Pools legend Brian Honour on benefits of Army training, why he couldn't get his head round friendlies and reflections on his Testimonial twenty years on.
Hello and welcome to my latest Blog here on the Club’s Official Website.
I’ve been watching with interest in the last few weeks as the squad returned for pre-season training and the real excitement ahead of the new campaign continued to build-up. I can’t wait!
It was brilliant seeing the photos and footage of the lads taking part in an Army Training Camp last week and it’s quite a coincidence really because that’s exactly what we did after Cyril Knowles saved us from relegation in 1990!
I have said before that since Ronnie Moore came in to the Club there are a number of factors that seem to link his regime to that of Cyril and taking the squad to an Army Training Camp in pre-season was the latest in a long line of similarities.
We even went to the same place – Catterick – back in the summer of 1990 where we took part in a number of different running exercises. It all brought memories flooding back last week of us being knocked up at the crack of dawn by the Staff
Sergeants, getting our gear and boots on and going out for some kind of ridiculous running exercise!
I remember one in particular was where you had to run carrying long thin logs like telegraph poles on your shoulders! Thankfully I got myself in a group with Paul Baker, Mick Smith and Ian Bennyworth who were much taller and I couldn’t reach to do any of the real work – being small has its benefits every now and then!
To be honest, it was fantastic for team-building. I know Colin Cooper took the players away to Spain last summer and the lads this year must have felt a world away from that but I honestly think the things they will have got out of the Army Camp will be crucial for the coming season.
In terms of pulling together and working as team nothing beats it – they were doing that assault course and it will have been difficult so they will have needed to pull each other through. That all creates team spirit and harmony, and at our level of the game that is absolutely crucial.
We went on to win our first two games of the season after that so hopefully the lads this time around can see similar benefits because I genuinely think it’s just the ticket for footballers playing at this level. It will galvanise them ahead of the new season and hopefully help them get some early momentum going.
It was great to see them back in pre-season action with wins over Billingham Town and Harrogate Railway this week, even though I have to admit I am not a big fan of friendly games. I wasn’t as a player and even as a manager I hated them to be honest, because I have always been brought up on playing to win the game. I can’t get my head round playing with nothing at stake.
In fact, I remember one year we played a pre-season friendly against Leeds United and Micky Adams was playing against me at left-back. I gave him a torrid time and it wasn’t long before he was tugging my shirt and shouting “will you slow down?” at me! I just couldn’t get in tune with playing in friendlies!
This month it’s actually twenty years since my Testimonial against Newcastle United at Pools – I can’t quite believe it actually because it only feels like it was yesterday! Time has flown over since then but it was a very special day for me. I know Ritchie Humphreys and Micky Barron have had Testimonials since then but I think mine was the first for a while so it was a very big deal for me.
However, there are a couple of things about that day which I still cringe a little bit about when I think back. The first was that I said yes to a request from the Newcastle fans to lay their big flag on the pitch before kick-off. Looking back it was a mistake because it’s Pools’ pitch and that shouldn’t have happened so I regret that. If I could turn the clock back then I would probably change that.
And then secondly, a lot of people have asked me over the years why I did the lap of honour wearing a Newcastle top. What happened was I had gone in to the tunnel after the game and Peter Beardsley gave me his shirt and I just put it on – I didn’t even realise when I was going round the pitch and it certainly wasn’t a planned thing and it’s another thing I regret. I wish I could change it.
The good memories are there as well though and one of the overriding things I recall is how brilliant Kevin Keegan was during the game and even in the build-up. He refused to take a single penny for bringing the team to The Vic, even for the coach travel or pre-match meal.
I think in that era with the trappings of the Premier League starting to take hold, things like that sometimes get overlooked but I will never forget how good he was to me during that period.
Anyway, looking back to the present day and things are shaping up very nicely ahead of the new season. With all the new signings coming in there is some real excitement around so long may it continue.
I think I am going to have a look along to the Spennymoor friendly on Saturday and then to the home game against Scunthorpe next week and I’m sure after that I will be raring to go.
Never Say Die!