Lenny Johnrose

Lenny joined Pools in a high profile transfer from Blackburn Rovers for a club record fee in 1992. The kind of money we would like to be able spend even now, although it was never officially disclosed. He soon become a fan favourite in a side packed with talent, most due to his tough tackling and battling nature. Unfortunately, not for the first or last time, the club was spending money that it did not have. He ended up leaving in a quick fire sale to join Bury, where he also became a favourite. Later he played for Burnley and Swansea.

A few months ago, not just Pools fans, but the football community in general were shocked to learn that he has Motor Neurone Disease. There was shock that this could happen to a young fit man, but as always they rallied around to support him. Lenny will always be held in high regard around Hartlepool and there is sure to be a heroes welcome when he comes back to the town in March for a reunion night. 

After some hard work tracking down an immensely private man, we eventually got him to do an interview.

Here is what he had to say....

What were your first impressions when joining Pools?

I think when I first signed, I went to watch a game away at Chester as I hadn’t signed in time to play. The first thing that struck me was how is lively the dressing room was, and how noisy it was. My first training session was a bit of a culture shock. It was at an old oil works in Billingham; the grass was long and muddy, the pitch was uneven, and having come from Blackburn Rovers, like I say it was a bit of a shock.

What was the changing room like?

The dressing room was very different from that of Blackburn. There was a kind of warrior - like atmosphere; quite a bit of chanting, but a real togetherness with everybody pulling together.

What are your memories from your first match?

I remember it being very windy, not a big crowd; but what a noise and what an atmosphere. I can’t remember who we played against, but I think we drew 1-1

What are your memories from your final match?

The last few games are a bit of a blur to be honest. The atmosphere had changed; players were leaving due to the cash crises and I wanted to move back to the Northwest (my partner at the time was due to give birth to my daughter Chanel). 

Have you got any funny stories?

I remember Nicky Southall, who was a really good player, was the butt of a lot of the jokes. There was a time where he had a problem with his car; it was making a funny noise as he was driving into work. I’m not sure how many times he stopped his car to check it, but it was only when he arrived in work that someone pointed out that the noise was one of the songs that he was playing in his car.

There are also many things I could tell you about Dean Emerson but I really don’t think we can put that in print. He was one of the funniest men I’ve ever met, although I’m not sure if Viv Busby would agree.

Are you in touch with players from back then?

Ryan Cross contacted me when he heard about my illness, which was nice, and obviously you guys have been great. But apart from that, I haven’t really kept in touch which is probably more down to me than to the lads (I’ve always been a bit socially inept). 

Have you got any Pools shirts from then?

Have I got a shirt? Are you kidding? Remember, the club were really struggling for money; we were getting paid out of the turnstile money so there was no chance of them giving you a shirt. Shame really because I’d really like one.

Best player at Pools during your time there?

The best player, if not Nicky Southall, would have to be Monday Saville. We had a really good partnership for a while, and he was absolutely brilliant to play with.

Toughest opponent?

My toughest opponent was probably Kieron Dyer, who was just too young kid at Ipswich Town. I wasn’t able to impose my game on him at all and basically spent the whole 90 minutes chasing him round Portman Road.

Favourite Pools match?

My favourite match is a toss up between the Crystal Palace cup win and the game against Blackpool where Andy Saville scored our first goal in what seemed like about 100 games. That was absolutely torturous, I thought it would never end.

Pre-match routine?

My pre-match routine was pretty standard. I’d have a massage pretty early, before getting changed and going out to warm up on my own for about quarter of an hour before going back into the dressing room. I would then listen to whatever the manager had to say before going back outside with the rest of the lads to do the group warmup.

Favourite ground you played at?

My favourite ground was Gigg Lane. The atmosphere in the dressing room was similar to that of Hartlepool, but I enjoyed much more success there (sorry!).

Best manager you played in see?

It’s difficult to choose a favourite manager as they all had their strengths and faults, but Alan Murray always gave me the freedom to pretty much do whatever I wanted on the football pitch. I became a different player when I played for other managers (Not necessarily better or worse, just different), but I did really enjoy that freedom to express myself.

Lenny's Pools Dream Team!

Ok, dream team - here we go!

1. Steve Jones

2. Ryan Cross

3. Paul Cross

4. Monty MacPhail

5. Keith Nobbs

6. Paul Olsson

7. Nicky Southall

8. Dean Emerson

9. Brian Honour

10. Paul Dalton

11. Andy Saville.