‘Ei­ther love foot­ball or go to work in Asda’

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Chris Dunlavy

AR­GU­MENTS with the wife. Hurt­ful ac­cu­sa­tions on twit­ter. A ca­reer in ru­ins. No won­der Ron­nie Moore de­scribes the last 12 months as the most dif­fi­cult of his life.

And no won­der a manager renowned as one of the most gen­uine and ge­nial in the game was in dan­ger of be­com­ing – in his own words – an “an­gry, bit­ter man”.

It was Valen­tine’s Day 2014 when re­ports sur­faced that the 61-yearold Tran­mere boss was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by the FA for bet­ting on foot­ball.

Though later re­vealed to be noth­ing more sin­is­ter than a syn­di­cate with his fam­ily, Rovers chair­man Peter John­son, pic­tured be­low, charged Moore with gross mis­con­duct and sacked him with­out pay, con­demn­ing him to a life of laz­ing and laun­dry.

“It was the hard­est eight months of my life,” says Moore, now 62. “I was see­ing my name dragged through the mud. Some sup­port­ers on twit­ter were say­ing things like ‘Ron­nie had a grand on us to get beat’, and bol­locks like that. It was to­tally un­true. The big­gest bet I’d had was £30. I ac­tu­ally lost money over­all. It was ridicu­lous.

“My wife said ‘You should have known’, and we ended up ar­gu­ing. I couldn’t get a job. I was a house­wife, clean­ing dishes and hang­ing wash­ing out. It wasn’t a good place.

Syn­di­cate

“I was fight­ing for my ca­reer. I was 62 but I wasn’t on a zim­mer frame. I wasn’t ready to re­tire. I gen­uinely feared I might never get a job again.”

Hartle­pool – bot­tom of League Two and ten points adrift – came to the res­cue in De­cem­ber; a life­line which Moore grate­fully grasped.

“I was an out-of-work 62-yearold with a tar­nished rep­u­ta­tion,” he adds. “Who was go­ing to take a gam­ble on that? I was very, very for­tu­nate that Russ Green, the chief exec here, saw be­yond the head­lines.”

But that doesn’t mean he has for­given for­mer Rovers owner John­son.

“In my eyes – and I don’t care what any­one says – I was wrongly sacked at Tran­mere,” says Moore, who played over 350 games for Tran­mere as a player and spent five years in charge.

“Yes, I was daft. As the fig­ure­head of the club, I should have known the rules. I hold my hands up and ad­mit I made a mis­take. But you show me the man who hasn’t made a mis­take. You show me a manager who has never had a bet on foot­ball.

“It was part of a syn­di­cate, which was me, my wife, my sis­ter-in-law, my fa­ther-in-law – we put £5 in each when I was out of work in 2012.

“I got charged for a £1 bet on Tran­mere to win £3.60 back. The ac­count was in my name, but I didn’t place it. Even the FA re­alised there was noth­ing in it.

“But the chair­man at Tran­mere didn’t even ask me to ex­plain my side. That’s what hurts most, and be­cause it was gross mis­con­duct, he didn’t have to pay me a penny. It cost me £130,000 in wages.

“I think the whole thing fell re­ally nicely for the chair­man. He was in the process of sell­ing the club and – this is my opin­ion – I think the in­com­ing own­ers were say­ing ‘You clear the staff and we’ll do a deal’.

“That’s part of foot­ball and I could have lived with be­ing laid off. But not the way it was done. I was in dan­ger of be­com­ing a very bit­ter man.”

Does Moore think he would have faced the same fate had Tran­mere sat top of League One in­stead of five places off the bot­tom?

“No way,” he says. “There’s not a cat in hell’s chance they would have done the same thing. It was very sin­is­ter how it hap­pened.”

Tran­mere’s loss has been Hartle­pool’s gain. Seem­ingly dead and buried, Pools have won their last four straight to climb out of the rel­e­ga­tion zone and – spurred on by cheer­lead­ing from celebrity fan and Sky Sports pre­sen­ter Jeff Stelling – their re­vival has be­come na­tional news.

Shocked

“It’s been un­be­liev­able,” says Moore. “It feels like the whole coun­try is wait­ing for our re­sults. I was walk­ing my dog at home in Rother­ham and five or six peo­ple came up and said ‘We saw Jeff Stelling talk­ing about you, what a great job you’re do­ing’.”

Moore ad­mits he was shocked by what he in­her­ited. “You look at the ta­ble and you know they can’t be bril­liant. But it’s only when you walk

through the door that you re­alise how bad things re­ally are. They were rock bot­tom, flat on the floor. There was no life, no en­ergy, no to­geth­er­ness. They’d been used to get­ting beat ev­ery week.”

The rem­edy was a glut of loa­nees – Pre­ston striker Jor­dan Hugill and Scun­thorpe de­fender David Mirfin have both im­pressed – and a bru­tal dose of home truths, with er­rant play­ers dug out in public and warned they could be stack­ing shelves for a living. “I’ve never been one to mince my words,” says Moore. “I didn’t care what they thought of me. I’ve not come to the club to be loved by play­ers. I’ve come to save them from rel­e­ga­tion.

“I told them that if they run about, show en­ergy and com­mit­ment, I’ll stand by them. But I also said that I wouldn’t stand in front of cam­eras and say we’d been un­lucky if I knew damn well we hadn’t worked hard enough.

“If that means putting an in­di­vid­ual out, so be it. But I’ve al­ways been fair. I’ve never said any­thing in public that I hadn’t said to them first.

Smile

“And at the end of the day, those lads are work­ing in foot­ball. Any­one who com­plains about that wants lock­ing up. I know what life is like with­out it and don’t want to go there again. That’s why ev­ery day I come to work, I’ve a smile on my face.

“That’s what I’ve tried to in­stil in the play­ers. You’ve got to love be­ing in this game. If you can’t en­joy that then you may as well go to work in Asda, be­cause ev­ery­one there would swap places with you in a sec­ond. And they’ve re­sponded. Those boys have dragged this club out of the gut­ter.”

Hartle­pool’s win over Cam­bridge last week meant they leapfrogged Tran­mere, who were rel­e­gated from League One last term and now find them­selves on the brink of the Con­fer­ence.The irony is not lost on Moore, but the Scouser and Rovers fan says he’d take no plea­sure in con­demn­ing his old club to the drop.

“Per­haps what goes around comes around,” says Moore. “But I love Tran­mere.It’s had some of the best years of my life. I’ll be so sorry if they do down, for every­body as­so­ci­ated with that club. Well, every­body bar one.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

s MOORE-ISH: Ron­nie Moore has lifted Hartle­pool out of the League Two drop zone with a great re­cent run of form

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