End Game

JANE AUSTEN'S ALLEGRO looks at where it all went wrong

In terms of excitement and emotions, the last home game of the season against Doncaster was up there with the penalty shoot-out play-off semi final against Tranmere and the playoff final itself against Sheff Wed in 2005. That last 90 minutes of league football was one of the most exciting, emotional, scary roller-coaster rides I have ever been on and ultimately the most disappointing.

At this point I unreservedly offer my sincere congratulations to Newport County on what is a remarkable turn around for them when we all took it as written that they were dead and buried and eleven points behind Pools, yet still managed to retain their league status. If ever a team deserved to have Never Say Die emblazoned on their shirts it is Newport County. After the final whistle I was utterly drained emotionally and mentally but I did not take relegation to heart as some other fans did. Why?

Let's be brutally honest, it has been on the cards since our last three seasons in League One. The more cynical among us will say it has been on and off the cards for over forty years but Pools have always ridden their luck. I have been following Pools since 1968 and without checking I would reckon we have been involved in the best part of twenty-plus relegation/re-election battles in that period.

At whose door do supporters lay the blame? Probably a whole street full of them.


In their favour, it has to be said that without Uncle Ken, there probably would not be a Hartlepool United. That said, when in League One they seemed to lose interest in all things Hartlepool United and became non communicative in the process. The only time we ever head from Mr Hovercraft was when he was having a jibe at the Borough Council. It would appear that very little investment was made by IOR in the playing side and this was reflected in the quality of players we were signing, which contributed to our downward slide.

I was delighted when I heard that on the day of the 100th anniversary of the German Bombardment of Hartlepool, that TMH (The Monkey Hangers) would be taking over. That didn't last long as Uncle Ken stepped in and put the kibosh on what may have been a shady organisation.

I was equally delighted six months later when JPNG took over the club. Gary Coxall said all the right things and everything seemed to be rosy. What we did not know at the time was that Gary Coxall appeared to have one eye on a possible construction development adjacent to Victoria Park and a blind eye to the football club.

It was not long before the shelling started again but this time it was the chairman getting flak and rightly so. Three winding up orders which Coxall described as final reminders and a very large loan ...what for, nobody knows. To their credit this would not have happened on IOR's watch. Coxall fell on his sword but still owns 50% of the club. No doubt he is looking to cut and run.


We had rookie manager in Colin Cooper, nice chap, but clearly out of his depth particularly with the Luke James saga. It was only the appointment of seasoned campaigner Ronnie Moore and his mercurial efforts and shrewd loan signings that Pools avoided dropping out of the league.
"When things on the field did not go their way they collectively dropped their heads and accepted defeat as a matter of course"

The following season Ronnie was dismissed as results were not forthcoming. Moore was replaced by another rookie manager when fans' choice Craig Hignett was brought in. Again nice chap, but his pre-season and loan signings left a lot to be desired. Hignett's downfall was that he did not have a plan B.

When David Jones took over the reins I thought, looking at his CV, that this was a bit of a coup and that he was the man for the job. This was reinforced when I attended the Dave Jones fans forum and he more or less stated that the club needs restructuring from top to bottom and slated the scouting policy. He also told the tale of how, after watching his first training session he asked if any of the players were going to do some work in the gym and only one answered in the affirmative, whilst the rest went home.

Jones told a few home truths and suggested that all was not well within the club and he was the man to rectify and improve things. On numerous occasions he kept referring to his plan and that every club he had left, he left in a better state than when he first joined. Although I found it hard to warm to Jones himself it sounded as if he meant business and was indeed the man for the job. Wrong!

Apart from alienating players and staff alike and constantly referring to his master plan which the results tell us wasn't working, it would seem that he did not have a plan A, let alone a plan B. David Jones is now credited as being one of the worst five managers in Pools' history. I could see very little difference, if any, between Jones' style of play and that of his predecessor. However, it has to be said that under Jones' tenure Pools were beaten on a regular basis as opposed to being thrashed on a regular basis as under Hignett.


Hartlepool had, after Chelsea, one of the biggest squads in the top 4 divisions. With probably four exceptions this has to be one of the worst squads in the club's history. In many areas it did not lack talent but it lacked bottle, leadership nous and experience, as well as direction. When things on the field did not go their way they collectively dropped their heads and accepted defeat as a matter of course without a whimper. In the military it would be described as a lack of moral fibre.

The midfield was an absolute joke. Looking at recent BBC stats four midfielders scored collectively eight goals and 6 assists. Lamentable. Amond and Alessandra scored the most goals and had almost three times more assists to their credit than our playmakers in the middle. I was sick of hearing players' interviews saying that they were not looking over their shoulders, behind them or in the rear view mirror and only looking forward. I recall the Tranmere manager spouting the exact same nonsense a couple of months prior to their own relegation the season Pools made their own great escape. The old chestnut kept being trundled out from both managers and players alike.

There is little to choose between teams in League Two and on their day anybody can beat anybody. The trouble was that all the other teams were doing the beating and Pools were the beaten. On the other hand Pools did not carry out their side of the bargain by beating many other teams. In the games against Newport and Orient Pools won one point out of a possible twelve. Losers.

We also had players who gave the impression that they did not want to be at the club: Nsiala, who apart from a suspension has been ever present in the Shrewsbury side since his transfer. Maybe he was not as bad as we first made him out to be. Josh Laurent made it clear to the management that he did not want to play for Pools as he feared that he might get injured ahead of a possible move to another club. Basically Jones implied the lad had been 'tapped'. A month later he had signed for Wigan. I am convinced that if Nathan Thomas had not sustained the injury when he did we would have survived with points to spare. Sadly when he came back from injury he was not the same player and looked disinterested. Could be a bad case of the Josh Laurents.

When the final whistle was blown against Doncaster, although emotionally drained, I was not distraught, upset or close to tears as others around me were. However thanks to the directors, managers and players I felt well and truly cheated for lack of effort.

Highlight of last season: Grimsby away, with fish and chips in Cleethorpes