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Extra time in the Sun 


Players from athletics, boxing, darts, cricket and of course the beautiful game, football are included in my latest sporting book “Extra Time” but one not included is former Hartlepool United player, John Honour, who has a very interesting story to tell.

John Honour spent three years at West Bromwich Albion with manager Alan Ashman, who led the Midlands club to winning the F.A. Cup in 1968. Most of John’s appearances were in the old Central League with Albion reserves before he moved back to Horden and signed for Hartlepool United.

John made his debut for Pools at 18 years of age in the 2-0 win over Gillingham and remained with the club for almost five years appearing in the blue and white shirt on 127 occasions scoring six goals from his midfield position.

The Gillingham game was remarkable for a piece of social history which is worth recording. On the Saturday before the Tuesday night game John recalls that Pools dressing rooms were gutted by fire which destroyed everything – the players boots, strips and of course the building.

Pools changed in the Mill House Leisure Centre and walked across the car park to “The Vic”. When young John arrived at the turnstiles he was asked by the attendant for the admission fee. John replied, “But I am playing” to which the gatekeeper replied “they all say that”.

It was only when a seasoned Pools player, Alan Goad, intervened and explained the young lad was making his debut that John Honour was allowed through the turnstiles. When the team ran out onto the pitch they were wearing blue shirts carrying the “Stranton Social Club” badge and socks and white shorts provided by Michael Gough, a local sports shop owner.

John recalls. “When we won 2-0 and walked back across the car park to the Mill House we were patted on the back all the way to cries of ‘well done son’ “, he explained. “I dread to think what would have happened if we lost”, he added.

During that season Pools received help from lots of clubs who played in blue and John Honour turned out in strips carry the badges of Chelsea, Ipswich Town and Cardiff City.

During John’s first season Neil Warnock, now manager of Championship side Cardiff City, was Hartlepool’s “Player of the Year”. Neil was a more successful manager than a player being promoted on half a dozen occasions with various clubs.

One of the highlights of John Honour’s playing career came in 1976 when Pools faced Manchester City in the 3rd round of the F.A.Cup before 25,863 at Maine Road. John recalls “City scored six without reply and in truth we were lucky to get nil” he laughed.

John and Pools would be on the end of another six after they had held mighty Aston Villa 1-1 in the league cup at the Victoria Ground before 12,500 fans before losing the replay at Villa Park 6-1. Early of course to reach this stage of the competition they had beaten Blackburn Rovers.

At the end of the season John moved across country to Workington Town, then still in the Football League, appearing 39 times and netting one goal. But Town’s would lose their league status at the end of the season when they were voted out of the league and replaced by Wimbledon. Workington have never made it back to the Football League and neither did John. He returned home to Horden where he played for the local Colliery Welfare Club and Chester le Street.

I met John in Horden, Co.Durham, when he was on holiday from his home in Tenerife. He now owns “The Hop and Grapes” a very popular bar in Puerto Colon on the south coast of the island.

John moved to the Canary Islands in February 2011 and bought the “Hop and Grapes” in the port but it hasn’t been all plain sailing.

In May 2013 John ended up in hospital in the capital Santa Cruz after suffering heart problems. Thankfully due to the excellent medical treatment, he was in hospital ten days, John made a full recovery and is now back behind the bar at his popular pub.

John kindly invited me to join him one evening in Puerto Colon where he will lay on a second book signing for me at the “Hop and Grapes” following one at the “Devon Arms” in Los Cristianos

It is a long way from the muddy fields of Work-ington Town and Hartle-pool to the crystal blue seas of the Atlantic Ocean but John Honour made it. He returns home every year to the north east and his roots in Horden, for a holiday.

We wish him along and happy life in the sun.