Morton's past, present and future under Hawke's eye

Sunday 9th December 2012

It is certainly a case of the past, present and the future for Warren Hawke as far as Morton are concerned and he wanted to make sure that his first anniversary of being of Head of the club’s Youth Academy was marked by a review of the progress made.

Warren HawkeHawke was a fine goalscorer in a fine Morton team of the past, he was a proud father when his son scored for the present day Greenock side and Hawke is also now 12 months into shaping the Morton of the future.

Whilst Hawke is well known in Scotland for his exploits at the Tail o’ The Bank as well as at Berwick Rangers and Queen of the South, the date of 9th May, 1992 is also a reminder of the talents that the now 42-year-old possessed on the pitch.

That date was when The FA Cup Final between Sunderland and Liverpool was played on and Hawke, who was to play over 300 games in Scotland, featured in England’s showpiece Cup Final.

However, it was not to be a fairy tale for the Second Division underdogs who went down 2-0 to the Anfield side who had Graeme Souness in charge following a heart operation but it did see Hawke living out a 19-year-old dream.

Hawke said: “I was on Facebook recently chatting to one of my former Sunderland team-mates and he asked if I realised that The FA Cup Final was 20 years ago.  It was a real 'oh dear me' moment and it does not feel like that.

“The build-up to that game was amazing but I was not due to be playing until the day before the game.  Our full-back, John Kay, was battling an injury and he said it in front of the whole squad on the Friday that he was not going to make it.”

Who the SFL subsequently knew as a striker was a different type of player then with Hawke saying: “I was a bit of a utility player then where I would fill in the wide right or wide left side of midfield for Sunderland.  Dennis Smith had used me there when he was the Manager and then so did Malcolm Crosby who was the caretaker boss who took us to the Cup Final.”

That Cup Final almost had the twin effect of being a career high and a career low and it was nothing to do with the result as Hawke said: “My first memory in life was a party in my house when I was two and a half years old back in 1973.  It was my family and friends celebrating after coming back from Wembley where Sunderland defeated Leeds 1-0 to win The FA Cup with a goal from Ian Porterfield.  It was joy and elation and red and white everywhere.

“That party stuck with me and it made such an impression that all I ever wanted to do was play in a FA Cup Final.  I had done it at 21 years of age and to be honest, for a spell after that I was not the hardest working footballer.”

Hawke admitted: “For the next six months, I was the original big time Charlie and I enjoyed my nights out and did not give my career the attention it deserved.  18 months after playing in The FA Cup Final, I was at Berwick Rangers and even then, I was probably fortunate as I did not have the best of reputations.”

Warren Hawke in action for MortonThe Berwick spell brought Hawke’s career alive again as he said: “It turned into a great spell for me and it was a very enjoyable period of my footballing career.  I was enjoying playing football again and got my life back on track as well.”

It is hard to accept that the now Iron Man participant - who swims 1.2 miles, cycles 56 miles and runs 13.1 miles for fun - and PFA Scotland worker, was anything less than dedicated however, he said: “There were just so many learnings about life at that time from The FA Cup Final to playing at Shielfield.  The way I look at it is that if I did not go off the rails then I would not be doing what I am doing now.”

Hawke moved on to Cappielow in the summer of 1995 and was an instant hit in a spell that lasted for four and a half years as he said: “My close association with Morton was formed early and it remained during my two spells there as the fans there appreciated that I was always giving one hundred percent even if I was having a bad game.

“I made my debut in a Renfrewshire Cup Final against St. Mirren and scored in the first minute and the last minute in a 5-1 win.  You are unlikely to get fans on board better than that.”

It was a team of stars that season at Morton as they came agonisingly close to success with Hawke saying: “The 1995/96 season was a great one for Morton and we almost got promoted to the Premier Division. There was a three way fight between us, with Dunfermline being automatically promoted and Dundee United gaining promotion via the Play-Offs but our team from that time is a great template for Morton to look at now.

“There was Marko Rajamaki, Janni Lindberg, Peter Cormack and I and the rest of the lads had come through the youth programme at the club.  We had the likes of Derek McInnes and Brian Reid and that mixture of seven home grown and 4 brought in was a pretty potent one.”

The '7 and 4 mix' is something that the former striker wants to create again and there could also be a home grown Hawke involved this time, should the present day Greenock side build around the template that was so successful in the mid 1990s again.

Lewis Hawke in action for MortonHawke said: “Just over a year ago, my 19-year-old son Lewis was scouted by and signed for the club.  It was great having ties with the club again and that started me thinking about Youth Academies in Scotland.  I was on the outside looking in but my role at PFA Scotland gave me a good feel for what was best practice.

“I had picked up a lot of knowledge and from what I was seeing, I reckoned Morton were not making the most of the talent available in their catchment area.  I started sketching things out and one thing led to another and I am just coming up to my first anniversary of helping to run their Youth Academy.”

The knowledge Hawke has gained from his PFA Scotland days helped as he said: “I looked at other clubs and designed a youth set-up that looked to make the best of what was available.  There were Under-17 and Under-19 sides in place and they were doing okay but there was the potential to do more at younger ages such as 13 and 14 as well as below that.

“When you consider the local talent we had in 1995, there is no doubt a lot of it is there in Inverclyde.  We are the one senior club in a large populated area and we needed to make more of that.  Aberdeen, Kilmarnock, St. Mirren, Rangers and Celtic are all very active in Inverclyde but there is a lot of travelling involved in developing at these clubs.  Therefore, if we can get the development correct locally then both Morton and local players and their families can benefit.”

Whilst Hawke provided the design and deals with the business side of the Academy, Hawke’s former blue and white team-mate Derek Anderson is the Head of Youth on a day to day basis and between them, they work to the simple Mission Statement of providing ‘A Youth Academy that Inverclyde will be proud of’.

Derek Adams“Derek looks after the day to day coaching or should I say, the evening to evening coachings”, said Hawke.

The duo have built a strong staff at Morton with Hawke saying: “We have local coaches that are high quality and have a good reputation as well as being a mix of existing and former professionals.  Morton’s first team number 9, Peter Weatherson, takes the Under-15 side  and learning from a player that youngsters can see wearing the number 9 of Morton is a real thrill.  Derek Allan, who played with Southampton, Bournemouth, Queen of the South and Dumbarton, takes the Under-17 team.

“Sean Crichton, who is currently the centre half for Elgin City, is another coach and Ryan McWilliams, who is with Albion Rovers, works with our goalkeepers.”

The pedigree of the coaching staff does not lesson for Morton youngsters that make their way into the reserve side at the club with Hawke saying: “Some of our youngsters have been involved with the reserves and that side is managed by David Hopkin.  ‘Hoppy’ is another former team-mate of mine and, of course, as well as Morton, he played for Scotland as well as Chelsea and Crystal Palace in the Premiership.”

Greenock Morton Youth AcademyThe Academy has been going for a year and Hawke was asked how he would rate progress and he said: “If you had said we would be where we are now a year ago, I would have been delighted.  We are further advanced than I had hoped as we have a great coaching team, some great talent at the club and the buy in from the Chairman, Douglas Rae, and the Board.

“We have the support from the local area and a good reputation with local Boys Clubs which is really important as they talk to us about players at all age levels, which is conversations that never really went on before.”

Hawke continued: “The support from Douglas is crucial as well and thankfully, the Board are looking at things longer term as well.  During the past year, we have put together four squads with over 80 players involved and they are all kitted out in top class gear.  These players are working their way towards the reserve team and then first team full-time football at Morton.

Morton U17 Player, Sam Pollock“They have been treated well and have responded well with everything, for example kit wise, exactly the same as the first team squad.  They have Puma strips and training gear although we do have a different sponsor in Port Glasgow Care Homes.”

The future looks good with Hawke adding: “Now that we are up and running, I am looking forward to us having another 12 months of solid progress.”

Going back to the present, one player that Hawke will be keeping his eye on for progress is striking son Lewis who scored a vital winner in Allan Moore’s first team’s 1-0 win over Cowdenbeath recently.

Hawke was on match-day duties with the Press Association that day and he said: “I was obviously a proud father and I struggled to remain impartial in the Press Box.  Lewis had not long come on and scored the only goal of the game with only a short period of time left.

“He did score at the end of last season but that was a consolation goal and that was a very proud moment as well.  I was smiling for a good few days after both goals.”

It is not all about goalscoring for Hawke Junior with Hawke Senior saying: “He is a busy boy as he works, goes to college and trains with the first team as much as he can.  Scoring a goal like that was a good reward for him.”

IRN-BRU SFL

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