Before depressing myself with talk of how the ‘Pools business model’ may be about to unravel, I thought I’d cheer myself up by looking back at some of the players who have graced the Vic before moving on to much greater things – I wonder how many of them, with their immense bank balances, have fond memories of Fortress Vic – and do you remember some, having become successful, referring to Pools to mark just how far they had gone with their careers? Aye, that ‘superstar’ who moved from Southampton to Liverpool; remember? “I’ve come a long way since I had to play at places like Hartlepool.” What do they mean? Places ‘like’ Hartlepool?

So, in advance of the rumour starting that Mark Hughes will start rebuilding his career at Hartlepool, let’s have a look at the few occasions when the mighty Pools have given Southampton ‘a good fist pumping’.

The first league meeting was on 24 November 2009 when a Pools side including the almost legendary Denis Behan went down 3-1 at home – Andy Monkhouse with our consolation against two goals from someone called Adam Lallana and another from a guy named Rickie Lambert. We’d clearly worried them as they strengthened their side for the return game (23 March 2010) by including the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin and Jason Puncheon and they edged it with goals from Rickie Lambert, Lee Barnard and Papa Waigo N’Diaye – Andy Monkhouse, one of the few players with true class on the pitch, scored for Pools, as did Neil Austin.

We shocked them the following season – they managed to hold on for a goalless draw at The Vic on 22 February 2010 – an obviously weakened Southampton side included Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and a youthful Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Pools team that day included Paul Murray, Antony Sweeney, Gary Liddle and Andy Monkhouse – hands up, who would welcome young versions of those guys back to Pools?

Normal service was resumed on 25 April 2010 when goals from Rickie Lambert and Adam Fonte saw off a Pools team with an international flavour, boasting Joe Gamble and Fabian Yantorno in its opening line up! And that was it – they’ve never dared face us in a league match again.

Kelvin Davies played for Southampton in all four league encounters against Pools – but his goal-keeping career had already reached its pinnacle in August 1997 when he made three appearances for Hartlepool whilst on loan from Luton Town. And whatever happened to the likes of Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Morgan Schneiderlin and Denis Behan?

It would be wrong to talk about great players who have graced Fortress Vic without mentioning a team like Manchester United; hands up if you saw the Kevin Dixon hat-trick when Pools blitzed a powerful Manchester United XI in a pre-season game prior to the 1988/ 89 season? John Tinkler, Simon Grayson and Andy Toman (in his pre-Pixie days) scored the other goals.

Chris Turner was in goal for Manchester United that day and most folk have heard about the hair dryer treatment he received from the then ‘Mr’ Ferguson – and, respect to Chris, he apparently tried to argue his corner with the future Sir Alex. The next time Chris appeared at Fortress Vic he had been appointed manager and was about to embark on his first, successful spell with Pools.

Ferguson has been quoted as saying that Pools could have won by eight or more, had it not been for Paul McGrath – now he was a player of pure quality!

You might also remember that Pools were then managed by John Bird who had been a fine defender and could have been a great manager – had he not been stolen by York City.

And then there were the Busby Babes – well, as one of the very few who wasn’t at that match (just about everyone I know was there in person, even if only in a womb or as a twinkle in Papa’s eyes) I can’t say anything.  But I can highly recommend ‘Pools and the Busby Babes by Malcolm Errington, a superbly researched book which is still available on sites such as Amazon.

I’ve decided not to talk about Trusts which work with other clubs this week and, instead, want to focus on our very own HUST – and the announcement at last night’s AGM that Eddie Kyle has agreed to take over as President for the next two years. Younger Poolies may have heard Eddie speak on local radio – always honest and to the point, Eddie is a man with strong and (usually) correct views and is an ideal person to represent the Trust during what could be a challenging two years. What the youngsters may not know is that Eddie Kyle and Alan Murray helped mastermind the Club’s memorable promotion from Division Four in 1990/91 when Pools won 11 of their last 16 games to finish third in the table. Eddie later worked with Alan and Graeme Souness at Blackburn Rovers – a team that Pools have never met in the league! We did lose to them in the league cup in 1974 – after holding them 1-1 at home.

Good luck Eddie – and thanks to Jeff Stelling – a hard act to follow…..

So we find ourselves in what appear to be very similar circumstances to those which challenged us this time last year – although gates have slumped even more. Does the club have the money to take us through to next summer and – hopefully – a decent level of season ticket sales? We’ve had little additional revenue from cup runs this season – I’m struggling to think of any player sales of significance – and the sponsorship arrangements appear to have been somewhat limited. On the other side, some of the merchandising offerings are vastly improved over recent years and the new brands appear to be of a decent quality. And we don’t know how much Raj and Jeff have actually put into the club – and, as I’ve said before, in some ways it is none of our business – unless or until the club hits crisis and they want help.

As usual there are (probably baseless) rumours circulating and the ‘doomsayers’  are active on social media; all best ignored but one can’t stop thinking, ‘what’s different to last year’?, ‘are we OK?’, ‘could Raj lose interest or patience?’

And I’ve not seen evidence of any cost savings of any significance. Or am I missing things here? So where is the business model taking us? ‘Dunno’ is my only contribution to this. It would be nice to hear something from the club on this – surely they can understand the interest and anxiety of their fans?

And that gets me back to Mr Kyle and the Trust – good luck guys and thanks for all the efforts.

But I have heard of an exciting fund raising initiative which has been hatched within the former Clock Garage……

Sitting at his desk (the one with the three ‘Hansa Lager’ beer mats under the front left leg) our man in the suit works away at his 1955 Erika model 11 typewriter……..

Dear Missus Merkel

You owe us some dosh.

106 years ago last month your pilots, whilst trying to escape, dropped two bombs on our stand and you also damaged our ground during your naval bombardment. These attacks all but wrecked what was then described as the San Siro of the North and we waited in temporary accommodation until 1985 for you to pay for the rebuilding of our most cherished ground. We then demolished our temporary stand and have been working out of replacement, temporary facilities since then.

I attach a quotation from a reputable local building company with some links to our esteemed chairman – these monies will allow us to rebuild our stadium, incorporating two care facilities (with pitch side views), a Wagamama and, to acknowledge your contribution, an Aldi. I ask that you pay this sum in full within the next sixty days – if not we’ll send round the Bailiffs before this Brexit thing kicks in.


Will the monies owed by the German Government turn up to save the club? Have any German nationals ever turned out for Pools? What did happen to Denis Behan? Did things get better in Maidenhead?

It’s strange to read match previews by other clubs and see the use of words such as ‘although’ or ‘despite’ in close proximity to the names of our players…..have a look at the Maidstone FC site to see what I mean.

I may have some answers next Friday.

Cheers, John

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