FOOTBALL-MAD Alan Robinson celebrated his 65th birthday in fine style with a surprise visit from two-time European Cup winner John McGovern.
Popular Alan, a well-known character in the local football scene, remembers the first time he watched John play, as a teenager for Pools in the FA Youth Cup against Billingham Synthonia.
And decades on, Alan was in for a shock when he was joined by the former Pools, Derby County and Nottingham Forest legend himself at Hartlepool Marina to celebrate reaching the milestone.
“I couldn’t believe it,” beamed Alan, who is the current secretary of Hartlepool Rovers Football Club.
“He just tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘happy birthday Alan’ and then we sat and talked about football for more than an hour.
Alan’s dream birthday surprise was organised by town media man Paul ‘Goffy’ Gough and his family, who Alan has been friends with for many years.
“I got a phone call from them and they said they wanted to take me to the Marina for a coffee for my birthday,” explained Alan, a retired production worker who lives in Sandringham Road with his wife, Christine, 60.
“I sat down facing away from the window and the next minute John McGovern is next to us. There can’t be many better ways to spend a birthday than talking about football with a European Cup winner.”
Alan, who says football is his life and has watched games at more than 100 grounds throughout the country, was secretary of Mill House FC and was the referee’s secretary in the town for 18 years.
He is also an avid Pools fan and admits his bitter disappointment at seeing his beloved club lose their League One status this season.
But looking back to the days when John McGovern was pulling on the Pools shirt, Alan, a dad of Trina, 35, and Alan, 34, and granddad of Mia, 11, said: “I remember seeing John McGovern when he was just coming to prominence in the youth cup at Billingham Synthonia. You could tell back then he was going to be some player.
“I always followed his career with him starting out at Pools.
“He’s a real gentleman as well, I want to thank him as well as Paul and the Gough family for organising my surprise.”