Ed Parkinson on Hartlepool United

What was the key to the team’s success this past season?
The midfield has been brilliant this year. Mark Tinkler, Richie Humphreys, Darrell Clarke and Tommy Widdrington are all comfortable on the ball and look to pass to feet. This wholesale rejection of traditional hoofing has alienated some die-hard “get rid of it” advocates. I’ve loved it, though, and, although the promotion team of 1991 had better strikers, the football over the last 18 months has been the best I’ve seen at Pools.

Was Mike Newell’s sacking a surprise?
Only the timing, I suppose. Nobody was at all upset. The team’s form varied wildly under Newell, as we established and then lost a 14-point lead over Rush­den. The end-of-season collapse was seen as throwing away the championship and was laid at Newell’s door. His abrupt dealings with fans and allegedly frequent socialising also contrasted sharply with the silky PR skills and sober image of his predecessor Chris Turner and helped him to achieve the distinction of being booed off on the day we clinched promotion.

Could Hartlepool’s crowds get much bigger than they are now?
I doubt it. Middlesbrough is too close and most of Durham is split between Sunderland and Newcastle. The theory that these big club fans will attend other clubs when they can’t get tickets is obviously flawed. Boro and Sunderland fans no longer attend their own matches and visiting Geordies are only ever on a one-off day out. Consolidating the recent improvement and maybe adding a few more away fans seems the only realistic option.

Do Hartlepool have a rivalry with clubs other than Darlington?

For at least one year we no longer have any rivals at all. We now look down on Darlington, smirking smugly as they rattle around in the cavernous spaces of the George Reynolds White Elephant Sta­dium. Carlisle don’t seem to like us much but the ill feeling was never really reciprocated and they are also no longer relevant to a club of our stature. We expect to get on well with all of our swanky new friends in the Second Division.

Fondly remembered
Brian Honour ~ Not because of his 384 appearances, or a winner at Roker Park direct from a corner. No, Brian was quite simply the most ferociously wholehearted opponent of Darlington ever. One 15-yard sliding tackle that ended with both sets of studs on his victim’s chest springs to mind.

Best forgotten
Gary Gibson ~ Gibson was running the club when the team played Tottenham in a testimonial in memory of the recently deceased managerial genius Cyril Knowles. The consequent cheque to the bereaved Mrs Knowles bounced. The only time I’ve ever been truly ashamed of Pools.

Milestones & Millstones

1908 Hartlepools United formed, representing the boroughs of Hartlepool and West Hartlepool.
1916 Zeppelin bombs Victoria Ground, destroying the main stand. Despite the German government’s refusal to pay compensation, a temporary wooden stand is erected a year later.
1928 Player complaints about training in winter are rebuffed by manager Bill Norman, who rolls naked in the snow.
1957 Pools come back to level from 3-0 down to the Busby Babes in the FA Cup in front of 17,426, but lose 4-3. Busby describes it as “the most exciting match I’ve ever watched”.
1965 Brian Clough appointed. Two years later, team built, Clough and assistant Peter Taylor head for Derby.
1968 Promoted in third. Name changes to Hartlepool AFC.
1977 After nine years of fans ignoring the change, “United” is reinstated but, stubbornly, not the missing “s”.
1984 Cunning use of glossy brochure helps secure record-busting 14th re-election
1985 The temporary wooden stand is demolished after a mere 68 years.
1991 Promoted in third. Manager Cyril Knowles misses the end of the season due to a terminal illness.
1992 Goalless for 1,227 minutes, a record.
2002 Chris Turner’s team lose in play-offs.
2003 Promoted in second place. Best ever try, but still no silverware. Again the man who built the team isn’t there.

From WSC 197 July 2003. What was happening this month

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