Switch of Play


At the start of the C19 Crisis I thought HUFC got off to a good start in my books when Mark Maguire announced almost statesman-like that the club would keep in touch on-line with the fanbase and provide regular updates as to what is happening at the club and how HUFC would be reaching out to the town's wider community during the lockdown. "A great piece of publicity and marketing" I thought -- or so I thought.

A few weeks later Maguire had gone along with many others within the backroom staff including Mark Simpson the club's media manager. I don't know Mark, and have only ever spoken to him on one occasion and found him to be very helpful and more importantly he always seems to have a smile on his face. I would say that he would be the equivalent of a Brian Honour or a Ritchie Humphreys in the backroom such is the service and the loyalty he has given to the club. He must have been devastated when he was told his services and talents were no longer required. Not the best move by the club.

As a consequence of Mark Simpson's departure there is little or nothing of note on the club website which now gets updated sporadically. Pools' loss is Barrow's gain. Unless Jeff Stelling takes over his role he is going to be a hard act to follow.

Shortly after his departure from the club Mark Simpson turns up, along with Micky Barron, doing on-line Zoom interviews called Switch of Play, featuring ex-Pools players and officials talking about their times with Pools and what they are doing nowadays.

This has turned out to be the highlight of the lockdown. It is a pity Mark was let go as this would have done wonders for Pools if broadcast on Pools' own web site by keeping in touch and in tune with the fanbase.

To date, well over a dozen ex-players have been interviewed, including a shattered-looking Joel Porter live from Australia who, because of the time difference, had especially got up at four in the morning to share tales about Pools, Seaton and Chicago Rock. Others who have featured are Ritchie, Chris Turner, Tommy Widdrington, Hendo, Dimi, Steve Fletcher and a host of others.
"It was heartbreaking, truly heartbreaking, listening to Ken Hodcroft explaining why Neale Cooper was asked to leave the club."

Lots of stories, some hilariously funny, and tales of better days at the club. Tinks, along with Darrell Clarke, seemed to be the mischief-makers in general within the club during the glory years. Needless to say, because they both have responsible jobs within football, they have calmed down somewhat to set an example to others, but I dare say beneath the surface... Piece of advice: Don't let Tinks near your toaster as Ritchie found to his chagrin when Mark  put Weetabix or Hob Nobs or something similar into it.

Surprisingly, for my money, the best interview of all was Ken Hodcroft's with Chris Turner's not far behind, who both gave a great insight into the club. It was heartbreaking, truly heartbreaking, listening to Ken Hodcroft explaining why Neale Cooper was asked to leave the club.

Looking back, those people who wanted IOR out of the club must now be choking on their words. Yes, at times they were a strange bunch and some of their best communication was a screen of silence. In truth we never had it so good as under their tenure. Ultimately the massive drop in oil prices compelled IOR to reluctantly sell HUFC as they could no longer sustain the club.

Chris Turner said his biggest regret during the IOR years was not investing in Danny Graham or Grant Holt. Could you imagine having one or both of those two up front? It would have been automatic promotion for Pools without the heartbreak of the playoffs.

The one thing that stood out which was universal with all the players interviewed bar none was that whenever the name Neale Cooper was mentioned a big smile appeared on their faces. It is the same with me. One could only imagine if he was still with us, the stories he could relate as well as the uncontrolled laughter those tales would provide to both listener and teller!

If you have not watched this series I would urge you to do so. You are in for a treat.

[The Switch of Play series can be found on YouTube]

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