Born and brought up near the King’s Road, Alan was rejected by boyhood club Fulham as a schoolboy before signing for Chelsea Juniors.
Injury denied him the chance to become Chelsea’s youngest ever player aged 16 and he eventually made his senior debut nine months later on 1 February 1969 in a 5–0 loss against Southampton.
Alan found himself in a Chelsea side noted for its flair and skill, complete with equally flamboyant footballers such as Peter Osgood and Charlie Cooke.
It was during the 1969–70 season that he established himself as the team’s playmaker, in the midfield of a 4–2–4 formation alongside John Hollins who was more defensive, creating goals for Osgood and Ian Hutchinson, and enabling Chelsea to finish 3rd in the First Division.
He played in every match in Chelsea’s run to the FA Cup Final in 1970, but missed the final itself due to another injury when they beat Leeds United 2–1 in a replay at Old Trafford, having drawn 2–2 at Wembley. He did, however, play a major role in Chelsea’s replayed European Cup Winners Cup final win against Real Madrid in Athens a year later.
The debt burden caused by the building of the then new East Stand at Chelsea resulted in the sale of key players, and a spiral of decline began. Chelsea lost 2–1 to Stoke City in the 1972 League Cup final at Wembley, whilst a falling-out with manager Dave Sexton resulted in both Alan and Osgood being placed on the transfer list in January 1974.
Within a month, Alan had joined Stoke City for a then club record of £240,000.
Stoke manager Tony Waddington saw Alan as the final piece of the jigsaw that would turn Stoke City into genuine championship challengers in 1975.
Alan’s debut for Stoke against Liverpool on 19 January 1974 was described by former Wolves manager Stan Cullis, commentating on radio, as the finest debut performance he had ever seen.
Allowed a free rein by Waddington Alan combined brilliantly with Jimmy Greenhoff and their form sparked a run of only two defeats in 19 games at the end of the 1973-74 season.
Manager Waddington described Stoke’s style of play at the time as ‘the working man’s ballet’, a title which Alan used for his autobiography in 1997.
Off the pitch Alan was a regular drinker often staying at nightclubs until the early hours of the morning and even opened his own club in Newcastle , Staffs.
Alan was enjoying the form of his career at Stoke and in his first two years at the Victoria Ground he missed only one game out of 162 and he helped Stoke set a club record 23 home games undefeated from December 1973 to December 1974.
Stoke almost won their first league title in 1974-75 finishing four points off Derby County in top spot and he then played 40 times in 1975-76.
In January 1976 a strong storm caused considerable damage to Stoke’s Victoria Ground and to pay for the excessive repair costs Stoke had to sell off their playing staff and Alan was sold to Arsenal for £200,000.
He helped Arsenal reach the 1978 FA Cup Final, which they lost 1–0 to Ipswich Town but differences with the Arsenal manager Terry Neill meant that he moved to the Seattle Sounders of the NASL for £100,000 at the age of 27. In the fall of 1979, he signed with the Cleveland Force of the Major Indoor Soccer League.
Alan returned briefly to Chelsea on a non-contract basis although illness and injury denied him the chance to play for them again. He re-joined Stoke City for £22,500 in January 1984 after Bill Asprey had consulted Tony Waddington on how to help Stoke avoiding relegation in 1983-84.
Stoke picked up 33 points in 17 games and clinched survival with a 4–0 won over Wolverhampton Wanderers on the final day of the season. But in 1984-85 Stoke were embarrassingly relegated with a record low points tally.
Alan was named captain by Mick Mills for the 1985-86 season but a knee injury forced him to retire in September 1985.
Owing to a ban from international football after refusing to tour with the England under-23 side, Alan didn’t make his England debut until 1975, when sparkling performances earned him two call-ups by then England manager Don Revie.
He starred in the team that beat World Champions West Germany 2–0 at Wembley, and then in the 5–0 destruction of Cyprus. However, injuries and clashes with Revie meant that those two caps were the only ones he earned.
Since his retirement, Alan has suffered a series of setbacks.
In December 1997, Alan suffered multiple injuries when run over by a car while walking along a London street.
He spent two months in a coma and the doctors treating him were doubtful as to whether he would walk again. He has since undergone more than 70 surgical operations.
He remains disabled, using crutches to walk and says “Every day now is a chore”.
Following the collision, he took up writing professionally.
His autobiography The Working Man’s Ballet was a critical success and led to work as a columnist on the Stoke Evening Sentinel and The Sporting Life. A further book The Tinker and The Talisman was self-published in 2003.
In 2004 Alan appeared as himself in a cameo appearance in the British film The Football Factory. In June 2006, Alan joined Radio Napa in Cyprus, where he commentated on the FIFA WOrld Cup in Germany.
In 2008 Alan released his third book, titled “The Waddington Years”, which described his great friendship with former Stoke City manager Tony Waddington.
Speaking in December 2012 Alan revealed that he believes that his accident was actually an attempt on his life.
In 2013 as part of the 150 years Celebrations of Stoke City Football Club Alan was voted by fans into the greatest Stoke team of all time alongside such greats as Stanley Matthews and Gordon Banks.
Alan is due to publish his latest book in October 2013 titled “ From the Playing Fields to The Killing Fields.”
Alan has undergone further surgery in September 2013 on his ankle and he hopes that this will at last improve his mobility.
SCOBA are currently working with Alan to help launch his book and it is hoped that there will be events planned for fans to meet Alan and obtain a copy of his book.
We hope to publish more details soon.