May 04, 2018

Happy Days Are Here Again


Happy Days Are Here Again

BILLY'S CONTRACT


We have had ten successive inglorious seasons with Pools and when you thought that this season could not surpass the previous ones and it could not get any worse, then it did. I thought that dropping into the National League last season capped it all but with all the events of this season Pools decided to top all previous catastrophic efforts by producing the daddy of them all ...with whopping big gold-plated knobs on and a candelabra to match.

Looking back, in the cold light of day, there was too much to take in ...and actually believe that it ever happened. Pools had a new manager who was clearly well out of his depth and a chairman who was clearly well and truly in debt. At the start of the season Pools, being a full time professional outfit, were being tipped among the favourites to gain automatic promotion, or at the very least attain promotion via the play-offs. Nothing could have been so wide of the mark as Pools spent most of the second half of the season not only missing a play-off spot by a long distance but spent most of the season avoiding relegation.

Pools were not only regularly beaten but were well beaten on numerous occasions by part timers a-plenty who, while lacking in skill, made it up with spirit and fight, as well as in conning refs. Just as we were getting over the embarrassing thrashing in the FA Cup at lowly Morecambe, a team who had previously not won in ten matches, Pools managed to surpass this lamentable performance by being knocked out of the FA Trophy by Workington FC, two divisions beneath the National League. As well as the team's pride it was also two money-spinning opportunities lost. Many of the players gave the impression of not caring or worst still putting in nil effort. Admittedly in some cases they might be wondering when their next pay day might arrive, but that should never stop them from pulling on the shirt and giving their best on a Saturday afternoon, if for no other reason than to alert and to impress other clubs with their talent should they be forced to look elsewhere for alternative employment.

The club then went into financial meltdown. The football strips were being held as ransom by the laundry company until the outstanding bills from many months previous had been paid. Then we heard that team had to take the train to London for one match owing to the coach company's refusal to do so because of outstanding unpaid invoices.

It was revealed that the club had a head of recruitment on its books who, it was rumoured, had been paid £100k per annum. I am guessing that he would have had trouble sleeping at night, having taken that wage based on some of the players he signed during the close season. After he had recruited all these players he must have had a lot of spare time on his hands.. Numerous prospective buyers came and swiftly went but most were put off as the incumbent, seemingly incompetent, directors appeared to be reluctant to open the books fully to scrutiny and investigation.Worse still, it appeared they were also reluctant to open up the many cupboard doors with various skeletons in them which not only appeared to be well and truly locked but even boarded up. None of this reflected well, particularly on Pam Duxbury, who is by trade an accountant and a chartered one at that.

"there is a lot of heartfelt feeling and a bit of love for little old Hartlepool United."

Bizarrely, off the field we had two groups of fans who both love the club but seemed to be at odds with each other's modus operandi. They both should have got together, forgotten their differences and shown a united front.

Several good things did emerge from this season's carnage, the main one being Rachel Cartwright's crowd-funding appeal which undoubtedbly saved the club from going into immediate administration. I am sure that many more people would have put their hands in their pockets and raised far more than they actually did if they had known for certain that the money raised would be going directly to the club and not into the owners'/directors' pockets. The way fans from all over the country and particularly those across the water in Teesside rallied behind Pools showed that there is a lot of heartfelt feeling and a bit of love for little old Hartlepool United. Danny Graham, the Blackburn centre forward showed that not all footballers are driven by greed and donated £2,500 to the cause because he knew how passionate people are in the North East about their football. Let's not forget all these people's efforts.

Hartlepool Borough Council's role was highly commendable as it was they who engaged with potetial buyers and on two occasions loaned money to the club to cover HUFC cash flow problems. The Council obviously knows how much value the club brings to the town both publicity-wise and economically. Jeff Stelling,  another true blue, behind the scenes was talking to prospective buyers  and invested a substantial part of his own money in the club.

The HUFC Trust itself also played a prominent role and has got stronger as the crisis progressed, prepared to work with any new owners and more importantly waiting in the wings if the whole thing collapsed. It will be interesting to see if Raj Singh will allow them to have any direct involvement with the club at board level or indeed at any other level at all.

Then along came Raj. It would be fair to say that many fans are sceptical about his motives in light of him putting Darlington FC into administration. Many Darlo fans are on record of saying it was one of the best periods in their club's history under his tenure as chairman, getting to Wembley and winning a trophy,  but in the end he was left with no other option to than put the club into administration.

Added to this is the long history this club has had with shysters and con men, so it is not unreasonable for many Hartlepool supporters to have their doubts about the new owners. For every Harold Hornsey there are a half a dozen Garry Gibsons, Gary Coxalls, Peter Harrises or Steve Murralls - the latter two currently rightly serving prison sentences for their fraudulent activities at Pools.

Raj Singh, first and foremost, has to convince the Poolie faithful that his intentions are indeed honourable and that he wants what is best for the club. The fact that Jeff Stelling is part of the consortium lends it immense credibility. Raj needs to quickly engage with the fans and get them on board or even on the board. It would make good sense to have a meet-the-owner question and answer session at the club as early as possible to get this new relationship off the ground and up and running.