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Tribute to Bill Green

22 August 2017

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Stuart Basson pays tribute to former Chesterfield captain Bill Green following his death at the age of 66...

Bill Green was a most inspirational leader at a time when such qualities were important in Chesterfield's history.

Indeed, he was a natural leader of men, having skippered Hartlepool United, his first club, at the age of 20; his leadership helped Carlisle United to an unlikely, brief spell at the top of the old First Division.

West Ham paid £90,000 to keep him in Division One after Carlisle's relegation but injuries prevented the Londoners from seeing the best of him and he was allowed to join Peterborough United in 1978.

Chesterfield came in for him in June 1979, paying £40,000 for his signature.

He was appointed captain on arrival at Saltergate and was a leading reason for the club's success in 1979/80. That year, the club finished fourth in Division Three, falling away at the death with Green out of the side.

Forming formidable understandings with Les Hunter and John Ridley, he was dominant in the air and a good organiser, but perhaps his most obvious quality was his complete unwillingness to suffer fools, in his own team or on the other side.

Legend has it that, after the Sheffield Wednesday winger Terry Curran mocked him during the course of a memorable game at Hillsborough in 1980, Bill gripped him warmly by the throat in the tunnel after the game in order to offer commiserations at Geoff Salmons' late equaliser.

An aggressive and determined player, he was taken onto the coaching staff under Frank Barlow in November 1980 but was freed from a player-coach role when the 1983 financial crisis blew up.

After a short spell at Doncaster Rovers he became Scunthorpe United's assistant-manager in December 1985 and was promoted to the top job there in 1991.

Scunthorpe made the Fourth Division play-offs in Bill's first season and went as far as Wembley a year later, when promotion was lost on a penalty shoot-out, but the team could not drag themselves out of the basement and Bill paid the price by losing his job in 1993.

As a rookie manager who achieved something in two of his three seasons at Glanford Park, it is a little odd that no other Football League clubs had a punt on him as manager.

He had a couple more managerial jobs - at Buxton and Bradford (Park Avenue) - but was becoming increasingly recognised as a scout, and he left management behind completely in July 1999, when appointed to the position of chief scout to Sheffield Wednesday.

As with many of the game's genuine hard men, Bill's on-field characteristics masked a quiet and thoughtful attitude off it.

Taking part in Supporters' Club quizzes at Chesterfield gave Bill the chance to demonstrate something thought rare among footballers: an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the game. This was no doubt put to good use later on, doing the hard miles around the grounds with a notebook and pen.

Bill became a much-respected member of the scouting fraternity. He was appointed to the staff at Wigan Athletic in May 2005 and supported the Latics in a number of roles, most notably as the club's European scout in their Premier League days.

He worked in similar roles at Derby County and Bolton Wanderers before taking a position on the staff at Southampton where, over the course of two spells, he worked his way up to the post of senior recruitment officer, a position he held at the time of his death.

Supporters throughout the ages spend their football-watching years admiring no-nonsense centre-halves like Terry Butcher, Chris Nicholl and Bill Green, and can be relied upon to stress their importance to any side.

Chesterfield fans who were around at the time reckon the side skippered by Bill to be the best they've ever seen, or are ever likely to see, and most include Paul Cook's play-off side in any comparison. Bill's loss will be keenly felt by anyone who supported a team he gave his all to.

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