Life wasn't always sweet for Hegan

IT has not always been sweet, but Danny Hegan can look back on an eventful life.

Elvin King

IT has not always been sweet, but Danny Hegan can look back on an eventful life.

And now aged 66 the former Blues favourite has been tracked down to reflect on his controversial footballing career - and his eventful time since.

Giving his first interview for over a quarter of a century, Hegan says what an important role ex-Town manager Bill McGarry played in his spells at Portman Road and later with Wolverhampton.

McGarry lifted the Blues back into the top flight of English football in 1967/68 - with Hegan in his side.

Nippy midfielder Hegan, who won seven Northern Ireland caps, made 207 appearances for Ipswich from 1963 to 1969. He scored 34 goals.

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“Bill McGarry was my manager for nine years altogether and was different class to me,” said Hegan.

“I trusted him so much that three times at Ipswich I signed contracts without even looking at the wage and bonus figures.

“I knew everything would be all right if he said it was.”

Having begun his career at Scottish minnows Albion, Hegan moved to Sunderland then Ipswich, West Brom, Wolves and back to Sunderland.

He played 53 times for Wolves from 1970 to 1973 and appeared in the first UEFA Cup final in 1972.

Always known as a 'Jack the Lad', Hegans admits: “The rebel in me often took over.”

So where has he been for the last 30 years?

Hegan revealed all in an interview to the website.

“I had 11 seasons coaching football at Butlin's,” he started. “Eight at Clacton and three at Minehead, and I had a great time. Colin Bell headed up the operation and Jimmy Greenhoff and Martin Peters also coached there, as did Bobby Moore as a guest.

“There were dozens of good players, although young boys, for whatever reason, often find other things to do with their time and drift away.

“I loved taking the youngsters for days out at Arsenal, Millwall and QPR, but nothing lasts forever and, when the coaching stopped I went to Plymouth to work for a year or two as a labourer for a plumber.

“Then I went to Corby, which is half-English, half-Scottish, full of Rangers and Celtic fans. I worked as an industrial cleaner for a friend who had his own business.

“It's the best job I've ever had apart from in football. We had a great set of blokes and I enjoyed going to work.

“We'd be particularly busy when the factories around Milton Keynes, Daventry and Northampton shut down for holidays. I could be cleaning machines, painting or vacuuming. I might have stayed there a long while but I had a yearning to go back to the West Midlands.

“I returned about 1991 and did a bit more labouring and cleaning. There have been some different jobs as well, though.

“I worked back-stage in the Night Out in Birmingham for a while and I've spent three years doing odd jobs at cricket Test matches at Edgbaston and at the women's tennis tournament just up the road from there.

“I'm well retired now, unless it's just something like moving furniture for pals who ring up. I was hit by asthma in 1997 and have the inhalers but I've kept good health even if I do still like the occasional cigarette.”

Now living a short walk from Birmingham's Broad Street attractions, Hegan has lost contact with many of his footballing contacts and added: “I'm just the sort of bloke who moves on, makes new friends and mixes with them instead. I'm not a yesteryear man.”

And reflecting on a non-too committed footballing life, Hegan added: “I needed a kick up the backside every now and again.

“If we were told to report at 9.45am, I would go in at 9.50am.

“It's just the way I was. I was never a betting man, but in my Wolves days I would go into Birmingham for a drink and Bill McGarry fined me a few times; my fault, I just didn't fancy going in.

“Eventually, I was told I could go and drink with my pals for a week.

“Trainer Sammy Chung came to see me and handed me my training gear and I would go and run for an hour in the park on my own every day, then go to the pub.”

Hegan hasn't been married since divorcing in 1975. Surely the opportunity for some liaisons arose, though, in his time at Butlin's?

“Can a duck swim?” he asks with a special twinkle. “I didn't need to go knocking on chalet doors either. It was easier than that.”

Hegan still loves his football and has a green and white scarf draped above the hearth in his modest flat to leave no-one in any doubts as to his Celtic loyalties.

It's clear that Ipswich and Wolverhampton Wanderers were an important part of his life once.

But they came and went, and he will never be chucked out of a pub for boring regulars with his reminiscences about his life.

NEW STORY: DANNY Hegan's story on the wolvesheroes website has led to a response from a number of former team and friends including Steve Stacey, who was on Town's books briefly in the late sixties.

Stacey is now living in Perth, Western Australia and he said: “I lived opposite Danny when we played together for Ipswich.

“The stories regarding 'Danny boy' ring true. He was a very talented player and a likeable neighbour and club mate.

“My wife Dot and I became very friendly with Danny and his wife Patsy.

“Give my love to the wee fellow.”

Stacey is intending to come back to England in November when he plans to meet up again with Hegan.

His e-mail brought a response from Hegan, who said: “Steve was a nice lad and came from somewhere like Bristol City or Wrexham.

“He moved into Ken Hancock's house when Big Hanc moved to Tottenham and made his Ipswich debut against Liverpool.

“But he damaged his hamstring and didn't play many more.”

Considering he admits to enjoying a tipple or two, Hegan's recall of 40 years ago is still spot on.

WHAT are your memories of Danny Hegan? Let us know - e-mail