Brian Honour looks back to the 1980s and tells us more about how he won over his team-mates and supporters at The Vic.
Hello and welcome to my latest Blog here on the Official Website.
It’s amazing to think that earlier this month was the 30th anniversary of my debut for Pools. It was on 9th February 1985 when I first played senior football for the Club – but it’s flown over to be honest and I remember it like it was yesterday!
I remember the week surrounding my debut was just a weird, surreal experience. In those days there was just a team sheet put up on the wall on a Friday by the Physio or the Assistant Manager. I had been training with the Club and I had played in a friendly at The Vic against Brandon on the Wednesday and done quite well – I was up against Northern League players which I was used to because I had been playing for Peterlee Newtown at the time.
When the team sheet went up people would rush to see if their name was on it but I didn’t bother to be honest. In those days the First Team would go away for the game and the Reserves would be left to their own devices on a Saturday so we would have a five-a-side game or something, there was nothing particularly organised.
I can clearly remember Roy Hogan came stomping through to the dressing room moaning because he’d been dropped from the squad that weekend. I asked him what the plans were for the Saturday and he was the one who told me my name was included for the First Team! I didn’t believe him at first and dashed through to the notice board to check it wasn’t a wind-up – and there it was ‘Brian Honour’ on the wall in the Hartlepool First Team. It was surreal.
Back in those days the First Team trained on the pitch on a Friday before a game and then I was told to report at 2pm on the Saturday. I couldn’t drive at that point so I remember pulling on a suit and getting on the X5 from Horden, complete with an old Darlington kit bag thrown over my shoulder – people forget I played about 100 games for them before I got to Pools!
I got off the bus at the station, walked up past The Mail office and the Greyhound Stadium and past a load of pretty bemused Hartlepool fans who obviously didn’t know me from Adam! And all the time I had a suit on and a Darlington bag! It wasn’t until I got in the changing rooms that Mark Taylor said to me “You’re taking a chance there, aren’t you?” I didn’t even realise what he was on about but then he said carrying a Darlington bag was a crime so that got thrown in the coal house as soon as I got home and I replaced it with a Fine Fare carrier bag I think!
It was a tough time back then and I had been on the dole, but busting a gut to try and find a job – so when there was a chance of being taken on at Hartlepool I made sure I worked as hard as I possibly could to take the chance. I think that made me hungrier to succeed because being out of work was doing my head in!
You’ve got to remember this was the 1980s; the pits were shutting and people were on strike, including my brothers and a lot of my friends. In fact, I remember joining them on the picket line a few times simply because I had nothing else to do. I remember getting caught up in a riot at Easington one day, it was a strange old time!
At first I wasn’t given a proper contract so for about four or five weeks I was in the position where I was playing for Hartlepool on a Saturday and missing training on a Tuesday to go and sign-on in Peterlee! People would spot me in the queue – “alright, Brian – I see you got an 8 out of 10 in the Sunday People at the weekend, well done!” It was crazy.
I made by debut against Peterborough at The Vic and, although we were beaten 3-0, I must have done okay because I didn’t miss a game following that. After about four or five games I got given a contract until the end of that season, then got a two-year contract that summer – and here I am still involved with the Club, albeit in a different role, thirty years later!
You had to be a character back then to make it at Pools, there were so many huge characters in the dressing room – the likes of Eddie Blackburn, Phil Brown, John Bird, Roy Hogan, Paul Dobson. They were a big part of the Club and its culture and you had to fit in.
I remember the Club was sponsored by Camerons in those days and coming back from away games there would be Hansa lager and wine on the team coach - whether we had won, lost or drawn. I wasn’t a big drinker back then (I’m still not these days!) but you had to join in and part of it was having a sing-song on the back of the bus, with an empty wine bottle being used as a microphone.
It was like X-Factor on the back of that bus at times on the way back from away games. Graeme Hedley was a Billy Joel man, Kevin Dixon would sing Little Old Wine Drinking Me, and I remember I got told I had to sing a song so ended up rattling out Saturday Night At The Movies by The Drifters! I had only been there five minutes and you had to try and fit in - but I remember thinking that I couldn’t get too drunk because I had to sign-on in the morning!
I had never seen anything like that kind of thing at Darlington while I was there, in terms of the spirit and the dressing room. Before training you had to go down to the players’ bar under the stand and order a pie for after the session – and they were delivered by Roy Hogan’s dad who was a butcher! Davey Linighan used to turn his pie upside down and pour a cup of Oxo over it!
Thankfully, I was accepted by the dressing room. I’ve seen many a lad get terrorised by it but you had to try and fit in and go along with it because if you didn’t you’d be swept aside. Roy Hogan used to tear strips off people but once you were in you were in. I felt like I fitted in well and I ended up having a good relationship with the fans too. So I won my team-mates over by singing The Drifters and won the crowd over by giving 100% every time I went out on the pitch!
And let’s be honest, it would have been easy for the players and the fans not to take to me – I mean, not only had I turned up from Darlington but I was a yakker as well! If ever there was a recipe for disaster then I was it! Haha!
They were great times really – I may have moaned like hell about not getting paid and what have you at the time but, looking back, I think that spell at Pools was the making of me. I made friends with players and fans that have remained strong to this day.
I was only a young’un obviously but now I have a family, and two daughters who are 24 and 25 and have grown up with Hartlepool United. They’ve been a massive part of it for me too.
The Club is unrecognisable in terms of stadium, training ground and infrastructure – it’s a world away from when we had to train in our own kit, our socks had holes in them and some of the shorts didn’t match! I’m proud I am still connected to the Club after all this time and the memories it’s given me will last a lifetime!
Never Say Die!