Summerbee paystribute after death of coach Allison, 83

Former Manchester City star Mike Summerbee has paid tribute to "the best coach this country ever had" following the death of Malcolm Allison.

Allison, who had suffered poor health and dementia for several years and was living at a nursing home in Sale, died at the age of 83.

He enjoyed a long and colourful career as a player, coach and manager, and is perhaps best remembered for his time at Manchester City, where he initially worked under Joe Mercer and then had two spells as manager in his own right.

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Summerbee, a member of the City side which won the league title, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the European Cup Winners' Cup under Mercer and Allison after emerging from Division Two, had little doubt about his standing in the game.

He said: "He was the best coach this country has ever had, without a shadow of a doubt. He was a great coach, a very special person and a nice man as well.

"He turned that side into a championship and cup-winning side because of the confidence he gave them and the belief he had in himself.

"He was a great character and a very sociable man. We worked hard for him and we were exceptionally fit, but we could enjoy ourselves and he went along with that.

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"It was a great era, a great period in the history of the club. He was a special, lovely man."

Flamboyant Allison will be remembered off the pitch for his trademark cigar and fedora, and a zest for life which once saw him photographed in the players' bath at Crystal Palace with celebrity Fiona Richmond.

Dartford-born Allison, who had a lung removed in 1957 after contracting tuberculosis, began his playing career at Charlton, but made his name as a defender at West Ham.

Chairman David Gold told the club's official website, www. "He was one of those great characters in football. In a way, he was at the beginning of big personalities in football."

Allison's interest in the coaching side of the game began at Upton Park, and was fostered in non-league football and then at Plymouth before he was became Mercer's assistant in 1965.