“He was the catalyst for everything that happened that season” - former players have paid tribute to ex-Halifax Town boss George Mulhall, who has died aged 81.
Mulhall guided Halifax to an unlikely promotion into the Football League in 1998, having previously been in charge at The Shay between 1972 and 1974.
“He was very knowledgeable about football, he always wanted to play the right way,” says Kieran O’Regan, who was joint-manager of that Conference-winning side in 1998.
“I had a great craic with George, we’d always have a couple of pints after games and I played a lot of golf with George.
“He was a smashing golfer, I think he played off about six. You wouldn’t take any money off George on the golf course!
“But he was a fabulous guy. He’d give you a rollocking when it was needed.
“I remember we lost the last game of the 1997-98 season heavily, and George said to me ‘don’t you say anything in the changing room, leave it to me!’
“The team he put together at Halifax was a real reflection of him, the players and the way they played.”
Town had survived relegation by a single point the previous year after Mulhall’s return.
The Scot then embarked on the masterplan that would see a club ranked at 66/1 for promotion go from relegation fodder to champions in 12 magical months.
“He was the catalyst for everything that happened that season,” says Dave Hanson. who returned to Town that season from Leyton Orient. “I saw it as soon as I arrived.
“He was softly spoken but you knew this was the guy that’s at the forefront of it.
“Nobody was in any doubt who was in charge. George was the stern one and Kieran was more open to suggestions.
“George could be a hard taskmaster but he had 100 per cent respect from everyone.
“No-one would question any of his decisions or what he thought about things. you fell into line because the club was doing so well.
“The club was on a high and George was at the forefront of it all.
“Even after we all left we still regarded him as a top guy.”
O’Regan first met Mulhall when he was in the youth team at Huddersfield Town.
“You had to drag things out of him,” he recalls. “He had such an incredible career and achieved so much.
“He had all these stories about playing with Jim Baxter and Denis Law, but he never talked about them.
“He was the reason I got the opportunity to manage Halifax. I’ve only good things to say about him. He was a hell of a guy.
“It was amazing what we achieved in 1997-98, but George made sure we enjoyed it.
“We worked incredibly hard in training. That group was special, everybody bought into it.
“But George was very proud of what we achieved. He was a player’s manager, he got the best out of you but if you didn’t do your job, you knew about it.
“We played some fabulous football that season, and the Halifax people bought into it, the crowds got bigger and bigger.”
On sealing promotion in 1998, Hanson adds: “He was really chuffed. We had an open top bus parade and a civic reception, and he was just so proud of what the lads had done.
“He recognised it was a great achievement to get Halifax back into the league, not just to scrape over the line, but to do it with a real flourish.”