I’ve frequently talked about the troubles facing the fans of Bolton Wanderers and Bury – and other clubs – over the last 44 issues of Terrace Thoughts – sad that events have now brought these two once great clubs to national attention – oh well, you might have read about them here first!
44 issues! I must be due a Blue Peter badge or something! Or a Crackerjack pencil. Or a free pint from the town’s biggest Boyzone fan, Ronnie Harnish.
Anyway, this week I thought – let’s go closer to home!
Right, both of these clubs have experienced success on the back of ambitious and seemingly wealthy benefactors.
Hey! So have we! Remember the days when we were backed by money appearing from Scandinavia? And what happened when the purse strings got tightened? Well, things on and off the pitch started going ‘pear-shaped’. Spot any parallels?
These clubs, like many others, have been punching above their weight, leading to unrealistic fan expectations. Look around the various leagues – semi-professional and fully professional clubs supposedly surviving on gates of between 400 and 2,000. I sometimes wonder how my mistress, Morpeth Town, keeps doing so well!
And again! How did we get to Cardiff? Now, full respect to the marvellous Neale Cooper and THAT squad – but could our support really fund that sort of playing squad and back room staff? What would have happened to us if we had beaten Sheffield Wednesday on that memorable day? Would we have survived? No, and our expectations ever since those ‘glory days’ have perhaps become unrealistic too!
We see clubs being dragged into financial chaos by unscrupulous owners – or ‘iffy’ guys trying to become the owners. Boom! Us again!
We see Bolton – who only recently flirted with life in Europe – and the recently promoted Bury struggle to attract a new owner – and again – does this ring bells? So did we! Remember certain local businessmen having a look at the books – and then running away like an extra in Monty Python’s Search for the Holy Grail.
And a common theme is clubs getting into debt and being reliant on an individual.
And we are in debt.
And we are reliant – for whatever reason we lose the Stadium sponsorship (thanks for the season Jeff!) and can’t find a replacement other than the ever flexible friend at Prestige – thanks again Raj. I look at Darlington – and, again, credit to them – how are they picking up sponsors like Teesside International Airport, Ebac and Cornerstone Business Solutions (also a main sponsor at the Borer), together with a load of local SME businesses? And don’t get me started on other areas where we are losing revenue – you don’t need to have had sight of ‘that due diligence report’ to know that we are not maximising our revenue generation opportunities (limited though they are).
And this where I start getting very – very – worried – and no offence to Mr Singh – he is our saviour.
Pools are in debt – that debt is getting bigger – whether you call it equity or debt – we are becoming more and more reliant on the wallet of Mr Singh. And credit to him. He has kept to his word – he has supported Hignett. But, and I’ll open my book of a dozen Christmas themed stamps here, the team is not delivering. We, the fans have – again – bought season tickets and so forth – in our way we are trying to support Raj and meet his expectations. But both of us – the fans and the owner – must be disappointed and patience must eventually dry up.
How long will Mr Singh be patient? In fairness he has communicated his aspirations and plans – clearly and concisely. So, how long have we got? Or, to be bold (I’ll put my full stamp collection on this one), how long has Higgy got to get our large squad delivering?
My bet is next Easter. Shoot me down.
But, if I’m even half right – and the experience of all these other troubled clubs shows that I may be spot on – we need a Plan B. And our best option – at present – is Hartlepool United Supporters’ Trust – and that is why I applaud their ongoing fund raising activities.
And I should quickly remind everyone that these are my views – my personal, considered views – they are not the views of HUST, or those of any of the HUST board members.
Guys like Richard Ward, John Cooke and Ronnie ‘Showaddywaddy’ Harnish are working hard – on our behalf – with no thanks and much criticism. Let’s fast forward a few months or so – and we are ‘doing a Bury’ – we have Jo Grylls, another amazing HUST Board member, handcuffed to a lamppost on Clarence Road, doing interviews with Radio 5 Live; Ronnie is selling his Alvin Stardust collection in an attempt to pay the April payroll, Mark Goodman (HUST’s superb Community Officer – a man worthy of respect on so many levels) is managing the Pools foodbank, Michael Weir has sold his second kidney (Michael was never good with numbers and this is why Mark Dobson became Treasurer) to cover the cost of legal advisers arguing with the National League about our ability to complete the season.
And without doubt – if this happens – and it could – many a Pools stalwart will start moaning about the fact that the Trust doesn’t have sufficient money to help save OUR CLUB.
We do not want Raj or even my favourite postman to fail – I could even forgive the other bloke if he started communicating with we fans and the Trust properly – but we need to think – what if – what if we end up going the same way as Bury, Bolton, Bradford PA, Macclesfield, Braintree, Notts County (almost, but are they really OK?), etc. Just look how close Aston Villa came to financial meltdown! We are not immune – as history shows.
Anyway, extra special respect to Andrew Povey and Scenic Air Tours for arranging the very special HUST Lottery prize this month – a special flight for three out of Teesside International Airport over local scenery including Fortress Vic, Verrell’s and the Hops and Cheese! Go to the HUST website to sort out your raffle tickets – and membership! Supporting the Trust is supporting the future of OUR CLUB. The future of professional football in the Big City of Hartlepool.
We really do need to build up a rainy day fund – sure we hope that Higgy sorts out his first class from his second class stamps, that Raj has a smile on his face and that Mr Maguire can match his Chairman’s largesse through commercially generated income – we all want them to succeed.
But if they don’t?
Come on, you know it makes sense. Sort out your holiday wardrobe – and poolside reading – on the HUST website! I still haven’t forgiven HUST for putting my books on sale at such a low price – but, for you, amazing value! And there’ll be a Christmas prize for whoever spots all of the Poolies in the three novels………….
Well, I’m on a very early train from Newcastle tomorrow, to catch connections at Carlisle and Preston – I’m sure that the Chorley Cricket Club Beer Festival will be a great success, but I’m looking forward to seeing a Donaldson brace and a cracker from Nico get us three points…………
Pip Pip, mine’s a stout