Forgotten Idols: Mark Hateley

It’s not often an England International spends the majority of a playing career, spanning more than two decades, out of his native country. It’s even rarer that such a player would be idolised north of the border. This is true, however, of Rangers legend Mark Hateley.

Early Beginnings

Mark Hateley was born in Derby in 1961, and his father, Tony, played for Notts County at the time. He was a top level striker and later played for Chelsea, Liverpool and Aston Villa. Hateley didn’t have to venture far to find his first football club, joining Coventry City. He made his debut aged 18 years old in the 1978 – 79 season.

Hateley was loaned to NASL side Detroit Express in 1980, having found first team opportunities limited at Highfield Road. He returned to Coventry and quickly became a first team regular, finishing the 1981 – 82 season as the club’s top goalscorer, with 18 goals in all competitions. He remained a regular for the Sky Blues during the following campaign, although his strike rate wasn’t quite as prolific.

It was something of a surprise when he dropped down a division in 1983. Portsmouth had just been promoted from the old Division Three. Hateley had been scoring prolifically for the England Under 21 side and several top flight clubs were interested. He scored 25 goals for Portsmouth but they finished in 16th place, conceding almost as many goals as they scored.

At 6ft 3ins he cut a towering figure, a constant threat whenever crosses were whipped into the box. Despite his height, he had a good touch on the ball and a great burst of acceleration to complement a lethal left foot. Far from being merely a penalty box predator, he was just as capable of scoring from outside the box.

Despite playing second tier football, England manager Bobby Robson called him up to his squad in the summer of 1984. Hateley had just been voted the best player of the Under 21 Championship, and scored in the second leg of the final as England beat Spain.

Having not qualified for the European Championship, Robson had organised several friendlies. One of these was against Brazil in the Maracana, in which John Barnes made a name for himself by scoring a superb individual goal. Hateley had made his debut against U.S.S.R. earlier that week, and against Brazil he scored his first international goal in a 2 – 0 win.

Arrivederci, England

This was enough to convince Italian giants A.C. Milan to spend £1 million to take him to the San Siro. He was soon joined by another England international, when Ray Wilkins joined from Manchester United.

Hateley didn’t take too long too adapt to his new surroundings, scoring on his Serie A debut in a 2-2 draw with Udinese. His form in the early weeks of the season was impressive, scoring twice against Cremonese and the winning goal against Roma.

In only his seventh league game he scored a goal still celebrated by fans of the Rossoneri to this day. There are not many better ways to ingratiate yourself to your new clubs fans than to score a derby winner. In November 1984, Milan had found themselves a goal down to city rivals Inter, but had pulled themselves level. Midway through the second half, Hateley rose above his marker to plant a bullet header past Walter Zenga. What made the moment even sweeter was that it sealed Milan’s first derby win in five years. Milan fans still affectionately refer to Mark Hateley as “Attila”.

Having hit five goals in his first seven games, much was expected for the remainder of the campaign but it didn’t quite go to plan. The team’s form was very inconsistent, and Hateley only scored another three goals during the 1984 – 85 season. Milan finished in 5th place to qualify for the UEFA Cup.

His second season saw Hateley score with more consistency, ending the campaign with 11 goals but Milan’s 1985 – 86 season was a disaster. The club finished seventh in Serie A, and suffered early exits from the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Cup.  To make matters worse club president Giuseppe Farina was accused of stealing money from the club. He subsequently fled to South Africa.

Hateley had been England’s first choice partner for Gary Lineker in the run up to the 1986 World Cup. Two goals against Mexico and another against Canada in friendlies saw him picked for the opening two games. When England failed to score in either of them, Hateley was dropped and replaced by Peter Beardsley. This became Bobby Robson’s favoured partnership for the remainder of the tournament.

In February 1986, Silvio Berlusconi had bought the club and ploughed several millions of Italian Lire into the team. That summer, he began assembling the spine of the team that would conquer Europe over the next few years. By this point Hateley was in and out of the team, and struggling for form. He ended the 1986 – 87 season with just two goals in all competitions.

When Arrigo Sacchi was installed as manager, he bought Dutch stars Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit to the club. Making it quite clear that Hateley was not in his plans, Milan accepted a bid from Monaco.

Monaco

Just like at Milan, Hateley was brought to the club at the same time as another England team-mate, Tottenham midfielder Glenn Hoddle. The two transfers paid instant dividends as Monaco won the French league title, their first in six years. Hateley was the clubs top scorer with 14 goals, and initially flourished under the management of Arsène Wenger.

Despite impressive form for his club, he was now seen as little more than a back-up option for England. In Euro 88 he was brought on as a substitute in all three of England’s group games, as Robson continued with Lineker and Beardsley upfront. England lost all three games.

Monaco did not manage to defend their title in 1988 – 89, and finished third while Marseille lifted the trophy. To rub salt into the wounds, they made it a domestic double by beating Monaco in the French Cup Final. Hateley did not make the squad for that game, following an ankle injury, plus the form of new arrival George Weah.

The 1989 – 90 Season would be Hateley’s last on the continent. By now he had become mainly a bit-part player, and managed just 16 appearances and three goals in all competitions. Having been out of the England picture since Euro 88, he was not selected for the 1990 World Cup. It was during this time that Monaco accepted a £500,000 bid from Glasgow Rangers.

Ibrox Legend

Graeme Souness had previously tried to sign Hateley when he had left Milan in 1987. He finally got his man in the summer of 1990, and helped him rediscover his goalscoring form. Many top players had headed north of the border following the ban on English clubs from European competition. This was one reason why Scottish football was quite strong at this point.

He scored twice on his debut in the League Cup against East Stirling, and once on his league debut against Dunfermline. Despite this, he wasn’t initially popular with the fans at first, and for reasons other than his English heritage. Many of the Ibrox faithful questioned whether he was the man to lead their team in their pursuit of European glory. After two seasons in which he had not seen much first team action, it took Hateley a while to regain his full form and fitness.

Rangers’ continental aspirations came crashing down to earth when they were unceremoniously dumped out of the European Cup. This was at the hands of Red Star Belgrade, who went onto win the trophy at the end of the season.

Hateley soon found his popularity soaring when he scored twice on the final day of the season against Aberdeen. This secured the Scottish Premier Division title, and added to the League Cup success earlier in the season. This was achieved in spite of Souness’ decision to join Liverpool barely a month before the season’s end.

The 1991 – 92 season saw Rangers retain their league title, finishing ten points clear of second placed Heart of Midlothian. They also won the Scottish Cup, and the fans were starting to see a blossoming partnership between Hateley and Ally McCoist, who scored more than 60 goals in that season. This form saw him recalled by England for a friendly with Czechoslovakia, his first cap in almost four years. He was not, however, selected by Graham Taylor for Euro 92.

At this time Rangers were untouchable in Scottish football, but it was European success that their fans truly craved. The 1992 – 93 season saw them get within a whisker of their first ever European Cup Final. The first round saw them face, and comfortably dispose of, Danish champions Lyngby.

In the second round, they faced a “Battle of Britain” with Leeds United. Following Rangers 2 – 1 win at Ibrox, Leeds fancied their chances of turning it around at Elland Road. They didn’t bank on Hateley scoring a second minute goal that even had home fans applauding. A goal kick from Andy Goram was headed on by Iain Durrant, and found Hateley on the edge of the area. He let the ball bounce once before unleashing a terrific volley past John Lukic. McCoist later added a second to put the game beyond Leeds, and ensure Rangers’ progression to the group stage.

The format of the European Cup was that the semi-final was made up of two groups, with the winning teams contesting the final. Rangers finished in second place, one point behind Marseille who went on to win the trophy.

The 1993 – 94 season saw more dominance for Rangers. Only a surprise Scottish Cup Final defeat to Dundee United stopped them clinching all three domestic trophies. This would be the most prolific season of Hateley’s career, as he hit 30 goals in all competitions. He also won the Scottish Players Player of the Year and Football Writers Player of the year. The only major downside was a first round exit from the European Cup, to Bulgarian side Levski Sofia. After the heroics of the previous campaign, much had been expected in Europe.

1994 – 95 would be Hateley’s final full season at Ibrox. The arrival of Danish international Brian Laudrup had strengthened their attacking options. Despite an early exit from both domestic cups, and failing to make the group stage of the newly formed Champions League, Rangers won the league title by fifteen points.

The 1995 – 96 season saw him lose his place in the team, kept out by the form of McCoist and Gordon Durie. In November 1995 he moved to Queens Park Rangers, now managed by his former Milan team mate Ray Wilkins. After 112 goals in five years, Hateley left Glasgow as an Ibrox legend.

Return to England and later career

It was something of a surprise when Q.P.R. bid £1.5 million for the 34-year-old Hateley, despite being light in attack since the departure of Les Ferdinand. The move didn’t work out for either the club or the player, and Q.P.R. were relegated at the end of the season. During the 1996 – 97 season he was loaned to Leeds United, before he bizarrely returned to Ibrox.

With Rangers facing an injury crisis, they paid Q.P.R. £300,000 in March 1997 to bring back the club legend. The club were chasing a record-equalling ninth straight title, and an Old Firm match with Celtic loomed on the horizon. Hateley didn’t quite have the impact the fans would have hoped. He was sent off for head-butting Stewart Kerr, but Rangers still won 1 – 0. He scored one goal in his four appearances and was released at the end of the season.

Hateley retired in 1999 following spells with Hull City (including a brief stint as player-manager) and Ross County. He is now a club ambassador for Rangers, and also works as a pundit.

 

It is probably fair to say that Hateley is maybe the most successful and popular Englishman ever to play in Scottish football.


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