Well let’s get straight to the answers to last week’s quiz 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 everywhere, 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”.
Keith Houchen – After his last game in charge, a defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion, a gang of Hartlepool supporters stayed after the match to demand Houchen’s dismissal – he remained resentful of these individuals long after leaving the club.
12. Which team beat Pools in Houchen’s last game as manager?
Brighton & Hove Albion
13. Who did Houchen describe as a ‘fat slob’?
Goalkeeper Brian Horne – as Houchen observed, this proved to be an unpopular move with “a lot of nasty people who support Hartlepool… who purport to support this club [but] would rather back fat professional players than people who really care about Hartlepool United”
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?
He was sent off for allegedly swearing at referee Kevin Lynch
A 256-page biography of his footballing career entitled A Tenner and a Box of Kippers, written by Jonathan Strange, was published in 2006. After reading the book, Houchen admitted that his comments about Hartlepool United came across as “a bit harsh”.
As mentioned last week, Houchen moved to Leyton Orient from Pools in March 1982. He scored one goal against Chelsea in 14 appearances, as the “O’s” finished in last place and were relegated out of the Second Division in 1982. He missed the start of the 1982–83 campaign due to injury, but managed to hit ten goals in 38 games by the end of the season. His ten goals included one against Sheffield United on the last day of the season, in a win which kept Orient in the Third Division. He scored ten goals in 34 games in 1983–84, but was not highly rated by new boss Frank Clark. For his part, Houchen said that Clark “would shout, and rant and rave, and tactically he wasn’t particularly brilliant.” He handed in a transfer request, which was accepted.
I’ve made many mentions during the last few months about the Leyton Orient Fans Trust and it was great to see their team escape our league as champions; we’ll be following them this coming year, right? Shame that AFC Fylde denied them a non-league double last Sunday – Danny Rowe’s free-kick was enough to overcome the O’s in the FA Trophy final at Wembley.
Back to Houchen. On 22 March 1984, York City manager Denis Smith signed him for a £15,000 fee, later saying that “anybody who could score sixty-five goals playing for Hartlepool must have something“. He signed a two-year contract on £225 a week. He scored on his debut against Aldershot at the Recreation Ground, despite missing a penalty; he replaced Steve Senior in the second half, who had broken his leg. The ‘Minstermen’ went on to win the Fourth Division championship by a 16-point margin, with Houchen featuring mostly as a substitute in the final seven games. With John Byrne and Keith Walwyn forming an effective striking partnership, Houchen played as an attacking midfielder. He hit a hat-trick in a 7–1 thrashing of Gillingham at Bootham Crescent, and also converted a penalty that he had won to knock Arsenal out of the FA Cup at the Fourth Round. He scored a total of 18 goals in 45 appearances in 1984–85 to become the club’s top scorer. However injuries helped to limit him to eight goals in 38 games in 1985–86, and he decided to accept a move back down to the Fourth Division.
He was sold on to Scunthorpe United for £40,000 in March 1986, signing a contract of £250 a week and receiving a car and an ex gratia payment of £10,000. Houchen later said that “it was the only time I ever gave up… it wasn’t the right club because it wasn’t going anywhere… I said to Yvonne, ‘I’m just going to take the money'”. In doing so he rejected moves to Preston North End and Third Division Bury. He quickly regretted the move, and despite getting along well with manager Frank Barlow he found himself hating everything at the club, from the supporters to the Old Showground itself. So, it wasn’t just we Poolies, eh Keith?
After only 97 days with the “Iron” he moved on to Coventry City for a £60,000 fee, after impressing in a reserve team game between the two clubs. The management team of George Curtis and John Sillett offered Houchen £350 a week, £50 an appearance, a £10,000 signing-on fee, as well the chance to play First Division football.
He struggled with injuries at the start of the 1986–87 campaign, but recovered to ensure his name went down in the club’s history for his exploits in the FA Cup. He bagged five goals in their 1986–87 cup-winning run, the first being the winning goal away at Old Trafford against Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United. He then scored two against Sheffield Wednesday in the quarter-finals, and one against Leeds United in the semi-finals. The final and most famous goal of the run came in the 1987 FA Cup Final in front of 98,000 spectators at Wembley Stadium in a 3–2 win over Tottenham Hotspur. However Houchen almost missed the match after catching food poisoning from a trout caught by reserve goalkeeper Jake Findlay. The goal came from a Dave Bennett cross and was an instinctive full-stretch diving header that was impossible for Ray Clemence to save. It levelled the score at 2–2 on 63 minutes, and an own goal from Gary Mabbutt in extra time won the game for Coventry. As well as his FA Cup winning medal, Houchen’s header also earned him the BBC Match of the Day’s Goal of the Season award for the 1986–87 season. This was due to the acrobatic effort involved and partly due to the incredible run he had made from deep midfield to meet the crossed ball.
Ironically, manager John Sillett spent much of the money from Coventry’s FA Cup run (£750,000) on Chelsea striker (and former Darloid) David Speedie, who would replace Houchen in front of goal. Sillett’s one consolation to Houchen was that he would play him in the 1987 FA Charity Shield, which ended in a 1–0 defeat to Everton. The 1987–88 season was poor for both club and player, as illness, injury and competition from Speedie, Gary Bannister and Cyrille Regis restricted Houchen to just three goals and 24 appearances. On 14 August 1988, he was selected by Graham Taylor to represent the Football League in a game against Scunthorpe United to celebrate the opening of Glanford Park; Houchen scored once in a 6–1 victory. He scored just twice in sixteen appearances in 1988–89, though one of these goals was the winner against Midlands rivals Aston Villa in a 2–1 Boxing Day victory at Highfield Road. He also featured as a substitute in the infamous 2–1 defeat to Conference club Sutton United at Gander Green Lane. The result was all the more remarkable considering that Coventry went on to finish seventh in the league and that Houchen was one of ten Coventry players that day who had won the FA Cup less than two years previously.
In March 1989, he took a £325,000 transfer to Scottish Premier Division side Hibernian, banking a £65,000 signing-on fee. He had apparently come close to signing for Queens Park Rangers, but was not willing to move to London following his experience with Orient. QPR or Hibs? What would you have done?
We might look at Keith’s career with Hibs and then Port Vale next week.
Righto, this week’s Summer Quiz questions………………
16. How many managers did we have in 2014?
17. In what year was the ‘s’ dropped from Hartlepools United?
18. Which Pools player went on loan to Port Vale during 2006?
19. How many weeks was John Duncan manager for in 1983?
20. How many games did Neale Cooper signing Pedro Dimas play for Pools?
Rightio, a couple of ‘quick’ final points:
1. John’s football ‘website’ of the week is https://www.subbuteoforum.org.uk/ – no, I’m not making it up! And when I typed ‘Hartlepool’ into the search box I got to a thread about the most expensive teams to buy – and FC Bremen. Straight up! And yes, I need to get out more.
2. June subs are now due to HUST. Why not add a donation?
3. I’m trying to be positive and upbeat and so have not talked about the increasing number of clubs in clear financial distress – the numbers are stunning – and anyone wanting to see which clubs are facing winding up petitions can get this information by having a quick look at The Unofficial Oxford United forum and this thread in particular – https://yellowsforum.co.uk/threads/winding-up-petitions-in-the-football-league.1949/.
Terrible reading, in terms of the number of HMRC actions, but the black humour about Southend FC is amusing.