Marcus Gayle interview: From the Rave New World to the Reggae Boyz
After an on-field career that took in a World Cup and a myriad of Premier League experiences Staines Town manager Marcus Gayle is primed to channel his know-how into life as the gaffer, and he took a look back at how music and certain characters have linked together along his journey so far.
Marcus nailed down his place as one of the names who will always be associated with a sustained period of Premier League history thanks to his time at Wimbledon, also adding the unforgettable honour of representing Jamaica at their first World Cup back in France ’98. His playing days only ended four years ago but he came into this season as Staines Town’s new manager having already stored multiple campaigns as AFC Wimbledon’s reserve team boss under his belt. While discussing some of his career’s most noteworthy moments Marcus revealed how music would be utilised in varying ways during the time he spent with the Jamaican national team and it paints quite a picture of the atmosphere the squad enjoyed.
“Every day on the bus to training or games there would be a proper soundclash between the players with people DJing, taking the microphone and MCing, and making up lyrics from the things they saw around them or outside the bus. Playing for Jamaica we had a Brazilian coach (René Simões) and one of the things that he liked to do was to use music in training to help get our rhythm and bodies into sequence and you could understand how the two cultures came together in that way.’’
With music so closely connected to the dynamics of the Jamaica team some of the players to have turned out for the Reggae Boyz have also got involved with DJing, performing and producing at certain points. An example of this is ex-Bolton Wanderers left-sider Ricardo Gardner who together with long-serving Tranmere Rovers defender Ian Goodison and former Spartak Moscow man Robert Scarlett runs the record label Heart of Love. Marcus mentioned another of his counterparts, a fellow UK-born Jamaican international, as someone involved in music away from the field and also recalls the World Cup 98 contingent’s regret at a venture that failed to come to fruition.
“Paul Hall was into music, he was always keen on it and he had a single out not too long ago (with his long-time band SKO). There was also an opportunity for us as the Reggae Boyz to do a song for the World Cup just featuring us but that didn’t materialise due to some politics.
“Little things like that hurt the players and it denied us the chance to express our musical talent as well as the footballing side.’’
In terms of his own musical preferences Marcus maintains his strength of feeling for much of the sounds he would listen to in his younger days, but it is perhaps fair to say that one such memory is sealed in time with no chance of the same situation reoccurring in the future!
“I’ve not been to any festivals but the last ever event I went to was a jungle rave in a field in Northampton in 1991! I went there with a couple of my friends from football and we got there extra early, there were probably about 15,000 there.
“We were at the start of the queue and I turned around at one point and saw the length of it and they must have had to queue for another three or four hours. I just thought ‘thank God we got there early!’
“Grooverider was there, DJ Hype too, and probably Goldie as well somewhere. That was probably the best part of my life musically, from the age of 18 or 19 through to around 22.’’
Although a West Londoner by birth, Marcus’ heritage is of course Jamaican and one of the many factors that the nation’s culture encompasses is music and this was in evidence when he was young, as he explains.
“I grew up on reggae – music was widespread through the house and would always be played when Mum was cooking food on a Sunday. There was Bob Marley of course but perhaps a lesser-known artist that was played was Gregory Isaacs and he was a big star in our household.
“Reggae is something I’ll play to get me out of a down-state but I wouldn’t say there’s one type of music in particular that I like more than any other, I like r&b and hip-hop too. I was also a big fan of the early days of drum and bass when I was 19 or 20 and I still love it to this day.’’
Recalling the first record he ever had led to Marcus searching his memory banks to conjure up an act out of New York City who had the majority of their success in the 80s fusing genres such as r&b and dance. However, Marcus’ attentions were not solely fixed on the band’s repertoire but more on the singer Lisa Velez!
“The first one I had I think was by an artist called Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam and I had a crush on her so I bought it for the sleeve! I think my Mum will say that at one stage I only had records because the girls on them were beautiful!’’
After starting out in the professional game with Brentford, Marcus got his chance of the top flight when he joined Wimbledon in 1994. The Dons had a widespread reputation for tough and boisterous antics on and off the field but were also able to compete with English football’s best on many occasions. Beginning with the team’s music from his days at Selhurst Park, Marcus describes some of the pre-game scenes that would take place within the changing room walls.
“When I played at Wimbledon there was a lot of techno mixed in with some of the 90s dance music, ‘Show Me Love’ (by Robin S.) was one that was popular. When I first went there Vinnie Jones and John Fashanu were in charge of the music a lot and they were the two biggest characters in the team at the time.
“There were some shapes thrown and clapping hands and that was what it was like. A lot of the teams we’d play away though wouldn’t allow us to have that kind of mini-party and would lock up the plug sockets!
“It meant we had to buy a million batteries for the stereo but we always had a way to mix work, rest and play.’’
There was one of the Dons’ defenders who did not quite fall in line with the team’s sound choices at the time and his offerings were met with very clear disapproval! Marcus also brings in one of this site’s past interviewees when discussing the youngster who stepped up to the musical mark at the club when the likes of Jones and Fashanu had departed.
“Kenny Cunningham brought in his Irish folk music but I think his CD got snapped so he didn’t have much input! Out of the next generation Jason Euell was into the music scene and would bring CDs in and set the tone.
“The club had evolved by then and Jason took it on with the music side of it.’’
In the seven years before his departure for Glasgow Rangers in 2001 Marcus enjoyed numerous unforgettable moments at Wimbledon, including his goal to knock holders Manchester United out of the FA Cup in the fourth round in February 1997. He adapted to a number of playing positions in his career but played largely up front and in a wider role while with the Dons in his first spell, registering double figures for goals on more than one occasion. Relegation from the Premier League came in 2000 but Marcus would spend one more season at Selhurst Park despite being in the First Division. The end for the club as we knew it came in 2004 but AFC Wimbledon had been formed by supporters two years earlier and Marcus would represent them before taking over the reserves. In my interview with Jason Euell, who also played for both Wimbledon in the top flight and AFC Wimbledon (now in League Two), I asked him about the best prank he witnessed in his days at the ‘Crazy Gang’. I put a similar question to Marcus and he takes up the story of a fairly unique agreement.
“When I first went there Sam Hammam the owner had a side bet with Dean Holdsworth – if Deano got 20 goals Sam would kiss his backside! Towards the end of the season he scored his 20th goal, we won the game and everyone was happy.
“We locked the back door and eventually Sam did come in. (Manager) Joe Kinnear had been saying ‘are you gonna go to the toilet first Deano?’!’’
Following a brief stay in Scotland with Rangers, Marcus headed back down south to Watford in 2001 and was with the Hornets until 2005, reaching the 2003 FA Cup semi-final and winning the club’s Player of the Year award in his new role as a centre-back. As a Sheffield Wednesday supporter I had seen Marcus play for Watford against us and I was also there when he featured for Brentford in the League One play-offs in 2005 after he had rejoined his first club. Back in his first stint with the Bees he had been there as the club won the Division Three title in 1992 and his form of course earned him his big move to Wimbledon. He has no doubt about the significance of Brentford to him and speaks of the scenario that he encountered when making his breakthrough at Griffin Park.
“The club means a lot to me, they gave me my first taste of professional football and the opportunity to carve out my character. From an early age at the club I got to see the hard work and respected the pros who were there.
“For the little money we got then I loved it and I had it in my mind that I was cleaning boots so one day I wouldn’t have to. I’d made 200 appearances by the time I left and I always said I’d go back and continue my association with them.
“It’s always a good club, very friendly and I do see it as home.’’
Having touched upon the subject of the Jamaican national team earlier with the music they used to enjoy I asked Marcus about how it felt in terms of integrating with the Jamaican-born personalities as one of the numerous English-born players to be selected in the squad for the 1998 World Cup.
“It was pretty easy, I felt we all got on despite there being 4500 miles between where we were coming from. There were times when we’d be sat around together and we’d relate to our upbringings with stories of things like when we were 5 or 6 getting into trouble with our parents.
“The media tried to dismantle any chance we had of gelling at the World Cup but we gave a good account of ourselves and I think everyone can be proud. I don’t think there was any pressure, we were the first Caribbean team to qualify and I think there was no way we were going to make it out of the group so we had to enjoy the moment and see what we could do.
“We brought a lot of colour to the World Cup and I think France will always remember Jamaica for it.’’
Jamaica were beaten by Croatia (1-3) and Argentina (0-5) but did at least manage to defeat Japan 2-1 in the final group game in Lyon.
Some discussion recently has emerged from Birmingham City’s on-loan West Ham United midfielder Ravel Morrison considering the possibility of representing Jamaica at international level. Marcus sees improvements that need to be made for the nation to move forward in the game but believes the likes of Morrison would be a considerable plus point towards that aim.
“Jamaican football needs to be more professional to be taken seriously. The pitches, the coaching, whatever we can do to help, and if players like Ravel Morrison can attach themselves to the flag then it will certainly help the cause in future.
“Raheem Sterling (recently capped by England in a friendly but still eligible to switch allegiance) is another and if we can get them in a gold shirt then they will be loved like superstars from the moment they step off the plane in Jamaica. It’s a special place and people have long memories and never hesitate to remind you of how you made them feel.’’
Marcus also counts the Finnish side KuPS (1990) and Aldershot Town (2006-07) amongst his career clubs but he has now taken all that he garnered in two decades as a player into management. Staines Town ply their trade in the Blue Square Bet South division and their player / coach and former Blackpool striker Scott Taylor was recently on this site giving his own interview and stating his pleasure at working with Marcus. At this stage of the season the Swans are 12th in the 22-team division and face Sutton United at home this weekend. Marcus explains what attracted him to the club and what he has enjoyed in his first few months at the Wheatsheaf Park helm.
“My first impressions have been that everyone is quite lovable, everyone is hospitable and they’re just real, they’re not daydreamers. The club doesn’t have a massive fanbase but we’re working on it gradually.
“We’ve got a great stadium, facilities and playing surface and we have to use it to our advantage. We had a charity game recently with Robbie Savage and Adam Woodyatt from Eastenders involved and they said how surprised they were at the quality of the surface.
“The workload off the field is the biggest difference I’ve noticed, I’m first-team manager but also club manager so I bring a lot of my own ideas. The coaching part when we’re out on the grass is the easiest bit and it’s quite organic to me.
“I’m learning to be a manager and I want to lead people with humility but also passion.’’
When I asked Marcus whether he had considered trying to tempt the likes of Jason Euell out of retirement for Staines he revealed one of his new signings, an ex-Queens Park Rangers, Cardiff City and Jamaica midfielder who I always remember for his free-kicks from when I was a kid!
“As we speak we’ve got two ex-pros coming in, one is an ex-Reggae Boy, Richard Langley. He can come in and bring his experience, he’s bubbly, some would say a bit cheeky, but as long as it transmits in the right way it can only be a good thing!’’
It is always insightful to hear the responses to my concluding question as I ask for the interviewee to choose the best players they have worked with to go alongside them in a 5-a-side team. Marcus of course spent numerous campaigns in the Premier League, appearing also in the Scottish Premier League and a World Cup, but he chose to bestow the honour of the goalkeeping spot in this team upon one of his current players. Current Jamaica manager Theodore Whitmore and Charlton Athletic striker Ricardo Fuller were also given places on Marcus’ bench!
“It’s a tough one! At Wimbledon we didn’t have world-class players but we had good players so I think I’ll take Michael Hughes (midfield).
“He had great ability and could play anywhere, maybe not centre-back due to his height… but as it’s 5-a-side he probably could! At Rangers there was Tore Andre Flo but I’ll go for Tugay (midfield)– very good technically and he showed it at Blackburn.
“He was someone I shared plenty of jokes with in the short time I was at Rangers. Big Bad Johnny Hartson (striker) – such finesse even though he was a battering ram and a bruiser.
“If I was picking a goalkeeper right now I’d have mine – Jack Turner. I think the world of him, a good character and an excellent keeper. I’d play at the back, three in front, me and Jack at the back cleaning up – job done!’’