Picture mystery led me to football legend's tragic story

Malcolm Musgrove

Malcolm Musgrove. - Credit: Submitted

Back in 2007, my mother had to be placed in a home specialising in dementia care.

A room had become vacant, a room which looked over a local park, was incredibly well run and saw that her final days were very comfortable.

Strangely, on the wall, someone had left a picture of the West Ham football team from the 1960s.

Malcolm Musgrove with his West Ham team mates.

Malcolm Musgrove with his West Ham team mates. - Credit: Submitted

I had often wondered who had left it, but I have now solved the puzzle having tracked down the family and worked out the link.

Malcolm Musgrove was a legendry player for ‘The Hammers’ - and later manager of Torquay United - and this had been his room.

His son, local businessman David Musgrove, spoke to me on BBC Radio Devon about his father’s state of health towards the end of his life.

Football player and manager Malcolm Musgrove 

Football player and manager Malcolm Musgrove - Credit: Submitted

"For the last year or two when he was at Shrewsbury Town, he was beginning to forget things.

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"We had a phone call from the manager there at the time who had decided to take a few of his duties off him. 

"It was just to help him through to the end of his career before retirement."

Did he or his teammates ever question that heading the ball might have led to these problems? 

"Not during his career. When he retired, yes.

"The specialist he saw diagnosed him with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, it is what the player Jeff Astle had, which is a condition normally linked to boxers. 

"Once he retired, his life was pretty poor, he was getting very forgetful. He had only retired for nine years before he passed.

"The one thing we have as a family is the knowledge that Dad did a job for 45 years that he would have done for fun."

The picture on the care home wall led me to you. 

"It was either my brother or me who got that put into a frame for him. Sadly, by the time he was there he probably wasn’t aware of what it was. And I am not sure where it is now!"

Did the football authorities help him in anyway? 

"Yes, they did. We had a lot of contact in the last few years with the PFA. 

"You must understand that Dad played at a time when £20 a week was the wage, some played for a lot less, he was in football at the wrong time.

"He didn’t have a lot of money in retirement, but they did pay for his hip replacements and did help us a little bit with the funeral."

What would you like to see in the future, any changes in the way that the game is played? 

"What some people say is ban heading altogether! I’ve seen the modern ball and I’m not saying that they can’t do damage but there is a lot less of a risk these days. 

"Maybe, in junior football, what about not having the ball above shoulder height or quite simply cut out heading at that level of the game. But I can’t see that happening any time soon but things do need to be looked at."

Your father had an incredible career? 

"Oh yes, 84 goals for West Ham but he was also in a unique position locally because he managed Torquay United and was coach and physio both at Plymouth Argyle and Exeter City."

Malcolm Musgrove at Torquay United

Malcolm Musgrove at Torquay United - Credit: Submitted

You are still living and working locally? 

"I started a window blinds fitting business over 30 years ago but recently my younger son Nick has just joined me. He was living in New Zealand for a while and came back to help the family firm.

"Strangely over the pandemic, it’s been booming, I don’t know how long that’s going to last but at the moment it’s going well."

I can tell you that the staff at the care home loved your father’s rendition of ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’. 

"The classic West Ham tune, that’s really nice to know."