The Big Interview - Tony Hateley

Tony Dewhurst talks to Penwortham-based former Liverpool, Chelsea and Aston Villa goal-scoring ace Tony Hateley

Tony Hateley looks as solid as an oak, and you don't have to possess a vivid imagination to see how he would have terrorised defenders.

Hateley was in his pomp in the 1960s when this most English of centre-forwards, direct, uncompromising and fearless, made scoring goals his business.

Hateley is in his 67th year, bright-eyed and fit-looking and for the last decade has made Penwortham his home.

When he retired in 1974, after a short spell with Oldham Athletic, his combined transfer fees were a record for a single player in English football.

But you just have to thumb through the archives to see his goal-scoring record was a phenomenal one and why he eventually emerged as one of the most dangerous strikers of his generation.

Hateley was top-scorer for three successive seasons at Aston Villa between August 1963 and October 1966, where he plundered 68 goals in 127 league appearances, including 27 in 39 in his final campaign at Villa Park.

When Tommy Docherty paid Villa 100,000 for Hateley it was a Stamford Bridge club record – and months later he signed for Liverpool in a 96,000 deal, Anfield biggest transfer.

In just one season on Merseyside he scored 28 times, including hat-tricks against Newcastle United and Nottingham Forest.

Bill Shankly, Liverpool's legendary boss, claimed Hateley could head a ball as hard as his striker Ian St John could kick it.

"I can't explain how I scored as many goals as I did, when better players than me didn't," said Hateley.

"I didn't have as much talent as some, but I had the knack of knocking the goals in, and that's a different talent.

"I scored three times as many goals with my head.

"I was great in the air, everybody feared my heading ability.

"It is a phenomenal thing that you're there at the right time – seeing it, finishing it.

"It was an instinctive thing, I think."

Hateley forged such a powerful reputation, his goal-scoring ratio matched that of Jimmy Greaves and Geoff Hurst, one of England's 1966 World Cup heroes.

"I never felt like I was a star, though," said Hateley, whose son Mark made his name for Glasgow Rangers, Monaco and England.

"I'm not like that as a person. What you see is what you get.

"I enjoyed my football and I lived for scoring goals – that was it."

Hateley was tall and as tough as teak, and began as a centre-half in his youth.

"I was fearless," added Hateley. I gave it out and I took it.

"It didn't frighten me one bit. I had some rare old battles and I didn't get on with Tommy Smith (Liverpool defender).

"When I was at Aston Villa I'd whack him really hard and I can't say we were the best of mates really.

"He knew that, so when I joined Liverpool I said to him, 'Listen, Tommy, I'm playing for you now – not against you'.

"I remember he just had a little laugh, but we are big pals now.

"Playing under Shankly was special. He was a lovely character with encyclopaedic knowledge of football.

"He'd retain this incredible detail about any player he'd seen.

"His presence was formidable, that's what I remember most about him.

"He came down to London to sign me and it was like, 'I'm signing for a legend.'

"He put his mark on you straightaway.

"I scored a goal in front of the Kop – a diving header – took it straight off the defender's boot, it flew into the top corner and Anfield went mad.

"It makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck thinking about it.

"I remember the Anfield Road End chanting: 'Who scored the goal?' Thousands of voices on the Kop shouted, 'Tony Hateley! Tony Hateley!'

"I was stood on the half-way line listening to that and it was like the most awe-inspiring feeling.

"The Kop sort of sucked you in, and it created an incredible atmosphere that I never experienced anywhere else.

"When you scored it was like the roar of a jet plane and I'd often walk past when the stadium was empty and think how did they get 30,000 souls on that terrace?

"It was a magical experience, and the place came alive with a great love and passion for Liverpool.

"It was an astonishing experience to play there with guys like Roger Hunt, Ron Yeats, Ian St John and Peter Thompson.

"I was only at Liverpool for one year and I never did find out why."

Hateley re-wrote the Villa record books too, twice hitting four goals in a match – a 5-5 draw with Tottenham at White Hart Lane in March 1966, and a 7-1 League Cup victory over Bradford City two years earlier.

He even had a record made in his honour when punk band The Disco Zombies, released a single called Where have you been lately, Tony Hateley?

"People still want to talk about the old days and I think that's wonderful," he says.

"The five-all draw at Spurs was an incredible game, and Jimmy Greaves, the greatest striker, scored a hat-trick against Villa.

"He was fantastic and I've never seen a player with a burst of speed to match Greaves – before or since.

"Greaves was a defender's nightmare, and very few could take him on over 10 yards and hope to beat him.

"He couldn't head a ball to save his life, but he had an incredible close control and a deadly eye in front of goal.

"He very rarely missed a chance."

Hateley was included in Sir Alf Ramsey's England squad for the 1966 World Cup – but he suffered heartbreak weeks later.

"I was having a great season with Villa, banging goals in every week, and then I suffered a serious injury.

"I had to have an emergency operation and I never did play for England.

"I'm a great believer in destiny and things happen for a reason so I've never beaten myself up about it."

Yet for all the glamour of Villa Park, Stamford Bridge and Anfield, it was the humble surroundings of Meadow Lane where Hateley found his true job satisfaction.

He returned to his first club – Notts County – in 1970, and his goals led them to the Fourth Division title.

"It was my happiest time in football," he recalls.

"I started as a professional at Notts County in 1958, and my manager was Tommy Lawton.

"I got 2 10s in the summer, rising to 5 10s during the season.

"We'd get two pounds for a draw and four for a win."

After football he worked as Everton's lottery manager at Goodison Park before several years as a rep for Thwaites' Brewery.

Now, you are more likely to see Hateley enjoying a pint and a game of snooker with his mates at Parkfield Labour Club in Ashton than watching the modern game.

He said: "I look at the game today and Ronaldo earns more in a week than I earned in a career spanning 16 years.

"Although I don't go to football much these days, I still love the game with a passion.

"I watch Liverpool now and then and I think all the changes in the modern game have been for the good.

"It is a completely different environment now, but the players get rewarded properly and are better looked after.

"Of course centre-forwards get a lot more protection, but they can't do anything now without 16 replays and 10 different camera angles examining everything they do."

"My advice to a young player is to train hard, play hard and behave yourself.

"It is a great career."