Interview: The struggle of our Vice President
The Isle of Man, or Ellan Vannin like it’s called in Manx, gave us the best Vice President we could dream of: Malcolm Blackburn (51).
In the short time we have known Malcolm, it is apparent that he has an obvious affinity with football and a drive to change what is considered the normal for the benefit of others. It has often resulted in him being seen as somewhat of a Maverick, suffering both abuse and ridicule along the way. We wanted to find out what makes him tick and what have been his successes and failures along the way. And listened to his very interesting monologue:
“I suppose I have always questioned anything I believe could be improved. At the age of 10 I was not happy that we didn’t have many football matches against other primary schools. I believed that I could organize a team at my school and contact other schools on the Island, all without adult help. I got the first bit right and managed to get a group of lads to stay behind after school for training sessions on the playground. It was probably quite comical seeing a boy of 10 screaming and shouting as though he was Sir Alex Ferguson (laughs). This whole idea came to an abrupt end when a skyward shot hit a bus travelling past the school which resulted in the cane for me and a ban on using the playground after school.”
We want girls!
“Next up was an extremely enjoyable time of my life when I became a Cub leader and started to push the boundaries of the scout movement. I believed that although the values of the scout movement were inspirational, a lot of their methods were outdated. My philosophy was modernizing to improve numbers without losing the core values. This all resulted in the Cub pack becoming one of the largest on the Isle of Man.”
“From Cubs I decided that the next progression was to start a Scout Troop in the area, and this is where I had my first battle with authority. I wanted to admit girls into the membership! It was unheard of in the United Kingdom. Over six months and a lot of letter writing I eventually got permission which resulted in a thriving Scout Group, the first with girl membership in the United Kingdom. In excess of thirty years on I still have contact with various Scouts who refer to their time as some of the best experiences of their lives.”
Buying Leeds United
“One of my passions in football is the love of Leeds United. I suffered along with many other Leeds fans when our club went into administration and was relegated to the third tier of English Football. As per usual I couldn’t just sit there and watch this all unfold and I became involved in a fans consortium to see if we could get the support to buy the club. I was responsible for setting up and running a website where fans could pledge donations for our campaign. We reached in excess of 100.000 members and I was generally amazed at the support we were receiving from the fan base of other clubs.”
“I was also involved with a local football club, Michael United, firstly as a player – not a very good one – and then as a committee member. I held various positions: secretary, treasurer, joint first team manager. The club was always seen as a second division team and my dream was to see it promoted to the Premier League. This was achieved and I had three great seasons involved with the first team as well as continuing on the committee.”
The records of St John’s United
“After some 35 years with Michael United I felt that I couldn’t move the club any further and I myself was becoming stale. After the ambitious plans for a ground redevelopment, including a leisure and fitness club, did not receive much support, I decided it was time to move on. I left with Nick Hurt (one of the best players ever on the Island) to take up the position as Assistant Manager of St John’s United. I also took up a position on the committee. Our job was to get them back up to the Premier League as quickly as possible. We achieved that in one season winning every match.”
“I was determined to see how I could get off Island competition for the players and when I found out that the IOMFA were not going to enter a team in the Island Games in Bermuda, I suggested that St John’s United could represent the Isle of Man. This went down like a lead balloon with the IOMFA and what took place was a very public debate on the subject with surprisingly a lot of public support for the idea. However, it became a failure. The Island Games Association would only accept St John’s United as representing the Isle of Man if put forward and approved by the IOMFA.”
“I am a great believer in fate and I suppose that is why I keep coming up and moving forward with ideas that push the boundaries. The failure with Bermuda Gate resulted in the Tynwald International Football Tournament with then the formation of the Manx Independent Football Association. And a Manx Team: Ellan Vannin. Now I am at the start of what appears and could be a success story. I really believe in the MIFA, in ConIFA too. There were many knocks along the way but football certainly keeps me going and striving for improvement. As our Manx motto of our three legs says: Whichever way you throw us, we will always stand.”