Scott McGarvey felt sick as he put down the phone. Sick to the pit of his stomach. The voice on the other end of the line had broken the news.
McGarvey wasn’t getting a car and wasn’t getting the £218,000-a-year job he’d been promised. Instead he had been a pawn in a newspaper sting on football corruption.
They weren’t after him, he was assured, just the people he had brought to their table.
Scott McGarvey was sat alongside Sam Allardyce during the sting that cost him England job
The Telegraph carried out a sting that ultimately led to Allardyce being dismissed from his job
Asked to attract football names to a Far East company called Meiran, former Manchester United striker and licensed agent McGarvey had introduced them to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and, fatefully, then to England manager Sam Allardyce.
Immediately, McGarvey called Allardyce. He was on the golf course. Unruffled, Allardyce replied: ‘It’s a stitch-up Scotty. Don’t worry lad, you sort it out. We’ve done nothing wrong.’
Three days later Allardyce was no longer England manager.
In his meeting with McGarvey and Meiran, Allardyce had been recorded allegedly discussing how clubs could navigate third party ownership. Though this was later ruled to have been reported inaccurately by the Independent Press Standards Organisation, the FA swiftly ruled that it was unbefitting of an England manager and Gareth Southgate was promptly installed as caretaker.
Allardyce had been recorded allegedly discussing how clubs could navigate third party ownership but this was later ruled to have been reported inaccurately by IPSO
The newspaper admitted using ‘subterfuge’ to entrap McGarvey but countered that with Allardyce’s sacking their actions were in the public interest.
Allardyce threatened legal action against the FA. McGarvey also attempted to sue but, reputation shredded and without a job, his life spiralled. Three years on, he is still picking up the pieces.
‘Suicide is a big word but I can’t lie, in those early days I was so low I thought hard about it,’ says McGarvey. ‘It was a really dark time. People I’d known for years didn’t want to speak to me. They didn’t know if I could be trusted.
‘It was horrible. I’m not proud of it but I ended up in fist fights in some of the bars I went in.
McGarvey’s life spiralled afterwards and even three years on, he is still picking up the pieces
‘People were taking pictures of me and uploading to social media, saying: “This is the guy that got Allardyce sacked.” I just lost it.
‘Fortunately I have a good wife and two children to consider. I’m a grandad now too. I’d rather fight than throw in the towel.
‘People shouldn’t be feeling sorry for me anyway, it’s Sam who I’ve always felt for. Every time I see Southgate leading England out I wonder if that could still be Sam.’
Though he may not have many sympathisers, it is clear that McGarvey, 56, is still wrestling with what he saw as an injustice for Allardyce. Yet how was he so easily blindsided at the time?
McGarvey, 56, is still wrestling with what he saw as an injustice for his friend Allardyce
‘Sam only ever turned up to those meetings to help me guarantee a job,’ affirms McGarvey, who was not paid for this interview with Sportsmail. ‘They’d been talking to me since June and that was September. They paid for my travel, there was an office in London.
‘I’d been taken in by the offer of a good salary to do a job properly and bring in my contacts. I’ve played football since I was 17 and was an agent from 35. I knew almost everyone in the game so I didn’t think it was odd.
‘I asked who had recommended me and they just said someone from United.
‘The one alarm was when I approached a friend in Gibraltar to help scout players and he said he thought it was all fake.’
McGarvey now admits: ‘I’d been taken in by the offer of a good salary to do a job properly’
Allardyce came under further fire after the undercover team proposed four dates in the Far East when the England boss would give speeches to businessmen. A fee of £150,000 a time was outlined, if the FA concurred. ‘Let me tell you, Sam never once asked for money,’ insists McGarvey.
‘The undercover reporter was pushing me before the meeting, saying: ‘Tell Sam to ask for £250,000 as this lot will pay it’. They wanted me to put words into Sam’s mouth. Thankfully I didn’t. The one thing I was guilty of was exaggerating stories to try and guarantee myself a job.
‘Afterwards the paper warned the FA and police would get involved. They never did.
‘I didn’t hear another word because I’d done nothing wrong. Neither had Sam. What the FA did to him was disgraceful.’
Allardyce only took charge of one game as England manager — against Slovakia in 2016
McGarvey is sat in a Manchester restaurant. He acknowledges old friends who say hello and ask whether he still sees team-mates from his Old Trafford days.
The conversation is punctuated with anecdotes.
Having turned down Jock Stein’s Celtic to join Manchester United as a teenager, McGarvey made his debut for Dave Sexton as a 17-year-old and went on to play for Ron Atkinson before moves to Wolves, Portsmouth, Carlisle and Oldham, among others. He also had spells in Japan and Cyprus before becoming an agent.
It is little surprise that he is in talks over writing a book.
McGarvey told Sportsmail that what the FA did to Allardyce after the sting was ‘disgraceful’
He is full of colourful tales. How Wolves players held him down as he had a painkilling injection in a broken toe before scoring a goal against Arsenal. How he let manager Alan Ball’s tyres down while on tour with Portsmouth. The night Paul McGrath sparked a scuffle with American sailors while away with United, and his role in David Moyes becoming Everton manager.
He has been back to United, Rochdale and Salford City to watch games ‘to keep my eye in’, and has been working with a company called ThinAir which helps athletes recover faster using pure oxygen.
‘We’ve had interest from the PFA. It’s going well,’ he says. ‘It helps injury recovery time. I’ve had a lot of former players talking to me about it.’
Surprisingly, though, one person McGarvey still hasn’t spoken to is Allardyce.
He knows Allardyce lost the England job as he was trying to help him and that ‘kills’ him still
‘It’s not for want of trying,’ he says. ‘I spoke with his agent Mark Curtis and he said Sam wasn’t ready. I wanted to apologise. My wife suggested I write a letter which maybe I should have.
‘I’d like to believe he knew I’d never set him up but ultimately I knew what that job meant to him.
‘One of those nights he met me at the Mayfair Hotel, he struggled to walk across to where I was sat because of all the people stopping him to shake his hand.
‘The smile was writ large across his face and I was thinking: “That’s my mate, that’s the England manager”. It was the biggest job of his life. It’s the biggest job in the world. The reason he lost it was because he tried to help me… and that kills me every day.’