This interview was conducted by Liam Sephton and originally published in All Gone Latics 05. It is reproduced here with permission of The Powers That Be (thanks, Google!).
AGL: Who was the best player you played with?
CG: Dean Saunders when I was at Oxford, who were in Division One. There would be times when both sides were equal and then Dean would go and score a goal or two. He was just great to have on your team.
Who was the best player you played against?
Played against? Flipping ‘eck! [AGL remembers Colin retired 15 years ago, immediately regretting having asked the question] Remember I played over 700 games so it’s not easy when I don’t have a good memory!
Ermm, I’ll have to go with two. Mark Hughes is one, I played against him for Oxford when he was at Man United — he was really hard work, I just couldn’t get the ball off him.
Lee Chapman’s the other, remember him? [AGL doesn’t remember him] He was a big forward, about 6ft 3 and I was only a small centre half.
How did you find it as caretaker manager of Latics in 2001?
It’s something I’m glad I’ve experienced. I wish I’d had the opportunity to continue for longer. I think every coach and assistant manager should have the experience of management for at least a month.
With the running of the team, some people say it’s quite easy — train a few times a week and play on the Saturday — but it’s about 30 times more work than what people think. I was just finishing playing when I took charge so for me it may well have just been the wrong time to have a go — still, as I say it doesn’t take away the fact I’m glad I had the opportunity.
Did your experience of how demanding a job it was put you off going into management?
Greenall’s managerial successor: Steve Bruce.
No, not at all. After me it was Steve Bruce who came in and I was able to learn from him, then I went on to coach the youth team at Rochdale and Blackpool.
This led on to me taking the Education Manager role at the Lancashire FA where I’m still working now. If a manager’s or assistant manager job had cropped up maybe I’d have taken it but it didn’t at the time. It’s all about being given the opportunities.
Having said that I did have a chance to get back into coaching after a couple of years at the Lancashire FA, but I didn’t take it because I already had a job — one that didn’t rely on 11 players on a Saturday that might get me the sack.
Do you see yourself going back into coaching in the future?
Never say never, but at the moment I’m happy with what I’m doing at the county FA.
Did you see the move to Wigan as a homecoming with you growing up in Billinge?
People say to me why didn’t you start your career at Wigan, and that’s because I never had the chance to. It wouldn’t say it was a homecoming but it was nice for my parents and the rest of my family to be able to come and watch games so I was really excited about signing and playing for the club.
It was an exciting time when I joined too— Dave Whelan had just taken over, Graham [Barrow] was in charge and the 3 Spaniards had come over too. I knew Graham, slightly not a lot, but I knew about him more than anything and I wanted to go and play for him. So it wasn’t a homecoming but with it being Wigan it was another reason as to why I wanted to go.
When Whelan set out his plan to get Wigan to the Premier League, what was the reaction like from the players?
Players just want to be playing and to get paid. The players back then didn’t look at it in the long term like the club and some of the staff did.
How did The Three Amigos settle into life in England?
They were all really good lads on and off the pitch there’s no doubt about it. All three really lifted the place and had a massive influence on the team, especially Izzy [Isidro Diaz] at the time because he had so much pace.
Where did you enjoy playing the most, Blackpool or Wigan?
I enjoyed them both for different reasons. Blackpool because it was my first team début, first few years of playing and the things I learned from the management at Blackpool that made me improve. Then on the other hand I had the most success in my career with Wigan, being fortunate enough to play at Wembley too. They’re both probably on a par overall since they were for such different reasons.
You mentioned Wembley there, where does winning the Auto Windscreens rank in your career achievements?
For me it’s number one. To play and win at Wembley — it’s the highlight of my career without any doubt.
You can follow Colin on Twitter: @GreenallGolf