Sky Blue Day


In 1976 a load of us Poolies (who didn't yet know we would become known as such) went in coaches, trains and cars to Manchester to see Pools play a Big Club, the one that then was 7th top of the First Division and currently leads the Premier League - Manchester City.

Billy's Contract was there and described the occasion in an article entitled Bussed which you can read in the Bizz archive for April 2020, so I won't repeat any of it other than that the result was a disappointing if predictably convincing defeat, in the days when sending out the reserves in cup matches was just not done.

So here's the match programme from that game which, while being of the larger format then coming into vogue, was still basically black-and-white with one colour, the club's sky blue being used for the page backgrounds and borders. It's also mostly a bit boring and old-fashioned for its time so we'll include only the covers and the text that refers to Pools. That now may come across as a bit patronising, but at the time we were just grateful to be featuring in their programme at all!

IT‘S exactly ten years, almost to the day, since Hartlepool played in the third round of the Cup, and it's 14 years since they last played a First Division club in the competition.

So no wonder the club's fans are treating today as a red letter day, the sort of game, whatever the result, they can tell their children about in years to come.

Glamour is not a word usually associated with Hartlepool, so when it comes along nobody can blame the club and their fans for really enjoying the occasion. And enjoyment is what it is all about to Hartlepool.

They journey to Maine Road confident they can spring a surprise—they have that opinion or it wouldn’t be worth making the journey—but whatever happens they know that their form in recent seasons has at least rid the club of the old Cinderella image.

Club officials hate to be reminded that they have applied for re-election to the League more often than any other club, and they have a right to. The last time they did that was five years ago, and a lot has happened since then.

They have put themselves on the map by providing soccer with Brian Clough as a manager. They gave him his first chance in management in 1966. They also started Len Ashurst on the road to success, which has currently taken him to Sheffield Wednesday, where he aims to provide the Owls with a team to go with their super stadium.

And they can also point to one or two ex-players who are doing well for themselves John McGovern, formerly of Derby and Leeds and now with Nottingham Forest; Bill Green, captain of Carlisle.

And now manager Ken Hale believes he has one or two players on his books destined to make it to the top.

Men to watch out for in a side which generally relies on team-work rather than individual personalities, include: Bobby Scaife, who was in the limelight last May by winning the mile race for young soccer pros before the West Ham v Fulham Cup Final at Wembley.

The power that won him that race tempted Pool to sign him from Middlesbrough for £2,000 in September. The other players who cost money are leading scorer Dave Smith (£2,000 from Cambridge United), and schemer Kevin Johnson (£3,000 from Workington).

The entire Pool team cost a mere £7,000 in transfer fees.

But Scaife and his colleagues prefer to forget City's £1 m superteam and remember one result from last season's F.A. Cup ...Burnley 0, Wimbledon 1. “If a non-League team can do it, so can we,” they say.

AT LAST Hartlepool manager Ken Hale has found a man in the First Division who agrees with his theory that there are numerous players in the lower reaches of the league who could do a good job at the top.

The First Division chief who has given that theory a national airing recently is Newcastle United‘s Gordon Lee who since his appointment at St. James’s Park during the summer, has signed players from lower divisions in an effort to put the Magpies on the map.

Hale's view is this: “We have two or three players on our staff who could more than hold their own in the First Division. They just need the breaks to take them there.

“People always sound surprised when a player is transferred fromthe Third or Fourth Division to a big club and has success, but it doesn't surprise me.

“There are a few Kevin Keegans and Dave Watsons in the lower reaches of the League just waiting for a chance to prove themselves."

Hale a former Newcastle, Coventry and Oxford City midfield man, believes there are a number of players in First Division teams who are extremely lucky to be enjoying the high life at present.

He says: “From what I have seen of Division One recently, and even in my time as a player, there are some very average players at the top who are often carried by their team. Let me straight away stress that this theory of mine does not apply to Manchester City, because they are an above average team, and good teams can't afford to carry passengers.

“But some teams do have places in their first teams which could be strengthened players from the lower divisions.“

Bill Shankly was always a great one for buying so-called unknown players and making stars of them — Keegan, Ray Clemence, Alec Lindsay — but many other clubs have done it and Hale wonders why, in the present difficult times, it doesn’t become a habit with every club.

“If I was a manager of a big club I would, if my team needed strengthening, rather look for good players in the lower divisions and pay for them than pay through the nose for ready-made stars. High-priced players may have First Division experience, but there is no guarantee they will succeed.

“The same applies to players from the bottom, of course, but the gamble isn’t so great. I know City have spent a lot of money over the years, but they have bought wisely and their investment should pay off soon enough.

“But look at all the £100,000 players currently on the transfer list, in the Central League or sold for a fraction of their original cost. Football is short of money, and this spending is often so rash it could be suicidal.

“l’m not trying to tell managers at the top how to do their jobs, merely reminding them that many of today's top stars started at the bottom, and were not big-money signings.

“in my view, there‘s lots more talent where they came from.”

Hale joined Hartlepool at the beginning of last season from Third Division Halifax, where he was coach. He has gradually adapted the playing staff to his own requirements, but there are sure signs now that he is hitting on the sort of blend he wants.

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