The football book entitled The Mavericks and devoted to personality players of the 70s, aptly features on its cover the famous photo of Alan and Sheffield United’s Tony Currie taking time out from match action for a jokey kiss. For many observers this remains the soccer-image antithesis of the well known shot from a later era of Vinnie Jones and Paul Gascoigne in rather more cynical intimate contact.
Times may have changed in this way, but at least at Filbert Street we have Alan to remind us though his programme column and his mant with the microphone manner that the game can still be as much about smiles and grimacis and gritted teeth. City’s energic part time pr man was London born but Nottingham raised.
Started his playing career as an extrovert blond stirker, gaining four England U.23 caps while figuring as a skilful foil from Mick Jones at Bramall Lane. He became Dave Sexton’s initial major purchase at Stamford Bridge, in the first of three six figures transfers and Jimmy Bloomfield eventually added him to the rapidly burgeoning community of transplanted Cockneys at Leicester, where Alan gradually assumed a deeper lying schmer’s role as attack orientied City’s fortunes ebbed and flowed enteratiningly in the early 70s.
Again inclining to the nomadic life, Alan then carried both his boots and his ever ready smile around the NASL and the lower Divisions for a while (never quite getting his notorious left shooting foot – The Claw – into top gear again, before returning to Filbert Street. Birch has over more than 30 years worked in public relation at the club and is still into his 70s to be seen at match days, doing his job.
Despite a great number of games at City as a player, he never managed to win anything, but to see him lift the 2015-16 Premier League trophy was fantastic.