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Football has always been a big part of my life
MICKY Mellon was just 16 when he left home with a one-way train ticket from the south side of Glasgow to south west England, after earning a scholarship at Bristol City.
The young Celtic fan and grown up watching greats like Tommy Burns, Brian McClair and Charlie Nicholas win a succession of league titles and cups, and he wanted a taste of it.
Football had always been his life; his goal.
But his parents feared that staying in their Glasgow housing estate would be no life for him, and cut the apron strings at the earliest opportunity.
“Bristol was pretty much as far away from Glasgow as you could get on a train,” Mellon explained.
“My parents took the bull by the horns and said ‘you have to leave Glasgow if you’re going to be a footballer’.
“We were on a housing estate there are a too many distractions, if you like. It was great fun for a 16-year-old but not a great grounding for a young footballer.
“Any young Glasgow boy will tell you that’s what he always wanted to be.
“There was no other sport in Glasgow when I was younger. That’s all we did.
“There was no cricket or tennis or anything else. We just played football.”
Contemplating what might have become of him had his parents not taken such drastic action, the former added: “If I told you that out of the group of eight or nine lads that I went around with, three are dead now, and some are doing serious time in jail.
“It was a real tough environment that I grew up in; not bad people but just the environment.”
But Mellon made the best of it, saving pocket money and modest earnings from the paper round he had as a schoolboy to pay for football boots and any travel expenses to get to games before going on to make a career in football with spells at Bristol City - where he made his debut at 17, West Brom, Blackpool, Tranmere, Burnley and Kidderminster Harriers.
“All the credit goes to my mum and dad. I had a real structured upbringing. I was told what time to be in and what time I couldn’t be in; what I could do and what I couldn’t do.
“I had a real good grounding as a kid and I still have a lot of those values now,” said Mellon, who left Burnley for a second spell at Tranmere in March 2001, just over two years after signing.
Looking back now, he admits he may have left Turf Moor in haste.
“If I had my time again I would probably have never left the football club because I wasn’t encouraged to league at the time by the manager, but I just felt that my life needed a change at that time.
“Off the pitch I had some private issues going on – private problems that people have,” the 40-year-old revealed.
“You never regret anything in life but it’s certainly something that if I had my time again I would have stayed at Burnley for longer.
“But it helped me be a better man-manager now. It’s not just about 90 minutes, people have lives that they’re getting on with and it’s important that you do remember that.
“When you see a player with their mind elsewhere, like the gaffer, Stan Ternent, did with me. He was terrific. He took me to one side and helped the situation and understood. I try to do that with my players now.”
He has lost a number of them since winning promotion, including top scorer Jamie Vardy and Hapton Hitman Gareth Seddon, although he replaced one of them last week by signing former Preston and Cardiff targetman Jon Parkin.
“Our top scorer has gone. Infact I’ve lost four strikers, so I’ve got to try to find 70-odd goals. I’m trying to find the players to do that,” said Mellon.
“I think I’m just looking for the right player and the right person, because this is a big challenge here. It’s a club that’s used to promotions. We’ve had five in seven seasons.
“It’s got a fanbase that’s used to seeing us at the right end of the table and people in the media that are used to talking about us on promotion charges.
“There’s no pressure on us but there’s a lot of expectation on the team. We have been made second favourites to win a league that we’ve never played in and I didn’t even have a striker until last Wednesday.
“That shows you the level of expectation.”
But the savvy Scot is embracing the challenge.