Alan Birchenall MBE (born 22 August 1945 in East Ham) was talented and skilful attacking midfielder who started his professional career with Sheffield United in 1963. He made his league debut a year later and won the first two of his four England under-23 caps while with the Blades.
He was among the first players to command a £100,000 price tag when he moved from Sheffield United to Chelsea in November 1967. Leicester City paid £80,000 for him in 1971, and he remained with them until signing for Notts County in 1977. He later played for NASL sides the San Jose Earthquakes and the Memphis Rogues.
He is currently LCFC club ambassador, which includes the roll of pre-match and half-time host at Leicester City. In 2002 he was awarded an MBE for his charity work.
Alan football is in your blood but if you hadn't made it what would you have been?
I was a bus engine fitter for 18 months before training professional, so I probably would have carried on with that. But now I’m a Doctor of Law!!! ;0)
Who was your hero as a footballer when you were growing up?
Someone most of you, especially those younger than me, will have never heard of, Leon Luty who played for Notts County as a centre half.
Were your parents supportive of your wishes to play football professionally?
Not half! My Mum and Dad used to get me new boots every year out of a catalogue. Half a crown a month to pay for them and they came to all the Nottingham and County matches I played for Nottingham Boys.
Would you say it is easier or harder now for youngsters to get spotted and signed up by professional clubs?
No it’s easier because there is a bigger scouting network now.
But does the influx of the foreign players not stifle the opportunities for home grown talent to break through?
Not at all, because if you’re good enough you will get there. Cream always rises to the top!!
You were born in East Ham how did you end up signing for Sheffield United as your first club?
Well, I left London when I was a young boy and was brought up in Nottingham.
Sheffield United Assistant Manager Archie Clarke watched me and asked me to go for a trial…..and the rest, as they say, is history!
Do you feel dissapointed not to have played more often for England?
Not really. because the England side in my day picked itself.
How would you replace Bobby Charlton for instance?! Chelsea were a bigger club than Leeds anyway!!.
Alan, you were among the first players to command a £100,000 price tag when you moved from Sheffield United to Chelsea in November 1967. Was that a difficult tag to live with and are today's transfer fees too high?
It was a lot of money in 1967 and may be I didn’t live up to it for a couple of season but once it became the norm ie, 6 figure fees, that pressure came off and I like to think I justified it. And yes I agree with you, transfer fees for ordinary players today are ridiculous.
What attracted you to a move to Leicester City?
I actually came from Crystal Palace to Leicester.
Leicester had two things that appealed to me – a great fan base which we still have today and were recognised as a good footballing side.
Who were your best mates at the club during your playing days?
Stevie Kember when he came here who I played with at Palace also Frank Worthington.
In fact it was such a close knit squad that, I have got to say, every one of the squad was a close friend – we were really tight.
Anyone you didn't get on with?
Nobody – I’d like to think I got on with everyone.
Any gossip from the dressing room Alan?
Great stories on the pitch are well documented and, unfortunately, the other stories are not for public consumption and will stay in my head!!!
Who were the players in your opinion that could have played (more) for England and why do you think they didn't?
The two names I immediately think of are Keith Weller and Frank Worthington. However England at the time was under Don Revie and he wanted a certain type of player and Keith & Frank certainly didn't fit that mould.
To be At that stage I was probably a rung away from coming a full England player (today I’d have probably had 50 caps!!!).
What did Jimmy Bloomfield expect from his players and how close were Leicester at that time to actually winning something?
Jimmy, well he just wanted you to play entertaining football, and we did and to be honest we were probably only one or two, maximum, players short of achieving something.
How far out was THAT goal out it seems to get further out with every interview and tell us about the 'Currie kiss'
(Laughing)The goal oh was probably about 100 yards out!!!
The Kiss – I’ve always fancied him!!!!
Only joking for those who don’t understand my sense of humour.
Tell us about how you got Milan Mandaric involved with leicester City and what he did for the club
Well I already knew Milan from my days at San Jose and he came to the club when it was in a difficult period lets be honest, a very difficult financial position and he stabilised us
Who, in your opinion Alan have been the worst & best managers at Leicester City.
To be fair I would not like to comment on who he worse were!
But for me, some of the best were Jimmy Bloomfield, Martin O’Neill and our present manager Nigel Pearson.
How did you feel when you thought that your time as club ambassador at Leicester was being brought to an end?
Mmmm. it was a low point in my 40 odd years connection with the Club ….let’s just leave it at that.
What do you enjoy about being club ambassador?
To be honest being able to represent our football club in and around our city and county as best as possible.
Do you believe the present owners of our football club are good for the club and do you believe they are here for the long term ?
Yes i honestly do, and I’m not just saying that because they gave me a life time contract.
With all due respect to other owners, I feel these are here for the long term and you don’t put in the investment they have (which has been fantastic by the way), if you’re only here for five minutes.
Generally, is foreign investment good for the English game?
Yes I honestly believe it is, it doesn’t matter who’s money it is.
Clubs will always need investment. and wherever that money comes from as long as it helps the club then thats good, although of course after the FA checks!
What was it like to have and work with a manger of the calibre of Sven Goran Eriksson?
well as most people said after they dealt with him, Sven was a real gentleman and it was a pleasure to have him at our football club.
And for someone of his calibre it won’t be long before he’s having success I work again.
On 25 February 2009 you were , given the Honorary Freedom of Leicester by Leicester City Council how did that make you feel ?Proud obviously. of course it was a great honour, I'm now up there with Engelbert Humperdinck maybe I'll represent leicester in a singing contest next (laughs)
Are there any more charity runs planned for the future Alan? (Laughing) I think you may find they have now turned in to ‘walks’ now if you have seen me recently! I don’t know. This one will probably be the last for me but I hope that it will be carried on by the Club.
Thank you for your time in doing this interview Alan, all the best for the future.
Your welcome Chris and good luck with all things Leicester 'till I Die.