A phone-call from Graham Carr and a tour of the harbour by Matthew McGowan was enough to convince Ian Hutchinson to up-sticks from Halifax Town and make the journey to the south coast.
It was a decision that would start a life-long affinity to Weymouth Football Club for the Teessider. Eleven years playing for the club, over 550 games and two managerial spells later and Hutchinson was voted into the club’s Hall of Fame.
The move was a match made in heaven, Hutchinson loved the town and the town loved him back. He still continues to live and work in the town 25 years on from making the initial move.
“There was myself, John Waldock and David Laws who came down in 1995,” Hutchinson tells uptheterras.co.uk. “I was at Halifax Town when Graham Carr came down as manager under Matthew McGowan, who was chairman. He knew me from his days with Kettering and Northampton and gave me a call saying, ‘Come down, have a look at the place and see what you think.’
“I got off the train after a seven hour journey from the North East, I walked out the train station and walked to the Jubilee Clock. It was a boiling hot day, I remember it well; they took me around the seafront and then showed me around the harbour, I sat down there with Matt McGowan and thought ‘I’ll have a bit of this’. I was a single lad at the time, so it was great. It’s a nice seaside town, with lovely weather, because you don’t get weather like that in the North East!
“I was sat by the harbour speaking to them and said ‘Great, I’ll sign for you.’ Then it was a case of see what happens and you expect to move on eventually, but I’m still here now!
“It was different, it didn’t feel like a Non-League club, the stadium felt like a Football League stadium. You’ve got Bournemouth and Yeovil who are only minutes away, but Weymouth had this fan-base which really adhered to me, it was brilliant. Over the years I’ve got to be friends with a lot of them, it’s just a different place, there’s something about it.”
A move so far away from home was no doubt made easier by being joined by fellow North-East born John Waldock and David Laws, as well as Paul Myers making the move from the midlands at the same time to join Graham Carr’s Terras side.
The bond between the new signings was only strengthened by them being put up in the same hotel by Chairman Matthew McGowan. With the ‘Northern Four’, alongside the Brownes, Mark Robinson and Matthew Hale going on to form a core of the Weymouth team for the next decade, it’s a friendship which remains to this day.
“John Waldock is still here, same with Mark Robinson and Paul Myers, people have stayed around, so it obviously had an effect on our lives,” Hutchinson continues. “I think our first game at home was against Havant & Waterlooville, it was actually Gary Borthwick who marked me, or at least I attempted to mark him.
“I think we lost our first few games and things weren’t going well, so Carr decided to jump ship and we all thought that that’ll be it and we’ll all be on our way as well. We stuck about and Matthew McGowan was absolutely magnificent with us all. We stayed in his hotel for the first six months, me, Waldock, Lawsy and Paul (Myers), we had the time of our lives really.
“David Laws, in Non-League, is a legend. We saw him the other week at Cheltenham and met up with him for a few beers, he’s absolutely massive now! Not fat! Just working out wise, he was a man mountain. Whenever Lawsy growled at you, you knew to shut-up, but he was a top man.
“When me and Waldock came down, we both had this long hair and thought it looked good for some reason, his was a bit more curly than mine. We had a good time and we always used to get mixed up, still to this day, even though I’ve now got short hair, people come up to me and say ‘oh, you’re John Waldock aren’t you?’. I’m quite insulted because he looks like something out of a Kenny Rogers tribute act at the moment with his grey beard. He’s a great mate and he’s Godfather to my son Harry.”
Hutchinson’s first two seasons ended with 6th and 7th place finishes in the Southern Division, as Weymouth began to find their feet and settle themselves after a turbulent start to the decade. The next season he was part of the side who won the Dr Martens Southern Division title on the final day of the 1997/98 season.
“The 1997/98 season with Fred Davies is the one which sticks out; the thing about that season is that because a lot of us lived within the town, the camaraderie and team-spirit was the key because we were all friends off the pitch as well and all used to socialise together.
“That was one of the best seasons I’ve had, Fred was brilliant, he was an old school manager with old school values, but he got the boys playing. The only negative with Fred was that we used to have communal baths back in the day, we’d all get in there with a can of lager, but Fed used to join us and get in the bath with us, you don’t really want a 60-year-old man in the bath with you! So we all used to disperse out the bath when Fred jumped in. But he was magnificent, he got us back up there and it was a great season.
“The fans were great that season, we won 4-1 against Bashley in one of the games in the final run-in, and then we had Clevedon away where we won 3-0 and in the crowd there were about 500 Weymouth fans, it was outstanding. Now you’re seeing that again under Mark Molesley.”
Having spent over a decade playing at the same club, Hutchinson played in a number of different Weymouth eras and has his fair-share memorable matches. It’s two FA Trophy games which stand-out for Hutchinson, Yeovil Town at home and Dagenham & Redbridge away.
“We had some great games, back in the day it was the Yeovil rivalry, probably before my time but we were lucky to play Yeovil in the Trophy at the Wessex Stadium, with over 4,000 people there,” recalls Hutchinson. “The Dorchester battles were always good, there were always delayed kick-offs because of the crowd getting near three or four thousand. It’s bizarre with the Dorchester games, because we were enemies on the pitch but off it we had become good friends with the likes of Simon Radcliffe, Andy Harris and Mark Jermyn; even to this day we’ll have a Weymouth and Dorch night out.
“Then there was Dagenham & Redbridge in the Trophy, I think they were on an FA Cup run and about to play Charlton. Their fans had to buy tickets to the Weymouth game to get tickets for the Charlton game, it felt like there were 3,500 people there and we had to have a police escort into the ground. A certain Garry Hill was their manager.
“When Garry came to Weymouth we reminded him of that game quite a bit, I think it was 1-0 in the last minute. We lobbed the keeper, it hit the post and Lee Phillips bundled in the rebound.”
Having stayed with the Weymouth side who languished at the bottom end of the Dr Martens Southern Premier under Geoff Butler, Hutchinson was a part of the side who narrowly missed out on the title to Crawley Town under Steve Claridge the following season.
“Those were good memories and the Claridge era was decent as well I have to admit, I think it was the best football I’ve played with the likes of Claridge, Philpott, Buckle and Martin Barlow.
“Steve Claridge was second-to-none up front as a player, he was always showing and you’d know he would just flick the ball back. He brought a lad called Lee Philpott in, who had played for Leicester, he was not only a class act on the pitch, he was a class act off it too. I learnt a lot from him, he was a lovely lad. He was far too good for the standard he was at. He actually used to get quite a lot of stick from the fans, which was absolutely crazy.
“Ian Ridley, I know there was a bit of a fallout along the way with the fans and Ian, but he was magnificent getting that all set-up. I’ve had some lovely times down there.”
Hutchinson finally left the Terras at the end of the 2005/06 season. He went on to have a spell as player-manager at Bridport, before the almost inevitable move onto the Weymouth coaching staff.
“I loved my time at Bridport and they had a great bunch of lads,” says Hutchinson. “But there was a job offer from Matty Hale when he took over at Weymouth, he was a good friend of mine and he wanted me as his assistant manager. It was one of those jobs which you just couldn’t turn down after having a ten-year playing career with the club.
“I went in there and it didn’t work for whatever reasons for Matty, I’ll always remember him, as honest as the day is long, saying in his office ‘It’s not happening and I want you to take over.’
“I didn’t ever plan on taking over, but did because of the situation the club was in and I did turn things around a bit. The squad I inherited had a good team-spirit and bond and we started to push things into the right direction. Sadly it wasn’t meant to be in the end.”
Being a Middlesbrough native and lifelong Boro fan, it was only natural for Hutchinson to look to his hometown club for inspiration in his move to management. Weymouth in 2009, were in a similar situation to that of Middlesbrough in 1986.
Middlesbrough’s debts, believed to be in the region of £2 million, meant the club were forced to call in the provisional liquidator. Late in July 1986, the Inland Revenue took the club to court, claiming that it was owed £115,156 in tax arrears and so the judge issued a winding up order. On the second of August, Bruce Rioch and twenty-nine other non-playing staff were sacked by the Official Receiver and the gates of Ayresome Park were padlocked. Some players chose to remain and train under Rioch and coach Colin Todd, while others chose to leave. When the club was saved, Rioch stayed on as manager and guided the club to promotion on a shoe-string budget.
“Because I’m a big Middlesbrough fan, I had this vision, at Boro in 1986 the gates were closed and Bruce Rioch came in with Colin Todd and they galvanised a local set of lads who used to train in parks down the road,” Hutchinson explains.
“That was the vision I wanted to try and make on a smaller level with Weymouth. We did have some good young lads: Jordan Vincent, Ben Reiffer, Jamie Frampton and then younger ones like Aston Butcher, I wanted to get them with a few veterans and see if we could do something. In the end, well… we had no money.”
Hutchinson did have a second spell as Weymouth manager, but again, it was in extremely difficult circumstances. With a budget near to zero, he had to call on local lower league player to battle for Weymouth.
“The second time around we had lads in from Portland, and they were all magnificent, but it was a big step for a lot of them to go up four leagues and it just wasn’t meant to be. In a sick kind of way, I thoroughly enjoyed it, I loved the man management side of it and I think it was a case of the right place at the wrong time.”
Having not been involved in the game since leaving Weymouth in 2011, Hutchinson continues to work in the town as a paramedic. He’s since had time to reflect on those in the game who have had their influence on him.
“I think in my time at Weymouth, I worked under eleven managers. Obviously you’re going to pick up a lot of good stuff, but you’ll also pick up a lot of bad stuff, but I wouldn’t name names.
“The likes of Fred (Davies) and my good friend Andy Mason, Paul Buckle, and then there’s Steve Claridge, he was a great bloke, but different shall we say? He had played at a top level and he brought some great players in when he was there.
“You do learn off these players, Paul Buckle went on to be a great manager, he was outstanding, his self-motivation and single-mindedness, I’ve never seen anything like it. He showed that by going on to be a top manager.”
As well as his former teammate Paul Buckle, Hutchinson also holds current Weymouth boss Mark Molesley in high-regard and is pleased with the style of football which the Terras are currently embracing.
“Mark (Molesley), his staff and players are all doing a great job. I think one thing they’ve got back now is that connection with the fans and the club. Mark is doing a wonderful job and the way they’re playing football, well it’s a lovely brand of football.
“Hopefully it’s onward and upwards for Weymouth, this season has put them in good stead for the future and I wish them all the best.”
Photos: Idris Martin