My Time At Town - Paul Hendrie: “I enjoyed my football there, and I made lots of good friends”

Nearly 5,000 miles away from his previous one, Paul Hendrie found a home in Halifax.

Saturday, 16th May 2020, 1:32 pm
Paul Hendrie celebrates the win against Manchester City in 1980. Photo: Johnny Meynell

The Scottish midfielder had swapped a sun-kissed lifestyle in America, where he counted Pele among his opponents and spent relaxed afternoons playing golf, for another shot at English football with Bristol Rovers in 1977.

After that move proved ill-fated, Hendrie found the warmth and security he was looking for at The Shay.

“I was playing in America for Portland Timbers, and they played Bristol Rovers in a friendly,” he recalls.

Hendrie receiving his player of the year award for 1980-81. Photo: Keith Middleton

“Don Megson was Rovers’ manager and after the game he said ‘what are you doing in the winter?’

“Well I was one of four they kept on full-time and we went round the schools and colleges coaching kids.

“He said ‘why don’t you come and play for me on loan until January and then go back to America’.

“So I played the first five games for them - we won four and drew one - and then he put me on the bench and brought the captain back in the side, which I thought was strange.

Hendrie receiving his player of the year award for 1979-80. Photo: Keith Middleton

“I was on the bench, on the bench, and I was wishing I’d stayed over in America.

“He resigned as manager at Christmas and went to manage Portland Timbers.

“I had a return ticket to go back, so I phoned the club because they usually got you a taxi to the airport, but I spoke to Don Megson and he said ‘I’ve decided I’m not going to bring you back’.

“I couldn’t believe it.

Hendrie leading Town out as captain. Photo: Keith Middleton

“Eventually, something got out that I was available and that’s when George Kirby phoned up.

“I went up there and spoke to him, had a look around and they offered me a contract to the end of the following season.”

Hendrie quickly endeared himself to The Shay supporters with some tigerish performances and never-say-die attitude in the heart of the midfield.

Not bad for £5,000.

Hendrie in action for Town against Aldershot in February 1982

“I was impressed with George, he was a very enthusiastic man,” Hendrie says.

“He told me he’d just signed Dave Evans and Dave Harris, who were Midlands lads, where I lived.

“George was a good salesman

“He trained us hard, you could sense he wanted success, he was a winner.

“He wouldn’t stand for any shenanigans, he was a strict man.

“He loved to get people fit and he made them work hard for a living.”

Hendrie (ecntre) with Frank O'Farrell and Bobby Davison. Photo: Keith Middleton

Hendrie was named player-of-the-year in his first season at Portland, and received the same accolade in his first two full seasons at Halifax.

“I could do box-to-box, I was playing central midfield,” he says.

“I was more of a creative midfielder, I could win the ball and that, but when Bobby Davison came I must have laid on over half his goals for him.

“He used to make runs in behind the back four and I used to love playing with Bobby, because he had a bit of pace and his runs were good.

“George was a very strong man. He knew what he wanted.

“I remember one time we went into The Shay and it was snowing, and we thought ‘we’ll show our face’, ‘we might do a bit in one of the dressing rooms, sit-ups or something like that’.

“But George told us to get changed and had us running round the speedway track. That was the sort of man he was.

“There was a hill up the side of the ground and he had us running up and down that as well.

“So we were a fit side.”

Town never finished higher than 11th in Hendrie’s five seasons at the club, racking up placings of 18th, 23rd, 19th, 11th and 21st from 1979-80 to 1983-84.

“Not the greatest of records are they! says Hendrie.

“It never felt as if we were going to get relegated though.

“We had good players in the side. We underachieved with the team we had.

“If we could have put the same side out every week we wouldn’t have been so low down in the table.

“And then we lost people like Micky Kennedy and Bobby Davison.

“They were key players for us. But that was your way of surviving for smaller clubs in Division Four, getting a gem and selling them on.”

Hendrie was made captain when Micky Bullock took over as manager in 1981.

“He wasn’t as strong as George in the way he’d rant and rave. Mick was a calmer manager,” says Hendrie.

“George certainly used to give us plenty of rollockings I can tell you that!

“I think with the side we had, we should have achieved better than that.

“But George didn’t have the best budget in the world.

“Good players got injured, and we were running a small squad. We didn’t have strength-in-depth, we were on a shoestring.

“Sometimes when we’d play three games in seven days it would take its toll on us.”

Buried among the five seasons of struggle, like a diamond in the soil, is Hendrie’s finest moment, and arguably Halifax’s too.

On Saturday, January 5, 1980, the football world was turned on its head as top-flight Manchester City were dumped out of the FA Cup, with Hendrie netting the winner.

The highlight of his time at Town “without a doubt” says Hendrie.

“People are always saying they’ve seen it on YouTube and ‘oh, I didn’t know it was you who scored the goal’.

“People still talk about it.

“It’ll go with me to my grave because everybody remembers it.

“It was such a massive shock, like Hereford beating Newcastle.

“And it was great for myself scoring the goal.”

Not that it would have come as a shock to the midfielder, who had predicted such an eventuality in the build-up to the game during an encounter with hypnotist Romark.

City manager Malcolm Allison had hired Romark in the run-up to Crystal Palace’s 1976 FA Cup semi-final against Southampton, but had refused to pay for his services, so the hypnotist then put a curse on Allison’s side. Who lost.

Four years later, he was invited to meet the Town squad by Kirby.

“All the lads were going in and then when they were coming out, they were saying ‘he gets you to shut your eyes and asks you questions’,” recalls Hendrie.

“So when I went in, I was half taking the mick. He told me to shut my eyes and I had a little snigger, I don’t know how he didn’t notice.

“I’ll never forget it, he said ‘how do you think you’re going to get on?’ and I was taking the mickey, I said ‘we’re going to win’.

“And he said ‘right, what’s the score going to be?’, and I went ‘one-nil’.

“And he went, ‘anything else?’, and I went ‘yeah, I’m going to score the goal’.

“And it ended up coming out as a story that Romark had hypnotised me into scoring the goal, but I was just taking the mick!”

Despite the rest of his time at The Shay never coming close to matching that landmark day, Hendrie says he wanted to stay at the club for the rest of his career.

“I thought I’d finish at Halifax,” says Hendrie, reflecting on his departure in 1984.

“Me and Dave Evans were on a loyalty bonus, for if you stayed at the club without asking for a transfer.

“It wasn’t great money but it might pay for your holiday or something.

“When Micky Bullock took over, we went into his office and he said ‘I can’t give you your loyalty bonus, the directors aren’t going to pay it this year, the club’s struggling financially’.

“I asked him to have a word with them to try and sort it out but nothing was.

“And then Stockport County got in touch with me, I ended up going there and finishing my career there.”

Hendrie made more appearances for Halifax than any other club, basking in the place he called home for five years.

“I enjoyed my football there, and I made lots of good friends,” he says. “I felt wanted.

“I met a lot of nice people at Halifax, and I missed them when I left.

“I like honest people and the people up there are genuine people.”

Thanks to Johnny Meynell for his help with this article.

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Hendrie scores after 45 seconds for Town at home to Sheffield United in April 1982. Photo: Keith Middleton
Hendrie in action for Town against Bradford City in August 1980
Paul Hendrie. Photo: Keith Middleton
Hendrie scores the winner for Town against Manchester City in the FA Cup in 1980. Photo: Keith Middleton