In Gary We Trust

BILLY'S CONTRACT on the Supporters' Trust's inaugural meeting at the Corner Flag

For anyone who missed the HUFC Supporters Trust meeting in the Corner Flag last week, and let's be honest, there were quite a few people who did miss it, as the attendance was disappointingly low, they indeed, missed a treat.

In addition to the presentation given by John McQue, ably supported by Phil Dunn, we were also entertained by two 'Turns' of the singing variety, a very dodgy raffle (only high ticket numbers won), and to end the evening an excellent Hartlepool United quiz, in particular the picture section, which caused a few heads to be scratched.

The unexpected star turn of the night was none other than Gary Coxall, the Pools chairman who especially travelled up by train from London earlier in the day to attend the meeting.

From here on I will paraphrase. Although he was there in an observational capacity, the Trust Chairman backed by the floor asked Mr Coxall if he would give an unscheduled question and answer session. To his credit he took to the stage for around half and hour and answered all questions thrown at him, including the ones about the proposed kidnapping of Russ Green.

To summarise, he said that JPNG would like to draw a line in the sand regarding IOR, and although Mr Coxall had to be careful what he said in case he invoked legally binding agreements regarding breaking of confidentiality clauses with the former owners, he would like this to be a new start for Hartlepool United and for us to forget what went on in the past, and consider JPNG as the new broom. He confirmed it was their intention to purchase the ground from the Council and that it would be formed into a limited company from which it could not or would not be sold on. (I am not sure how that works but we will see how this develops.)

Once the goal of ownership was achieved they could begin planning future development of the ground. A priority is to develop and promote the commercial side of the club as this is an area which he feels has great untapped potential, particularly with a view to working with long-term sponsor partnerships.

Ironically last season JPNG were in discussions with Russ Green and Ken Hodcroft with a view to becoming Pools' main sponsors, and eventually ended up purchasing the club, so they must have seen something which IOR did not, or did not have the will to further pursue.

Long term Gary Coxall is looking at Pools being a financially well run Championship club but this would not happen overnight. On the other hand, if, in the unlikely event of Pools say achieving Championship status within a couple of seasons he said that we would very quickly be back in League Two with the infrastructure and finances that are currently in place at the club.
"forget what went on in the past, and consider JPNG as the new broom"

Basically the 'good money' which filters down through the leagues is in the Premiership and the Championship and this could sustain a club like Hartlepool United. Currently League One and League Two clubs only get 12% and 8% respectively of the money that is available through the league tiers, so Pools took a massive hit when they were relegated two seasons back.

Mr Coxall also said that money will be available to Ronnie Moore in January and that, unlike IOR, he had no problems dealing with 'good' agents or paying the going rate for players who would improve the quality of the team. He confirmed that the T.V money for the recent televised game against Orient and the forthcoming game against Salford have been welcome, not only financially but in terms of attracting would-be sponsors, and putting Hartlepool United in the spotlight.

He desires to re-establish the relationship between club and supporters, and is very keen to work with the HUFC Supporters Trust. Both he and the Trust confirmed that as a priority they are already looking at working together with a view to improving the disabled enclosure of the Vic. He confirmed that, unlike the old regime, they have no designs on removing the supporters from the Corner Flag and acquiring the premises for HUFC.

One Corner Flag committee man pointed out that on this, Mr Coxall's first visit to The Flag, he had now been in the premises as many times as Ken Hodcroft.

His biggest achievement since joining the club, and that which has given him the most pride, is getting the public address system working in the Town End, so now everyone could hear the announcements. This, he said, had come at some considerable cost, even more than the resurfacing of the tarmac behind the Mill House Stand. He said forgetting the outlay on new speakers.("£10 from Ebay, or were they from a car boot sale?" - His words not mine.) Fans in the Town End never got to hear the winning numbers on the match day lottery, therefore nobody bothered to claim their winnings. Now that the Tannoy situation has been resolved this loss of income will have a significant impact on the funds they were going to give Ronnie Moore in January!

Mr Coxall was fulsome in his praise for Russ Green, who he said had taken a lot of undeserved flak in the past and that his best interests were those of Hartlepool United. He came across very well, tempering seriousness with humour in his 'Cockney' accent.

One fan asked him if he was a closet 'Happy Hammer', which he said was not the case but it was something that the local press had picked up on. Indeed in the Mail the following night Gary Coxall was described as a West Ham supporting Hartlepool fan.

Hopefully he is the genuine article and if his plans and ambitions are realized then with a fair breeze the Land of Milk and Honey is on the horizon. To be fair to the lad he also put his hand in his pocket and bought the winners of the quiz a round of drinks. He also told us that he pays on the gate when he is up to see Pools. Can you image Ken doing either of those two things?

All in all a very good night but it was tinged with sadness as I learned that Norman Watson, a stalwart of the Supporters Club, normally found on the pool table, or on match days checking membership cards and collecting cash on the door of The Corner Flag, had passed away earlier in the week. R.I.P.