Canavan Years: Hendry was so nice, but sadly he failed to deliver

Colin Hendry was well liked but not such a dab hand as manager. Defender Peter Clarke in action (below), and seen with Steve Canavan when he was presented with the club Player of the Year award (bottom).
Colin Hendry was well liked but not such a dab hand as manager. Defender Peter Clarke in action (below), and seen with Steve Canavan when he was presented with the club Player of the Year award (bottom).
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In the second of a five-part feature, Steve concentrates on the Colin Hendry era and remembers his arrival was such a welcome change after his predecessor Steve McMahon’s.

But, who in the end, did not have the answers...and there was that 22-man pitch brawl and skinny dipping on a pre-season Scottish tour.

Defender Peter Clarke in action.

Defender Peter Clarke in action.

IT was a real shame Colin Hendry’s Blackpool reign didn’t work out, because the fella was a pleasure to work with.

After the difficulties of dealing with the abrasive Steve McMahon, Hendry’s style was a blessed relief.

Softly spoken by your average footballer standards, he was a decent, considerate fella, who desperately wanted things to work out.

Blackpool was Hendry’s first management post.

Defender Peter Clarke with Steve Canavan when he was presented with the club Player of the Year award.

Defender Peter Clarke with Steve Canavan when he was presented with the club Player of the Year award.

He did well to get the job. Chairman Karl Oyston initially wanted, and offered the job to, Paul Simpson, at the time working wonders at Carlisle.

Simpson said no.

Andy Preece and former Stoke City manager Gudjon Thordarson were interviewed along with Hendry, but the former Scotland captain got the nod.

He was appointed on Monday, June 7, 2004, six weeks after McMahon’s exit, and his arrival was greeted with widespread excitement.

McMahon had won two LDV Trophies and got the team playing good football. But towards the end it had gone very wrong, and the last six months had been acrimonious and unpleasant.

A fresh start was required, and who better to provide it than Hendry, a man with 51 international caps under his belt, aged 38, living locally in Lytham, and eager to get going.

“I can’t imagine the number of people who thought they were going to get this job,” he said at his first press conference.

“What an opportunity. I’ve got my own ideas about how things should be done and I’m confident we can do a good job.”

New faces arrived, including Mark McGregor (a man with a stare so intense that interviewing him always felt like an out-take from Silence of the Lambs), Rob Clare, Danny Livesey and experienced keeper Sasa Ilic.

So too did a young lad from Scotland by the name of Keigan Parker. “This boy will be a good’un,” promised Hendry. As it turned out, he was right.

What I recall most vividly about Hendry’s reign is the pre-season tour to – you’ve guessed it – Scotland, not for football reasons but because it resulted in one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. Killing time before an evening game, I decided to have a stroll around a nearby loch.

All was going well, until after walking for more than an hour, and with kick-off now not too far away, I’d still not reached the end of the loch and was thus miles from the car.

Too stubborn to turn back, I pushed on, reasoning that it couldn’t be much further.

Alas, it kept on going. However, at one point the loch did get quite narrow, so that it was about 20 feet to the other side.

I was now bordering on downright late with a real chance of missing kick-off, so I took a look around and made a decision.

I stripped completely naked, held my clothes and shoes above my head and waded across the water. It came up to my chest, but I plodded on and jumped out the other side.

Only then did I notice, with alarm and horror, a young couple enjoying a picnic about 10 feet away.

There was an awkward, slightly horrified silence. Being British and with little other option, I decided to act naturally. I waved my hand, shouted a cheery ‘how do you do’ and walked on.

Eight years on I’d like to apologise to that couple.

The good news is that after dashing back to the car – putting my pants on first, I need not add – I made kick-off with about two minutes to spare. But I digress.

The manner in which Hendry’s first season started did, unfortunately, sum up his reign.

Away at Doncaster, cheered on by a big following and with hopes high of a good year ahead, the Seasiders were poor.

With most people playing out of position, Donny strolled to an easy 2-0 victory, their task made easier when Ilic threw the ball in his own net for one of the goals. The nickname Sasa Spilic has stuck among Pool fans to this day.

It was a long, tough season, one of the more memorable moments a 22-man brawl at Bloomfield Road in a game against Colchester. Everyone on the pitch piled in. The Seasiders were later hit with a £5,000 FA fine, 
Colchester a grand more. A revival towards the end of the 04/05 campaign saw Pool stay up. Hendry vowed the next season would be better but – after selling key midfielder Richie Wellens in the summer – it went wrong from the outset.

Blackpool Supporters Association, in a column in The Gazette, accused the team of being under-prepared for the opening game (a 3-1 home defeat to Chesterfield).

Hendry said he was “bloody annoyed” by the comment. “For some reason there was a disgruntled group who wanted to air their views so I aired mine,” he said. The atmosphere wasn’t good.

With results mixed, the end came following ‘Buttygate’, in the wake of a 4-1 FA Cup defeat at Doncaster in November.

Hendry said the team’s chances had been hindered, which later transpired to be a reference to Karl Oyston’s alleged refusal to pay for the players to stop at a 
hotel and have some sandwiches.

With such a lack of success on the pitch, the chairman acted quickly and axed Hendry.

It was the right decision – things weren’t going well.

But I really felt for Hendry as a person, for he remained dignified throughout and, despite the horribly intense pressure he was under – getting stick left, right and centre from the fans – he was always approachable and easy to speak to.

I respect him as an individual and was delighted to see him return to football a few weeks ago, appointed coach at Blackburn.

I wish him well – lord knows he deserves a break after a horrible few years, both on and off the field.

Favourite player from that period has to be Peter Clarke.

He kept the Seasiders up virtually single-handedly during that period, producing towering displays at the back, as well as scoring crucial goals.

Keigan Parker was also a success – a terrific hat-trick against Torquay sticks in the memory. He was an excellent Hendry acquisition.

Alas, there were too many players who weren’t good enough: John Doolan, Stuart Anderson, 
Steve Boyack, Dean Gorre, Simon Lynch, Lewis Gobern, Dean Gordon, to name just a few.

It was a messy, mucky time, though on the upside I did learn what it felt like to practice naturism, so every cloud...

Click here to read the first of part of the Canavan Years:

{http://www.blackpoolgazette.co.uk/sport/football/blackpool-fc/canavan-years-mcmahon-as-manager-took-no-prisoners-1-4813401 |McMahon as manager took no prisoners|McMahon as manager took no prisoners}