Player focus: Tom Hateley

Tom Hateley 1

Photo: Przegladsportowy.pl

Today’s guest post on Rightbankwarsaw comes from Ryan Ferguson who looks at Śląsk Wrocław’s new signing Tom Hateley.  But this is no normal player focus, prepare to be transported to 1960s Liverpool, Monaco and the Maracana.

The recent signing of versatile midfielder Tom Hateley by Śląsk Wrocław has aroused interest in both Poland and Britain. As a Tranmere Rovers fan, I was naturally disappointed by the exit of a very useful player, but it’s exciting to see Tom join a club of such size and prestige. While the path between League One and the Ekstraklasa (and indeed between English and Polish football) is far from well-worn, I have no doubt that Hateley has the talent and temperament to succeed in Wrocław. This piece will explore what Śląsk fans can expect from their new star.

At Tranmere, Hateley was deployed in a variety of positions owing to a small squad depleted by injury and suspension. A central midfielder ideally, Tom deputised at right-back after joining Rovers in September 2013; his eye-catching performances meant he replaced local lad Danny Holmes in a defence short on confidence. Hateley demonstrated great fitness and proved adept in both the offensive and defensive aspects of full-back play. He proved to be an able technician on the ball, delivering accurate crosses when he made forward runs from deep.

I was also impressed by the positivity of Hateley’s play. He joined Tranmere during a difficult sequence of results which saw the club struggling at the foot of the third tier. Confidence was low, players were struggling for form and hope was in short supply. In contrast to this, the enthusiasm displayed by Hateley was visible to all; his willingness to attempt different things in possession was a refreshing departure. Naturally, not all his attempted dribbles, passes or crosses worked-out, but Tranmere fans applauded the fearlessness with which Tom approached the challenge at hand. He refused to think negatively.

In mid-September 2013, Tranmere embarked on a particularly-poor run of form which yielded just one victory in eight games. During this period, manager Ronnie Moore experimented with a variety of formations before settling on a 4-5-1 which featured Hateley in a combative anchor role in front of the defence. The resourceful workhorse screened a frail back four with intelligence, reading the game well to destruct opposition attacks and launch those of his own team. In this manner, Hateley produced a phenomenal performance in a rare away victory over Bradford on 13 October, where his presence contributed to a first Rovers clean sheet in over seven hours of football.

In later weeks, Tom continued to add solidity as a mini-revival ensued on the Wirral. In many matches, Hateley would help keep his side in the match for an hour before departing for a more attacking option from the bench. He worked tirelessly to build a solid, organised foundation in games, which gave Tranmere an opportunity to accumulate vital points. Ultimately, Tom made 10 appearances for Rovers, during which time the club earned 8 points and progression to the FA Cup 2nd Round. Tranmere had just 4 points from 6 league games when he arrived, compared with 12 from 15 following his run in the team. His was a positive presence.

Such a return from a four-month investment represented shrewd business by Tranmere, who signed Hateley upon the expiry of his contract with Scottish Premier League side Motherwell. Tom enjoyed a prosperous four-year spell at Fir Park under Jim Gannon, Craig Brown and Stuart McCall. He became an integral cog in a strong Motherwell midfield, often partnering Steve Jennings, another player currently in his second spell at Tranmere, to form a reliable duo. Hateley became a consummate professional in Scotland, regularly excelling in games against Celtic and Rangers whilst also experiencing European football against Panathinaikos and Odense Boldklub.

During his time at Motherwell, he played alongside hot-shot forward Henrik Ojamaa and against Hamilton’s Marco Paixão. The former is currently a key figure at Legia Warsaw, while the latter has been a revelation since joining Hateley’s new club Śląsk. Hateley admitted that such familiarity helped when making the decision to join Wrocław. “After a conversation with Henrik Ojamaa, who I know from our time at Motherwell,” said the 24-year old, “I decided to stay in Poland after my trial here. This is a great opportunity to play at such a high level.”

The Hateley family knows all about playing at the highest level. Tom is a third generation professional footballer, following in the footsteps of a famous father and grandfather. Tony Hateley, Tom’s grandfather, was a prolific goalscorer in the 1950s and 60s for Notts County, Aston Villa and Liverpool. He was so good that Bill Shankly parted with £96,000 for his services, a large fee at the time. A predator within the penalty box, Tony held the English record for highest combined transfer fees upon retirement in 1974, a fitting accolade for a wonderful player.

My father vividly recalls meeting Tony as a child, when the superstar attended a Derby railway orphanage in support of charitable causes within the community. “Nobody in the world could head a ball like Tony Hateley,” dad recalls fondly.

Tony-Hateley1

Tom Hateley’s granddad Tony Hateley playing for Bill Shankly’s Liverpool

Thus, Tony’s son Mark had certain family standards to uphold. He did just that…and more. A mercurial forward with a large mullet and the talent to match, Mark circumnavigated the globe scoring goals and igniting debate. In a monumental twenty-two year career, Mark represented two greats of the game in AC Milan and Glasgow Rangers. Furthermore, he earned thirty-two caps for England throughout the 1980s and 90s, scoring nine goals including an iconic strike against Brazil in the Maracanã.

Tom’s dad Mark Hateley scoring a cracking headed goal for AC Milan against Inter Milan in October 1984

In this tale there is a small connection to my Wirral homeland and Tranmere Rovers; the fearsome striker was born on the peninsula in Wallasey, a small town just a ten-minute bus ride from Prenton Park. This all means a member of the Hateley family has set off from the Wirral to more exotic climbs before.

In one such a glamourous location was born a midfielder who will line-up for Śląsk in the coming weeks. Tom Hateley was born in Monte Carlo on 12 September, 1989. At the time, his father, two years removed from a vibrant Milanese adventure, was rattling in the goals for Arsène Wenger at AS Monaco.

Tom grew to love football at an early age. When his father moved to Glasgow Rangers in the early-90s, the younger Hateley spent plenty of time around Ibrox. Tom would skip around the dressing room with Nicolai Laudrup, son of then-Rangers great Brian, with both youngsters holding a front-row seat for the team talks of Walter Smith. Ibrox became Tom Hateley’s personal playground.

On several occasions, he walked-out with the Rangers team and helped legendary goalkeeper Andy Goram in his warm-ups. Naturally, Tom became a huge Rangers fan, his boyhood bedroom decorated with posters and pennants of the team for whom dad had been a legend. Whenever Rangers added to their considerable haul of trophies, Tom could be found on the field, celebrating with his heroes. It was a storybook childhood.

Naturally, Tom also wanted to become a professional footballer. A short spell with Chelsea as a schoolboy led to the Reading youth academy. Hateley captained the Royals’ youth team and helped secure a national league title for the reserve squad in 2007. After turning professional, Tom found first team opportunities limited in the Premier League and was eventually released during an overhaul which counted manager Steve Coppell amongst its victims. A brief stint with Conference South side Basingstoke Town represented a stop-gap, whilst Hateley also spent time on trial at Aldershot before returning to Scotland with Motherwell in 2009.

In close to 200 appearances for the North Lanarkshire club, Hateley gained a reputation as a very good footballer in his own right. Jim Gannon envisaged using Tom as a utility player, but brilliant performances in a midfield anchor role made him indispensable to a promising team. Hateley saw a childhood dream come true when Motherwell played Rangers. In a fairytale moment, Tom curled home a wondrous free-kick from twenty-five yards, opening the scoring as his father watched-on from the stands. This was undoubtedly the greatest moment of Hateley’s career to this date. He was rewarded with a new three-year contract extension, to the delight of many fans.

Tom Hateley scoring for Motherwell against Hibernian in March 2013

The following season proved to be an excellent one for Hateley, who developed a penchant for important goals. Tom scored in Europe against Odense, in addition to league goals against St Mirren and Hearts. He made 53 appearances, more than any Motherwell player, and became a reliable source of heart and versatility. Motherwell earned a place in the Scottish Cup Final, where two late sucker-punches put a flattering gleam on their opponent’s Celtic’s 3-0 triumph.

In 2011-12, Hateley played the majority of his games at right-back. Once again, he was dependable and consistent, displaying great technical skill whilst also defending bravely. Tom made 43 appearances as Motherwell, who finished 3rd behind the Old Firm. Crucially, this sealed qualification for the UEFA Champions League knockout round, another significant step in Hateley’s development. Such exposure to foreign football will stand Tom in great stead as he begins his Polish journey.

The season after, in a Scottish top flight devoid of Rangers, Motherwell assumed the role of natural challenger to Celtic. While Neil Lennon’s side won the championship by a sixteen-point margin, Hateley helped ‘Well to an impressive 2nd place. Nonetheless, the club was not forthcoming with a new contract for the multi-talented midfielder. Despite his role as the team’s linchpin over four seasons, Hateley and Motherwell could not reach an agreement, as interest in his services mounted around Europe. Ultimately, Tom expressed his desire to play at a higher level, thus ending his successful association with the club.

Tom’s search for a new employer however did not go smoothly.  After several months without securing a deal, Tranmere manager Moore was alerted to Hateley’s availability. During his time on the Wirral Tom gained match fitness and became a positive presence around Prenton Park. However, when his short-term contract expired in January, the club was in no financial position to renew it. Such are the fiscal constraints of the English lower leagues, Hateley was already informed of the impossibility of a new deal in mid-November.  This was due to Tranmere’s need to prioritise players who were prepared to commit their long-term future to the club. Unfortunately this left little room for Hateley.

Tranmere has never been the most efficient club from a public relations’ standpoint. Accordingly, Moore attempted to placate fans angry at Tom’s lack of playing time by pointing to mysterious injuries which the player insists never occurred. The relationship deteriorated to such an extent that Hateley began searching for a new club in late December. Tranmere fans were sad to see such a quality player leave, yet even more frustrated by the way he was treated.

Tom received offers from other British clubs, but the possibility of playing abroad was intriguing. Śląsk, eager for reinforcements following their difficult autumn round of games, proposed a three-week trial, which Hateley agreed to after encouragement from family and friends such as Ojamaa.

In friendly matches against FC St Pauli and Ślęza Wrocław, Hateley impressed manager Stanislav Levý enough to warrant a two-and-a-half year contract. Once the deal was announced, Hateley spoke of his delight. “I liked what I saw during my trial with Śląsk, so the offer from Wrocław was a priority for me. I’m glad I’ve made this decision and I’m looking forward to the next two-and-a-half years here,” he told the assembled press.

Indeed, this move represents a fantastic opportunity for Tom. In joining Śląsk Wrocław, he will play for a club with one of the largest and most vociferous fan-bases in Poland. Furthermore, the infrastructure in Wrocław is fantastic, with a 42,000-seat stadium and impressive training facilities. Śląsk were Polish champions in 2011-12, and have ambitions to play regularly in European competition. Hateley joins a side which currently ranks 13th in a congested Ekstraklasa, but the club hopes for a strong finish to the season following the winter break.

In the coming months, Tom Hateley will enjoy the opportunity to play in cultured cities like Kraków, Poznań and Warsaw against teams such as Wisła, Lech and Legia. Similarly, Śląsk Wrocław fans will enjoy watching a talented player with a colourful history and hopefully an even brighter future. The journey from Monte Carlo to Silesia has been long and winding, but another Hateley could be set to take European football by storm.

Many thanks to Ryan for writing this piece, you can access his portfolio here and follow him on Twitter here.

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2 thoughts on “Player focus: Tom Hateley

  1. Pingback: Build It, But They Might Not Come | Look At These Scenes

  2. Pingback: Guest Articles for Right Banks Warsaw – Ryan Ferguson Media

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