Teams play for draw and, apart from the financial aspect, I would much rather play when I did than in today’s game.