Sunday, 9 February 2014

Jim's column 8.2.14

Tony Hateley (13.6.1941 - 1.2.2014)

Tony Hateley who passed away last weekend was from the old school of centre-forwards in the mould of Tommy Lawton & famed for his heading ability. He played for seven Football league sides, including two spells at Notts County & his transfers generated fees of £400,000, then a British record. He only spent one year at Highfield Road but left his mark on the club's history.

Born in Derby he attended Normanton Junior School where he towered above his class-mates. His height helped him win the Derbyshire Schools High jump title & become a formidable centre-half in schools football. Joining Notts County as a 17-year old apprentice he was converted to a centre-forward after netting five goals in a reserve game and soon after scored on his first team debut. Towards the end of the 1959-60 season he became the regular centre-forward and eight goals in ten games helped clinch County's promotion to Division Three.

In the higher division he excelled & netted 70 goals over the next three seasons but scored only twice in six games against Coventry. His tussles against the City captain George Curtis were legendary & generally George came off on top except for a 2-0 defeat at Meadow Lane when 'Big-Tone' scored both goals. In 1962-63 he was paired up-front with another young striker, Jeff Astle and between them they netted 30 goals in the final 25 games. A move to a higher level was inevitable & in the summer of 1963 First Division Aston Villa, managed by Joe Mercer, paid £22,000 for his signature. Ironically his replacement at County was Terry Bly, jettisoned by Jimmy Hill to make way for George Hudson. Bly turned out to be a flop & County were relegated that season.

At Villa Park Tony was an immediate hit, returning to Nottingham to score a debut winner at Forest & netting 19 goals in a poor Villa team in his first season. In 1964-65 he & Curtis came face to face again as Second Division City travelled to Villa Park for a Third round FA Cup tie. Villa were again struggling in the league & 20,000 City fans made the short trip anticipating a Sky Blue victory. Hateley had other ideas & scored two goals in the 3-0 victory. The following season he was amongst the goals again & netted four second half goals as Villa came from 5-1 down at Tottenham to draw 5-5. Tony's 86 goals were the main reason for Villa staying in the First Division for those three seasons & it was no surprise when they were relegated the year after he left.

In 1966 Chelsea manager Tommy Docherty paid a club record £100,000 to sign him as a replacement for Peter Osgood who had broken his leg. Osgood's stylish play suited Chelsea's skilful passing game & Hateley struggled to adapt his game where he wanted the crosses and long balls for his deadly forehead. As a result he scored only six league goals but did score the winning goal (what else but a header) as Chelsea beat Leeds in the FA Cup semi final at Villa Park. At Wembley a Dave Mackay inspired Spurs were too good for Chelsea & Tony had to be content with a loser's medal.

After just one season he was on the move again as Liverpool manager Bill Shankly paid a club record £96,000 for the big man. Shankly didn't make the same mistake as Docherty and adapted Liverpool's game to accommodate  Hateley and wingers Ian Callaghan & Peter Thompson gave him such good service that he scored 28 goals. Shankly's one-liners are legendary but one, possibly apochryal, is when Docherty defended Hateley with the line: 'You have to admit Bill he was good in the air'. Shankly supposedly replied: 'Aye, so was Douglas Bader & he had wooden legs'.

Whilst the Kop loved his towering headers, Shankly ultimately decided that Hateley wasn't for Liverpool and when Noel Cantwell was rebuffed in his efforts to buy Newcastle's Wyn Davies he paid £80,000 for Tony. His one -year stay at City started badly; the day he signed his wife was involved in a car crash that left her uninjured but shaken up & his arrival was delayed. He wasn't fully match fit & took seven games to score his first goal, a trademark header in the last minute to rescue a League Cup tie against Swindon. The fans waited patiently to see if Hateley would mesh well with City's other centre-forward, Neil Martin, who had been dogged by injuries, in a twin strike force. The two got their chance at Stoke's Victoria Ground in early November in a thrilling 3-0 victory. Tony scored two first half goals including a stunning header described by Derek Henderson thus: 'Hateley's .... opener projected the ball with such force from Machin's diagonal cross that even a man of (Gordon) Banks' calibre was left helpless'. That game apart the partnership failed to gel & by Christmas City languished in the bottom two. An ankle injury kept Tony out for six weeks & in his absence City's form improved dramatically. Once he was fit he couldn't get into the side & played just one more game in a Sky Blue shirt. In August 1969 he joined Second Division Birmingham City for £72,500 with City grateful to only lose a small amount after a less than productive five goals in 20 games. He stayed just over a year at St Andrews, before moving back to Notts County, now in Division Four, for £20,000. The prodigal son had returned to Meadow Lane and over 21,000, more than double the average crowd, watched his debut. His scoring touch returned and he netted 23 goals as County won the Fourth Division title.

In 1972 he joined Oldham Athletic, his final English club although he did sign for Boston Minutemen in 1974 but managed just three games before his knees gave in & he was forced to retire. He did play some non-league football until 1979 but was unsuccessful in finding a coaching job & became a sales rep for a brewery firm. He settled on Merseyside & worked for the Everton lottery as well as watching with pleasure as his son Mark came through the Sky Blues ranks to play over 100 games & go on to play for England in the late 1980s. Later Mark's son, Tom,  became a professional footballer and was in the Tranmere squad that played at Sixfields earlier this season.

Tony suffered from Alzheimer's Disease later in life possibly not helped by heading all those sodden leather balls in the 1960s.

Career record
Notts County  139 games  79 goals
Aston Villa     148 games   86 goals
Chelsea       33 games  9 goals
Coventry    20 games 5 goals
Birmingham  30 games 6 goals
Notts County 86 games 46 goals
Oldham     5 games   1 goal

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