Brief Encounter #8

supermacMalcolm MacDonald

I ENJOYED three brief encounters with the legendary Supermac, the first separated from the last by a mere 35 years!

The first time I met the former England star was in 1970. I was 14 years-old and the free scoring Malcolm Macdonald just six years older than me and turning heads with his robust play and 49 goals for second tier side Luton Town.

He had yet to acquire the moniker Supermac, but was definitely a legend in the making when he agreed to kick off a local charity football match… a game also graced by Radio 1 stars Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart and Diddy David Hamilton. Along with many other young teenage boys I queued in line to ask for his autograph. The immensely polite Macdonald signed every autograph request with a smile and chirpy word.

Over the ensuing years the bustling forward went on to score a further 137 goals for Arsenal and Newcastle United, where he became a true Tyneside legend. On 16th April 1975, in a game for England against Cyprus he scored all five goals in a 5–0 victory, a record that still stands today, spawning a newspaper headline: SuperMac 5 Cyprus 0. In total he played 14 times for his country, scoring six times.

When I next met him, it was by chance in 1997, some nine years after he retired from a football, following an eight year stint in club management.

It was lunchtime on a cold and wet November day and I was queuing for a sandwich in a café just off Newcastle’s Groat Market. The guy in front of me seemed to be taking his time ordering a coffee and a roll. As he turned I instantly recognised the man I had met all those years ago. But for the grey hair, spectacles and ageing face the voice was the same… it was Supermac.

He smiled and politely apologised for taking so long and then sat down at a window seat to eat his lunch and read the local evening newspaper.

The final time we met was a complete shock… out of time and out of place.

It was 2004 and again a cold and grey November day. My wife and I were manning a car boot sale stall at Hexham Cattle Market. We had a pile of personal flotsam and jetsam we were trying to sell, including ornaments, toys, books and DVDs.

An hour into the sale a man, dressed in a light brown sheepskin coat was standing at our stall with a young boy looking through the DVDs. He picked one up and asked me: “How much is this?” He looked at me and smiled and I again realised it was Supermac. I was about to reply when a passing stranger hailed him: “Whey aye how are you doing Mac?”

“Hello, John,” was his reply.

Macdonald and the boy turned to talk to the stranger and my opportunity to sell him a book and a DVD on fly fishing was lost.