Well, as usual, the ‘retained list’ has been the subject of much debate and, given my postage stamp attributes, I’m not going to make any comments on the ‘who’s’ and ‘whys’. But I will share part of a (lively) conversation about the retained list which, as is par for the course, moved on to a discussion about the future of Pools in its widest sense. Following on from various ‘lack of ambition’, ‘not strong enough for this league’ and ‘not renewing my season ticket until we sign someone decent’ comments, the conversation darkened with suggestions along the lines of ‘will Raj pull the plug if we’re not successful’ and ‘this will be our last season!’ As the gloom grew the youngest drinker at the table made the following, conversation ending contribution: “So if this is going to be our last season, then we should make the most of it, enjoy it while we can, and get to every ground possible!”
Wise words. A great attitude. Bring on Chorley. Roll on the club formally known as the oldest in the league. That’s it. Bring on the season ticket and HUST membership renewals and let’s move forward in a positive fashion.
So, onto John’s Summer Quiz and the answers to last week’s questions:
6. During the 1974 League Cup run Pools drew with which three current/ former Premiership teams?
Bournemouth, Blackburn Rovers and Aston Villa
7. In 1986 which team was locked out of their ground and played at the Victoria Ground instead?
Middlesbrough (v Port Vale)
8. In 2006/07 how many games did Pools win in a row without conceding a goal?
9. Which team did Pools beat in the 1905 FA Amateur Cup Final?
10. Who was the leading scorer in the 1979/80/81 seasons?
Keith Houchen – who is best remembered as a player, as his managerial career at Pools ended somewhat badly.
And this week’s questions:
11. Who said, “I had to walk away from all that nonsense. I didn’t deserve it. I’d put too much into the club to be treated like that. I’d put in so many hours. I’d tried and tried to get it going. I thought, ‘I just can’t stand it.’… The whole ground was singing ‘XXX Out’. I was standing behind the dug-out and thinking, ‘I don’t need this’… I felt very, very let down by the supporters of Hartlepool United Football Club… There are a lot of sh?t people following every club. They are every-where, that type, with brains the size of a pea. I wouldn’t keep the players they wanted; players who were patently not good enough and were really really bad professionals… the majority of them [supporters] are nasty people. There are more of them at Hartlepool than elsewhere – without a shadow of doubt”.
12. Which team beat Pools in Houchen’s last game as manager?
13. Who did Houchen describe as a ‘fat slob’?
14. Houchen was sent off against Gillingham on 28 October 1995 – which other Pools player was sent off in the same match.
15. Houchen scored a hat trick against Bury on 17 December 1994: what did he then do?
As I say, Houchen is probably best remembered for his first spell with Pools (before his FA Cup glories elsewhere)…..
Keith Houchen was born in Middlesbrough and grew up some five minutes from Ayresome Park. A promising athlete and gifted footballer, as a youngster he travelled to London for a trial with Crystal Palace along with John and Terry Fenwick, but was told he was too lightweight at the time. After an unsuccessful trial with Aston Villa, he became an apprentice at Chesterfield in 1977, but left the club without making a senior appearance at Saltergate. However, he was soon spotted playing amateur football in Nunthorpe by the then Hartlepool United manager Billy Horner. Houchen joined us on non-contract terms, before turning professional in February 1978, signing a one-year contract on £30 a week. He was seventeen at the time.
When he arrived at what was then the Victoria Ground, we were a ‘struggling’ Fourth Division outfit. Aye, the ‘Good Old Days’. He made his debut in a 1–1 home draw with Crewe Alexandra. Though grateful for the opportunity and training, Houchen remembered that “we used to have a mad rush to the bank to cash our cheques. Only about six of them would go through and the rest would bounce.”
I recently spoke to a retired Barclays employee from the days when the branch was on Church Square – and he told the story of numerous players roaming around, hoping that their cheques would clear – and, quite often, the later ones to be presented didn’t.
Houchen scored his first senior goal against Barnsley on 24 March 1978. He scored further goals against Darlington, Rochdale and Newport County to end the 1977–78 campaign with four goals in 13 games. His first few starts were due to the suspension of Bob Newton and he then found himself as a regular starter following the fatal car crash involving Bob Newton and Dave Wiggett.
He played regular first team football in 1978–79, and scored 13 goals in 42 games to become the club’s top scorer. He then went on to score 14 goals in 44 games in 1979–80, as the club finished 19th, just two points above the re-election zone.
His goal scoring record soon attracted the attention of bigger clubs, however club chairman Vince Barker told Reading (in typically belligerent style) that even if Houchen was available then ‘they would not be able to afford him’. His exploits continued into the following season, and the club rejected bids of up to £80,000 from Plymouth Argyle and Cardiff City.
He scored 17 goals in 48 appearances in 1980–81, yet again becoming the club’s top scorer, as Pools were in the promotion hunt until a late spell of bad form sent them down the table to ninth. He hit 19 goals in 38 games in 1981–82 to become the club’s top-scorer for a fourth consecutive season. A Pools legend at the age of 21. And Billy Horner signed him from Nunthorpe at the age of 17!
However, having scored 65 goals in 170 league appearances, Houchen wanted a move to a bigger club at a higher division; he regularly handed in transfer requests, but all were ignored by the club – until March 1982 – Pools were (back) in dire financial straits and were £60,000 in debt to the Inland Revenue. This crisis at the club allowed Leyton Orient manager Ken Knighton to take Houchen to Brisbane Road for a bargain price of £25,000. He signed a four-year contract on £225 a week with a £1,000 signing on fee.
And now to my ‘quick’ final points:
1. I may look at Keith Houchen’s career at Coventry City next week. But, on the subject of Coventry City….
2. John’s football ‘website’ of the week – https://www.skybluetrust.co.uk – The Coventry City Supporters’ Trust (The Sky Blue Trust) was founded in 1993 by a group of supporters who were concerned with the direction the club was taking. Today it has developed into an organisation to enable supporters to address the issues that concern them – and the ongoing threat to the future of Coventry City FC (caused by uncertainties as to where Coventry City might play next season and the EFL considering the expulsion of CCFC!) is top of their agenda. This is a very informative and user friendly website and it certainly helped me make sense of the raging discussions on the SkyBluesTalk forum. The ongoing spat between the owners of CCFC and Wasps (the owners of the Ricoh) put the disagreements between Darlington FC and Darlington RUFC into context!
3. I read in the Nottingham Post that the supporters of a certain club are wondering if the demise of Coventry City could see them retain their league status. These being the same supporters who were thinking along the same lines when Bolton Wanderers fell into administration. And their manager reckons that life will be hard for them in the National League ‘as all the teams will raise their game on visiting an impressive old stadium’. Higgy, I want six points from these muppets this coming season! That’s if they don’t fall into liquidation before the summer ends…..
4. Whilst mentioning Higgy; his new weekly ‘Summer Blog’ (on the club website) makes for interesting and entertaining reading.
5. I’m no fan of Eurovision but have masses of respect for Michael Rice – he did the town proud – and was far more entertaining and professional than that ‘old dear from the USA’.
6. Credit to the Club for holding season ticket prices at the same level as last year. In a way I’d have been happy to pay more – if I could see some ambitious squad rebuilding – but I’m sure that an increase could have been the proverbial ‘straw breaking the camel’s back’ for many – so they’ve done the right thing.
How long before the first (sensible) pre-season game?