September 01, 2017

Bill Green 1950-2017




Bill Green 1950-2017



A tribute by BILLY'S CONTRACT



I was saddened to learn of the untimely death of former Hartlepool United stalwart Bill Green at the relatively young age of 66. Back in the day when I started to follow Pools, Bill Green along with Malcolm Dawes tied for the title of being my first favourite player(s) at Hartlepool United. 

Green made his debut for 'Pools at the age of 18 as a Substitute against Newport County in 1969. He showed a maturity way beyond his years and at the age of twenty was made club captain. This at a time when Pools had more experienced heads in their ranks such as the likes of Tony Bircumshaw, Alan Goad, Tony Parry and Nick Sharkey. The young Geordie Green was a natural leader and led by example. My most memorable image of him was in the must-win game at Feethams in 1972 when he rose up and headed the equaliser against the Quakers which sent the 6,000 plus travelling supporters wild. From there on the noise rose to a different level and inspired the team on to a famous victory courtesy of Willie Waddell's winning goal which although not transcribed to paper has been passed down through the generations from father to son (and daughter) as part of Poolie unwritten folklore.

Earlier in that desperate season Green wore the number 9 shirt on three occasions, scoring once, in the two one home defeat to Cambridge. Green's talents did not go unnoticed and in 1973 he signed for Carlisle United, two divisions higher than Pools, for the paltry fee of £15,000 - Pools, as ever at the time, were in desperate need of the cash.

In his first season Carlisle gained promotion to the then First Division, now the Premiership, by finishing in third place behind Luton and Jack Charlton's Middlesbrough. Carlisle's opening game the following season in Division One was against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge which saw Bill Green, the Club Captain, opening the scoring, not with a header but by toe poking the ball beyond England goalkeeper Peter Bonetti and in one and the same moment entering his name into the Cumbrians' history books as being the scorer of their first ever goal in top flight football. When I heard, probably via the stop press of The Footy Mail, that Green had scored, I made a point of not going out that Saturday night as nothing, and I mean nothing, even a night out in The Gemini, was going to prevent me from watching Bill Green's opener against Chelsea on Match of the Day. The goal itself was interesting. ( I have just literally come across it on Youtube). A Carlisle free kick and Green in the centre forward position runs between two Chelsea defender and gets his head to the ball. The momentum of his run and the kindly bounce of the ball have put him in a position with only the keeper to beat. He controls the ball with his right foot and scores with his left. All this when he should have been stood on the half way line.

Carlisle went on to win their next two games but thereafter they struggled and eventually finished bottom of the league and were relegated along with Luton and Chelsea. As I have previously mentioned in these columns in the late sixties and early seventies before I had my 'road to Damascus' moment and discovered 'The Joy of Pools' I used to follow the Happy Hammers (Don't ask). My all-time favourite player was not Hurst, Moore or Peters, but a certain Billy Bonds who, apart from looking like a Viking, was a 'Battler and a Warrior' as well as being an exceptional footballer (Oh for someone of his ilk at Pools and, come to think of it, at West Ham too, who both nowadays. seem to have 'Bottlers and Worriers' in their ranks).

During their tenure in the First Division I made a point of going over to see Carlisle play the East Londoners for no other reason than to watch my two heroes Bonds and Green, respective captains of their teams, shake hands with each other prior to kick off and do battle. The game itself was a drab affair mainly because, much like the coastal town of Hartlepool, the ever-present wind (and rain) put paid to watching a decent game of football. The Cockney boys eventually ran out one-nil victors thanks to a Frank Lampard (Snr) goal from the edge of the penalty box.

I remember trying to make a mad dash back to the railway station to catch the then British Rail train back home via Newcastle, and ended getting caught up among a group of West Ham fans who were being corralled by the Police. Despite my protestation, and by my not wearing any club colours (which unbeknown to me was what a certain section of Hammers fans did so they could travel incognito) the police would not allow me into the station as they were seemingly obsessed, that I should be travelling on the later London train, and with a rival Rail organisation by the name of the The Inter City Firm ...and this was in the days before anyone had even considered privatising the Railways.
"nothing, and I mean nothing ...was going to prevent me from watching Bill Green's opener against Chelsea on Match of the Day"

Actually, once you got chatting to the ICF, mainly about the dreadful weather, they weren't such a bad bunch of lads. Fortunately I was able to make a break for it when foolishly a group of Carlisle fans came past throwing various objects (dead sheep mainly), at this rival rail company's employees and they in turn replied by breaking through the police cordon with consummate ease and laid waste to the Cumbrian bovver boys. I on the other hand wandered off and sedately boarded the train back home and let them get on with whatever it was they were getting on with. Whenever I think of Bill Green or make the trip to Carlisle I can't help a wry smile coming over my face when I recall that miserable wet day up in Cumbria.

That was not the end of the West Ham connection as apparently The Hammers had offered £150k for the Carlisle captain during the season, which the Cumbrians had flaty turned down. However, when relegation came calling the Vultures from West Ham came back with a much reduced offer and secured Green's services for around £70/90k. Much like how Carlisle had signed Green from Pools a few years earlier.

Now it was Carlisle who were desperate for the cash. A case of what goes round comes round. I was delighted to see both of my heroes, Bonds and Green, playing in the same side. Over two seasons, mainly due to injuries, Bill Green only made 35 appearances for the Hammers and it is fair to say that he struggled to establish himself in what was a struggling side during his two-year tenure with them. I made a point of going to see West Ham play at Old Trafford in 77/78 season and they were well beaten by three goals to nil. I recall Joe Jordan and Jimmy Greenhoff giving Hartlepool's favourite a torrid time. I can also picture Billy Bonds giving him a right good rollicking during the game. It appeared that my Super Heroes did not get on together that day.

Green scored his one and only goal for The East Londoners in a two nil win ...ironically against Chelsea. The Hammers were relegated and Green moved on to Peterborough for £60k.

After a relatively short stay with the Posh he moved to Chesterfield for £40k, spending four seasons with them. His playing career ended at Doncaster and although he only made eleven appearances for them he was very highly thought of. Upon hearing of Bill Greens death. a Donny fan emailed me to tell me his mate was a big friend of Bill Green and that he could not speak highly enough about him and that he was an absolute gentleman. This has been endorsed and echoed by many who have paid tribute to him.

Bill Green stayed on the football scene. He became manger of Buxton, who were so hard up that he refused to take a wage from them. He also managed Scunthorpe between 1991/93. his managerial record was impressive for the Iron which read: P 101; W43; L32; D26. He was caretaker manager for one match at Sheffield Wed. and it is said that in the nineties he applied for the vacant manager's role at Hartlepool United. He also scouted and had roles at Bradford P.A,, Derby, Wigan, Sunderland, Sheff Weds and, at the time of his death, Southampton.

Bill Green's playing career: Played 486 games, scoring 20 goals. 143 of these games were played for Hartlepool United in which he scored 9 goals.

Bill Green, Hartlepool Legend.
From this Pools fan, thanks for the memories.

A page from a West Ham match programme from 1978