Legends: Tony Green

HELPING in the turnover of millions of pounds leaves Tony Green precious little time to watch Blackpool, where he proved a priceless asset as a bargain buy.

Every Saturday come rain or shine is taken up as part of the Pools Panel, on which he has served for 32 years after injury cruelly cut short what was destined to be a glittering career.

Long before the National Lottery, picking eight draws on the coupon was the ordinary man's ticket to untold wealth. A year after the big freeze of 1962/63 shut down football, a four-strong panel of experts was set up to predict results of postponed fixtures.

Seasiders icon Stan Mortensen, who as Bloomfield Road boss snapped up Glaswegian Green from Albion Rovers for 15,500 in May 1967, formed the first one with ex-Liverpool and England star Roger Hunt, former Scottish international goalkeeper Ronnie Simpson and top English referee Arthur Ellis.

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Green was enlisted in 1975, and these days he and England's 1966 World Cup winning heroes Hunt and Gordon Banks are ensconsed in the Littlewoods offices in Liverpool while everyone else enjoys live action.

"We used to go to London and stay at the Waldorf or Hilton but now we're in Liverpool until after the matches have finished," said Green, whose place among the Pool Legends followed 136 full appearances (19 goals) which led to the Scottish international becoming Newcastle United's record buy at 150,000.

"At first the panel was only called in when at least 30 fixtures were affected. Now it only needs the odd one but we still need to attend on the off-chance a game somewhere is cancelled."

Somewhere no doubt is the oddball anorak who actually checks out the prediction against the actual result but Green, 61,

explains: "Circumstances change when postponed games are actually played. We do tell everybody that we nearly always get it right!"

Midweeks at Bloomfield Road are as much as Green can manage but he still follows the Seasiders as closely as he does Newcastle and Albion Rovers.

Considering the club's relatively frugal spending in the transfer market, he says they've done "terrifically well" in the Championship with manager Simon Grayson earning much of the credit.

"Simon is the best Pool manager I can remember. He's done a fantastic job keeping them in the Championship. Blackpool are up against clubs who have spent over a million on a single player whereas maybe 300,000 is the most they've paid."

Signed with Pool already doomed to drop out of the old First Division, Green was sidelined for the '69/70 promotion season and a further ankle injury finished him at 25.

His abiding memory of five years at Bloomfield Road was being denied promotion back to the First Division on goal difference in '67/68, when Pool came third behind Ipswich and QPR.

"We'd won at Huddersfield and thought we were up. Our supporters crowded onto the field and were going daft but we got back in the dressingroom to find that QPR had scored a winner in the last minute against Aston Villa. They'd been losing with ten minutes left," said Green, who lives at Poulton.

"Inside a few minutes the mood went from euphoria to massive disappointment. But we were eventually upbeat because our manager Stan Mortensen was a fairly upbeat character."