Harry Hood, the hote­lier and hit­man who did it all

The Herald - Sport - - LEAGUE CUP SEMI-FINALS - GRA­HAM SPIERS

BE­LIEVE it or not, Harry Hood is now 70. Can this re­ally be so? Is it re­ally 40-plus years since this deft, grace­ful striker of many a Celtic at­tack was weav­ing past play­ers and dink­ing in goals in the era of Jock Stein? Hood him­self, shar­ing a cof­fee with me, is amazed by the pas­sage of years.

The last Celtic player to score a hat-trick against Rangers – by way of nice poetic rel­e­vance, in a League Cup semi-fi­nal in 1973 – he has also faced his bat­tles. Hood re­cently en­dured eight months of chemo­ther­apy for colon can­cer but is back on his feet. He re­mains a shrewd, thought­ful man, traits he dis­played in his foot­ball.

The ad­ven­tur­ous Hood’s ca­reer be­tween 1962 and 1977 is worth rich re­call. Start­ing at Clyde, he was a hit for a while at Sun­der­land in the mid-1960s, be­fore in­jury and a man­age­rial fall-out put the brakes on him at 22. It was just one of many un­usual in­ter­ludes in his life.

“I made my de­but for Clyde against Rangers at Ibrox in 1962 – I had just turned 18,” he says. “The Rangers team that day was full of guys like Baxter, Mil­lar, Brand, Wilson, Hen­der­son, but I played pretty well. I re­mem­ber Baxter lost the rag with me and ended up boot­ing the ball into the crowd.

“I was top goalscorer at Clyde and in 1964 I signed for Sun­der­land. George Hard­wick was the man­ager, and I was on a de­cent scor­ing run with a guy named Nicky Sharkey, but then I got in­jured, had a dou­ble-her­nia op­er­a­tion, and then Hard­wick left and Ian McColl be­came the new man­ager. Then it all went down­hill.”

One thing you find with Hood: he speaks in straight, some­times damn­ing sen­tences, which is why, back in the mid-1970s, some of the broad­cast­ers sought him out for pun­ditry.

“I thought Ian McColl was a coward,” he said. “A lot of the Sun­der­land play­ers at that time were get­ting away with mur­der, drink­ing ses­sions in the af­ter­noons, and the like. McColl dropped me and I knew I had to get away. So I went back to Clyde [in 1966] even though it meant a re­turn to part-time foot­ball, and a step down. I just wanted to en­joy foot­ball again.”

Hood at 23 was al­ready think­ing about a business ca­reer side by side with his foot­ball. In 1966-67 he and Clyde fin­ished third in Scot­land’s top di­vi­sion, at a time when the Scot­tish game was var­ied and lush with in­dige­nous tal­ent. And Stein and Celtic were poised, at long last, to claim him.

“Clyde ac­tu­ally held on to me for another two years and I didn’t force it – I didn’t get to join Celtic un­til 1969. I was close to 26 by then and I had plans for my­self, not just in foot­ball. I wanted to own a ho­tel, I wanted a business life out­side the game.”

From to­day’s per­spec­tive, it is hard to be­lieve how this fine Celtic striker led his life while also be­ing a top foot­baller. In 1971, Hood ful­filled his am­bi­tion by pur­chas­ing the Sher­wood Manor ho­tel in Ud­dingston. He would pull pints, serve meals and play games for Celtic, within hours of each other.

“When I got to Celtic, even though it was a big move for me, I knew I wanted some­thing else, a business, some­thing for the fu­ture. So I ex­plored the pub/ ho­tel trade. I started go­ing into the old Beech­wood Ho­tel, owned by Kenny Dal­glish’s fa­ther-in-law, and did all the me­nial tasks I could: work­ing in the kitchen, be­ing a porter, stuff like that. I just wanted to see how it was done, learn a few things.

“At Celtic we’d fin­ish train­ing at 12, and while the other guys went off to play snooker or what­ever, I went off to work in ho­tels, to see what it was about. I did that maybe two or three times a week.

“I had fam­ily and my kids to look out for. I’d be be­hind the bar on a Thurs­day night, or do­ing shifts on a Fri­day af­ter­noon after train­ing. Then I’d babysit the Fri­day night be­fore a game while my wife went out and did a shift. That’s how we did it. The day I took over the Sher­wood Manor, my wife and I stayed in the ho­tel that Fri­day night, just for se­cu­rity. The next day I scored a hat-trick against Mother­well.”

Some were taken aback by Hood’s business nose back then, aged just 26. Over the years he built up a chain of west of Scot­land pubs and ho­tels, a fam­ily em­pire he com­mands to this day. Back in the 1970s not the least to be dumb­founded by it all was Des­mond White, the Celtic chair­man.

“At Celtic I was on good money in those days,” Hood re­calls. “It was about £50 a week, and higher with bonuses. A joiner would be earn­ing, say, £14 or £15 a week. I never earned less than £12,000 a year at Celtic. It was a lot of money back then.

“I had my first pub at 25 and my first ho­tel cost me £12,000 to buy. Des­mond White came up to me one day and said, ‘Hi Harry, how is the pub do­ing?’ I said, ‘aye, it’s go­ing well.’ He said to me, ‘good turnover, is it?’ I said, ‘yes, it is’ and I told him the fig­ure. He said, ‘Harry, you’re mak­ing as much money from your ho­tel as you are from foot­ball.’ I said, ‘I am, yes.’ Des­mond paused and said, ‘well done, Harry’.”

Celtic fans knew of Hood’s off-field acu­men. But it was his on-field artistry which they both loved and grew frus­trated with. In and out of Celtic teams un­der Stein, who be­lieved Hood to be an oc­ca­sional slacker, he scored 123 goals in 312 ap­pear­ances be­tween 1969 and 1976.

“I would be in the team, then out of it again. In 1971 I was the top scorer in Scot­land, but I was mer­cu­rial I sup­pose. I was one of th­ese guys that was pretty good at drift­ing off peo­ple, and link­ing up, and mak­ing space. I think it was Bobby Mur­doch who once said of me: ‘Harry Hood can make 100 spa­ces in a game.’

“A very in­ter­est­ing thing hap­pened to me at Celtic. The year I fin­ished top goalscorer my mother and fa­ther had died within weeks of each other. I missed about five or six weeks, and it was a pretty bad time. Prior to my par­ents’ death I was play­ing well, but I wasn’t scor­ing many goals. The ball kept go­ing wide, or hit­ting the post.

“Jock Stein said to me, ‘Harry, you’re play­ing great, but you’re not scor­ing enough. If you can’t start scor­ing I’ll need to drop you.’ Then both my par­ents died, and I can’t ex­plain this, but all of a sud­den the goals started go­ing in. If the ball hit the post, it then went in, or it would scram­ble over the line. I sud­denly went on a run of games when I started bang­ing them in.”

Cir­cum­stances soon changed. Stein suf­fered his dread­ful car crash in 1975 and, Hood spent most of the time on the Celtic bench un­der Sean Fal­lon. In 1976 he left Celtic to go and play for San An­to­nio Thun­der.

“Sean, just like Stein, thought I took my foot off the pedal – they didn’t like that as­pect of my game. I was 32. I could have had another cou­ple of years at Celtic, but I went to Amer­ica. Guys like Bobby Moore, Bob McNab, Bobby Clark and oth­ers had gone out there. I had my time in Amer­ica, then came back to Mother­well, then Queen of the South – big mis­take – and then re­tire­ment from the game.”

Over the next three decades Hood made his wealth on his life­long dream. And all the while he kept his wits about him. “The pub business was chang­ing. The smaller pubs, the drink­ing pub, was go­ing out of fash­ion. Nowa­days, you have to do food, and do it well. So I’ve tried to adapt and change. I keep a pass­ing in­ter­est in foot­ball – no more than that. I had my time.”

Pic­ture: SNS

JUST NO STOP­PING HIM: Celtic striker Harry Hood wheels off in cel­e­bra­tion after find­ing the net against Rangers in 1973.

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