Supermac. The nickname given to a fearsome centre forward of the 1970s, a man whose single-minded pursuit of goalscoring earnt him admiration throughout the game, 14 international caps and, in one of those games for his country, five goals in one match, Cyprus the hapless, hopeless victims of his desires.
At least that’s the nickname people outside of Norfolk gave to Malcolm Macdonald. Because we had our own at Carrow Road. The genuine article, no facsimile, no young pretender he.
His name? Ted MacDougall. The real Supermac.
Ted was a one-off; of that there can be little doubt. The truth is, he found scoring goals easy. Now many great strikers can make the game and scoring of goals look easy. The difference is subtle – Ted didn’t make it look easy. For him, it was easy.
In one game for the Cherries he found it so easy that he hit three hat-tricks; NINE goals in one game! Margate were the victims of Ted’s malevolence in an FA Cup First Round tie on 20th November 1971– a feat that holds all sorts of records and which is still recalled and renowned to this day.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph about his career and that game, Ted admitted that, “I was a right greedy sod. Whenever I scored one, I wanted two, when I scored two, I wanted a hat-trick. When the eighth went in against Margate, all I could think was, ‘right, now I want nine.”
Such single mindedness in the art of goalscoring: “Scoring goals is part instinct and part being in the right place at the right time, and once you come to understand the knack, it just becomes easier and easier”. Ted ended that season with 47 goals in all competitions, having scored 49 the year before.
Naturally, such virtuoso work was fast drawing attention to MacDougall. Everyone loves a goalscorer, not least those clubs who see a prolific one as a popular and immediate short term fix to prop up the failings of a disappointing season.
The number of scouts who took the road to Dean Court to see Ted for themselves could have made up far more than one troop; this was, after all, a man who had scored 96 goals in two seasons. Even if the stratospheric rise in both playing standards and expectations shocked Ted into only performing at half of his usual level, that was still nearly 25 goals per season for a First Division club.
Enough to save a managers’ job as well as keep the fans happy. What self-respecting chairman wouldn’t take the plunge?
The one who eventually did was Louis Edwards at Manchester United. His club had uncharacteristically struggled in the first part of the 1972/73 season, and, following a 2-0 defeat at Wolves on 16th September were bottom of the First Divison with just four points and four goals to their name in nine games.
The club needed goals, it needed points, it needed to start climbing the table. The solution to the problem, surmised Edwards, was simple: throw money at it and everything will be alright – sound familiar? All that remained now was for his manager, Frank O’Farrell to provide the answer – and to O’Farrell, it was obvious: the answer to all of their problems was playing for Bournemouth. His name? Ted MacDougall.
The princely sum of £200,000 secured MacDougall’s services and he headed north, scoring on his debut against Birmingham, thus earning his new employers only their second win of the season – and this was in mid-October!
A few weeks later, United finally won their first away game. The opponents? Norwich City. The goalscorer? Ted MacDougall. He had already made his mark at Carrow Road, albeit in a red shirt. More to the point, the Norwich fans would have good cause to remember him: his 89th minute strike had made the game safe at 2-0; this after some sustained Norwich pressure which looked like it might have given them a point.
It was the Canaries first home defeat in 32 matches.
In normal circumstances Ted MacDougall might have gone onto have a stellar career at Old Trafford. A side that contained players with sublime skills and ability, individuals rapier of thought and precise with ball could always benefit from the less romantic ‘traditional’ centre forward within their ranks. Cut from a less exquisite mould maybe, but able to do a job alongside more illustrious companions.
He was big, strong, brave and he knew where the goal was. So he should have been embraced by all at a club that was struggling and needed someone like him, not afraid to put boot – or head – in where it hurts and get results by more direct methods.
Sadly, that was not the case. Ted found cliques within the club, with the established players shunning new signings and faces, such as himself. It is no co-incidence that he and fellow ‘new boy’ in attack Wyn Davies lasted for only a year at the club before being shipped out, their departures being a lot more to do with faces not fitting than their not performing.
MacDougall scored 5 goals in 18 games whilst he was at the club but he wasn’t one of “Matt’s boys”. More to the point, O’Farrell’s successor, the brash Tommy Docherty, arrived and immediately decided that he didn’t like MacDougall and, crucially, didn’t rate him as a footballer either.
And that sealed his Old Trafford fate.
He had an equally unhappy time at his next club. West Ham were the initial beneficiaries of the culture of clique at Old Trafford, but, again, despite finding the net five times in 24 appearances, MacDougall didn’t fit in; his laid back style and forceful personality perhaps something which a lot of the established West Ham players were neither used to or appreciative of.
And, after a 5-1 defeat to Leeds United (MacDougall readily admits to punching his team mate Billy Bonds post-match) another departure was inevitable. You have to sympathise for him. A player, a man who, through no fault of his own was now being portrayed as a rebel, a trouble maker, an individual who disrupted clubs and was, in short, nothing but trouble – and couldn’t play. Fortunately, whatever might be true or not about some of those claims, one of them was clearly rubbish. He most certainly could play.
The truth is that MacDougall needed to return to his footballing roots and play for a club where he might, as he was at Bournemouth, be part of the leading cast and a prominent team member, rather than one massaging the egos of Stepney, Charlton and Morgan in Manchester or those of Lampard ( Frank’s dad); Brooking and Bonds et al at Upton Park.
There is also a tale about how he was discovered to have been allergic to grass whilst in London-hardly conductive to winning over team-mates that were already a little wary of him and prone to sideways glances and surreptitious whispers behind his back.
The oh-so-mature world of the football club dressing room when its longest established denizens have decided they don’t want you to be in their gang.
MacDougall needed to move – again. He was a footballer who was never in any doubt as to his ability – he just needed a manager and a club where that belief could be shared. Certainly his frustration at not being able to simply get on with his job and score goals in abundance meant that whoever did take the plunge and put their faith in him would likely ride the wild wind with an abundant return.
Which is why John Bond persuaded the Norwich board to part with a then club record fee of £140,000 to bring Ted to Norfolk where, you suspect, he would have immediately felt at home – and inclined to perform.
Norwich, like Bournemouth, were a smaller club; one that prided itself on an image of family, togetherness and looking out for one another. In addition to that, under Bond they had a manager who just wanted his players to go out and perform, to do what they did best. And as if that wasn’t enough, MacDougall was soon joined by some old Bournemouth mates in Mel Machin and John Benson; people who knew him, what he was capable of, how to treat him – information they would soon have passed onto Ted’s other new teammates.
On paper therefore it was a perfect move for Ted. And a lot of trust had been placed in him. Considering the (unfair) reputation that he brought with him, the club record fee and the fact that Norwich were, at the time of his arrival, already looking relegation certainties, he had a lot to do. And this was not only to give his career a kick start, but also keep Bond in his job.
He ended that relegation season of 1973/74 with 11 goals from 25 league appearances, easily the Canaries highest goalscorer that campaign, despite only having played in just over half the games. He was also, that February, joined by another Bournemouth old boy – his one-time strike partner Phil Boyer, himself a record signing (£145’000) and, in claiming that distinction, taking a little more pressure off Ted.
If, as it looked likely, Norwich were going to be relegated, then Bond wanted a striking partnership that would give them the best possible chance to return to the First Division at the first attempt. Which is exactly what they did, the successful 1974/75 campaign ending with MacDougall on 17 goals from 42 league appearances and Boyer with 16 from 40. The Canaries were back – and would now depend on their strike force to establish them as a top flight team.
MacDougall swiftly found his range upon his return to the First Division. Three games in, Aston Villa at Carrow Road, hat-trick. Easy. He wasn’t a Ron Saunders type of player by any stretch of the imagination, but even so, how Saunders must have wondered about the power and precision of a MacDougall on that day when his own central defensive duo spent the whole game being bullied by him, with one of them, the vastly experienced Chris Nicholl giving away a penalty.
A fortnight later Norwich played host to Everton. The Toffees had started the season well, brushing off an unexpected defeat against Coventry in their opening game to rally with a point at Burnley, followed by three consecutive wins that took them to fourth in the table.
They also had a formidable striker in their side. Bob Latchford tended to score for fun in much the same way as MacDougall did. He was English football’s latest media darling-for two reasons. Firstly, he was English. And, secondly, he played for Everton. A ‘glamour’ club. The game was, therefore about how he was coming to Norwich to show how it should be done, a slight that MacDougall would have used as his motivation to, again, prove a few people wrong. With him in that sort of mood, the game was lost for Everton before kickoff.
He didn’t need penalties this time. A little over a quarter of an hour had gone when he powered home a header at the near post, leaving blue clad defenders arguing about where he had come from and keeper David Lawson fearing for the remaining hour and a quarter. Rightly so.
Fifteen minutes later he hit a first-time shot past Lawson, a goal that mixed power, panache and confidence and one which reflected the footballing philosophy of his watching manager. Five minutes before the interval, he scored again – a fine run and finish past a despairing Lawson – a second hat trick in consecutive home games and three more goals in a scoring pattern that saw him score eleven in Norwich’s opening ten league fixtures. Who doubted him now?
Suggett made the game safe with a goal shortly after half time leaving Everton with just dignity to play for which they reclaimed, minutely, Latchford’s strike on the hour mark confirming his cameo role in proceedings. Norwich’s emphatic win and MacDougall’s hat-trick meant, for once, the power and the glory were all about Norwich. That and their reborn striker who ended the season with 23 league goals from his 42 league appearances. This was an eyebrow raising strike rate of a goal in just under every two games and, equally impressively, one garnished from his being an ever present in the league. So much for the reputation then.
Norwich had a player who, for all the talk about his attitude, allergies and arrogance had avoided injury as well as suspension and put in the fullest of shifts as Norwich ended the season in a best ever 10th place in the First Division.
Is there another Ted lurking somewhere in the recesses of League One? You’d like to think there might be.
(Adapted from Greatest Games: Norwich City, Pitch Publishing, 2012).