CURRENT Liverpool and England international Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can look to his dad for his footballing genes.
Mark Chamberlain represented England himself – and also played for Stoke City and Brighton in a 20-year career that saw him play more than 600 games.
Mark and brother Neville (also a professional footballer) were born in Burslem of British Jamaican parents, Banny and Anastasia, who had moved to England in the early 1960s.
The brothers both started out with Port Vale and in August 2013 onevalefan.co.uk looked back on their involvement with the Valiants.
“The younger of the two brothers, Mark progressed through the junior ranks to make his debut as a substitute aged just 16 years and 274 days,” the site recalled. “It soon became clear that the winger was a special talent and he made his full debut later that season. Two days later he scored his first senior goal. His breakthrough as a first-team regular came in the 1980-1981 season when he managed ten goals in 36 games.”
Apparently, in their early Vale career, the brothers used to swap shirts at half-time to confuse the opposition. Neville, a striker, had a less illustrious career than Mark but was the club’s top scorer in the 1979-80 season.
Robbie Earle, one of Vale’s favourite sons, wrote of Mark: “He could do it all: Run, pass, shoot, make goals and score them.”
Vale’s boss during Chamberlain’s introduction to league football was former Southampton and Newcastle defender John McGrath, who had a brief loan spell with Brighton when they were struggling in the old Division 2 after the 1972 promotion.
Anyway, Chamberlain was beginning to get noticed in the fourth tier and in 1981-82 he was chosen in the PFA Fourth Division team of the year.
Chamberlain told the Daily Mail’s Matt Barlow in a 2011 interview how he ended up switching Potteries clubs and joining Stoke.
“John McGrath sent me in to speak to Stoke manager Richie Barker and told me to ask for a £15,000 signing-on fee and £200 a week,” said Chamberlain. “So in I went and Richie shakes my hand and says, ‘I’m going to offer you £200 a week and a £15,000 signing on fee’.
“I said, ‘No, you two have been talking.’ They started laughing, and said: ‘What do you want?’ I said: ‘Well, we’re fourth division. You’re first division. I’m on £90 a week, so let’s multiply it by four.’ It was quite basic in those days.”
Stoke paid £180,000 for Chamberlain (and goalkeeper Mark Harrison) in 1982. When his son joined Arsenal from Southampton the fee was £12million and on transfer deadline day this year, Liverpool paid Arsenal £35million for his services.
But back to 1982 and, in December that year, Chamberlain senior made his debut for England. Manager Bobby Robson sent him on as a substitute for Steve Coppell and he scored in a 9-0 rout of Luxembourg. Luther Blissett got a hat-trick and Coppell, Glenn Hoddle, Tony Woodcock and Phil Neal were also on the scoresheet, the other being an own goal.
His next outing for the national side didn’t come until September the following year, when he was again a substitute, this time replacing John Barnes in a 1-0 Wembley defeat to Denmark.
In the summer of 1984, he got five successive starts on a South American tour – one of which was the famous occasion when England beat Brazil 2-0 in the Maracana Stadium.
Barnes grabbed the headlines with that famous mazy dribble and goal, but the guy playing on the other wing for England was Chamberlain!
“’I didn’t do bad,” said Mark, interviewed many years later. “The pitch was poor and the Maracana was only half full, but that’s still about 80,000. Junior was at left back and Leandro was right back. They bombed forward but weren’t the best defenders and we both had good games.
“On the pitch, after the game, the Brazilian press were asking me and Barnsey if we wanted to come and play in Brazil. ‘You play like Brazilians,’ they kept saying.”
On a more sober note, in John Barnes’ 1999 autobiography, he describes how he, Chamberlain and Viv Anderson were racially abused on that tour by four National Front members who had booked the same flight as the England squad.
In the independent.co.uk, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain said of his dad: “He used to tell me that he’d walk home from school with his sisters, they used to get stones thrown at them. They had to fight and protect themselves, but you have to get on with it.
“That’s what he did. He used to go to England trials on his own, not knowing anyone. The other boys were at Aston Villa, Arsenal and Everton. He was at Port Vale. He had to overcome loads of stuff like that. That’s the sort of character he is. He just gets on with what he’s got to do and doesn’t worry too much about what everyone thinks.”
Chamberlain senior was interviewed about the Brazil game in June 2013, 29 years after he’d played there, because Alex was playing for England against Brazil to mark the official opening of the refurbished Maracana.
And he went one better than dad and got on the scoresheet in a 1-1 draw after coming on as a second half substitute. Not that dad saw it: he admitted to the press that he had dozed off in his chair in front of the telly and missed it!
“Playing for England and beating the mighty Brazil was a fantastic experience,” Mark told sponsor Vauxhall. “I’d have liked to have played a lot more for my country but I didn’t, but I enjoyed every moment of it.”
His eighth and final cap came as a sub for Bryan Robson in a 5-0 win over Finland at Wembley in October 1984.
The emergence of Chris Waddle and Trevor Steven brought his international career to an end and it’s interesting to observe from an interview he gave to mirror.co.uk, that he actively urged his son to leave Southampton for Arsenal because he didn’t want him to miss out on the opportunities he felt eluded him by not moving to a big club.
There was talk of him going to Arsenal himself, but it never happened and, he told reporter Darren Lewis, he blamed being with a club like Stoke for his only winning eight caps. He felt he was overlooked for players at bigger clubs.
He was certainly a fans’ favourite at Stoke. On the Stoke fans’ website, oatcakefanzine, one with the handle March said: “Chambo was probably the second most talented player in our club’s history after Sir Stan (Matthews). His skill, pace and crossing were all top notch.
“I organised a football tournament for young players in 1980. Chambo was a part of one of the teams taking part. He was so good it was unbelievable. I remember a game away at West Ham where he ran straight past the whole West Ham defence and the home crowd went silent in awe. I don’t remember that reaction to any other player from any club.”
However, in the 1984-85 season, Stoke finished bottom of the top division, 23 points off safety. Manager Barker went and new manager Mick Mills wanted to rebuild the side, so Mark was sold to Sheffield Wednesday for £350,000.
“There had been talk about Everton, Arsenal and Chelsea but that never happened,” said Chamberlain. “When I left Stoke, I went to Sheffield Wednesday and met Howard Wilkinson, and we never got on. I don’t know why he bought me.
“I was the best right winger in the country and he told me I couldn’t play. If I’m honest, I fell out of love with football after that.”
He scored eight times in 66 games for the Owls but he was to enjoy much greater success when he headed south in 1988, to join Jim Smith’s Portsmouth. Former Albion defender Guy Butters, who was also at Portsmouth at the time, speaks highly about the contribution ‘Chambo’ made to the side.
In six years at Pompey, Chamberlain played 198 games and scored 22 goals.
When Second Division Portsmouth got to the FA Cup semi finals in 1991-92, Chamberlain played in the 1-1 draw against Liverpool at Highbury but not in the replay at Villa Park.
His last year at Portsmouth was dogged by injuries and, having been out injured for six months, Smith released him. In August 1994, Liam Brady took him along the coast to Brighton.
In his programme notes, Brady said: “We have signed Mark Chamberlain because I think we needed a wide player with pace. Although Mark is the wrong side of 30, I think he has shown that he doesn’t lack pace.
“He has had his problems with injuries at Portsmouth over the last year but I think he has already demonstrated that he is still a very good player.
“We are looking at how he gets on over the next two or three weeks with a view to taking him on for the remainder of the season.”
The season was barely a couple of months old before he was sidelined for a month with injury, but he earned a contract and, over the course of that campaign, Chamberlain played 19 league games and five cup games. He scored twice, but it transpired it was not the happiest time in his career.
In a Stoke matchday programme article in March 2003, Chamberlain told Dave Coxon: “In truth I never enjoyed my time there. I didn’t seem to fit in, either on or off the field. After games I would sit there in the bar and nobody would come over to me. I think it was probably because I was not in the clique.”
After the unhappy spell at Brighton, Chamberlain moved the other direction from his Port Solent home and had two seasons with Exeter City, playing 67 games and scoring four times.
He went non-league and spent a season as player-manager of Fareham Town before taking up coaching at Southampton, and at a special needs school.
It was while he was a part-time academy coach at Southampton that he first introduced Alex to the Saints. He later became a coach at Portsmouth.
The younger of his two sons, Christian, 19, is on Portsmouth’s books, although he’s currently out on loan. Last season he played for Eastbourne Borough and this season he’s had spells with Poole Town and Oxford City.
If, like me, you wondered why the boys are Oxlade-Chamberlain, it’s because they use their mother’s maiden name at her request.
“She had a brother who died in a car accident and there were no more Oxlades so she was very keen to keep the name going and that was fine by me,” said Mark. “The boys have always been Oxlade-Chamberlains. I think they came from Norway, the Oxlades.”
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2045303/Alex-Oxlade-Chamberlain-Father-Mark-Arsenals-12m-wonderkid.html#ixzz4sj4JImUp
Pictures show onevalefan.co.uk’s shot of Chamberlain and his brother in their early Port Vale days, in Stoke’s kit, wearing England’s change strip, a Daily Express shot of him playing for Pompey, and a still from a YouTube interview.