A Football Journey


If you’re really stuck for something useful to do, you might just wonder how a Newcastle supporter ends up writing articles for a Pools fanzine.

Well just like most Pools fans (and unlike Man U supporters) I support the team I was born with; as a nipper living on Elswick Road I could see the floodlights of St James from our landing window. That was before the high rise flats replaced the post-war prefabs by the Big Lamp. It was a no-brainer and I still remember many trips to St James’s rattling around in the back of Harry’s ice-cream van. 

My best mate Carlo was from a large Italian family making ice cream on Rye Hill, I can still hear his auntie Angela (all of 4ft 10ins but the Godfather would have run a mile) shouting “Arry, giva de boys a lift to the footbaall”. They were optimistic times, it was the early sixties and we were sure it was only a matter of time before the glorious successes of the previous decade were repeated. We still live with that hope.
"it was only a matter of time before the glorious successes of the previous decade were repeated. We still live with that hope."

I remember some iconic names of my Toon past, Trevor Hockey (a winger when he played for us), Dave Hollins (the goalie, who on his Brighton debut leaked 9 goals against Middlesbrough, 5 gifted to “Old Big 'ead.”) I remember being passed over the heads of the crowd and deposited on the touchline against Man U., being beaten in the F.A. Cup by Bedford Town, and I could go on and often did, until Boris closed all the pubs.

Anyway I was dragged down to live in a village in the Midlands by a family decision in which I didn’t have a voice, but at least I wasn’t getting beaten up twice a week, (though I was caned within 2 hours of starting at the local left-footer school, by a psychotic Irish spinster who hated boys even more than she hated Protestants). Also coming from Tyneside there has always been a language barrier until Jimmy Nail made it fashionable, so nothing really changes.

I was working quite happily in Worcester when the devil decided it was time to vomit on my eiderdown big time (that was before they ran out of ducks and started calling them duvets). I had managed to hucker-down relatively painlessly after Toon’s ignominious F.A. Cup defeat at Edgar Street, the psychological advantage of low expectations, only to be informed that I was being transferred to my company’s Hereford office. That has to rank as vindictive abuse; if there had been a European Court I would have appealed to it. Since then there are only a couple of annual milestones that mark the passing years, the Queen’s birthday, whenever that is, and the re-showing of Radford’s lucky punt every first week of January. Who said the BBC lack imagination?

Notwithstanding this, I enjoyed several years in Hereford; a friend was a season-ticket holder and I often availed myself of her brother’s seat as he usually found an excuse to not go. Some enduring memories - Dixie McNeil’s infamous Maradona-style punch into the net (at least he had the good grace to gleefully admit it, retribution for all his “good” goals disallowed), then there was the schoolboy prodigy Kevin Sheedy, a scholar of the old school “one foot for standing, one foot for kicking.”  A firm favourite with the fans was Chrissy Price, a talented attacking full-back, until Villa found out why it’s not good to sign full backs who are too ambitious.

Returning to the Midlands saw me accompanying two Coventry City supporters to their home matches at a time when they actually had a home ground. I had the pleasure of watching the emerging talent that was Mark Hateley, the disappearing talent that was Peter “Bodak’s the name, scoring’s the game” after which he didn’t. And of course Micky Quinn (he’s fat and he’s round, and he scores on every ground) an ex-Newcastle striker who was the league’s top goal-scorer, with four in his Toon debut against Leeds United. What we would give for someone like him now. Bobby Gould is another example of football’s revolving door, I watched him as Hereford player-manager, physically half a yard slower than the other players but mentally light-years ahead, he went on to manage Coventry who he had of course previously played for.

I suppose that is what is missing from our game with the massive influx of foreign players, the merry-go-round of jobbing players who we all know before they arrive at our club and can keep an eye out for after they have gone. Anyway by a strange quirk of fate Stephen, a guy I used to play football with, who is sport mad and never married (so has no constraints on this passion) decided to visit every ground in the four divisions. He supports Man U (note the use of the word mad earlier) but did this by following one team away through their whole season and Hartlepool were one of the chosen teams.

Not long after this I was attending a local music session and became aware of someone singing songs about a monkey, and in the way people subtly make you aware of things they think you ought to know, I was informed he edited the Hartlepool United fanzine. All became clear as Stephen had mentioned a local guy who did this, and so the connection was made. We both sing, write and play music so collaborated on a few things. He encouraged me to submit a few articles for MonkeyBizz, which as a non-Poolie posed a bit of a challenge; any pin that I placed on a map could equally pierce Redcar or Skinningrove. So I’ve usually gone for quirky ahead of factual, but with few exceptions we all share a common suffering that is universal among footie fans whose optimism describes the glass as half empty, but could be even emptier.

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