What happened when a council trainee was told to throw Hartlepool United off their training pitch?

A Hartlepool United fan has recalled the days when he was asked to stop his football heroes from training on council pitches without permission.

Monday, 8th March 2021, 12:47 pm

Hartlepool Borough Council trainee Alastair Rae eventually brokered a deal for the cash-strapped club to begin paying for facilities on the town’s Central Estate.

Lifelong Pools fan Alastair, who retired from his role as council public relations manager in 2016, was reminded of the incidents when he stumbled across a Hartlepool Mail picture of him shaking hands over the deal with Pools’s boss at the time, Mick Docherty, who is the son of late former Manchester United manager Tommy Docherty.

Alastair said: "I've been going to Pools since my dad, John, first took me when I was five. I was then a ball boy for a number of years until my teens.

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Council trainee Alastair Rae, far left, shakes Hartlepool United manager Mick Docherty's hand in 1983 after brokering a deal for the club to use council pitches for training. Also pictured are Andy Linighan, who is the further back of the two players next to Alastair, Phil Brown, who is wearing a plain T-shirt in the centre of the photo and John Bird, far right.
Council trainee Alastair Rae, far left, shakes Hartlepool United manager Mick Docherty's hand in 1983 after brokering a deal for the club to use council pitches for training. Also pictured are Andy Linighan, who is the further back of the two players next to Alastair, Phil Brown, who is wearing a plain T-shirt in the centre of the photo and John Bird, far right.

"However, the close association with Pools continued when I was appointed as the young trainee, aged 18, in the council's leisure department.

"I played cricket with Frankie Baggs, who was the club's commercial manager, and he would often ring me to help them out which I was always more than willing to do.

"Then one day my boss said to me that Hartlepool United were training at Central Estate and they did not have permission so I had to go and throw them off.

"I went down to tell the then manager Billy Horner what my boss had said but told him that as far I was concerned, as a lifelong fan, they could do what they want.

Alastair Rae pictured in 2021.

"This went on for weeks and I kept making repeat visits to Central Estate.

"But then Billy got sacked and was replaced by ex-Spurs striker John Duncan. He didn't last long and then Mick Docherty was appointed.

"Eventually, I went to meet Mick in his tiny office in the dilapidated wooden facilities on Clarence Road which I had once occupied as a ball boy.

"I was 10 stone dripping wet and right behind Mick's head on the wall behind him was a sign which said ‘it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog’.

Former Hartlepool United commercial manager Frankie Baggs.

"I must say I felt a bit intimidated at first but Mick was very nice with me.

"Before long we struck a deal whereby Pools could train at Grayfields two-three times a week, changing rooms and showers included, and would pay for a football pitch full share, about £50 a season.

"At the time, local football teams entered into a contract with the council for a half share, £25, which entitled teams to play their home games on a specified council pitch.

"Personally, I was delighted that we found a resolution as my days of being ordered to evict my beloved Hartlepool United from council recreation grounds was a thing of the past.

"When I look back over my 38 years at the council, it gives me a great deal of satisfaction that the council has been able to help Pools in lots of different ways over the years, and it would appear that the strong relationship still exists today which is a real positive.

Alastair, 60, who still lives in town, was also a member of club legend Brian Honour's testimonial committee and helped organise civic celebrations when Pools gained promotion.

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