The latest in a series of profiles and interviews, Orginal Fat Bob gives his personal view on the life and career of a footballing guest, before sitting down for a chat and asking a few questions. Our Diasboro special guest this week is John Hendrie.
1. The Overview – the man and his career
John was another one of my favourite players when he played for the Boro. He always performed with a swagger. Not particularly tall in stature and barrel chested, he always had a smile on his face and was known for being a practical joker. He wasn’t a pushover by any means though and often displayed a fiery streak, which resulted in him receiving bookings and the occasional sending off. He will always go down in the history books as the player who scored the last ever goal at Ayresome Park. To celebrate this event and to have a personal record of this, I bought a large framed photograph of this momentous occasion, which is signed by him. When I mentioned to John that I had a framed photograph of him scoring the last goal, true to his nature John tried to sell me another one! This photograph hung for many years on my office wall until I retired from work. It now has pride of place in my eldest son’s man cave. It is a great talking point, but also gives me an excuse to go and have a look at it whilst taking the opportunity to have a drink at the bar.
For me and many others, my other lasting memory of John will be the wonder goal that he scored at Ayresome Park, whilst playing in a more central role up front against Milwall. He collected the ball just outside our own penalty area and then weaved past the entire Millwall team before slotting the ball home into the net. It was the first time that our former manager Bruce Rioch had returned to Ayresome Park, but this time as the opposition manager. The way John danced around those players was mesmeric and if a Brazilian had scored it, we would have said it was the best goal ever seen in English Football.
I also recall us playing against Blackburn on the 5th December in the 92-93 season, when Lennie Lawrence was our manager. It was after we had sold (Rippers), our own Stuart Ripley to Blackburn who was playing against us on that day that I remember so well. John scored a fabulous hat-trick, enabling the Boro to run out 3-2 winners. After his third goal, all the crowd started chanting to the Blackburn fans and coaching staff, “you signed the wrong [expletive] winger, wrong [expletive] winger etc… much to the amusement of John and the other players.
John’s career started at Coventry City in June 1980 and he became a full time professional in May 1981. He them moved to Bradford City, where he played 173 consecutive league games, winning one promotion and narrowly missing out on another.
When talking to John on a previous occasion we touched upon the Bradford City, Valley Parade Stadium, Fire disaster. This event happened during their last third Division fixture between Bradford and Lincoln City on Saturday, 11 May 1985. Unfortunately, the casualties were 56 dead and injuries to another 265 spectators. The Stadium was well known for its old design which had a wooden roof on the main stand. Warnings had been given about a major build-up of litter just below the seats and in those days spectators smoked in the stands. John recalled how it was his most nightmarish day in football as he had friends and family in the stand, as did the other players. None of his family were injured, but looking at him, it showed that the tragedy has made a lasting impression on this likeable guy.
Following spells with Newcastle United and Leeds United, he then moved to Boro and scored 44 goals for us. He played as a deep-lying striker or winger for us and helped us win promotion to the newly founded FA Premier League in 1992. He was our leading scorer in 1995 when we won promotion back to the top flight. He was replaced by the little fella (Juninho), so he moved on to Barnsley in 1996 where he finished his career. He contributed towards their promotion and they finished Division One runners-up and became top division members for the first time in their history. He was unable to prevent Barnsley from suffering relegation in 1997–98 however and after the end of that season he succeeded Danny Wilson as manager before finally leaving the club.
He can now be found on most match days at the Riverside where his bubbly personality ensures that he entertains new fans as well as the ones who used to applaud him from the stands. Always ready to chat he talks to us now:
2. The Interview – a quick chat
OFB: What year did you join Boro as a professional footballer?
JH: During the Summer of 1990.
OFB: Where did you stay? Did you rent, or did you live in digs?
JH: I lived at my home in Menston near Ilkley.
OFB: Who was your favourite Boro player and others that you have played with?
JH: I had two favourite players, Juninho and Paul Wilkinson.
OFB: Who were the best and worst trainers in the team?
JH: The best trainer was Nick Barmby and the worst was John Wark.
OFB: When did the team travel for away games, how did they get there, by bus or by train?
JH: We travelled mostly by Bus, but during the Bryan Robson days we often flew to games.
OFB: How many players usually travelled and did the Directors travel with you?
JH: We had a large squad of players which usually included an apprentice for the experience. The manager, coaching staff and physio also travelled with us. No Directors ever came with us they always made there own way to the away games.
OFB: Did you have nice hotels or was it just bed and breakfast?
JH: We always stayed in very good hotels.
OFB: Who did you room with for away matches?
JH: Mostly I was in a room with Paul Wilkinson, but I sometimes shared with Robbie Mustoe or Phil Whelan.
OFB: Who was the joker in the team?
JH: There were two of us who were the jokers, me and Trevor Putney.
OFB: Can you tell us any amusing anecdotes or pranks that were played?
JH: When Lennie Lawrence was the manager we had three different training venues which we used at various times. We would change at Ayresome Park first and then go and look at the blackboard on the wall outside the dressing room, which displayed that days training location. On April Fools day I sabotaged it! I changed the venue and two cars with players drove off to Norton. I then changed the blackboard again and three cars went to Kirklevington. The rest of us stayed at Ayresome Park which was the right place to train that day. It came as no surprise that the training at Ayresome Park was delayed by a few hours – This was when no one had mobile phones and we couldn’t round up the lads to come and join us. They were at the wrong grounds kicking the ball about and wondering where everyone else was. Luckily for me, Lennie saw the funny side of it and I got away with it.
OFB: Whose boots did you clean as an apprentice and who cleaned yours?
JH: When I was at Newcastle Steve Howie cleaned mine. When I was an apprentice at Coventry in 1980, I cleaned the boots of Jim Holton who went on to play for Manchester United and Scotland.
OFB: Did you try and emulate your style of play, on any individual player who played in your position?
JH: My heroes were both Celtic players, Jimmy Johnstone and Kenny Dalglish.
OFB: What was your most memorable game, your own individual performance and best experience with the fans?
JH: I had several memorable games and experiences. The Millwall game when I ran the length of the pitch and scored. My hat-trick against Blackburn when we won 3-2 and the fantastic atmosphere at Ayresome Park when I scored the last goal there. It was a sea of red and white and I’ll never forget it. (He has the same choices as me! OFB)
OFB: What was your worst game or experience and why?
JH: I remember losing to Aston Villa by five goals to nil and we were absolutely awful.
OFB: Is there a game that you wished you had played in, either for Boro or another team?
JH: I always regretted not playing for Boro in the F.A Cup Final at Wembley, I’d left the club some eight months previously and I was devastated that they were there without me.
OFB: Who was in your opinion the best manager that Boro have ever had and why?
JH: I always enjoyed playing under all my managers, but particularly, Bryan Robson.
OFB: Who was in your opinion, the manager that had the greatest influence on your career and why?
JH: Undoubtedly it was Dave Sexton who gave me my top-flight debut at 18 for Coventry against Spurs when we won 2-1. I’m indebted to him for giving me my chance.
OFB: Which opposing team and which player did you fear playing against?
JH: The player I didn’t like playing against was Paul McGrath who was so underrated.
OFB: Which opposing team and which player did you like playing against?
JH: I always enjoyed playing against Blackburn because I always seemed to score against them. I also loved playing at Anfield and Old Trafford and scored at both grounds during my career.
OFB: Who is your favourite Boro player of all time and why?
JH: My favourite Boro player of all time is Graeme Souness, who was a born leader.
OFB: Who is your current favourite Boro player and why?
JH: It has to be Stuart Downing, who is a good servant and ambassador for Middlesbrough Football Club.
OFB: How do you think the match day has changed from the time that you played professional football to the present day?
JH: Nowadays there is a lot more media scrutiny.
OFB: If you could be a fly on the wall, is there any dressing room you would wish to eavesdrop on?
JH: Jose Mourinho
OFB: Do you have any regrets in your career, or missed opportunities?
JH: No, I’ve no regrets, you pick your bed and you lie in it.
OFB: Do you still follow the Boro and their results
JH: I work at the Boro on matchdays acting as a host in the Middlehaven Suite, everyone is welcome at Diasboro to pop in and see me for a chat.
OFB: Whereabouts in the Country do you live these days and what do you do?
JH: I still live in the same village in Menston near Ilkley.
OFB: Whom have you made a lifelong friend through football?
JH: I have several lifelong football friends, that many I couldn’t name just one.
OFB: Finally, if you hadn’t had a professional career as a footballer, what do you think you would have done as a career?
JH: I don’t know, perhaps I may have joined the armed forces.
OFB: A huge thank you John for taking the time to talk to Diasboro and our readers and I’m sure that a few of us will be booking a place at the Riverside in the Middlehaven suite to have a chat with you.