Observer Comment: A bitter pill to swallow

THE announcement that Hastings has failed to attract an additional £7 million to help create up to 700 new jobs has understandably left the council and business leaders sorely disappointed.

What makes this all the more bitter a pill to swallow is that it is not the first time the town has been let down.

Last year a similar bid was unsuccessful. And Hastings’ attempts to become an Enterprise Zone, an area enjoying reduced business rates and less red tape, was also thrown out by the Government.

The Priory Quarter business district and the arrival of Saga has been a major boost for the town.

And business leaders and regeneration enthusiasts thought the £7 million, if won, would have helped build on this success and the Environ21 business park off Queensway.

The north east of the country has done well in this latest round of Government hand-outs and indeed, this region does have areas with many people out of work.

But Hastings is the 19th most deprived town in England, blighted by high unemployment, and two of its neighbourhoods fall into some of the top one per cent poorest in the country.

There is a fear Hastings could be forgotten and lose out on further rounds of Government funding. It is up to MP Amber Rudd to make sure that never happens.

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IN a sport where cash is king, agents are more powerful than managers and players refuse to play again when substituted, it is always heart warming to hear tales from the generation who really made the game beautiful.

John Jones was one of those gentlemen players who belonged to the golden age of football.

Not even the death of his wife on the eve of one of the most important games of his life could stop John playing for his beloved Hastings United.

Up he stepped into the cauldron of a cup final, fighting his emotions to keep his nerve and hammer home the winner cheered on by his three daughters.

John was good enough to turn pro and enjoy a career in English football during the heady days of the 40s and 50s.

But he was too busy serving his country during the war to get the chance to play.

And it was that selfless, unfaltering devotion that epitomised the players of his generation.

Today’s players would be unable to comprehend how John not only drove the team bus to and from the games but also played, phoned through the match report and washed the kit.

John’s testimonial in 1956 raised a few hundred pounds in front of 2,000 fans at the Pilot Field - a pittance by modern standards.

But it was not about the money, fame or glory. It was about pulling on that claret and blue shirt, wearing your heart on your sleeve and being proud of turning out for your home town club. A true United legend.