Brian Hall, one of the most respected figures in non-league football has lost his fight
against cancer that he has been suffering from for the past few years. Brian, best known for
his exploits with Wealdstone and Yeovil Town, died on April 27th 1999.
Brian Hall was born in Ealing, Middlsex on 13th January 1940 and was first hooked on
football when he started watching Brentford from the age of nine. He had a brief playing career
for Metropolitan Police and Dunstable Town but moved into coaching in 1973 where, having
obtained his full coaching certificate, he joined Walton & Hersham as their coach.
Shortly afterwards, Brian made the move that would establish his career. He joined a Southern
League Wimbledon as coach and assistant manager, with Alan Batsford and laid down the foundations
that would take Wimbledon into the football league.
Moving on to Slough and then Wycombe Wanderers, Hall eventually teamed up with Alan Batsford
again in 1980, and became Wealdstone manager in 1983. A year and a half later, Wealdstone were
crowned both Gola League (now Nationwide Conference) winners and FA Trophy winners.
He was appointed manager of Yeovil Town in January 1987 as a replacement to Gerry Gow. His
appointment was historical for Yeovil as it was the first in a long line of London and Home
Counties based managerial appointments. In doing so he also brought a string of London based
players down to Yeovil, many of them ex-members of the Wealdstone double winning side, including
Bob Iles, Steve Rutter, Steve Tapley, Neil Cordice, Gary Donnellan and Andy Wallace.
In his first full season Brian Hall put Yeovil back on the map. Not only did they do an
Isthmian league double in winning the Vauxhall-Opel Championship and the AC Delco Cup, he
took Yeovil to the Third Round of the FA Cup
knocking out Cambridge United along the way, giving Yeovil their first league scalp
since the early 1970's,
and eventually bowing out to top division side
Queens Park Rangers in front of a full house.
In the Vauxhall Conference, Hall managed Yeovil a creditable ninth in their first season,
then followed it up in the 1989/90 season with a seventh and clinched the Bob Lord Trophy. At
the end of the second season, Yeovil moved out of the town centre to Huish Park and it seemed
that with ambitions sky-high, Hall was the man to get Yeovil into the Football League.
On October 12th 1990, news came like a bolt from the blue that the chairman Gerry Lock had
sacked Brian Hall. No reason was given, although it later transpired that it was a row relating
to players bonuses, where Hall had stood firm and said that he wanted the right to manage his
own budget. Brian Hall was out of Yeovil, a shocked man, as his team the next day, using the
side he picked on that Friday, climbed up to fourth in the table. Yet with Hall gone, they
were to begin a rapid plummet down the table under his successor Clive Whitehead, which was
only arrested when one of Hall's proteges Steve Rutter, took over the helm.
Hall went back to Wealdstone, but was to return for a second spell in 1994, when Rutter
stepped down, yet it was to be a disasterous return. For Yeovil were in the middle of financial
turmoil and Hall was given
no money to work with. So all he could rely on for favours were the now aging players from his
first phase, many of whom had jumped ship in protest when Hall had left the first time round.
Hall saved Yeovil from relegation in his first season after a hard struggle, but the next season
was to be his last.
By this time, Hall's uncompromising long-ball football was not to impress the increasingly
critical Yeovil fans, who despite Yeovil's financial crisis, blamed Hall for Yeovil's rapid
decline. The low-point of the season, a 3-2 FA Cup exit to Walton & Hersham, was a major
shock to a cup fighting town that assumed an FA Cup run was their divine right. Hall was
verbally abused by Yeovil fans as he came out of the car park, and it was clear that the
writing was on the wall. When the
league form went on the slide during that autumn, the demonstrations for his resignation were
regular and by the second week in January, 1995, Hall was without a job
once again, and was not to return. Despite the financial constraints he had to work with, Hall
left Yeovil a broken man, admitting to the press that he felt he had failed the club.
Peversely, for someone with such a creditable track record, Hall's popularity with the fans
at Yeovil never really peaked as it should have. His long ball style was never pretty and he
once had a dig at his critics asking them if they would prefer a 5-4 defeat to a 1-0 win. As
far as he was concerned, his tactics were to win at all costs, and so when that didn't happen,
the fans felt cheated. So whilst Hall's sides were winning, the fans were happy. Yet during the
bad times he and the players regarded as "Hall's men" came under fire.
Most of his critical acclaim came from his excellent tactics, and his gift for finding talented
players at cheap prices. He coached Dave Beasant and Alan Cork at Wimbledon, then produced
Vinnie Jones and Stuart Pearce whilst at Wealdstone. At Yeovil there was Mark Shail and Guy
Whittingham. He also inspired extreme loyalty from his players to the extent that many of
Yeovil's most long serving players come from the Brian Hall era.
When Brian was diagnosed as having cancer, he still continued to work, and was believed to
have done scouting work for teams such as Wycombe, Reading and Brentford. Even into his last
year he was still visiting football grounds and non-league functions. It was not his style to
sit and waste his final few years, despite the cancer being eventually confirmed as terminal.
I last saw Brian Hall about a year ago. Despite me not having seen him for a while, without
prompting I was amazed when his first words to me were "How are Yeovil doing ?". Despite his
double-sacking, he hadn't lost his love of the club, and said he was delighted when he saw
that Yeovil had returned to the Conference. He said his biggest regret was not being allowed to
finish the job off first time and that it was only that feeling of having not been given the
opportunity that brought him back. It certainly made me wonder what might have happened if he
had been given a fair roll of the dice.