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FAMOUS FOR FIFTEEN MINUTES: John Hartson

26 January 2016

Hartson runs out of fuel

AS the man himself would accept, the Albion career of John Hartson is not one that will go down as glorious in the annals of the club’s history. Leaving Celtic for The Hawthorns was perhaps a move too many for the Welsh international who was clearly coming towards the end of what had been, up to then, a very successful goalscoring career. 

Little did we know at the time, he was but months away from having to confront cancer head on, a battle he won in typically pugnacious style.

Hartson’s off the field demeanour belied the aggressive, in your face, centre-forward that we were used to seeing. Instead he was an engaging figure, no airs or graces, full of stories about the game and always willing to do his share of the media chores, impressing everyone around the football club.

An honourable man who paid his debts, the big Welsh striker was a little on the forgetful side. On the day he signed for the Throstles, he came to The Hawthorns to conduct the usual press conference duties, inanely parading an Albion scarf and ball as is tradition. 

His work for the day done, he jumped into his car to head back up north to sort out his affairs at that end of the country. Sensibly, before hitting the motorway, he filled up his car with petrol at the BP on the Birmingham Road. 

Walking to the counter to pay, John realised that he’d travelled without his wallet and had nothing to pay with. Fortunately, at the counter next to him was a member of the commercial department, sporting her Albion pass around her neck. 

I’ll not embarrass her by giving her name, but this young lady was responsible for collecting the cash for the classified ads that go in this programme, posting of which into said pages I regularly cocked up, leaving Sue to deal with the complaints. 

One day, I suggested that we stop doing them altogether to which she replied, in words which I hope will be etched in letters five feet high on my tombstone, “It’s all money ay it?” An economic visionary, had she been in charge of the banking system, the world would never have collapsed. Anyway, back to the petrol station…

Seizing upon the fact that they were fellow employees, albeit that John earned more in a week than most of us managed in a couple of years, he turned to her and said, “Hello. I’m John Hartson, I work at the Albion as well. You couldn’t lend me thirty quid to pay for the petrol could you?”

Reaching deep into her purse, she came up with the money and catastrophic “Striker steals petrol” headlines had been averted. Thanks to such heroic interventions, we in the media department could continue to sleep soundly at our desks.

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