A Load of Old Bull


This month I've been going through my box of old programmes and come up with one from 41 years ago at Hereford United's Edgar Street.

Over the years that has often been one of the closest grounds to where I live and so I've done that 60-mile trip many times, including twice when the match was postponed before I got there - in fact for one, before I'd even set off, but that taught me a lesson!

The match in question was in March 1980 when Hereford had been a league club for only seven seasons. I don't know if they still do it with my not having needed to go there in years, but their mascot wasn't a man in a Hereford bull suit, but a real bull, which was led around the pitch. I can't remember if they had any arrangements for dealing with cow-pats though - or should that be bull-pats?

Pools, managed by Billy Horner in one of his many stints managing Pools, were mid-table in Division 4 at the time and Hereford 5th bottom. Pools lost 2-1, with Derek Hampton scoring, and Pools finished the season 2 places above the bottom 4 which was then still the re-election zone, while Hereford (and Darlington) both had to go begging for another season as a League club.


After a poor start to the season Hartlepool have gradually climbed the table and can look forward to the remaining weeks of the current campaign without the usual re-election worries.

At the end of April last year it looked as though they were booked for a place in the bottom four when they went 16 games without a win but they won five of their last six games in May to finish in 13th position.

Nevertheless they hold the rather dubious distinction of applying for re-election more times than any other team in the competition since the formation of the Fourth Division in 1948. They have finished in the bottom four on nine occasions and have only managed to claim a place in the top half of the table three times.

lt has been a struggle for manager Billy Horner since he took over the reins at Victoria Park in November 1976 but he is confident that better days are on the way and those views are shared by the Hartlepool Board.

In fact this week it was reported that he had been offered a new seven-year contract when chairman Vince Barker stated “It shows how highly we rate him. He is one of the best managers in the game."

Overshadowed throughout their existence by neighbours Newcastle United and Middlesbrough, the Hartlepool club have known more of life's struggles than successes and have only once gained promotion.

That was when they finished third to Luton Town and Barnsley in 1968 but they lasted only one season in the Third Division although only 10 teams in the section lost fewer games. But they finished in the bottom four due to a total of 19 draws.

The Pool have seldom managed to make their mark in cup competitions and have only once reached the fourth round of the F.A. Cup in their 72 years history.

MARTIN BURLEIGH. Goalkeeper. Joined Hartlepool from Darlington for a £10,000 fee in September. He started his career with Newcastle United with whom he played 11 games and in between two spells with Darlington he played for Carlisle. He has totted up over 150 league appearances.

ALAN SWEENEY. Defender. He made 66 league appearances with Huddersfield Town before going non-league with Yorkshire League club Emley last season after the Terriers had turned down a £70,000 bid from Coventry City for his signature. Hartlepool signed him on a free transfer.

DAVE NORTON. Defender. A product of local Newcastle football he made his league debut for Hartlepool last season when he made 11 appearances for the club.

MIKE FAGAN. Defender. Signed by Hartlepool in August after spells with Newcastle United and Carlisle but he did not make his debut for the club until last month when Hartlepool drew with league leaders Walsall.

BILL AYRE. Defender. He won an F.A. Challenge Trophy medal at Wembley with Scarborough before joining Hartlepool the season before last when he finished with an ever- present record. Last term he missed only a handful of games.

GEORGE SMITH. Defender. Made over 400 league appear- ances during service with Barrow, Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Birmingham City, Cardiff City and Swansea City and is now in his third season with Hartlepool.

MARTIN FOWLER. Midfield. Joined Hartlepool on loan last week from Blackburn Rovers. He made 73 appearances with Huddersfield Town and had a spell on loan with Norwich City before linking up with Blackburn, with whom he has played 34 league games.

JOHN LINACRE. Midfield. Son of former Manchester City and Hartlepool winger Billy Linacre, he is in his second spell with the club, rejoining them three years ago from Whitby Town. Hartlepool turned down a £75,000 offer from Rotherham for his signature last summer.

KEITH HOUCHEN. Forward. Joined the club from local league football three years ago. He was the Pool's top marksman with a dozen goals last season.

BOB NEWTON. Forward. He was recruited from Huddersfield Town with whom he made 42 league appearances. He netted 11 league and cup goals last term and has claimed 13 this term. Hartlepool rate him at £150,000 and have already turned down an £80,000 bid.

ALAN HARDING. Forward. He scored 38 goals in 129 matches for Darlington and netted the same number in 209 games with Lincoln City from whom he was signed last year for a £5,000 fee.

DEREK HAMPTON. Forward. A late-comer to the Football League scene Derek, aged 26, was signed from Whitby Town in November and marked his debut by scoring at Lincoln. He has netted five goals this term.