Terrace Thoughts 10, 14/12/2018

Hands up! I made an unforgiveable mistake in last week’s Terrace Thoughts! No, it wasn’t forgetting to report on the effectiveness of Aldi 2ply. Nor was it me potentially upsetting folk by asking rhetorical questions about funding models. No, I got the Blackburn v Hartlepool score from 1974 the wrong way round! How could I forget the two goals in the replay (George Potter and Kevin McMahon) which resulted in Pools drawing Aston Villa in the next round! After a 1-1 draw at the Vic the replay saw Pools hammered 6-1! I recall three things about those two games – firstly we – the Mighty Pools – were 90 minutes away from a League Cup quarter final! Second, the crowd at the Vic was 12,305 – the highest since the visit of the Busby Babes. And third – the total desolation at school the morning after the visit to Villa Park – as much down to the very late night as to the immense disappointment. As I’ve said before, Typical Pools! How much would we have made from that cup run?

And thanks to Ronnie Chambers for pointing out my Blackburn error – much appreciated.

I remember the 1974/ 75 season in many ways – not least because that is when the ‘Pools bug’ began to bite and ‘it’ began to matter. OK we finished 13th but we saw some fine players wear the Blue’n’White; I’m thinking about the likes of Alan Goad, Malcolm Dawes, Barry Watling and Jimmy Shoulder. These guys were my personal heroes – many who used to go in those days would argue otherwise – but it is appropriate to emphasise that this is a personal column – my views, not those of HUST or the HUST Board, and certainly not the views of Mrs A. And here is one for you to argue about – I loved watching Wayne Goldthorpe – he only played for us on 61 occasions, notching 13 times, between 1977 and 1979 – playing alongside the likes of Ian Crumplin, Keith Houchen and Bob Newton – and, during his first, loan spell, with Malcom Poskett, Eric McMordie and Bobby Scaife! There are some memories to conjure with! Memories of the supposedly bad old days……………..

I keep referring back to the mid-1970s as the quality of the football was often pretty dire and the facilities at Fortress Vic were somewhat lacking – and the crowds, mostly made up of ‘pay on the day punters’, varied quite significantly throughout the seasons. There has always been a ‘hard core’ of fans who attend (perhaps moaning about it, but Poolies have never ‘suffered in silence’) and a varying number of ‘fair weather’ fans. I wonder how, as time moves on (with the impact of televised football, social media, the snowflake generation, etc.), how sustainable is that ‘hard core’ – that ‘hard core’ now being ever more critical in terms of season ticket income. Personally I enjoyed the football in those days – well, if not the quality of the football, the spectacle of seeing twenty two blokes entertaining us, however badly – and I haven’t particularly enjoyed the fare on offer in recent years. And that makes me wonder if that ‘hard core’ will reduce to dangerously low levels. The fans have been asked to be understanding and patient – which is fair enough in the circumstances – but no one can rely on a bottomless pit of goodwill.

George Caulkin wrote an article in last Saturday’s Times entitled ‘If Rafa goes, Newcastle are knackered’; the piece included an interview with Alex Hurst (editor of the true faith fanzine) and in this Hurst says, “There comes a moment when you think, ‘What’s the point of this?’”

Oliver Kay, also in last Saturday’s Times, whilst talking about the slump being experienced at Burnley, wrote, “When gravity catches up with teams, or when momentum is lost, the drop is often more precipitous than they are prepared for. The magic fades and it does not return…”

My favourite comment from last Saturday’s Times relates to the new manager of Macclesfield Town who, according to Matt Hughes,  allegedly told his fellow students on a football management course that he was ‘the brightest mind in football’; he apparently said this as he was leaving the course early, leaving behind the likes of Wycombe’s Gareth Ainsworth. So now I’m not sure if I’m looking forward to playing Macclesfield more than I am to seeing a derby with Spennymoor! One team managed by ‘the brightest mind in football’ and the other by a bloke who played 20 times for Pools (notching once), played for numerous lower league and foreign clubs and is now clearly making a success of things at The Brewery Field – Jason Ainsley.

I’ve heard comments to the effect that Jason Ainsley has it easier than most as Spennymoor is well funded – well, you have to make the best of what you’ve got, haven’t you? So I see that as no criticism of Ainsley and more of a negative on those making such comments.

I was delighted to see Josh Hawkes get the winner on Saturday – I’m not bothered if Maidenhead failed to muster a shot or were unfairly reduced to ten men for forty minutes – what is great is that we see a youngster being given a chance and then using that opportunity. Could he help to repay the investment which the club continues to make into its ‘youth system’? Could he generate some of the funding needed in what we are told is a three year plan?

Tomorrow we visit the New Windmill Ground – surely we’ll despatch Leamington and then embark on a decent run in the FA Trophy? Whilst the revenues which may be generated by a run in the FA Trophy will not be that significant, no one could underestimate the impact of a successful run and, dare I say it, a visit to Wembley on confidence within and surrounding the club ………………and surely any additional revenues (if they exceed the costs of these FA Trophy matches) are welcome?

Cup revenues: I expect that the owners of many clubs hope for significant earnings from cup runs to keep their clubs afloat – but such influxes cannot be relied upon when you support a club like ours! When did we last have a good cup run? Earlier this week HUST Board Member John Cooke circulated an article from Supporters Direct on HUST’s facebook page entitled ’Fans in charge’ – this interesting piece on the fifteen years of fan ownership of Exeter City is well worth a read. Here’s a quick precis:

After several turbulent years following the millennium, culminating in the arrest and successful prosecution of the then chairman and vice chairman for various criminal offences, the only group able and willing to rescue the club were its supporters. On 5th September 2003, the Exeter City Supporters’ Trust acquired the majority shareholding in the club – and £4.7 million of debt!  As has happened so often in the world of football, a CVA (Company Voluntary Agreement) was set up between the club and its many creditors.  

By a totally unexpected stroke of good fortune, the club, having been relegated to the Conference at the end of the 2002-3 season, won through to the 3rd round of the FA Cup late in 2004, resulting in a trip to Old Trafford in January 2005 and a replay.  The income from this turn of fortune allowed the CVA to be honoured and the club went from £4.7 million of debt to no debt.

What the club did have however was the goodwill and volunteering spirit of the members of the Supporters’ Trust and a club board made up, in the early days, of ordinary supporters. To cut a long story short, the club survived and has gone from strength to strength; at one time reaching the dizzy heights of 8th place in League One.  Three years later the club was back in League Two and, despite two unsuccessful consecutive appearances at Wembley in the L2 play-off final, they remain in that division.

With a state-of-the-art 3G pitch at their training ground, a brand new 1,600 seat stand, a new away end with a roof for the first time in 110 years and a number of young players from their highly regarded academy having moved on for millions of pounds in recent years, what is there not to be happy and positive about at Exeter City?

Whilst I remember many very wet afternoons on that open away terrace, often seeing the Grecians prevail, I can only marvel at and respect their achievements and wonder, what if……..at Hartlepool.

And while I’m wearing my new ‘green eyes of envy’ glasses, I see Newport County (fan owned since 2015) beat Wrexham (fan owned since 2011) on Tuesday to set up an FA Cup tie against Leicester City – following on from their encounter with Tottenham Hotspur last season, the coffers of this fan owned club must be looking healthier than they have for some years. It is still a horrible ground though. (And that is a personal opinion! Not a Trust opinion or a HUST Board view!)

So, let’s hope for a financially rewarding cup run next season – not only is it a case of ‘it must be our turn’, but we have a new leader and one who clearly has the experience and approach to get Pools improving, in the league and the various cup competitions. So, welcome Richard Money – good luck – I, for one, hope that the owners, the fans and the results give you the time that you need to make the necessary changes and to see the positive results thereof.

In the meantime, I understand that our fund raising attempts with the German Government have hit an obstacle.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a staunchly Catholic conservative career politician, hasbeen elected as the successor to Angela Merkel as leader of Germany’s Christian Democrats, and so, Leader of Western Europe (asit stands today): she has responded, rather than Angela Merkel, to the letter sent requesting compensation for the damage inflicted on Fortress Vic by two German Zeppelins and the German Fleet.

Herr Maguire

I refer to your ‘You owe us some dosh’ letter to my predecessor.

We don’t.

You were fortunate that, 106 years ago, we were only toying with you; as we are today with whomever you send to negotiate with us on other matters.

Does your Chairman have any available rooms in any of his reasonably priced facilities? Little storage space is needed as Angela has only one suit too.

Yours

A sad note to close this week with the passing of Tommy Johnson – Tommy made massive contributions to both Pools and Middlesbrough FC and has died at the age of 92after a short illness. Much has been written about Tommy in recent days – abloke for whom no one has a bad word – and that is some tribute. Respect.

Cheers, John



You can find the link for the Exeter City article here: https://supporters-direct.org/articles/exeter-city-15-years-of-supporter-ownership

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