Alan Goad - Hartlepool - Marooned on the Motorway at Midnight
Alan Goad - It's tough at the bottom....Marooned on the motorway at midnight
This article appeared in an English 1978 Football Annual
There are some who have told me I must be mad.
Others have suggested I deserve a medal for endurance above and beyond the call of duty.
All because I’ve spent the past ten years of my life playing football…with Hartlepool.
I’d be the first to admit the Victoria Ground hardly comes up to such as Anfield, Highbury or Old Trafford in terms of glamour…either on or off the pitch. The lifestyle, in all respects, is Spartan in comparison.
But I’ve enjoyed my ten years spent almost exclusively at the wrong end of the soccer ladder.
If I could turn the clock back I would willingly go through it all again – and feel privileged.
Of course, it’s been hard going now and then. Four times in my years at the club we’ve had to apply for re-election after finishing in the bottom four of the Fourth Division.
Life becomes depressing at such times. After all, it’s your livelihood at stake. But, luckily, we’ve always managed to survive.
I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to have spent ten years at the top rather than at the bottom.
As it is, I count myself lucky to have been able to pass all my working life being paid for playing football.
I’ve been able to train and keep fit in the fresh air four or five mornings a week, enjoy plenty of free time – and then on a Saturday play a game most folk look on as a “hobby”.
What more could anyone ask? And what memories there are to cherish.
Bizarre things like having to climb through a hole in the wall for an after-the-match bath at Chester. Or ducking under iron girders to avoid a “sore head” in the Barrows dressing rooms.
Incidents like when, around midnight, our team coach broke down on the motorway on the way back from a match down south – and we hitched a lift on the back of an open-sided lorry to the nearest service area.
And there have been big occasions to help balance the budget. These times, for instance, when we’ve come up against the game’s “elite” in Cup competitions.
We’ve never actually sprung a major surprise but just being in with the chance of doing so was something special in itself.
Never mind the 6-0 and 6-1 defeats by the likes of Manchester City or Aston Villa. What a thrill it was to play against the best in the country and in front of thirty or forty thousand crowds instead of the normal two or three thousand.
I’ve played for only two clubs – Hartlepool and Exeter and I really forced myself upon both of them.
As a 15-year-old I’d moved from Eastbourne to Exeter with my parents. A couple of years later I wrote to the local club asking for a trial. They invited me along.
At the time I was playing as a right-winger. But so many other youngsters who arrived on the night of the trial wanted to play in that position. I was asked to turn out at left-back!
Not much of a switch, you’ll agree. But I even surprised myself by how well I played in my “new” role. Anyhow, Exeter was impressed enough to sign me.
But, 18 months later, I was out on my ear. Hard-up they had to make cut-backs in their staff. I was one of four players handed a free transfer.
That’s when I sat down and wrote to nine League clubs asking if they would have a look at me. They all replied, but only Hartlepool came up with a firm offer. They said they’d take me on a two-months “trial”.
My wage was to be 18 pounds a week as a full-time pro. Even in those days, that wasn’t exactly a fortune…and it certainly didn’t compare at all with an offer I’d subsequently received from non-League Weymouth.
With a job on the side there, I’d have got more than double what Hartlepool were to pay for moving almost the length of the country. With no guarantee, I’d be signed on after that initial trial period.
But, then, my only ambition in life was to be a full-time professional footballer, So, Hartlepool it had to be.
And I’ve never regretted the decision…
The images above were taken from the scrapbooks of Alan Goad. Custom art was created by Paul Goad.
Alan’s career at Hartlepool started in 1967 after a brief apprenticeship stint at Exeter City. In the 11 years Alan spent at the club he collected programs, pictures, and newspaper clippings from the many matches he played in Hartlepool (418 in total). I am happy to share these memories so that Hartlepool Fans around the globe can enjoy a piece of history.
Alan Goad is still ranked 5th in games played at the club, ranked 1st in League Cup starts, and is the only player in the club’s history to see the club go through 3 name changes. His time with the club began with the celebration of their promotion into Division 3 but the 70’s were unkind with many relegation votes required to keep the club in the league.
Despite the club's luck and with very little money to be made Alan remained committed to the club, the fans, and the town of Hartlepool. He looks back fondly of his time at the club and the career he was fortunate to have.
Special thanks to Phil Dunn, Geoff Wilkinson and John Phillips for their contributions, guidance and wealth of knowledge on Hartlepool and their Club.
Information on the above mentioned players and teams was sourced from various locations including match programmes, newspaper articles, Wikipedia and the "In The Mad Crowd" website - http://inthemadcrowd.co.uk/