Tony Green is a Blackpool legend who was forced into early retirement at 25 and became a maths teacher, but even coronavirus hasn’t stopped him from sitting on the Football Pools panel… and they predict Manchester United would be third ahead of final weekend!
- Ex-Blackpool and Scotland midfielder Green is chairman of Football Pools panel
- The panel has sat in judgment to predict the results for the rest of the season
- Manchester Utd placed in third ahead of the scheduled final weekend of fixtures
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
For nearly half a century, the world has transformed around Tony Green.
Football, the game he loved and then lost at just 25? ‘Money has changed it completely.’
The education system, too, looked rather different after 30 years of teaching maths.
Manchester United have been placed in third ahead of the scheduled final weekend of fixtures
And Blackpool – the team which lured him south of the border – has seen its lights dimmed.
The talented midfielder, also of Newcastle and Scotland, is a nod to simpler times.
‘I can text now,’ says Green, now 73. ‘I don’t bother with the internet.’
In recent weeks, however, it has been his turn to march on while everything else stands still.
Liverpool continued their relentless march to the title according to the Football Pools panel
Since 1975, Green has sat on the Football Pools panel, creating winners around the land.
Not even Covid-19 has halted their progress – this week, Green, Ian Callaghan and David Sadler will decide the final Premier League table.
Usually the septuagenarians meet to make their picks, most of which never see the light of day. During shutdown, they play judge and jury. And do so in isolation.
‘About 20 years ago, we had a telephone link between (former panellists) Roger Hunt, Gordon Banks and me,’ Green remembers. ‘At the end of it, somebody else came in and joined us who wasn’t invited so we said: “That’s not a good idea!”
Thankfully, security is rather tighter now. ‘The wife has sorted it out!’
In her day job, wife Chris works in HR at Bloomfield Road, where Green’s journey began in earnest 53 years ago.
Former Blackpool, Newcastle and Scotland midfielder Tony Green is chairman of the panel
He had been on £7 a week for Albion Rovers when in 1967, manager Stan Mortensen headed north on a scouting mission.
Only four years later, on Green’s departure to Newcastle, did the truth come out.
‘I was told not to sign you,’ Mortensen told him. Blackpool’s verdict? Not big enough, not good enough.
‘He went back and said: ‘I’ve signed Tony Green’ and he said you’d have heard a pin drop. ‘And I’m putting him in the first team on Saturday’.’
On debut, Green received a standing ovation.
‘Coming from Glasgow to Blackpool was a lovely move for me socially,’ he says.
‘I still love Blackpool, I still love going along the front.’
There was some work involved, too. Pre-season featured runs up and down nearby sand dunes; every training session pitched Green against some of the country’s best.
‘Jimmy Armfield lived in a semi-detached house and when I came he (had been) captain of England,’ Green says. ‘You couldn’t imagine Paul Pogba living in a semi-detached house could you?’
The Football Pools panel has sat in judgment to predict the results for the rest of the season
He adds: ‘I remember the first time we were on Match Of The Day, we played Bristol… and Stan said: ‘We’ll stop the bus, have a meal and we can watch Match Of The Day’. All the other lads said: ‘Bugger that, we want a night out!’
‘I was gobsmacked’. ‘I thought: ‘God, we’re on telly!’
They had their way and old habits die hard.
‘My wife goes on the internet, every now and again she’ll say: ‘This is on’,’ Green says. But he’s not one for trips down memory lane, even if some performances are etched into folklore.
Shortly before his departure, Blackpool won the 1971 Anglo-Italian Cup. A few months earlier he downed Bobby Moore and Co, scoring twice in front of the BBC cameras in a famous FA Cup victory.
Heady days for Blackpool, who now languish in the third tier.
‘When we got promotion (to the Premier League) 10 years ago, I thought that was us for the next 20, 30 years,’ Green says.
‘(I’m) sad more than angry… we could have done exactly what Burnley have done and Bournemouth and Brighton.’
It was at Blackpool that Green’s injury problems started. He was out for a year after hurting his achilles. The suggested treatment? Go to a plough field and run.
At Newcastle, those issues reached a painful climax in 1972.
After a collision with Crystal Palace’s Mel Blyth, his right knee was in tatters.
This time, he spent a month running up and down the terraces of St James’ Park. Eventually, on the advice of rivals Sunderland, he had an operation but the damage was done.
‘I probably would have played in about six weeks if it happened now.’
Instead at just 25, his career was over.
Nevertheless in a few dozen appearances he captured Geordie hearts, thanks in part to the day he created two goals in victory at Old Trafford and put George Best on his backside.
Not too long ago, an elderly woman sunk to her hands and knees to bow at his feet; in 2018, some fans visited to his house and took him for a meal.
After the painful end to his career, adulation was his medicine.
‘I struggled initially,’ he admits. ‘I think the supporters kept me sensible.’
He had trouble sleeping without a drink and then one day, driving near his home in Dinnington, everything changed.
‘I must have been going about 70mph and I thought: ‘I could have killed somebody… I better get myself sorted out here.’
He moved into teaching, coaching football wherever he went. Soon he joined the Pools panel, too.
For the uninitiated: Each week a 49-match coupon is released. Players pick 10 they hope will end in a score draw. If any game is called off, the panel’s verdict counts.
Running since 1923, the Pools have paid out more than £3.2billion and at one point, more than 14million took part each week.
Over time, Green grew very close to Hunt and Banks and they would holiday together.
A Newcastle fan once ushered the two World Cup winners out of the way for a picture of Green. Another time, a pub landlord spent a Manchester derby telling the trio how good a player he had been. Unaware who his punters were, when they disagreed over a decision, he told them: ‘When you’ve played the game, you’ll know that was a free-kick’.
Another night, this time in Spain: ‘This one little Irishman was telling Gordon to come to the other end of the bar to meet ‘your man Paddy’,’ Green recalls.
‘Gordon said ‘Well if he wants to meet me he can come here’. And he just shouted: ‘Paddy, Banks is an ignoramus!’
All these years on, Green still lives just outside Blackpool. The brickwork, fence and patio have all been conquered during lockdown.
At Football Pools HQ, meanwhile, there was talk of bringing younger panellists on board in case illness struck.
So far chairman Green is going strong. Even as everything continues to change around him.
The Football Pools is the world’s oldest football gaming company and the only place you can have a bet on this weekend’s Premier League football right now. Predict 10 score draws at footballpools.com/classicpools to be in with a chance of winning.
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