Sam’s career started with Leicester City where he made 7 first team appearances including two in the Premier League against Wimbledon in the 1994/1995 season and Crystal Palace in the 1997/1998 season. Sam signed with the foxes as a professional in July 1994 but found his time at Filbert Street limiting.
“I spent nearly seven years at Leicester as a trainee and a pro and had some fantastic times as a young man. I was always part of the first team squad and was just about living the life of a top level footballer, travelling the world, getting plenty of perks and a bit of fame! The only things missing were actually playing first team games and a decent wage packet!”
“Unfortunately as I was reaching some sort of maturity as a player around 20/21 the first team was incredibly strong and had a midfield of Lennon, Savage and Izzett so my opportunities were limited.”
“Martin O’Neil and I had a very mixed relationship, he offered me new contracts on 3 occasions and then proceeded to spend the majority of the season either ignoring me or criticising me! I ended up completely lacking in confidence and seriously considering quitting the game. The opportunity came to move on and I took it, and once at Boro I again found my love of the game.”
Sam left Leicester City in 1999 and joined then League 2 outfit, Cambridge United for a short period before eventually finding himself in North Hertfordshire.
“I didn’t settle particularly well at Cambridge, at the time of joining them they were top of league 2 and had a decent settled side and there were very few opportunities for me to make an impression. I had signed from Leicester’s reserves and needed time to adjust to competitive lower league football and that chance was never afforded to me at Cambridge.”
Richard Hill signed Sam in 1999 and had obviously done his homework on the midfielder which proved to be critical in tempting him to Broadhall Way.
“When I was released by Cambridge I was only really approached by a couple of Conference clubs which were Nuneaton and Stevenage. I had a chat with Brendan Phillips at Nuneaton and then came over to see Richard and there was no contest.”
“Nuneaton was geographically closer and more convenient, but any player with any ambition would have gone for Stevenage as it was set up for League Football. I was also reassured by Richard Hill’s intentions to make me a focal point of the side and the fact that he had watched me on numerous occasions in the reserves at Leicester and was fully aware of my strengths and weaknesses”.
“A number of managers weren’t so clear on my strengths and weaknesses – Dean Thomas at Hinckley for one –running up and down the right wing for 90 minutes chasing knock-ons was not really my strength!”
Sam scored 10 goals in Boro colours and obviously has fond memories of hitting the back of the net for Stevenage, “I can remember all of my goals for Boro clearly (probably as they were so few of them!) My first was a 20 yard dipping volley against Kettering in a 3-0 home win which was our 4th or 5th on the trot at the start of the season and kept us top of the league. I was MOTM and still regard that as one of my best performances in a Boro shirt. My favourite was without a doubt the second leg of the FA Trophy semi- final at home to Morecombe. We had been under the cosh first half and needed to get going; I picked a ball up about half way, played a nice 1-2 and hit a first timer from 25yds which fortunately nestled in the bottom corner. Massive jubilation then and after the game.”
Sam looks fondly back at his time at Stevenage and some of the characters that were his team mates at the time. “As a part time club for the majority of my time at Boro, the away overnight trips were few and far between, although over the years coming from Leicester I had a number of travel companions starting with Chris Pearson and Carl Alford.”
“Others were Michael Love, Simon Travis, Kirk Jackson, and Mark Walters amongst others all of whom were great company and quality banter. The person I had the best relationship with and still see on a regular basis was Matt Fisher who spent plenty of time talking about his time in the Marines, stories of hand to hand knife battles and tank battles in the desert. On the odd occasion Matt’s dad came along to games he would set the record straight and tell us that Matt spent most of his time in service travelling the world playing football for the GB forces team!”
|Name||Samuel Keiron McMahon|
|Place of Birth||Newark|
|Boro Career||1999/2000, 2000/2001, 2001/2002 and 2002/2003|
|Boro Shirt Number||8 (was 32 and 23 when at Leicester City)|
|Roomed With||As a part time club at the time staying over was few and far between but I had a number of travel companions including Chris Pearson and Carl Alford.|
|Superstitions||Vicks on nose (started as a cold remedy and ended up as a habit) and taped up toes smothered with Vaseline. (Started as blister prevention in the summer and ended up an every game thing)!|
|Influence on Career||Sam’s dad who “was a massive support all the way through” and Steve Hunt” my youth team manager who taught me an enormous amount during my youth team days when we pretty much had to learn all there is to know about the game!”|
Sam played under 5 managers during his time at Stevenage – Richard Hill, Steve Wignall, Paul Fairclough, Wayne Turner and Graham Westley. “Hilly showed great faith in me and kick started my career. Paul was a decent man and also backed me as a player as did Wayne Turner. Steve Wignall was a non- event as I was injured and he didn’t hang around long. I have no comment to make about Graham Westley!”
When asked which manager got the best out of him, Sam chose the man who originally signed him “Overall I think I’d have to go for Richard Hill, it was only 9 games but he made me view myself as a good footballer and made me understand that dropping into the Conference was not a step down from reserve team football but a step in the right direction in terms of building a career.”
When asked Sam picks the two legs against Morecambe in the FA Trophy semi final in the 2001/2002 season as being his most memorable matches in his Boro career. “The second leg was great as we were through and into a big final at Villa Park but for me the first leg up at Morecambe was where we won the tie. I scored the first from a well-rehearsed free kick and we nicked a late winner but overall we outplayed and outfought a very good side. I was particularly proud of the way Matt Fisher and I dominated a midfield with Stuart Drummond in it, who was one of the best midfielders in the league at that time”.
Boro went on to lose the Final at Villa Park against Yeovil 2-0. The following season, Yeovil were promoted to the Football League and Sam picks this team as the best he played against in a Boro Shirt.
“Apart from the star studded pre-season games it was the Yeovil side that went up in 2003, they played some cracking football and had a pass and move philosophy that went against what everyone else was playing in the Conference. I was pleased that they were the side to come out on top that year as they deserved the success for sticking to their principles.”
Sam considers himself lucky to have played with so many good players at Stevenage but when pushed to pick the best player he played alongside, he names a couple.
“For raw talent it was probably DJ Campbell. It didn’t work out for him at Boro but he was so naturally gifted, that with the right manager he was always going to make a name for himself. In terms of consistency, coupled with being a top man it was Mark Smith”.
When reflecting on his time at Stevenage, Sam has bittersweet memories of his time at Broadhall Way ranging from the feeling of belonging to a club for the first time, injuries which blighted his career and the disappointing way he left the club.
“My time at Boro was the best time of a fairly short career which was affected by sitting around for 5 years not playing at Leicester and then by massive injury problems thereafter”.
“I had really stopped enjoying football at Leicester and felt like a little kid at 23 when I should have been an established player. I then came to Boro and felt like I belonged at a club and felt like I was respected by everyone there, the players, manager, board members and most importantly the fans.”
“The first 9 games of that first season before the first cruciate injury were the most enjoyable of my career. I had never played better and don’t really think I ever got back to that level after the injuries. It was my first run of games in men’s senior football and I felt like I had complete control of every game we played. I was devastated after that game at Hereford and was just massively grateful and thankful that I had played well enough during that period for the people at the club to show faith in me and look after me during my rehabilitation and give me time the following season to re-find some form.”
“The following seasons were really up and down times both personally and collectively with occasional great displays mixed with mediocrity. The fact the league was gradually going full time made competing very difficult for us and I think we as players and the fans became frustrated with the mid table finishes and the inability to challenge for a league that a club like Stevenage should really have been winning with the set-up we had.”
“It became clear that money and full time players were the only way to compete and Graham Westley was unfortunately for me the man to bring that to Boro.”
“I absolutely loved the club, and still have a great affection for it, but I was very disappointed by the way Graham Westley released me. I don’t think the details need to be made public because the positive memories I have of Boro far outweigh the bad. Overall a brilliant, great club with quality fans who I will always appreciate and people behind the club that really want the best for it.”
Sam is pleased but not surprised by the recent rise of Boro to League 1 status;
“I was always certain that Graham Westley would get promotion and set the club on the way to great success, simply because he is the most driven man I have ever met.”
“Having the fittest, most powerful team in whichever league you are playing in is going to bring success. This coupled with the club bringing in some high profile players; they were always going to reach their goals eventually.”
“It is great to see the club fulfilling its potential. I came along to the play-off game last season against Sheffield United and the atmosphere around the place had changed, it’s now feeling like a well established League club.”
Sam cites his biggest frustration when playing at Boro as his injuries. “By a long way it was the injuries. I was at Boro for over 4 years and spent roughly 2 of those years injured.”
“It was quite ironic that the times I felt I was really playing well and reaching my peak were when the injuries struck. The second cruciate was particularly frustrating as I had just got back into the side under Graham Westley and felt as fit as I had been for years.”
“I also had the chance to move on to Doncaster (who were promoted), which I didn’t really want but felt that I had no real future under Graham Westley. So the injury was a hammer blow which basically ended any real ambition I had of playing at a higher level.”
Sam was certainly a fans favourite at Stevenage and when asked how he would like his playing style to be remembered, the response will certainly meet no argument from Boro supporters – “as a creative player who didn’t mind getting stuck in when it was needed!”
Burton Albion was the next step after Boro. “I didn’t really settle. There was a real clique in the dressing room and I didn’t enjoy my football there, although Nigel Clough was a decent man and manager it was never going to be a long term thing for me.”
Sam’s next move to Hinckley was a difficult period. “The manager was pretty clueless when it came to me as an individual. The side played a very direct old school style of football which I hated from the start.”
Kings Lynn was like being back at Stevenage. “Great dressing room, great manager in Tommy Taylor and a club and support set up for bigger and better things. I had a great few seasons there and it was unfortunate that I had to stop playing at that level due to the knee injuries.”
Sam then moved to Stamford but “I didn’t play any games and decided to finish my playing career with a couple of years playing locally in Leicester.”
Bringing the story up to date, Sam is currently a Football Development Officer;
“I run a football foundation funded site attached to a School in Leicester, and also teach in the PE department. It’s a really good environment to work in and keeps me involved in the game so I consider myself pretty fortunate to land a job like it after 10 years of playing and not doing a great deal of further education!”
The Stevenage FC History website would like to thank Sam for all his time and good humour during the completion of this article and we wish him the very best of luck with his current position and whatever he decides to do in the future.