After Peter Hammond’s recent announcement that he was to step down from his post as club secretary after 38 years of loyal service to the club, we sent Jonathan Haggart to speak to a GNE legend.
JH – Initially Peter, what was your connection to the club? Did you watch as a youngster?
PH – I watched a few times when I was young, but I was a player. I played for the reserves for a while, but never quite made the first team. Then I took up refereeing in the early 70’s and I was doing well, getting good marks. But I felt like my face didn’t fit and I wasn’t getting the promotions I deserved, so when I saw an advert for Glossop FC club secretary in 1979 I decided to apply.
You must have been one of the youngest secretaries in the league?
And we were in the Cheshire League then?
We were. We had to apply for re-election that same season, I seem to remember. I took over from Brian Price.
Who was your first manager?
I do know! His name just eludes me at the moment. It’ll come back to me…
Your big challenge came in the mid-1980s, when Adrian Priestley used to say the ‘days were so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face’. What was the story with Peter Smith…what put us in such trouble?
I got a visit from a shareholder and he said ‘there’s someone who wants to invest some money in the club. At that point he didn’t say it was Peter Smith. In fact he visited with some solicitors from Ashton and initially we thought it was them who were interested in putting the money in, but it all came out that it was this Peter Smith.
He was promising to take the club up two levels, and all that, and was a very flamboyant chap, he could come in here now and give you the patter and you’d believe him.
And it was all good stuff for a while. He put, I think, £9,000 into the club and came onto the board. But as time went by we were hearing all sorts of rumours, and he got rid of most of the Directors, more or less asked them to step down, and he also bought all the shareholders out on the quiet, certainly all the major ones although he didn’t bother with little fish like me.
I started getting a bit suspicious about him and what he was up to, especially when he wanted me to resign. He’d more or less got all the other Directors to go, but I told him ‘sorry Peter, I don’t feel as though I want to resign, I don’t think it’s appropriate’. So he said ‘well, that being the case, you’re barred from the ground!’. He actually did it! It was at that time I went to consult the solicitors at Davis Blank Furness and Peter Higginbottom.
Peter and I had a long chat and he put a few feelers out and found out a few things about him. We discovered he was an undisclosed bankrupt or something and had County Court judgements against him, but in the meantime he was negotiating with the people who owned the Estate next door to sell the ground to them, a firm in Sheffield. So I got on to this firm and told them what I suspected. I don’t know if it was a result of the conversation or whether they’d already decided, but they pulled out of the a deal with him, they obviously smelled a rat. He then proceeded to then try and sell it to the council.
While all this was going on, he was building up debt in the name of Glossop FC, he was hiring cars and god knows what else.
When it all came out the council bought the ground off him, or off the club, as he was still legally the chairman at that time. This was despite my representations on the day they had the council meeting to decide. They still went ahead and made the purchase.
Eventually it all came to a showdown where they’d identified Smith as owing this money and he was due to appear at Macclesfield Magistrates Court. Peter Heginbotham told me I’d have to go and have to identify him and if he doesn’t turn up at the hearing they’ll have to arrest him. So I went; no sign of him. So we re-claimed the club, he’s gone missing.
But he sent a message to Andy Gorton, who was the goalkeeper at that time, to collect the money from behind the bar. Well, we wouldn’t let him have it…’Mr Smith is no longer associated with this club’ we told him. So that’s the tale.
To what did he leave the club in debt?
All the money that we got for the sale, and I think it was 50-odd thousand pounds, was ploughed back to pay the debtors that the ‘club’ owed. There wasn’t a penny change. In fact it was at that time that Peter suggested that we put the club in liquidation, because we had no idea what was going to come out of the woodwork. So we did that, and re-formed Glossop North End FC. That’s how the revival of the name came about.
How much of your time was GNE taking at that point?
I spent a lot of time on the football club in those days. We tried opening the bar 5 days a week, but really we didn’t have the level of support to justify it. We tried hard, but bingo on, but we were poorly supported. It might work now we’ve more support.
And that continued? When I started watching in the early 2000’s we were still struggling to get 100 on the gate. I’d think that the 90’s and the 2000’s mainly about survival, so the two Manchester Premier Cups must be a real highlight?
You know, it was brilliant. During that period, even going back to the 80s when Brian Grundy was there, we had some bloody good sides. We should have won the league, finished second I think, but we went up anyway. [Editor’s note, in 1981 we were runners-ups in the Cheshire League Division 2 to Accrington Stanley on goal difference].
We continued to have some good teams, with players like Steve Lennon, whose probably still playing somewhere, Charlie Gisborne and his brother, so Brian put a really strong side together, and that Premier Cup team was excellent too.
And you enjoyed being a secretary at Old Trafford and Maine Road?
Old Trafford, the dressing room and complex were out of this world – a lot posher than City’s. But I was disappointed after OT, as they charged us for everything against the gate; floodlights, stewards etc. Around £1,500. When we went to City, they didn’t do that.
There was a bit of bandwagon jumping at Old Trafford – the mayor of High Peak came in all his chains. I had no idea he was coming – you’d think he might tell the club. (Editor’s note – I jumped on that bandwagon too!).
But it was still a struggle to keep the club afloat at certain points, borrowing money from Directors? But that all changed in 2009?
I think Graham Beeley must be one of the club’s greatest benefactors, and it was probably only thanks to 2009 that he got his money back, as we owed him several thousand I think.
How did you feel that day at Wembley in 2009?
Oh, it was brilliant. The just treated us as though we were Manchester United or Chelsea. That’s the FA approach, whoever is there they will get the same treatment. So they gave us a pre-match lunch and a free bar, a tour of the ground, seats in the Royal Box. It was absolutely wonderful.
You know, from the first game of that run I had a feeling that we were going to go all the way this time. It was absolutely amazing that we did, but it’s funny how you get that feeling. There were better teams than us in it, we probably should have lost the semi-final at home to Chalfont, but we got there!
And that’s laid the foundations for where we are now?
It has, yes. After that we allocated some of the prize money to the ground development fund, and that was the beginning of what you see now.
And after years of battles with the NWCFL top brass, a league and cup double in 2015 must have felt special?
Well, when you say we had battles, I didn’t really have battles with them. There was never any animosity between me and the league because I’d know them too long and respected them too much, but there might have been some tension with others.
I never even dreamed we’d ever win a double, never imagined it.
38 years then. Is there anything else outside of what we’ve discussed that are really fond memories?
There are numerous to be honest. I’ve really enjoyed the ride. Directors and managers come and go, I must have seen about 15 in my time…and I can’t remember the name of my first one! We had Gordon Rayner, who came from Guiseley, who’d won the Vase I think, and he was our first venture over to Yorkshire. He was a good manager but it never really worked for him. He resigned, and that’s when I assumed the managers role for a few week. It was brilliant! I think we won three out of four! They were a good set of lads. I was younger and could mix with them better and they were a great set of lads. That’s a bit harder when you’re older.
And you’ll still be at games, home and away?
All being well, certainly.
Well, thanks Peter, that’s terrific, we’ll leave it there…
…Derek Partridge! That was the first manager I worked for. I knew I’d get there!
Ever wary of allocating credit, Peter asked me to ensure that huge credit was given to Peter Heginbotham and Davis Blank Furness for they long time assistance and advice, and many years of sponsorship.
We’re very grateful to Peter for his time. I’m sure you’d all thank him for his long and meticulous service to GNE, and wish him a long and successful spell as a Vice President.
Enjoy being a speccy Pete!