WORLD RECORD youth level goalscorer Paul Moulden now runs a successful chippy in Bolton but he was once in the firing – rather than frying – line for AFC Bournemouth and Brighton & Hove Albion.
The career of the prodigious goalscoring wonderkid tailed off early although it may have taken a new direction in Sussex if the cash-strapped Seagulls had been able to afford to buy him.
Born in Farnworth, near Bolton, on 6 September 1967, Moulden first made a name for himself playing for Bolton Lads Club under-15s: his staggering personal goal tally of 289 goals in 40 games in a single season earned him a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
He was snapped up by Manchester City and was part of their FA Youth Cup winning side in 1986, although manager Billy McNeill had already blooded him in the first team on New Year’s Day that year in a 1-0 home win over Aston Villa.
He made two further substitute appearances for the first team that season and finished top scorer for City’s reserves. By late 1986, he had earned a regular place but a broken leg sustained in training restricted him to only three appearances in 1987-88.
In the 1988-89 season, Moulden was City’s top scorer with 13 goals as they won promotion from the old First Division back to the elite. But the young striker elected not to take up the offer of a new contract in the summer of 1989 and ended up joining Bournemouth, where Harry Redknapp was beginning his managerial career. Moulden was valued at £160,000 as the makeweight in a deal which saw Bournemouth’s Ian Bishop move to Maine Road.
City boss Mel Machin, himself something of a legend at Bournemouth (a Cherries player, manager and director of football) spelled the end of Moulden’s career at City.
Moulden told FourFourTwo magazine: “Machin just didn’t fancy me. I was offered a contract but it was a contract you’d have been a fool to sign, so I didn’t sign it and I became for sale. All the backroom staff and everyone else concerned was upset that I was going but to have tied yourself down for three years on the contract they were offering, you would have been a fool. That was the lever to get me out.” The Lancashire lad’s move to Dorset proved to be a success on the pitch – but was brief.
He scored six goals in his first three home league matches, including a hat-trick in a 5-4 win over Hull and both goals in a 2-1 win over Newcastle. “I remember the two goals against Newcastle,” Moulden told the Bournemouth Echo in 2016. “One was a three-inch tap-in and the other was a run from the halfway line.”
While he said in the Echo interview how much he enjoyed his time with the Cherries, he told efl.com: “Moving to Bournemouth was a huge move for me. At the time, I was single and it was exciting, but the novelty soon wore off and I found it hard to settle.
“It was a lovely club but I was delighted to return home and back to Oldham.”
Moulden told FourFourTwo: “Bournemouth had some good players, like Luther Blissett, Paul Miller and goalkeeper Gerry Peyton. The thing that struck me was how many old players they had – I was 22 at the time – but Harry was just starting out and I suppose for his first job he wanted security around himself.
“It was a small club and I’d imagine he had to get success quickly. Harry was a nice guy, a decent manager.”
After just seven months at Bournemouth, and with 13 goals in 37 starts to his name, he was snapped up by Oldham Athletic on transfer deadline day in March 1990.
A £225,000 fee meant a decent profit for Bournemouth but, with Oldham flying high at the time, and Moulden struggling with injuries, he only managed 19 games for the Latics in two and a half seasons.
It was towards the end of his time there that Brighton boss Barry Lloyd seized the opportunity to try to resurrect Moulden’s career – and he couldn’t have made a better start with the Seagulls.
Newly-relegated back to the third tier, Albion desperately needed some inspiration up front and Lloyd thought he’d hit the jackpot in securing on loan the services of strike pairing Moulden and Steve Cotterill, from Wimbledon.
Each got themselves a goal in an opening 3-2 defeat to Orient so the signs were promising and the new men duly delivered the goods on the pitch.
The two goals Moulden scored as Albion beat Preston North End 2-0 in September 1992 were especially sweet, as he explained to Brian Owen of the Argus in 2016.
In total, Moulden scored five goals in 11 league appearances and Cotterill four, but the Albion couldn’t afford to sign either of them permanently.
The void was ultimately filled by the arrival of free transfer Kurt Nogan, who subsequently became a prolific goalscorer for the Seagulls. Moulden, meanwhile, ended up being sold to Birmingham later the same season for £150,000 and Cotterill, also deemed too expensive for Albion, was sold to Bournemouth for £80,000 the following summer.
In an interview with Howard Griggs of the Argus, in January 2011, Moulden explained how he would dearly have liked to have made the move to Brighton permanent.
“I played at Bournemouth two seasons before,” he said. “I liked the south coast and I had the chance to go to either Brighton or Plymouth. I jumped at the chance to go to Brighton and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I struck up a good understanding with Steve Cotterill.”
Moulden spoke particularly highly of assistant manager Martin Hinshelwood – “he was different class, absolutely brilliant” – and said: “It felt just right from the start. I did well with Steve Cotterill. We both scored goals for the team.”
As an ex-City player, Moulden was particularly miffed that Oldham boss Joe Royle would not let the outcast striker play for Albion against Manchester United in the League Cup that autumn, and he added: “If Brighton had had the money I certainly would have signed.”
He told Griggs: “Manchester City was certainly good, and I enjoyed my time at Birmingham under Terry Cooper, but there were plenty of good times and I can honestly say my two months at Brighton was up there.”
One of Moulden’s best games came in a 2-1 home win over Huddersfield as Albion won 2-1. Steve Foster, back at the club for a second spell, put Albion ahead on 17 minutes with a header from a John Robinson corner. Although Huddersfield equalised through a Iwan Roberts penalty, livewire Moulden popped up with the winner six minutes from time.
The Terriers would ultimately be Moulden’s next destination after leaving Birmingham in 1995 but he made only two appearances before switching to nearby Rochdale where he played 16 times in the 1995-96 season.
In total, Moulden suffered four broken legs and his league career came to a premature end at 28, although he played non-league with Accrington Stanley and Bacup Borough.
He later coached at his old boys’ club and also spent three years with the Manchester City academy but sensibly he had an eye for a career outside of football too and followed in his mum and dad’s footsteps by opening up Paul’s Chippy in Bolton.
Pictures: Evening Argus and online sources.