Trimdon Grange's Finest

BILLY'S CONTRACT tells the story of a Poolie Legend

I recently had a phone call from the former editor of Monkey Business asking me if I would interview Malcolm Dawes on his behalf, as it clashed with another commitment that had been dropped on him. I later discovered that the other commitment was none other than trying to assemble an Ikea wardrobe. Several weeks on, the wardrobe, much like the clothes, are still scattered all over his bedroom floor. I must confess that I would have panicked, nay fled the country, if the favour he was asking was not that of interviewing Malcolm Dawes, but for me to give him a hand in assembling and reassembling the bits of sticks and driftwood that he purchased from Ikea.

I have to admit that I was delighted to get the opportunity to speak with Malcolm Dawes, not only to hear his stories about his time at Pools and beyond, but because, more importantly for me, he was my favourite player at Pools in the early seventies.

I like to think that I do not follow the herd. For instance back in the day when everyone was driving around in Ford Cortinas I was bibbling around on the Queen’s highways - or broke down in her laybys - in an Austin Maxi. Even now I would never consider buying a BMW, Audi or a Golf, mainly because every man and his dog and most prats own one.

It is the same with football. In the late sixties, prior to supporting Pools, I used to follow West Ham United. I think it was the colours of their shirts that got me hooked! Who was my favourite Hammers player back in the day? It might surprise the reader to know that it was none of the Blessed Holy Trinity of Hurst, Moore and Peters, who single handedly won the World Cup for England in 1966, but their swashbuckling full back and later midfield player Billy Bonds. Someone you would like to have beside you in the trenches when the going gets tough.

Similarly I have a pal who is an avid Manchester United fan who has followed them for over forty years and I asked him which of all the superstars and legends he has seen over that period was his favourite. Without hesitation David Irwin was his answer. This lad had seen the likes of Best, Law, Charlton, Keane, Schmeichel, Stam, Van Nistelrooy, Cantona, Scholes and Giggs et al, but in his opinion none of them came close to the former Oldham and Republic of Ireland full back. He had obviously seen something in Dennis Irwin that the other players lacked.

Eventually, when I saw the light and swapped the claret and blue of West Ham for the blue and white of Pools, I too did not latch on to the glory boys up front. Not Ralph Wright, Neil Warnock, Ron Young, Ken Ellis, Mally Moore or even Willie Willie Waddell however, it was Malcolm Dawes who stood out for me.

Why Malcolm Dawes? Unlike many of his contemporaries, his level of consistency never failed. He could read the game without the need for a tackle. He would pass or carry a ball rather than aimlessly hoof it down the pitch as many of his colleagues did, but above all he was a creative player. In some ways his style of play, not forgetting the blond hair, put one in mind of Bobby Moore, who was also a wing back and a consummate professional. Both players even had similar creditable disciplinary records.

In fact the first word that I said to Malcolm Dawes, when I met him at an awards evening, was that he reminded me of a poor man's Bobby Moore! In my naivety I genuinely meant that as a compliment and if I recall rightly he took the comment in good part.

For all I know he might have cried all the way home that night but when I meant 'poor' I was only comparing Pools’ Fourth Division status with that of West Ham's lofty position in the old First Division. You may have noticed that I have been referring to him as Malcolm rather than Mally Dawes. When he returned my first call he said it was Malcolm Dawes speaking. He said Malcolm is his preferred moniker and despite plying his trade in the South, The North West and the Midlands, as well as in the United States, it is only in Hartlepool where he was called Mally.


Malcolm literally made his first appearance in Trimdon Grange in 1944. Although a 'Yakker' the young Dawes was a regular at The Vic and was indeed lucky enough to get a ticket for the F.A. Cup tie when Pools were drawn against the famous Busby Babes. Malcolm remembered the match vividly and gave me the names of both line ups on the day without pause.

After leaving school he spent a year in the Colliery and, in order to get a trade as a mechanic, worked for a local garage. From there he ended up in Winterton Hospital in Sedgefield - but as a nurse not as a patient!

It was about this time, when he was playing for Fishburn, that he had his first encounter with Brian Clough at the club’s awards evening. One 15 year old who stepped up to receive his trophy was roundly admonished by Cloughie, who was horrified by the nicotine stains on the recipient’s fingers!

At the age of 18 Dawes signed for Darlington and despite numerous promises of regular first team football he only made one appearance for them in the two one win in the Durham senior cup final against - who else but Hartlepools United at the Victoria Ground.

Not making any headway with Darlington, Dawes moved to Nuneaton Town and in addition to playing football he supplemented his income and became a removal man. It was here that he befriended goalkeeper Les Green, who was later to become one of Brian Clough's first signings for Pools, and later went on to play for Derby County again under Clough.

Malcolm enjoyed his spell at Nuneaton until they revised the wage structure. The deal was £8.00 per week and £7.00 appearance money. The club decided to reverse this pay structure and as a result despite his protestations Dawes left the club and came back to the North East and enjoyed a short spell with Horden Colliery.


Whilst visiting his brother, who was serving in the army in Aldershot, they got talking to the chairman of Aldershot F.C. and Malcolm’s brother asked if there was any chance of his brother getting a trial for The Shots. The chairman told him to report to the manager Dave Smith on Monday morning. The trial must have gone well as Dawes was to go on and make 176 appearances for Aldershot between 1965 and 1969. Then in his penultimate year Pools came in for his signature but were scared off by the £5,000 asking price.

Although living in the South of England Malcolm was content in Aldershot and settled in well as there were six other players from the North East in the Aldershot squad including Len Walker and Peter Madden, both of whom went on to manage Darlington.

Even though a regular in Aldershot’s first team, Dawes would, at every given opportunity, play regularly for their reserve side and in one season alone he made a total of 66 appearances. Which to my mind puts many of today's so-called superstars to shame when they are claiming that they are 'tired' after three games in a week. Bless.

In one Season Aldershot were top of the league and ten points clear of Darlington. As the season progressed Darlington caught up with Aldershot, in part thanks to a Malcolm Dawes own goal which decided the result when the two teams met. Darlington themselves surged up the league with a huge points advantage only for them to similarly implode like Aldershot. As it turned out neither side gained promotion.


One of Dawes’ team mates was player-coach Jimmy Melia, who later took Brighton to the 1993 F.A. Cup Final. Who will ever forget him wearing his disco suit on the big day? In 1969 Melia became the Shots' manager. Malcolm told me diplomatically that Melia 'could rattle people's cages' and at the end of that season he had given Dawes a free transfer.

Once again Dawes headed back home to the North East and to Hartlepool United and became one of the so called 'Magnificent Seven' signings by the manager John Simpson. With the aid of a £2,000 loan from the chairman, he secured the signatures of Nick Sharkey, George Herd, Peter Barlow, Malcolm Clarke, Les Crooks and Ralph Wright, along with Malcolm Dawes.

Despite the high hopes and the new signings, it proved to be a disastrous season seeing just 5 wins in 34 games and with crowds dropping below 2,000 John Simpson resigned. With the search for a new manager going on behind the scenes, on the pitch Pools managed a creditble two all draw at home with Northampton Town. Dawes not only rescued a point but was given a nine out of ten in the match ratings for his performance and was credited with being the best player on the pitch both in attack as well as in defence. Dawes himself confirmed that it was the best football he had ever played in his career. The following match Dawes was dropped!

After John Simpson’s departure Len Ashurst took over the reins as player manager. Not having seen Dawes play, the former Sunderland full back automatically selected himself for the next match at the expense of Dawes, who played in the same position as Ashurst. Ashurst in turn quickly realised that he had dropped one of his better players and Dawes was soon reinstated to first team duties with both players playing alongside each other. Sadly it was not enough to keep Pools from applying for re-election, having finished in the bottom four once again.

For the record, apart from wearing the number one and number nine shirts, Malcolm has played in every other outfield position during his professional career. He did not mind where he played, as long as he was getting a game, and I am sure if he had been required to have a stint between the sticks, or play up front, he would not have let the side down. Such was his professional attitude.

I asked Malcolm what were the highlights both on and off the pitch of his time at Pools. And there were many. Indeed too many to write about.

He lists the League Cup match against Blackburn Rovers as Pools’ best-ever team performance. Pools had been written off even before a ball had been kicked but ran out two one winners at Ewood Park. This in turn, earned them a home tie against Aston Villa.

The subsequent cup tie against Villa is also a highlight of Malcolm’s memories. Villa had assembled an exciting, entertaining and talented young side, several of whom would play at international level. In the side were The Little brothers, Chris Nichol, Charlie Aitken, Jimmy Cumbes and Ray Graydon. Despite going down to a first half Aitken goal, Pools more than matched the Villa in the second half and pulled back an equaliser through 'Mally' Moore. The noise that greeted the goal nearly took the roof off the Rink End. (You can tell I was there!). Shortly afterwards Moore missed a far easier chance by failing to toe-poke the ball in, for what could have been the winning goal. The replay at Villa Park saw Pools go down six one on the night. This was not exactly a disgrace bearing in mind that at the end of that season Villa gained promotion to the First Division (now the Premiership, children) finishing three points behind champions Manchester United.

Dawes also recalls the night in 1972 when Pools had a must-win game at Darlington (my favoutite ever match) to keep the team from applying for re-election ...yet again. The crowd that night at Feethams was just short of 9,000 and it was estimated that somewhere in the region of six and a half thousand Poolies had made the journey to Darlington, and that was in the days before the modern A66! Dawes said that he had never heard a crowd like it and the noise generated by the visiting fans was phenomenal. It was noted that the Darlington players felt like the away side when they took to the pitch.

Malcolm was keen to inform me that it was his cross and not Neil Warnock's (as many fans believe or as stated in the the official history of HUFC) that allowed Willie Willie Waddell to grab the winner and blast himself into Poolie folklore. Having dug out the press cuttings of the match I can confirm that he is absolutely correct in that statement, but he did omit to say that he was in part, responsible for Darlington's opener!

Just an observation: all three of these games that Malcolm referred to were evening kick-offs, I always felt that there was something special, and an extra buzz from the fans, when big matches like these are played under the lights.


In March 1971 Pools played Crewe Alexandra at the Vic and it was in this game that Dawes literally tangled with and came to blows with wonder kid Stan Bowles (the poor man's Rodney Marsh). As play moved down to the other end of the pitch both players where still flat on the grass tangled up in each others legs, no doubt resulting from a Malcolm Dawes tackle. As Dawes tried to get up Bowles, still sat on the pitch, began kicking out at Dawes.

Malcolm told me that although he abhors violence he just saw red and pulled his fist back in a threatening motion, not intending to hit Bowles. But the crowd saw what he was doing and roared him on so he just followed through and flesh met flesh.

The noise of the crowd alerted the ref who did not see the incident as he was nearly 70 yards away but he saw Bowles laid out prostrate. After consulting the linesman he immediately sent Dawes to the dressing room and awarded Crewe a backdated penalty. Though he smiles when telling the story Dawes is still embarrassed about his action as it resulted in only his second career booking and his one and only dismissal.
"he just saw red and pulled his fist back in a threatening motion, not intending to hit Bowles. But the crowd saw what he was doing and roared him on so he just followed through"

The matter did not end there and worse was to follow. He received notification from the Football League that he was to be fined £20 and banned for three weeks, not as now for three matches, but three weeks, which meant that he would miss five games.

In those days the players were not fully paid by the club if they had been suspended. However they had an agreement with a well known brewing establishment in the town and Dawes served the period of his ban in the employ of Cameron’s Brewery, which is ironic as Malcolm is not a drinker as such. This might be down to the next story that he told me, again involving Crewe.


The night before Pools were due to play Crewe at Gresty Road Malcolm was invited to attend a neighbour’s party. Although he passed on the copious amounts of alcohol on offer during the evening, he did have two or three small glasses of Port/Sherry and left the celebrations at a respectable hour.

Even before he boarded the coach for Crewe the following day, it was clear that Dawes was unwell and was suffering from stomach pains. On one part of the journey the bus was forced to stop to let him off so he could be ill. Len Ashurst was so concerned that he was not going to include Dawes in the side. To quote from Sentinel (Arthur Pickering) in The Mail “After a brief walk and a shower he declared himself match fit. Dawes did his job well without any frills and got rid of the ball as soon as it went to him. It was obvious he did not want to become too involved. The winning result (2-1) did not make Dawes feel any better as he was violently sick in the dressing room afterwards.”

Malcolm never told anyone about having a couple of snifters the previous night, but the Mail's Arthur Pickering, must have had an inkling as the headline in the Mail the following night read: “Dawes shows new-found spirit.” Which I thought was very apt in the circumstances.


In 1974 Malcolm Dawes deservedly won the Player of the Year trophy, beating fellow defender Alan Goad by the closest of margins, a solitary vote. If it was any consolation to Goad he won the trophy the following season.

Malcolm is still extremely proud of winning the honour of being Hartlepool United's Player of the Year but it is a moot point that he, along with Barry Watling and Alan Goad, never received replicas of the trophy once the original was handed back to the club. Neil Warnock (Player of the Year 1972) eventually received his some forty years later when he was guest of honour at the club’s Player of the Year evening. I think it would be right and fitting if Hartlepool United could redress this situation and provide replica trophies, by way of appreciation to those players who did not receive one at the time.


Someone whom Dawes had a lot of respect for was Tony Toms, whom Len Ashurst brought into the club as a fitness coach. Toms, an ex Royal Marine who had served in some of the colonial trouble spots in the last days of the Empire, was a hard man. He also trained members of the Special Boat Service in unarmed combat, which is probably why he was more a rugby man than a football man. Dawes said his training was never boring and no two sessions were ever the same.

Toms made national headlines when he took the Pools squad for a two night stay in North Yorkshire ...camping out on the moors. The idea being a combination of training, team bonding and having a laugh. Malcolm told me that after one particular arduous session, when the players were scrambling up the hills, one player who had been out the night before, suddenly got caught short, and made a mess of himself as well as the moors. As there was no toilet paper 'to hand' he was grateful for the plentiful supply of long grass that was available in copious amounts.

On another occasion Toms made the team carry out a night trek. After sneaking off and hiding he unexpectedly sprang out at them from the bushes and undergrowth (hopefully not the long grass) and scared the b'jasus out of them.

The players then had to find their way back to the campsite. This proved to be more difficult than it first seemed with several players going adrift in the darkness.

Dawes said he spent time with Toms on the moor and was constantly tapping him for tips. When setting up camp most players put their tents up the traditional way. But, having learnt from Toms, Dawes set up his tent in the manner of the British Army whereby the roof was only six inches from his mouth, thereby generating heat and as a result he was one of the few players who got a good night’s sleep on the trip.

On their last day on the moors Toms announced to the players that they had to make their own way back to the Vic. No mobile phones in those days to get someone to come and pick you up. Dawes was first back to the ground by some considerable margin by using his initiative and hitching a lift from a passing lorry.

Looking at photographs of this adventure in Malcolm's scrap book, it would bring a smile to ones face if you saw the 'clip' of some of the Pools players and the kit that they were wearing at the time. No Gore-tex hiking boots, breatheable waterproof jackets or back packs, nor a thermal dut to be seen but a selection of duffel coats, bush hats, jeans and woollen polo neck jumpers. One player, loanee Frank McMahon, is seen holding up an open umbrella with what looks likely to have been his mam's plaid zip up shopping bag over his shoulder along with a clear 'plaggy' bag containing his sleeping bag.

Tony Toms and Pools did a keep-fit session for Tyne Tees Television for which Tony wrote a fitness book, one of several fitness books he wrote, as well as a couple of novels.

Toms later put it on record that he believed Malcolm Dawes to be the fittest player in the Fourth Division. For the record Tony Toms had a spell as Madonna's minder for a time. "Bloody pain in the arse that woman" he has been quoted as saying. Also for the record it is well worth searching Tony’s name on the internet. Some very interesting reading. A legend as far as Sheffield Wednesday fans are concerned.


Off the pitch Pools finances were, as per usual, in a precarious state. However help was at hand from an unexpected source, that of the United Artists record label who had Hartlepool fan Richard Ogden on their payroll. His idea was to have a United Artists “save Hartlepool FC” weekend (You can see were Geldof got his Band Aid idea from), where bands such as Man and the (excellent) Groundhogs would perform live at the Vic. The evening's entertainment was the U.K. premiere of Frank Zappa's 200 Motels, which was screened in one of the town’s cinemas, and which Dawes sat through. He can’t recall much of the performance but no doubt Frank Zappa probably didn't either.

For whatever reason the event did not take place. The only segment of the plan that did go ahead was the idea of Pools recording a record single in the hope of bringing in much needed funds to the club’s coffers.Three hours recording time was booked in a tiny studio above Jonny's Prize bingo in Wallsend. Hardly Abbey Road but a studio none the less. The bus with the team turned up late and despite the Pools squad turning down the chance of some liquid refreshments to oil their tonsils they only had an hour and a half left of studio time to cut the record. As Mike Amos stated in the Northern Echo, Pools are used to losing out in an hour and a half. Fortunately Richawrd Ogden, who jointly wrote the lyrics with Ed Welch, had brought up a pre-recorded backing tape (music composed by Ed Welch) for the lads to sing over. The Pools squad had already been rehearsing their lyrics on the way up in the bus so in that 90 minutes Pools got a result.
During the recording Richard Ogden told Malcolm “the song 'Who put Sugar in my tea?' (celebrating Pools last away win in nearly two years) was really laughing at Pools a little bit, I hope you don't mind?” Dawes replied “Why not? Everyone else does!”

Working with 'Pools did not have a detrimental effect on Ed Welch’s musical career as he went on to write the music for the comedy soft porn films, Confessions of a Driving Instructor and Confessions From a Holiday Camp, as well as for the quiz show Blockbuster.

He also wrote for, and performed with Shirley Bassey at the London Palladium and he is also credited with the incidental music on One Foot in the Grave (see the credits next time it is on the telly).

A little know fact is that he is credited as the co-writer of the 1995 Icelandic entry for the Eurovision song contest - which fared little better in the charts than Pools’ single.

'Off the record' in more senses than one was manager Len Ashurst, who missed the recording as he was trying to sign another player ...preferably one that could sing! Sadly the single failed to make it into the top twenty and the coffers remained empty. Malcolm is unable to find his copy of the single, only the sleeve, so if anybody out there has got one to spare please get in touch with M.B.

Staying with the music theme. Malcolm is a big music fan, mainly of the American crooners. Back in the day, the Club Fiesta in Norton was a haunt for several of the Pools players as many of the big national and international artists played there.

One night Malcolm and some of his team mates were in the Fiesta when Errol Brown, the lead singer of Hot Chocolate, who were performing that night, laid down a challenge to the players to see if they could beat him in a press-up competition. This was carried out on the floor of the manager’s office and, needless to say, Malcolm won. Having heard Malcolm croon on the Karaoke, I am surprised that he in turn did not throw down the gauntlet to challenge Errol Brown to a singing competition!


In the second part of the Malcolm Dawes story entitled 'Coming to America', we see the names of Clint Eastwood, Pele, Frank Sinatra as well as Elvis make possibly their first appearances in Monkey Business.