Former United full-back Peter Hampton is still involved in the game as a coach at Carlisle and working as a physio. He looks back with Leon Wobschall at his busy career.
WHILE Leeds United’s disgruntled players were pretty glad to see the back of the man who became universally known as Old Big ‘Ead in the turbulent autumn of 1974, one of his young charges during his ill-fated 44-day tenure will always feel a sense of ‘what might have been.’
The man in question is ex-Whites left-back Peter Hampton, who remembers Hurricane Clough whirling into West Yorkshire and attempting to sweep away most of what came in its path as if it was yesterday.
The stormy episode in United’s history may have been brief, but its impact in the football world was seismic, with books written on the subject and a feature film even made over a generation on since Clough’s exit from the club he used to hate, but incredibly ended up managing.
In terms of his own career, Hampton – now 56 and settled in Cumbria – is entitled to wonder how things could have changed if the course of history had taken a different direction. More to the point what if the legendary former Derby County and Nottingham Forest manager had actually stayed at United and got his feet under the table?
It took the Lancastrian, who joined the club in September 1971, five years until he got a decent run in the United first-team and while his time – unfortunately for him – dovetailed with a surfeit of quality international-class left-backs in the United ranks, in first Terry Cooper and then Trevor Cherry and Frank Gray, he feels things could have been different if Cloughie had laid roots at Elland Road.
Hampton said: “The club was in transition for most of my time there and obviously we had the Cloughie situation. Who knows what would have happened if he’d stayed there? The club went onto get a load of different managers in and then just went down the pan, didn’t they...?
“I’m sure I would have done well as he’d been alright with me. I was only a young kid and he was playing me regularly in the reserves. With Cloughie, if he didn’t want you, you’d just be out of the door – no hanging about, you were in or out...
“I remember that on his first day at Leeds, he sent the lad next to me in the dressing room home for not being shaved properly, while I also remember immediately after a friendly against Huddersfield being told to go and get some beer in for the lads.
“I knew I had to get a crate or else I’d be in trouble, but that was the sort of man Brian was. He could demand anything at any time. The only shame is he never became England boss.”
Handed his debut at The Dell against Southampton in April 1972 at the age of just 17, a glittering United career lie in prospect for Hampton, recipient of several England youth caps, while representing his country in a mini-Under-18s World Cup, playing alongside the likes of future Elland Road team-mate Ray Hankin and Tony Morley.
But it didn’t truly get off the ground until 1976-77 when left-back rival Frank Gray switched to midfield, allowing him his first regular run in the side.
But injuries complicated the mix for Hampton, although he still sampled several precious nuggets of big-game action, although one of his most memorable moments arrived when he scored a rare and spectacular winning goal in a substitute’s cameo against Burnley – who he went onto play for in the 80s – in 1975-76.
Hampton said: “I can recall being pulled off the bus when we were playing against Burnley as someone had gone down and I was put on the bench. Terry Yorath came off at half-time and he famously gave two fingers to some of the crowd and I came on and scored the winner, so I’ll always remember that!
“I was also on the bench for the European Cup final in Paris and also played in the FA Cup semi-final against (Manchester) United in 1977 when we were 2-0 down after ten minutes, which was a bit unfortunate. That was my first season in the first team and we went on this great cup run and I remember thinking: ‘This is a piece of cake, this!’ Then there was the semi-final of the League Cup as well against Forest the year after.
“In my time at Leeds, there was Cherry and then Frank and the competition was really intense and then I suffered from injuries, which kind of knocked me back a bit. But the experience was fantastic.
“Before I joined Leeds, I actually nearly signed for (Manchester) City, who were my team as a youngster and I was born almost outside the ground before going to the north east at about 10.
“I came to Leeds to just have a look and I don’t know why, but I just signed for them. Don (Revie) actually came up to my school and then my house and I signed up and that was that!”
“Despite everything, I enjoyed my time at Leeds. But it was at Stoke where I managed to get games consistently under Alan Durban (he joined Stoke for £175,000 in August 1980). I had four good years in the old first division when I was the number one left-back. We had some good players such as Adrian Heath, Paul Bracewell, Lee Chapman, Mark Chamberlain and Dave Watson.
After leaving the Potteries in the mid-eighties, Hampton played over 150 appearances for Burnley and after a short spell down the road at Rochdale, he headed north to Carlisle.
On one level, the winding down of Hampton’s career with the Cumbrians, making a dozen appearances in the Football League’s bottom rung in 1987-88, was decidedly non-descript and run-of-the-mill for a footballer approaching his mid-thirties.
But that season saw the grammar school boy break the mould in not just donning his boots, but also being made the club’s physiotherapist in a unique role of player/physio that season, although ‘magic sponge’ duties were handed over to someone else when he was in the first team.
Hampton went onto serve over a decade on the staff at Brunton Park, a time when United, after being in the doldrums in the late 80s and early 90s – went onto enjoy some of their most famous days since a brief season-long stint in the old Division One in 1974-75, tasting glorious days out at Wembley and promotion joy rides under Mick Wadsworth and Mervyn Day, now chief scout at Leeds.
After being axed along with Day in September 1997, Hampton went onto manage Workington Reds from May 1998 to October 2001 and became a fully-qualified chartered physiotherapist the following year.
He went onto run his own practice and also keeps his hand in on the coaching front back at Carlisle’s School of Excellence.
On his move to Carlisle, Hampton said: “It was actually through an ex-Leeds player, Clive Middlemass, who was manager. He was looking for someone to do the two roles of playing and being physio.
“The kitman would do the running onto the pitch when I played and I’d look after the injuries after the game. It was quite novel, really.
“After playing left-back for one season, I then retired to fully concentrate on being physio. I eventually went onto become assistant-manager and ended up staying there for about 10 years.
“During my time, Carlisle went on a run for several years. It really started with Mr (Michael) Knighton appearing and we won the Auto Windscreens Shields Trophy and won a couple of promotions. I’m now back working for the club with the School of Excellence, while being a chartered physio, so I’m keeping busy.
“My grandson has actually just been signed and he’s nine years old with a good left foot, so he might do alright hopefully...
“In my time at Carlisle, I’ve been involved in the development of the likes of Rory Delap and we showed him how to throw the ball! Although at school, he could throw the javelin the furthest.
“There were others such as Matthew Jansen and Paul Murray, who went onto QPR. We had a batch of players who were really exceptional, sometimes in terms of good players it’s a case of few and far between.
“For me, I’m still delighted to involved in the game and it’s on my terms. I can do the physio work and then get involved with the coaching on Sunday mornings and stuff.
“I pop along to some games and Leeds had some good matches with Carlisle while in League One.
“I went to the game in the second leg when they beat Leeds (on penalties) in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and it was a great game.
“Leeds still have a terrific support and shouldn’t be in the league they are now even (Championship), but there you go – that’s football.”