By Eddie Chikamhi
When Moses Chunga was handed a golden chance for a breakthrough into English football, one of the people who were behind that move was Mick Poole.
The iconic gaffer, who died in England at the weekend at the age of 85, was a passionate fan of two-time European champions, Nottingham Forest.
And, in 1986, he used his links with the English club to arrange trials for Chunga, who was then a 21-year-old star of domestic football, to try his luck at the City Ground.
Forest were under the guidance of legendary coach, Brian Clough, who died in September 2004.
Chunga arrived at a Forest side who were one of Europe’s best clubs, having won their European Cup, six years earlier.
They beat German side Hamburg, who had thrashed Real Madrid 5-1 in the first leg of their semi-final, 1-0 in the final, in Madrid.
Arnold Raphael, the then Zimpapers London-based correspondent, was at the City Ground training sessions, when Chunga arrived for his trials, in December 1996.
He noted that the Dynamos forward impressed Clough, with his close ball control and sharp shooting in practice but, like his colleagues, incurred the great man’s wrath.
During one training session, Chunga came in for his share of criticism.
After choosing to chip over the goalkeeper, instead of passing to a colleague, the Zimbabwean’s joy at seeing the ball fly home from distance, was greeted with a roar of disapproval from the coach.
“Son”, stormed Clough, “don’t try to run before you can walk. When I say ‘PASS’, I mean just that — PASS.”
And, with that, went his chances of playing in England. Chunga has, however, since questioned that narrative.
“That’s the price you pay for being popular,’’ he told The Herald. “I have to live with it because I don’t know anyone who was closer to all that when it was happening and is from Zimbabwe.’’
Chunga eventually went to Belgium, signing for E Aalst, the club who also wanted the signature of another legend, Stanford ‘’Stix’’ Mutizwa.
Yesterday, Mutizwa, one of the finest players to emerge on the domestic scene, said Poole’s death was another major loss for local football.
He was part of the Warriors who toured England, and played Coventry City, in a friendly game, as part of a reciprocal agreement.
The English club had toured this country in May 1983, and then hosted the Warriors in Coventry in August, that same year.
The Warriors, captained by Sunday “Mhofu’’ Chidzambwa, also ended up playing a series of games, against English clubs like Carlisle United, Sheffield Wednesday, Notts County and Plymouth.
“I think Mick Poole was in a league of his own, in terms of how he conducted business,’’ said Mutizwa.
‘‘His death has reminded some of us of the great days we had with the national team.
“One of the most memorable ones was the tour we took to England.
‘‘We ended up playing a series of friendly games. It was very necessary to get the exposure.”
That Zimbabwe team featured the likes of Chidzambwa, Mutizwa, Japhet M’parutsa, James Takavada, Oliver Kateya, Misheck Chidzambwa, Ephert Lungu, David Mwanza, Stanley “Sinyo” Ndunduma, Hamid Dhana and David “Yogi” Mandigora.
Friday Phiri, Joseph Zulu, Edward Katsvere and Raphael Phiri were on the bench.
They faced the Sky Blues whose line-up had Perry Suckling, Peter Hormantschuk, Brian Roberts, Martin Singleton, Ian Butterworth, Steve Jacobs, Dave Bennett, Gerry Daly, Charlie George, Terry Gibson and Keith Thompson.
Zimbabwe gave Coventry City a good run for their money before going down 0-2.
It was a difficult period, for Coventry City’s then new manager, Bobby Gould, who had been given the task of assembling a competitive side.
Seven first-team players, including Mark Hateley, Danny Thomas and Gary Gillespie, had rejected new contracts, and left the club.
Gould gave trials to several players, in that friendly against the Warriors, with around 3 000 fans in attendance, at Highfield Road.
Arsenal legend, Charlie George, scored one of the goals in his final appearance, in a football match. The visitors went on to lose the next match 0-1 to Carlisle United, who scored five minutes after the breather, through their top scorer from the previous season, Alan Shoulder.
Despite the defeat, The Evening News Star correspondent, Ovor Broadis picked a lot of positives, from the Warriors.
He was full of praise for goalkeeper M’parutsa, defenders Sunday Chidzambwa and John Phiri.
“I thought all (Carlisle) United’s new men on view looked useful… and, of course, the occasion was as ‘new’ for the home side as it was for the Zimbabwe team.
“The silky M’tizwa, David Mwanza, the hardworking number seven and defender Phiri, wouldn’t be lost in English footbal,” wrote Broadis.
The Warriors, under Poole, managed to come back with one draw from the tour.
ZIFA yesterday paid tribute to the former coach.
The association’s spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, said his legacy was secured.
“The Zimbabwe Football Association conveys its heartfelt condolences to the Poole family, following the passing of former Warriors coach, Mick Poole.
“He was a dedicated and passionate coach during his time with the senior men team, in the early years, after Zimbabwe’s independence.
“He continued with the same work ethic, working with the Under-20 team and at club level, with Arcadia United.
‘‘His role as one of the pioneers was critical in shaping the path that our game took from the early days.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the deceased in this difficult moment of grief.
‘‘Mick’s legacy is in the many current football stakeholders who were touched by his commitment to the game when they worked with him.
‘‘His legacy remains immortal, permeating through generations,” said Gwesela. The Herald