Brave dementia sufferer and Harrogate legend Jim Hague is lost without football and wife fears for his mental well-being
JIM HAGUE loves Harrogate Town and this lockdown is affecting his mental health far worse than most fans.
For the 78-year-old suffers from dementia and being segregated from the club due to the government restrictions has had a detrimental effect on his life.
Jim is a club legend both on and off the pitch.
The former striker – who started as a defender – remains their youngest first-team debutant at 14 and made a record 402 appearances, topping the Yorkshire club’s all-time scoring charts with 135 goals.
He also served on the club’s committee and, six years ago, won an FA award as groundsman of the year.
Yet – despite his condition – he is still involved with the Sulpherites and, right up to this second lockdown, was working at their Wetherby Road stadium with a team of maintenance volunteers every Monday and Friday.
And that interaction with fellow Harrogate lovers gave him something to look forward to twice a week – especially with fans not allowed into the ground to watch games.
Jenny – Jim’s wife for 54 years – told me: “He was sweeping leaves and cleaning the terraces out.
“He had only just gone back after the first lockdown and they were doing so much work but now they’re not allowed in.
“It’s been bad enough that he hasn’t been able to watch them play since March – although our son Jason has been able to stream the games for Jim.
“But it’s been a hard time. Being able to watch games and go the ground to meet old friends and lovers of Harrogate gave him a reason to get out of bed.
“Harrogate has been his life and, for people with dementia, taking away something from them that they love and are used to is not good. It has a seriously negative impact. It’s the worst thing that could've happened to his life.
“People with dementia need stability and anything out of the ordinary throws them into a downward spiral.
“For Jim, his life revolved around watching Harrogate Town and being able to go down there to help.”
People with dementia need stability and anything out of the ordinary throws them into a downward spiral.'
Jim left Harrogate when he was 16 to join Bolton Wanderers as a youth player. And he was such a promising talent, the legendary Nat Lofthouse spent a lot of time with him on the training pitch.
Jenny, 76, said: “Nat would teach him how to head the ball – which is probably why he has dementia.”
After around 18 months with Bolton, he joined Leeds but failed to make the grade there and returned to his beloved Harrogate to play in the Yorkshire League.
Jim has a great story about his favourite Town manager – former pre-war Chelsea and England star John Townrow – that would send a modern-day HR department into meltdown.
He said: “If we did something wrong in a game he used to punch us! It certainly taught us a lesson.”
Jim loved playing for Harrogate "because the team was close-knit and had a real camaraderie."
Jim had to call time on his playing career with Harrogate in 1973 at the age of 32 after he passed out while with his wife on a visit to the Yorkshire coastal village of Sandsend, near Whitby.
Jenny explained: “He had a heart problem and that finished his playing days there.”
But, incredibly, he made a comeback and went on to play into his early 40s for Collingham – a local village team.
However, he was serving on Harrogate’s committee and later became the groundsman.
And there is a great tale from December 2012 ahead of a crunch FA Cup second-round match with Hastings United.
The club were struggling with a newly-laid pitch because Harrogate got 340 per cent more rain that winter compared to the previous year – and had five home games called off in a row.
Ten minutes before what was then Town’s biggest match in their history, the referee threatened to postpone the match unless there was more sand treatment to the pitch.
Jim had been given the day off to enjoy the occasion with his grandson Alfie but, as soon as he heard, he rushed out of the stand and, along with the under-17 squad that he had taught how to replace turf and repair diverts, got to work.
And they got the pitch playable with one minute spare.
Jim’s grand-daughter Olivia, 17, has also proudly represented the club in the girls’ section.
Despite having dementia, Jim still was able to talk to me about his love of the club that is playing in the EFL for the first time in their history.
He said: “I’m delighted and proud we’re in the Football League and playing well too.
“Going way back to when I was playing in the old Yorkshire League, I wanted the club to go further and they certainly have done that.
“When fans are allowed back, we will have a big crowd for the first game there for sure.
“The club will always have a special place in my heart.”
And Harrogate will always have a special place in their hearts for Jim Hague too.
Elliott has a cheek claiming he owns Charlton
WHAT a cheek of Paul Elliott to demand Thomas Sandgaard leaves Charlton Athletic – claiming he does not own the club.
Elliott – along with lawyer sidekick Chris Farnell – are hated by the vast majority of the Addicks’ fan-base.
I ran a poll on my Twitter page the other day and asked supporters what they would do if these two gentlemen somehow regained control – and 75 per cent said they would "boycott all matches".
Both of them enjoyed driving around in flashy £90,000 Range Rovers at Charlton’s expense while the club was on its knees. Meanwhile, former chairman Matt Southall lorded it up in a £12,500-a-month luxury Thames riverside apartment on club funds.
In fact, when Sandgaard took over they were days from going into administration.
East Street Investments – the previous owners – took almost £1million out of the club on a fleet of cars for their executives. Meanwhile former chairman Matt Southall enjoyed a luxury £12,000-a-month Thames-riverside apartment, paid for by the club.
It is clear to any reasonable person that the aim of Elliott and Farnell serving “sealed court orders” to Sandgaard’s legal team is to try to scare him into paying more money to them.
Sandgaard, who says he is paying £1m a month at the moment to fund the club without fans, in the coming weeks wants to lobby the EFL in a bid to rid the game of dodgy owners.
And, if they are not able to achieve that, then he will start a parliamentary petition with the aim of the government bringing in legislation.
We should not allow another club to suffer the same fate as Bury.
If football cannot self-regulate itself effectively, then the government most certainly can do it for them.
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