Until 1979, midfielder Steve Daley wasn’t controversial at all.
Signed at 18 in 1971 by Wolverhampton Wanderers, Steve had a perfectly respectable career for eight years. With more than 200 appearances in an eight – year spell with Wolves as well as being capped for England at both Youth and ‘B’ level, He was a vastly experienced midfielder when he joined Man City on September 5th, 1979. There was no doubting either his stamina levels or skill with ball. What shocked many though was the sheer size of his transfer fee: the small matter of £1,437,500 (approximately 3.5 million US dollars), which, somewhat inaccurately, earned him the “Six Million Dollar Man” nickname.
Football tongues up and down the country were sent into a wagging frenzy as Steve became the clubs first million-pound player. The rumour at the time was that Steve was the unfortunate victim of Manchester City’s attempt to keep up with Manchester United, who had just signed Bryan Robson for a similar amount. ‘Looking back it was a very foolish time,’ Man City fan Nick Leeson once remarked. And he wasn’t talking about Barings Bank! The story goes that Malcolm Allison offered £400,000 and couldn’t believe it when his chairman Peter Swales did the deal for a million more (Swales always denied it). So perhaps Steve was the victim of a perverse form of oneupmanship.
With such a huge price tag hanging round his neck, it was perhaps not too surprising that Steve failed to leave a lasting impression at Maine Road. Although to be fair to the player, when he signed for the club it could hardly have been described as one of its glory periods. The deal was so bad, in fact, that in 2001 the (London) Observer listed Steve’s transfer as number one on their list of “The Ten Biggest Wastes of Money in Football History”. After two seasons with the Blues, Steve was sold to Seattle for the (relatively speaking) bargain-basement price of £300,000 (approximately 720,000 US dollars).
Manchester’s loss was Seattle’s gain. Steve was still hyped as the “Six Million Dollar Man”, but he was burdened with none of the pressure he had faced in England. For three years he was the Sounders’ midfield general, displaying an intense work ethic and playmaking flair that earned him many lasting fans.
After the Sounders folded in 1983, Steve yo-yoed back and forth between the US and England, playing briefly for Burnley and the San Diego Sockers of the MISL before ending his career with Walsall. A season with Kettering Town in the GM Vauxhall Conference followed before Steve went into management with Telford United. He was later to manage Bromsgrove Rovers F.C.
He left the game he loved and went into the world of sales with a well known brewery, where he became a successful sales executive. He carried on in this profession whilst carving another success as an after dinner speaker before committing to the speaking circuit full time.
He is now regarded as one of the best speakers on the after dinner circuit, bringing his own style and humour to describe the challenges of what turned out to be no more than an average football career, but playing against some of the world’s greatest players. Steve’s friendly approach brings him great reviews whether he is speaking at a sporting dinner, golf day, round table or rotary dinner, or corporate event. The repeat bookings he achieves are quite remarkable and proof of his standing as a speaker.
Steve has now added to his repertoire, motivational speaking for companies and professional organisations and this is also proving very popular and successful. From his football career he talks of the highs and lows ( of which there were more lows ), The pressure of being the second player in the history of the game to be transferred for a million pound plus. The pressures brought on by the expectations of the supporters and the disappointment of his failure to live up to this in their eyes. He talks of the burden of the “Six Million Dollar Man” tag that was given to him, and the effect it had on his life and career. Steve will tell of moving to play in America against the teams fielding players like Pele, George Best, Franz Beckenbaur just to name a few, and being in awe of them. He tells of having to drive himself on to forge a career in that league, that with his intense work ethic and playmaking earned him many lasting fans. He will talk about his return to England and playing in the lower leagues and attempting management in the Conference League.
Steve will speak of leaving football the drive and commitment that made him a success in the world of sales and how his experiences in football helped him.
On some occasions he might even recall the story of his embarrassment later in life when his grandson was the mascot at a Wolves versus Manchester City game and he was a guest having played for both teams. Where he walked onto the pitch before the game with his grandson and when his name was announced he was greeted by unpleasant chants from both sets of fans. A disappointment that stays with him today, but gave him no fear of failure when he moved on to the speaking circuit whatever size audience.
Steve is confident that any company wishing to book him for a motivational talk for their event will not be disappointed. He has a story to tell of drive and determination to achieve his own personal success where expectation was high and against, in some cases world class competition.
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