Senior Sports Reporter
MICK POOLE, the man who helped the Warriors write their first major international success story, has died.
He was 85.
The coach died in England at the weekend and has been described as a passionate professional whose impact touched many of the country’s great players.
The former Warriors, Dynamos and Arcadia coach had been unwell for some time.
Poole is best remembered as the first coach to lead the Warriors to their first major silverware when the country won the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup in 1985.
He is also credited as the man who coined the team’s nickname, the Warriors.
Poole belonged to the group of post-independence football minds, who included John Rugg, Shepherd Murape, Ashton Nyazika, Paul Moyo, Obadiah Sarupinda, Lawrence Phiri, Peter Nyama, Shaw Handriade, Gibson Homela, Roy Bareto and Tendai Chieza.
He was the assistant coach to Rugg, together with Murape in the first Warriors side that beat Zambia 2-1 in the inaugural Independence Cup final at Rufaro in 1980.
He later took over the reins and won the CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup.
Legendary coach Sunday Chidzambwa described the late Poole as a “great disciplinarian” who at times was “short tempered”.
“It’s sad to hear about his death. But, from what I remember about him, he was a great disciplinarian, sometimes short-tempered. He didn’t tolerate nonsense,” said Chidzambwa.
“He was someone who would slap you, if you reported late for training.
“During training, or when things heated up during a match, he would kick buckets or go and drench himself in the shower.
“He wanted to see the game flowing. He had such unmatchable passion.’’
Chidzambwa played under Poole in the early days of independence and was also one of his four assistants in the mid-80s.
Poole assumed the title of team manager while Chidzambwa, Peter Nyama, Freddy Mkwesha and Ashton Nyazika were the coaches.
“Winning the CECAFA Challenge Cup was crucial because we were still new, after being readmitted by FIFA,” said Chidzambwa.
“So, it made us realise that it was possible to win trophies. I remember during the first days, the likes of Zambia and Malawi made a meal out of us, most of the times we met.
“But, as time went on, we became very competitive.”
Charlie White, the former Arcadia United star, said Poole was one of the finest coaches to emerge out of this country.
“He was 85 years of age, he wasn’t well, I cannot really tell what the issue was,’’ said White.
“He played as a goalkeeper for Triangle long ago before he moved to the Police team.
“He was very good friends with Alan Davie. He also played for the University of Zimbabwe in the Mashonaland League.
“That was a very competitive league.’’
Poole also had a stint as the first coach of the Zimbabwe Under-20 side, in 1980.
Charlie Jones, who was fresh from school when he was drafted by Poole to join the Young Warriors, said the veteran coach had a lot of passion, for junior players.
“I remember, we camped at Inkomo Barracks and it did not take long to notice first hand that the passion this man had, for the game, was unreal.
“Discipline was his hallmark.
“But, he was also a hands-on coach, who would call you aside to hear if everything was okay with you, if he noticed that something was wrong.
“He was very strict but, at the same time, had a tender heart, especially for the young players.
“He took time to know players on and off the pitch. He did a lot especially for the junior players at the time,” said Jones.
Jones later worked with him at Arcadia and they won the Chibuku Super Cup in 1983. Arcadia beat Highlanders 1-0 in the final courtesy of a goal by Mike Abrahams.
Poole assembled a formidable outfit led by Reg Payne.
They also had talented players like Nat Bismarck, Graham Boyle, Bethal Salis, Mike Mhlanga, Hedley Layton, Charlie White, Joey Antipas, Charlie Jones, Majid and Hamid Dhana, David Zulu, Abrahams, Anthony Kambani, Derrick Petrie, Carlos Max and Ernest Mutano.
“I am gutted with the news of his death,” said Antipas.
“Poole was like a father to many of us. I just wish the family, especially the wife Irene, to keep strong during this time.
“He was a humorous man.
“However, he had his moments when he turned really aggressive. It was difficult to take but the aggression helped us in the end.
“He arrived at the club, I think around 1982, and Arcadia was struggling at that time.
“He turned things around and we won Chibuku Trophy (1983) and then finished as runners-up to Black Rhinos in the league race (1984).
“We also played finals of the BAT Rosebowl and the Rothmans Shield,” said Antipas.
Shaun Charters, who was one of the young players in the team, said he was the big difference, when he arrived at Arcadia.
“I think Poole’s influence on Arcadia should not be understated. He came at a time when discipline was a problem and he got everyone into line.
“He would follow you home and give you his piece of mind.
‘’Those days, we used to train in the evenings, and if training started at 6pm, and you are 10 minutes late, you could get a slap for that.
“He was passionate about the game. Every time the team scored a goal, he would leave the bench and take a small walk back to the change rooms, probably to cool down.
“When he was angry during a match, he would throw away things on the bench. Those days players had oranges at half-time and those oranges were kept on the technical bench.
“But, if the game was not flowing as he wanted, he would throw them to the young fans who sat on the terraces behind the bench.’’