The next Q and A is with former captain and defender Peter Hart. Peter is known to many as a brilliant defender, and then as club chaplain once finishing his playing career.
Firstly, how did your transfer to Walsall first come about?
I moved to Walsall after both my former clubs, Huddersfield Town FC and Walsall FC, gained promotion to division 3 at the end of the 1979-80 season. I felt that the time was right to leave Huddersfield and asked for a transfer. I met with Alan Buckley, the manager at the time, in a motorway service station on the M1 to discuss terms. I arrived at Walsall just before the season started in 1980.
What was it like to be made Captain?
I had been captain at Huddersfield Town for almost two seasons before arriving at Walsall. I think being captain of both clubs was a great privilege and honour. As captain I felt that I had a responsibility to lead by example. This meant that, although there were times when I played badly, I always worked hard and gave my best.
What was your favourite match to play in?
Obviously, the Milk Cup run of 1983-84 meant playing in some remarkable matches, not least Arsenal at Highbury, which we won 2-1, and Liverpool at Anfield in the first leg of the semi-final, which we drew 2-2. But I remember also playing in the F.A. Youth Cup final for Huddersfield Town against Tottenham Hotspur during the 1973-74 season. We drew in the first leg at White Hart Lane 1-1, and were in the last few minutes of extra time at Leeds Road when Tottenham scored the only goal of the game to win 1-0, in front of 15,300 supporters. I think my first three or four years as a footballer, when everything was new and I was full of hope, were the best and happiest years of my career.
What was your favourite goal?
I scored 21 goals in just over 700 games for Huddersfield Town and Walsall. My favourite goal for Town was a left footed strike from 25 yards against Stockport County. It was a goal in a game we won 2-1 in the season we were promoted. My favourite goal for Walsall was a free kick against Chesterfield at Fellows Park. It was the winning goal in a game we won 4-3.
Who was the best player you ever played with?
I have to say I’ve played with some good players at both Huddersfield Town and Walsall. Malcolm Brown and Steve Kindon both became firm favourites at Huddersfield. While David Preece and David Kelly both left Walsall to forge very good careers with big clubs. But I think I must include Alan Buckley as one of the best I played with. I only played with him when he was player manager at Walsall and in the latter stage of his career. But he was quite a player and a great goal scorer.
Who was the best player you ever played against?
I think Ian Rush, Kenny Dalglish and John Barnes were without a doubt the best players I’ve played against. Having played Liverpool on several occasions in cup competitions during the 1980’s, it was always a great challenge to play against such players. I also played against Alan Ball, the England World Cup winner, when he was coming to the end of his playing career at Blackpool. But I should really mention playing against Peter Thompson as a young 16 year old for Huddersfield. Peter Thompson had a great career at Liverpool and was coming to the end of his playing career at Bolton Wanderers when he gave me the biggest run around of my footballing life. Fine player!
No. But having been chaplain at Walsall soon after Dean was made manager, it was clear to me that he had some remarkable qualities. It doesn’t surprise me therefore that he’s now manager of Aston Villa and I believe he has what it takes to become a really fine manager in the years ahead.
It was strange returning to the club as chaplain not least because I remember what it was like to be part of the club as a player. One of the strangest things was seeing the first team squad for the first time and thinking how young they were! One of the difficult things about being chaplain as an ex-player, was having opinions about the football and the players as footballers, which was not what I was there for. I enjoyed my time as chaplain at Walsall and wish the club every success.
Finally, what are you up to these days?
Having spent 6 years at St Martin’s on the Sutton Road in Walsall, then 14 years as Vicar of St Luke’s in Cannock, I crossed Cannock Chase three years ago to become Vicar of St John the Baptist in Armitage. Apart from spending 5 years as curate at St Peter’s Church Shipley, in the Diocese of Bradford, between 1992 and 1997, all of the last 23 years have been spent serving in the Diocese of Lichfield. I still enjoy playing a bit of cricket for the Diocese of Lichfield but apart from that most of my physical exercise comes from walking regularly.
Thanks to Peter for answering those. Certainly a player who I wish I had seen play.