The 1960s. A truly exciting time to be in Britain. After the post-war hardship and belt-tightening of the 1950s, the 60s were the decade of social change in Britain.
Contraception became available, fashion became more risque, hedonism, optimism and the feeling of being able to change the world was on the agenda for many youngsters. On the footballing side, England officially became the greatest team in the world in 1966.
George Best was thrilling crowds (and ladies) on and off the pitch, and Celtic's Lisbon Lions were the first British team to win the European Cup in 1967.
Meanwhile, in Nottingham, Notts County fans were witnessing the advent of one of the greatest, most underrated players ever to grace the British game.
Tony Hateley, born in Derby in 1941, joined up with Notts in his youth, and was given his chance as a fresh-faced 17 year old in the 1958/59 season, scoring on his debut in a 1-1 draw against Stockport County. In his other three appearances that season, he showed enough promise to make people start talking about the potential of this youngster, who was already being taken under the wing of Notts legend Tommy Lawton for heading coaching.
He didn't get much first team action in the 1959/60 season, Notts' first in the Fourth Division, thanks to striker Stan Newsham, an older, more established player who scored 23 goals in 34 league games. His first start came on March 19th 1960 against Torquay United, Newsham by that point having been sidelined through injury.
Back in the first team, the young Hateley proceeded to score eight goals in ten games as Notts County dragged themselves out of the bottom tier at the first time of asking.
1960/61 was the season when Tony Hateley finally broke through the ranks, finishing the season as top scorer with 27 goals as the Magpies finished a very respectable fifth. Big Tone missed just one game as he announced himself to the footballing world.
1961/62 saw Hateley just miss the 20-goal mark, hitting 19 league goals in another all-round decent season for the club. When he was on form, he was unstoppable, hitting several braces and hat-tricks to demolish whoever he was faced against.
His final season for Notts saw more of the same devastating play and goalscoring, as he netted a massive 22 goals all season.
The scouts, always keeping tabs on Hateley since he broke through, were convinced he had what it took to make it at the highest level, and the young star was snapped up by First Division Aston Villa.
Carrying over his spectacular form and talent to the West Midlands, Big Tone's three years at Villa were so prolific that he was named 22nd in a list of the Birmingham side's top 50 players, despite the team going through one of its darker periods at the wrong end of the table.
His debut goal, ironically against Nottingham Forest, was a prelude to a 17-goal tally for the 1963/64 season, which ensured Villa didn't fall into the relegation zone.
Things were only to get better for him, as 64/65 saw Big Tone smash 20 in the league and 14 in cup ties. He is one of only three players to score four goals in a League Cup game for Villa - doing so in the 7-1 home win over Bradford City in November 1964.
His next and final season for Villa saw him bag a phenomenal 27 goals, including four in a 5-5 draw against Tottenham. His record was on par with Jimmy Greaves and Geoff Hurst, who became England legends as the Three Lions won the trophy on home soil in the summer. Sadly, despite being included in Sir Alf Ramsey's plans, he suffered a serious injury which saw him require an emergency operation, and so his dream to be part of what was to be England's defining World Cup never did happen.
With his stock at its highest, the then Villa manager accepted an offer from Chelsea for the striker in October 1966, and thus, Hateley was on his way to London for a club record £100,000. Without his goals, Villa went down that very same season.
His time at Chelsea wasn't quite as illustrious as at Notts and Villa, given the difference in playing styles - quick passing and movement-based football was the ordre du jour at Stamford Bridge, which clashed with Hateley's requiring of crosses and long balls which made the most of his aerial abilities - and, after 33 appearances and nine goals, he was transferred to another great club, Liverpool. At Anfield, he rediscovered his goalscoring touch, netting an impressive 28 goals in all competitions, but again, there were concerns about his role in the team, used to a passing, fluid style, having to change their gameplay to one based on long balls to accomodate him.
The next few years saw him change clubs several times, going from Liverpool to Coventry, then to Birmingham, before coming back home to Meadow Lane where he started his career.
In an interview with the Lancashire Post in 2009, he declared that his spells at Notts were his "happiest time in football", and judging by the attendance at Meadow Lane for his first game back, the Notts fans were equally as happy to see him in black and white - wavering between just under 6000 and just over 10,000, the Northampton game on November 7th 1970 saw a massive 21,012 fans pack the ground for his second coming.
22 goals in 29 games, including hat-tricks against Peterborough United and Colchester United, ensured Notts stormed the Fourth Division, finishing nine points clear as the Magpies were once again dragged out of the bottom division under Big Tone's watch.
The following season, injuries disrupted Hateley's campaign, as his 28 league appearances reaped an uncharacteristic 9 goals, before the forward finished his career with spells at Oldham and the Boston Minutemen in the US.
After he retired, Hateley worked as Everton's lottery manager at Goodison Park before several years as a rep for Thwaites' Brewery. He also got the chance to, in his words, "relive his career" through his son Mark, who made a name for himself with, among others, Rangers, Monaco, and Milan, as well as playing for England, in the 80s and 90s.
The stats for Hateley Sr speak for themselves. At the time of his retirement, his combined transfer fees were a record in English football. He had played 434 league games over 16 seasons, and had scored 211 goals with 7 different clubs.
In the last few years, he has lived in Penwortham, a town near Preston, Lancashire, out of the spotlight.
On the 1st of February 2014, it was reported that Tony Hateley had passed away after a long illness. He was 72 years old.
Tony Hateley isn't just a Notts County legend, he is an English footballing legend, and to have merely had him on the books at Meadow Lane is an honour in itself, but for Big Tone himself to proudly declare that he had the best time of his career at Notts County, that is truly humbling.
Rest in peace Big Tone.