Top Hatton a Seasiders hero from the start

Hatton - impressed on debut
Hatton - impressed on debut
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Memory match - Blackpool 3, Swndon Town 2, September 6, 1969

When Blackpool laid out £40,000 to sign Dave Hatton in 1969, it proved to be one of the smartest deals they had done for some time.

He went on to make well in excess of 250 appearances for the Bloomfield Road club and his talent and reliability was apparent from the outset.

He caught the eye on his debut against Swindon Town and turned out to be an immediate headliner.

The Gazette summed it up with the streamer: ‘Hats Off To Hatton - new signing impresses in thriller’.

The words of reporter Phil McEntee proved to be prophetic as he wrote: “Hatton worked hard and efficiently in the Blackpool defence and always used the ball constructively.

“On this form he should be a big asset to his new club.”

The Seasiders had not been purchasing potential when Blackpool manager Les Shannon persuaded Hatton to come to Bloomfield Road from Bolton Wanderers.

Hatton had already gained plenty of grounding at Burnden Park and he had a solid career at the Seasiders, being an integral part in the squad that gained promotion to the top flight as well as being a key member of the team that won the Anglo-Italian Cup.

On the day that Blackpool took on Swindon, there was plenty going on, but not a lot of joy for the Fylde sporting teams.

Blackpool Borough Rugby League team suffered a 40-8 defeat at the hands of Leigh.

Eric Littler, reporting the match for The Gazette, said the visitors had enjoyed a ‘field day’.

He added: “None enjoyed it more than the youngsters among the Leigh supporters who invaded the field after almost every second half score.”

But Borough were taking on a formidable Leigh side, who two years later were to lift the Challenge Cup at Wembley.

There was no joy for Fylde RFC in the 15-a-side code either. They lost 16-6 at home to Coventry.

The home side included future England internationals Roger Utley and Tony Richards.

Swindon arrived at Bloomfield Road that afternoon on very much of a high.

Earlier in the year, they had pulled off one of the biggest shocks in the history of the League Cup, beating Arsenal at Wembley - they also earned promotion to Division Two - what would now be known as the Championship - that season.

Some of the players who had contributed to that Wembley win were in action at Bloomfield Road on the day of Hatton’s debut - Peter Downsborough, John Trollope, Stan Harland, Don Rogers and Peter Noble, who some time later was to join Blackpool. At the time Noble was the top scorer in Division Two.

It turned out to be a cracking match with the outcome in doubt right until the closing stages.

Swindon made most of the early running taking the game to the home side.

The Wiltshire side could have taken the lead after only 90 seconds, Rogers finding himself in the clear, but Harry Thomson in the Blackpool goal pulled off a fine save.

Hatton was playing his part in repelling the Swindon attacking threat and it was Blackpool who made the breakthrough after 28 minutes.

Jimmy Armfield picked up a loose ball in midfield, pushed it through to John Craven, moved forward to take the reverse pass from his centre forward and sent over a curling centre from the right.

Ronnie Brown, who had moved into the middle, went for the ball along with goalkeeper Downsborough and defender Harland.

Brown got there before both Swindon men to head home with the ‘keeper out of position.

Swindon hit back and Rogers was at the forefront of several of their promising attacks.

But Blackpool too were attacking with intent and they missed an opportunity to double their advantage.

McEntee reported that Tommy Hutchison was by now displaying some ‘delightful’ touches.

The Scottish winger sent the Seasiders away again with an inch-perfect 40-yard cross-field pass to the unmarked Brown, but the Blackpool scorer was too slow to bring it under control and lost the ball to the visitors’ Roger Smart.

Armfield and Gordon Milne were showing up well at this stage for the home side, but it was Swindon who were to level the scores from the penalty spot after 36 minutes.

It came when Noble darted into the Blackpool defence and he was brought down by Terry Alcock.

Rogers stepped up to take the kick and sent Thomson the wrong way to make it 1-1, which was the score at half-time.

Blackpool restored their lead after 57 minutes. Craven, surrounded by Swindon defenders at the edge of the area, got the ball out to Hutchison unmarked on the left.

As the winger pulled the ball back low into the area, a couple of Swindon defenders missed it and Craven, who had worked hard for the opening, belted the ball firmly past Downsborough.

Within two minutes, Swindon made it 2-2, the goal coming from the spot.

For the second time it was Alcock who gave away the penalty, handling a Rogers shot on the line.

Rogers took the resulting penalty, firing the ball low into the corner.

These days, Alcock would have been sent off for the handling offence, but the rules were different then.

For the remainder of the match, both sides went at it hammer and tongs to try and get the winner.

It came Blackpool’s way after 81 minutes. Milne pushed a short free kick to Alan Suddick, who shot low towards goal - the ball seemed to hit a Swindon player on the way and travelled low out of Downsborough’s reach into the left-hand corner of the net.

Blackpool led 3-2, but it was far from over and Rogers came close to levelling the scores as he unleashed a fine effort from 20 yards out.

It was to prove a profitable season for Blackpool as they were promoted to the top division and Hatton’s career lasted until 1976 when he joined Bury, first as a player and later as player-manager.