The Wind-up Wind Up

(Note: One of the above is pronounced 'Wind' and the other 'Wind')

BILLY'S CONTRACT attends a meeting

Last month myself and my two pals attended the fans' forum with Gary Coxall and David Jones. I got my tickets a couple of hours after they went on sale and I heard they had sold out shortly after lunch.

The compere on the night was Nick Loughlin from The Northern Echo 'echo echo echo' who began the evening with a series of questions for both manager and chairman. 'Why did you take the Job as Hartlepool manager?' 'I was drunk' said Dave Jones. 'What made you choose Dave Jones to be Pools' new manager?' 'He was drunk.' replied Mr Coxall.

Whilst this Q and A session was in progress, fans had the opportunity to put their own questions to the pair by filling in a card with their own question and were assured that all questions would be answered. The main questions from the floor concerned the financial state of Hartlepool United, as well as the numerous winding up orders which seemed to be dropping through the club's letterbox on an almost daily basis.

Mr Coxall said that winding-up orders are no different than a final red letter reminder from say the utilities companies regarding an outstanding bill that is overdue for payment. He then went on to say that football clubs were very easy targets for HMRC and that as a matter of course he deliberately makes them wait a few additional days before authorising payment for the monies owing. Having worked in the business sector myself this is all very well and good, no one likes anything better than to cock a snook at the taxman or suppliers and make them wait a little bit longer for their money.

The drawback with this method of payment is that it could affect the company's credit rating and ability to do business with other providers. For instance if Pools were looking to trade with a new supplier it would be normal business practice, before opening an account, for the prospective new supplier to have Pools' credit worthiness checked beforehand with either a credit rating agency or with suppliers who currently trade with them and who will provide trade references.
Based on the information provided, the supplier would then decide whether they would or would not want to do business with Pools (or whoever). The companies I worked for would not touch any prospective new customer wishing to open an account with us if they were noted as slow payers, had court appearances or worse still had winding up orders against their name. In fact the last company I worked for would only deal with Pools on a pro-forma cash up front basis, due to their poor credit history which went back years.

All in all I thought the chairman's explanation regarding deliberate late payment to HMRC came across to many including myself as very unprofessional on his part. Long-term the chairman is looking at purchasing the ground and that JPGN unlike IOR have re-established lines of communication with Hartlepool Borough Council and they are now talking to each other in a grown-up manner. Although discussions are in their early stages Mr Coxall because of confidentiality agreements was not in a position to go into detail about what has been discussed, other than it is a long term project which will hopefully benefit the town as well as the football club. He did add that not every fan might be pleased at some aspects of the future plans.

Interestingly Mr. Coxall said that he wanted the club not to be purely reliant on revenues taken at the turnstiles every two weeks and was looking at other external income streams. To that end Mr Coxall then introduced to the assembled, the club's recently-appointed financial director (apologies, I never made a note of her name) whom the chairman personally had 'head hunted', in order to look at ways of generating additional sources of revenue. He added that in the short time she had been with Pools she has already been talking to various organisations regarding sponsorship and the like and not just from the Hartlepool area.
"knowing the way HBC works they would probably want an ice rink or a crazy golf course on the pitch on non-match days"

As we all know, ground sponsors Northern Gas and Power are from Gateshead which is, it has got to be said, a bit of a coup. Like many Hartlepool chairmen before him he is looking, quite rightly, at making better use out of the 'Vic other than on match days. My first thought, after his earlier statement about not everybody buying into HUFC/HBC future plans was 'please no, not an artificial pitch, please, please no, no!' Mind, knowing the way HBC works they would probably want an ice rink or a crazy golf course on the pitch on non-match days.
One passionate fan with (pun coming up) 'A high level of interest' regarding the recent loans and their terms that the club had negotiated went head to head with the chairman telling him that the club were paying top dollar for these loans and more or less suggested that the loan sharks in question made Wonga look like a charitable organisation and as such it would take light years to repay these loans.

Gary Coxall, politely, blew the lad's argument out of the water when he asked him if he could let everyone in the room know terms had actually been agreed. The lad said you know what the terms are. Mr Coxall more or less implied that considering that the fan was not present when the loan was arranged he seemd to be well up on the terms that were signed off. Sadly for the fan in question it was a classic case of not being in possession of the facts and taking the rumour mill stories as being fact. Mr Coxall said that the club had got a competitive rate from the lenders and unlike dealing with the Big Four banks the deal was completed within days and not weeks. When asked what securities/assets the loan was held against. Mr Coxall stated it was his own assets and not the club's. This was greeted with universal applause. At the end of the evening I noticed that Mr Coxall went over to the lad who took issue with him and shook his hand and chatted with him briefly.

Another questioner noted that the younger fan base on the terrace seems to be in decline and suggested in order to get the numbers back up a 'Kids for a Quid' offer could be put in place. Once in the ground they will spend their pennies on Burgers, Chips, Pop kets and maybe in the process get hooked on Pools.

Mr. Coxall to his credit held his hands up and said this is something he should have addressed before now and will certainly look at introducing some such schemes. I noticed for the forthcoming games against Crewe and Exeter, Pools are doing this on a 'BOGOF ticket offer', so maybe the chairman has listened, which is a step in the right direction.

Dave Jones gave his his views on the team and its current plight, and the reason that he has brought in his own trusted back room staff all whom have worked with him previously and know what Jones requires. He alluded to the squad's fitness levels, their mental strength as well as the tendency being for heads to drop and 'Here we go again' once they have conceded a goal. In the plus column he was actually very surprised at the technical ability of many of the players in the squad. Dave Jones also made the point that whilst we will never compete with the likes of Sunderland or Newcastle for attracting local talented youngsters to Hartlepool United, the Scouting system needs overhauling and restructuring along with other aspects of the club.

One of his first jobs at the club was to relocate the training facilities at Houghall, sooner than the originally planned pre-season move, to another area of the campus where the players could enjoy more privacy and have their own canteen facilities and not mix with the students. (I heard from another source a few days later that the move was to stop the players eyeing up and fraternising with the local undergraduate talent and to keep their minds fully focussed on the job that they are paid to do.) To that end Dave Jones and the players all got stuck in and got their hands dirty and joined in with the decorating of the new site. (I can imagine, in years to come an art expert from Sotherbys or Fiona Bruce from Fake or Fortune closely inspecting the paintwork on the walls and screaming excitedly to the cameras 'Look, just look at those sweeping brush strokes side to side -  it's it's almost certainly a Featherstone).

One wag asked Dave Jones if he have any other clothing other than what he was wearing as every time he saw him on television or in the pages of the local press he was in a white T shirt with a black jumper over it. Jones in typical scouse mode was quick to point out that fashionwise it was streets ahead of what most of us in the room were wearing. He went on to say that since his appointment seven days earlier he had not been back home to Cardiff to see his wife and family let alone get a change of clothes. This was greeted with a deserved round of applause and was an early indication of his commitment to his new club. I felt like saying we do have a Primark in the town centre!

As it turned out not every question was answered as promised.  Our group had four questions, none of which were aired. (Why is every transfer fee put down as 'undisclosed' was one.) I think this was due to some lengthy answers that were given on the night as well as the number of questions that were submitted stacked high on the table beside the compere. A case of Tempus fugit I guess.

Making our way back home my mates and I discussed the evening's events.
Whilst we all agreed that Dave Jones seemed to be the right man for the managers job the jury was split over Gary Coxall. I said prior to the 'talk in'. that like all previous fans' forums I have attended, the chairman will say all the things that the fans want to hear, which indeed he did. Myself I would like to believe and buy into his vision but that said I am the type of person who believes that (Warning: pun coming up shortly) even Vlad the Impaler had his 'good points' (Sorry about that!)

One of my mates who was not wholly convinced voiced his concerns particularly about the chairman's flippant attitude to his dealings with HMRC. Time will tell. Time will tell.