Harty on... the Albion, Dick Knight and rugby

DEPARTURES are part and parcel of any football club, so Gus Poyet’s exit was always going to happen, whatever the circumstances.

A section of the support are still very raw and prickly over the whole saga, but I hope, in time, they remember all the good things Gus brought to the table, including that unforgettable League One title win of 2011.

I have no doubt he will get another job, my prediction is by firework night. And, it’s my sincere hope that, if and when Poyet and his management team return in the away dugout, they are afforded the respect by the crowd they deserve.

Another departure last week from the club, of sorts, was the stepping down from Albion in the Community of former club chairman and current life president Dick Knight.

Dick, being Dick, didn’t go quietly, but would we expect anything less?

From the moment he arrived on the scene, as part of a Liam Brady-led consortium, the day after the York City riot, in April 1996, it’s certainly been eventful. He’s passionate, opinionated, obstinate, tunnel-visioned, but has that rare quality of, when the chips are down, unstinting loyalty.

From my days as a fanzine editor and columnist, the day the well-meaning Knight announced to the media two days before the Hereford game of death in May 1997, that “There would be £2million for team strengthening regardless of what division (Football League or Conference) we’re in” – the only problem was Dick and his consortium were unaware of the extent of the precarious financial situation the club found themselves in.

Needless to say, that money was rightly used in keeping the club afloat, rather than players – very necessary, but try explaining that to your average football fan, who thinks his manager has got a £2million war chest, which, back then, would have gone a long way.

Dick Knight and I had numerous spats on both radio and in print. I used to love the phone-in special with him because I knew, within 10 minutes, he would be controversial and that would set the tone for the whole hour.

I also recall him using the editorial of the club programme to dissect and criticise what we had broadcast on the show the previous week. He even used my picture, the least flattering one he could find, but, in the grand scheme of things, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Because, in October 2008, when I made a serious error of judgement on air and was sacked by the BBC, Dick showed his true colours.

I can recall it as if it were yesterday, Saturday October 11, at 12.45pm, my phone rang with a mobile number I didn’t recognise. It was Dick, who said he was sorry what had happened, acknowledged that everyone makes mistakes, and stated that my then current employment with the club would not be affected and that they were publicly backing me.

And then the money shot . . .

“Harty, we’ve had our ups and downs, there have been times when I could have strangled you, but, deep down, I know exactly what you are, a good person. All the time I’m associated with this club, you and your lad will never have to pay for a ticket.”

At this point, can I point out that I’ve always paid for my tickets, but, that day when I was rock bottom, Dick brought tears to my eyes and showed the person that he always will be.

Looking forward to the deciding rugby test on Saturday morning, when the British Lions take on the Aussies. However, having spoken to an ex-pat friend down under earlier in the week, it appears our Antipodean cousins are already preparing their excuses.

His neighbour was talking to him about the upcoming cricket series and almost dismissed the rugby as a side issue, “It’s come to something when four nations have to group together to beat one at a specific sport”.

There’s nothing like a good loser . . .