OBITUARY: JIMMY ALLEN

In football a record transfer fee carries with it an immense burden of pressure. Andy Cole, recently bought by Manchester United for £7m, will take time to bed in at his new club. And so too did Jimmy Allen, one of his predecessors as the most expensive player in the land. Admittedly, when Allen left Portsmouth for Aston Villa at a cost of £10,775 in June 1934 (just a few weeks after picking up an FA Cup loser's medal with Portsmouth), the media spotlight was markedly less severe than that now shining on Cole. But the amiable Allen found himself placed under immediate strain.

A vociferous faction of Villa Park fans were less than ecstatic at their club's parting with such a sum for a man they saw as a rather negative performer. They liked their centre-halves to take an active part in attacking play, while the 6ft Allen operated principally as a stopper.

Perhaps not surprisingly his early form was disappointing and the "I told you" brigade had a field day. but Allen remained calm, despite the trauma of relegation from the First Division in 1936. Before long he had proved the doubters wrong, revealing theform which had won him two England caps in his Portsmouth days and skippering the Midlanders to the Second Division championship in 1938.

By then Allen, who had joined Pompey from his local club, non-league Poole Town, for £1,200 in 1930, was in his prime but, like so many players of his generation, he was denied the chance to explore his full potential by the outbreak of the Second World War.

After guesting for Fulham, Portsmouth and Birmingham City during the war, he was forced to retire through injury in 1944 and he became sports and welfare officer for a Birmingham company. But the call of football was strong, and in 1948 he became managerof non-league Colchester United, leading them into the Football League when the Third Division (South) increased in size in 1950. After two seasons of commendable consolidation, Allen's side fell away in 1952-53 and in the spring he resigned to become apub landlord on Southsea.

Behind his bar, Allen readily recounted tales of his playing days, but was too self-effacing to dwell on the possibility that, had he not been injured, Portsmouth might have beaten Manchester City at Wembley in 1934. In fact, Portsmouth were a goal up when Allen had to leave the field and City equalised before he was able to return, and then scored a late winner. Such modesty was typical of an engaging sportsman.

Ivan Ponting James Phillips Allen, footballer and manager; born Poole, Dorset 16 October 1909; died Southsea, Hampshire 5 February 1995.

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