Neil Reynolds finds out more about the Baggies' visionary chairman
Distinguishing Features Fiftyish, with dark hair and a light moustache which gives the impression that one or other is false; they’re not.
Habitat Hale was born in Moseley, which is actually fairly solid Birmingham City territory, though instead he wisely followed his father not only in supporting Albion, but also running a pub in West Bromwich. A few years spent in Gravesend resulted in the loss of the local accent to the bemusement of Black Country-men, who could not understand why a southerner would want to get on to the Albion board. He made his money by founding a firm which produces replacement parts for German cars, and can often be seen at the wheel of his top-of-the-range Audi.
What use is he? He presided over the opening of two new stands, the ticket office and the much expanded club shop, though the groundwork for all was done while he was still vice-chairman (the first in the club’s history, incidentally). Then he swept away the 100-year-old camorra in charge at the club, completely revising the share structure and making Albion a plc in March 1996. Shares are now quoted on the Alternative Investment Market (and are worth about 25 times more than Aston Villa’s).
Who remembers his birthday? A lot more than remember the birthday of his two predecessors, John Silk (who installed the repugnant Bobby Gould and refused to take any responsibility for the subsequent relegation, consoling supporters by saying “I didn’t miss two penalties against Port Vale”) and Trevor “The Shed” Summers, a timber merchant whose catalogue of crimes included sitting on the bench with the Baggies substitutes at Tranmere, while the team manager sat in the stand. Amazingly, we lost.
Quote Unquote “I feel we could go to Oxford, walk in, have a drink and a laugh with them. The same cannot be said for Queens Park Rangers. I wish a few more clubs would do things properly” – a reference to the acrimonious departure of jovial Ray Harford and the recruitment of Denis Smith as his replacement. QPR’s popularity couldn’t sink lower if they appeared at the Hawthorns in a change strip of old gold and black or claret and blue hoops.
Other offences to be taken into consideration He got off on the right foot as chairman by sacking Keith Burkinshaw within weeks of taking up the post, and it seemed a good move at the time when he appointed Alan Buckley. A year later, when Albion set a new club record by losing 12 consecutive games, he perversely extended Buckley’s contract by 12 months “as a boost to the manager’s position”.The subsequent sacking of Buckley cost a lot more in compensation. He has gained the populist vote by trying to create a Liverpool-style dynasty, installing ex-players John Wile (chief executive), Cyrille Regis (reserve team coach), John Trewick (youth development manager), and Bobby Hope (youth development officer). And new replica shirts were in the club shop in May instead of the usual September.
From WSC 140 October 1998. What was happening this month