Mind the Gap


JANE AUSTEN'S ALLEGRO



Going back to the year 2012, when Pools were ploughing their furrow in League One, our Durham rivals, Darlington,  had entered into administration and by consequence the football governing bodies deemed that they should be demoted from the Football Conference to the wilderness of the Northern League and find themselves playing the likes of the all-conquering University of Northumbria.

So Pools fans were in a similar position to their Glasgow Celtic counterparts who also in the same year learnt that their own rivals Rangers had also been demoted to the Scottish Third Division, owing to financial irregularities. Oh, but how we both laughed and laughed. I'll be honest, I did have a small gloat (Oo, err missus), which soon passed, as my mind cast back to my college days and Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice with reference to The Wheel of Fortune. Which, cutting to the chase, states that what goes round comes round and what was once on the top of the wheel will one day rotate to be bottom and vice versa. Manchester United being a very good example of this theory.

Basically the motto roughly translated from Latin to Hartlepudlian would read as 'My/their/our day will come.' The laughing soon stopped as we have not had a local derby match to look forward to for the best part of 15 years.

Although they met several times in the Scottish cups I am sure that Celtic fans would have welcomed their hated rivals back with open arms, just to play them every few weeks in the league on a regular basis, not only for the craic/banter/rivalry but for the financial well being of both clubs.

A few years earlier, under the stewardship of a certain Mr. George Reynolds, Darlington were in the process of leaving Feethams as construction began on a their new stadium -  what the learned prophets correctly forecast would become known as The White Elephant Arena.

Mr. Reynolds also did his own prophesizing, telling the world that five years after the stadium's completion and the heskylators had been switched on, the Quakers would be playing Premiership football. The money seemed to be rolling in. The Darlo fans fell for it hook line and sinker, so much so that for a time Pools and their fans were looked upon as their poor country cousins and overnight we were being taunted with that well-worn London Underground safety warning ' Mind the Gap.' History, however, tells us that it was Darlington and their fans that did not mind the gap and down they went, big style, hitting the bottom of the ravine with a dull thud, much like the coyote in Road Runner. I stand to be corrected but I think Darlo were at one point seven tiers below Pools in the football league pyramid.
" down they went, big style, hitting the bottom of the ravine with a dull thud, much like the coyote in Road Runner"

The dust had hardly settled on Darlington's fall from grace when an enterprising Pools fan brought out a T shirt with the logo 'Mind the Gap' emblazoned on its front. Very witty. I was very nearly tempted to purchase one just to lord it over my Darlington workmates. In the end I declined as I thought that one day the boot might be firmly on the other foot. That season Pools got themselves relegated and Darlo got themselves promoted so the gap narrowed. The gap continued to narrow thanks to a further two successive promotions for Darlo while Pools assisted by getting themselves relegated twice in a four year period.

At the time of writing the gap has now narrowed significantly, down to the one league. Darlo are now only twenty-two places below Pools. Despite a slow start in the National League North this season - under Alun Armstrong,  a recent contender for the Pools manager's job - they have pulled themselves clear of the relegation zone and currently find themselves flirting with a play-off spot, so it would not be inconceivable that,  unless Pools gain promotion from the National League or Darlo implode, we could be playing our friends from down the A66 a lot sooner than we first thought.

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