NORTHERN IRELAND: 1 CAP

(CAREER: 1)

V USSR, MOSCOW, 22 OCTOBER 1969

As Albion careers go, Danny Hegan did not enjoy the most stellar of stays here at The Hawthorns. It lasted just twelve months, from the moment he arrived in May 1969 for the fee of £88,000 plus Ian Collard who moved to Ipswich Town in return to the day he left for Wolverhampton in May 1970, Albion collecting a mere £27,500.

The disparity between the two price tags underlines just how badly wrong Hegan’s move to the Black Country went and how delighted the Throstles were to see him go in the finish. And yet, ironically, his arrival was supposed to herald a brave new world for the Albion, part of a spending spree that was going to transform our reputation as a cup fighting team to a unit that could have a realistic go for the title, as Asa Hartford recall.

“We had a bit of a go around about 1969. We spent £100,000 on Colin Suggett, we got in Alan Glover and Danny Hegan, about a quarter of a million on the three of them I think, but it never took off. The Glove was a talented player but he wasn’t consistent, Suggy was a good player and Danny was great if you could get him out the pub! We were jogging round Spring Road one day and Danny had had a few the night before. It used to be then that you’d buy cigarettes and there was a question inside the packet, so he had all these wrappers, asking the lads the questions as we were running round, “Who scored the goal…””

Certainly, Hegan made his name off the pitch as much as he did upon it, for he enjoyed what might best be described as a colourful private life, and was one of the great socialisers of his time according to John Kaye: “We had some great laughs because it was a very close knit group. We went on tour somewhere when Danny Hegan was there. He was a character, he liked to organise things, and we used to call ourselves “Ocean’s Eleven” – I think I was Dean Martin! Danny was Danny Ocean, I can’t remember the others, but we had some terrific times.”

As a player, Hegan was very much of his time, what was termed a flair player, someone willing to play with the ball at his feet and willing to try to take it past his opponents. Playing with something of a swagger, Hegan was also the target for defenders who got a little tired of that style and in the days where the tackle from behind was not only legal but pretty much compulsory, he took his share of stick. Which he then liked to give back when the red mist descended.

Born in Scotland, Danny Hegan also qualified to play for Northern Ireland and made his debut for them in Moscow in October 1969 after he’d made just 12 starts for the Throstles, scoring twice, against Crystal Palace and Liverpool. Playing out in the old Soviet Union was a pretty tough introduction to the wiles of international football and with Danny sporting the number seven shirt, the men in green went down to a 2-0 defeat, not exactly a disaster.

Danny didn’t play for Northern Ireland again during his tenure at the Albion, but that was not exactly a disgrace. After all, the fella who usually wore their number seven shirt was a chap called George Best.

Not only that, but Hegan’s Albion career was going off the rails to the extent that by season’s end, he had added just five more starts to his statistics and his departure was imminent, one big money transfer that simply failed to work out.