Hartlepool United F.C.
|Full name||Hartlepool United Football Club|
|2013–14||League Two, 19th|
|Website||Club home page|
Hartlepool United Football Club is an association football club based in Hartlepool, England. The club plays in League Two, the fourth tier in the English football league system, since being relegated in the 2012–13 season. Hartlepool play their home games at Victoria Park, which is situated on the town's Clarence Road. The club was founded in 1908 as Hartlepools United Football Athletic Company. Until 2007 their main local rivals were Darlington F.C., but that club entered into administration in 2012, and the local rival is now considered to be York City F.C..
Hartlepool is known for its association with Brian Clough who began his managerial career at the club in 1965 and is widely considered to be one of the greatest English football managers of all time. Under Cyril Knowles' management the club won promotion to the Third Division in 1990. Hartlepool's greatest moment occurred in 2005 when they narrowly missed promotion to The Championship.
The club has received media attention in recent years when the team mascot "H'Angus the Monkey" was elected mayor during the 2002 Hartlepool Council election. The club receives vocal support from Jeff Stelling, the presenter of Sky Sports' Soccer Saturday.
In 1920, the Football League formed a third division. This was based almost entirely in the south, as the new division was created by absorbing virtually the entire top division of the Southern League, with Grimsby Town the only northern representative. This was rectified the following season when a Third Division North was created, with Hartlepools one of the founder members.
Brian Clough was invited to manage Hartlepool in 1965. His reaction was: "I don't fancy the place," but he took the job, anyway.
In 1968 the "s" and the "United" were dropped from the team name of "Hartlepools United". This was in connection with West Hartlepool being absorbed along with the old smaller town of Hartlepool and the village of Hart into one new borough named "Hartlepool". The appendage of "United" was finally restored in 1977.
Under Len Ashurst (who became manager in 1971), the team slowly began to revive after years of largely indifferent form. The 1971–72 season saw a welcome improvement to 18th, and possibly saved the club; Barrow, who had finished bottom the previous year, were voted out in favour of Hereford United despite having improved to 22nd. The club once again avoided the re-election zone in 1972–73, finishing in 20th place, but with four successive finishes either in or not far above the bottom four and strong challenges coming from non-league sides, the club needed to show signs of improvement. Ashurst did precisely that, finishing in 11th in 1973–74; he then left the club to manage Gillingham.
Ken Hale took over and guided the team to 13th and 14th over the next two seasons and also reached the League Cup Fourth round in 1974–75 (still a club record). However, 1976–77 saw a return to the doldrums; Hale was sacked after failing to win any of the first nine games (including two cup matches) at the start of October. His successor Billy Horner could not stop the rot either, and the team finished in 22nd place. Again there was a strong challenger from non-league in the form of Wimbledon; however, as the club was seeking re-election for the first time in six years, it was Workington – bottom for a second successive year and making their fourth consecutive re-election application that made way. Over the close season the team's name was changed to its current form of Hartlepool United. A tragedy struck the club a few weeks before the end of the season when 20-year-old player Dave Wiggett was killed in a car crash.
A marginal improvement to 21st the following year again saw the club applying to stay in the league; and again a strong non-league challenge, this time from Wigan Athletic, was enough to dispose of Southport. It seemed to be only a matter of time before Hartlepool United followed the same way.
Once again then, it was a huge relief for the supporters that Horner managed to make considerable improvements the following season. A large part of this was due to the strike partnership of Bob Newton and Keith Houchen; the latter would be the club's leading scorer in each of the following four seasons. There was also relative success in the FA Cup, with Crystal Palace being defeated at the Victoria Ground thanks to two goals from Newton as the club made the Fourth round.
1978–79 saw a finish in 13th place; 19th the following season was still enough to stay clear of the re-election zone, and then 1980–81 saw the team produce its best season in over a decade, never being out of the top 10 and looking promotion contenders for a long spell before falling away to finish ninth. Keith Houchen was top scorer with 17 league goals, with Newton also making double figures.
Financial issues were however making waves off the pitch and in particular the ownership of the ground. The Town Council were approached by the club with a view to buying the ground in January 1977, and although this was initially turned down negotiations continued. In February 1978, a deal seemed to have been agreed; however chairman Vince Barker accused the council of delaying the deal when it was not complete 12 months later. Barker would accuse the council of trying to renege on the deal in July 1980, and even threatened to move the club out of the town amidst rumours that he was prepared to sell up and allow the club to be moved to Scarborough. As of February 2007, the ground remains in Council ownership.
1981–82 saw the team finish in 14th place despite both Houchen and Newton scoring 18 goals, but their partnership was drawing to a close and with it four seasons of relative success. The club was running into financial difficulties under Vince Barker, and both forwards would be sold the following season for fees that failed to reflect their value to the club but allowed bills to be paid. The team suffered, and finished in 22nd – back in the re-election zone. Billy Horner handed over his duties at the end of March to John Duncan.
Duncan's time at the club was limited to say the least. Having been appointed on 1 April, just nine weeks later he left to take over at Chesterfield. Hartlepool appointed Mick Docherty, son of the legendary Tommy Docherty; however after six months and with the team struggling, he too left the club. Even for Hartlepool, four managers in the space of eight months was somewhat farcical; the fact that the decision was made to re-appoint Billy Horner (initially as a temporary measure, although he would actually remain in charge until November 1986) made the situation even worse.
Dissatisfaction with the club's board grew; attendances fell; performances remained poor. An eventual finish of 23rd, and a club record low attendance of 790 for the game with Stockport County on 5 May 1984, showed a club that looked to be going nowhere. The application for re-election was again successful, with the club once more polling the lowest figure of the League clubs, the result was secured on the back of an agreement being made amongst the club chairmen to enter into meaningful dialogue over direct promotion and relegation with the Alliance Premier League. Many felt that without that agreement being made, Hartlepool United would have been voted out because of their perennial re-election applications. Maidstone United were the unfortunate non-league champions to have the Football League door slammed in their faces for the second year running. During the close season Chairman Barker left the club, John Smart taking over.
Once again though Horner managed to produce an improvement, to 19th, before making a team that looked capable of winning promotion. After a shaky start to 1985–86, the team climbed into the top three by mid-October; were still in a promotion spot in early March; and eventually faded slightly to finish in seventh place.
Any hopes that Horner might lead the club to promotion faded shortly after the start of the 1986–87 season. After drawing the first four games of the season, Pools then lost the next four before finally recording their first win against Lincoln City in the ninth game; a further six games without a win were enough to see the club looking in serious danger of being the first club to be automatically relegated from the Football League and saw Horner depart. He was replaced by John Bird, a former player at the club. Form improved slightly, but although the team eventually finished in relative safety in 18th, they were only three points ahead of Lincoln City who suffered relegation.
One peculiarity of the season concerned Middlesbrough; the financially struggling Teessiders had been locked out of their ground Ayresome Park, but were due to play a home game on the opening day of the season. Had they not fulfilled the fixture they would have been expelled from the League; Hartlepool stepped into the breach and offered the use of the Victoria Ground. After Hartlepool's draw with Cardiff City in the afternoon, Middlesbrough played their game with Port Vale the same evening. Days later the two clubs met in the League Cup – as of the 2010–11 season, the two legged tie remains the only occasion the teams have met in a senior competition.
The following season saw an improvement to 16th place, this time comfortably above relegated Newport County and in fact only 11 points from the playoff places; however a poor run of form towards the end of the season (four points from the last 10 games) cost the team any hope of promotion. Notable events from the season included both Paul Baker and Andy Toman scoring 20 or more goals in all competitions, and beating neighbours Sunderland in the Associate Members Cup.
Bird had however made something of a name for himself as a manager, and when early season form saw Hartlepool United in second place at the end of September 1988, he left the club to join York City. Former Newcastle United captain Bobby Moncur was appointed to succeed Bird, but failed to inspire the team; results suffered, and the eventual finishing position of 19th could even have been worse with the team as low as 22nd late in the season.
His period in charge continued to be little short of a disaster. Five successive league defeats opened the 1989–90 season, and Moncur eventually resigned in November with the club rooted to the bottom of the table having taken just nine points from 18 games with 46 goals conceded. New Chairman Garry Gibson had initially turned down Moncur's request, but accepted it at the second time of asking.
|Period||Kit manufacturer||Shirt sponsor|
|1980–1981||Le Coq Sportif|
|2004–||Nike||Dove Energy, Larsen Oil and Gas|
The new manager appointed though would become a legend at the club. Cyril Knowles had been a distinguished player, and had a growing reputation as a manager; with the addition of several new signings, he achieved a remarkable turnaround. From having 9 points from 19 games, Knowles lead the side to 55 by the end of the season – and a safe 19th place in the table.
Even better was to follow the next season. With the partnership of Paul Baker and Joe Allon working well in attack, the team were in the top 10 for much of the season and in with a good chance of reaching a playoff place. Then, tragedy struck in February 1991 when Knowles was diagnosed with brain cancer and Alan Murray took over on a temporary basis. Under Murray, the team's form improved further and the club went into the final day of the season as one of several clubs that could win not just promotion but the title. A 3–1 win over Northampton Town was enough to secure promotion in third place; Allon scored 35 goals, and Baker and Paul Dalton also reached double figures.
However, Knowles was still suffering from cancer and in June 1991 Murray was given the manager's job on a permanent basis as Knowles had now undergone three operations but still had the cancer. He died on 30 August 1991, aged only 47.
Although Allon signed for Chelsea over the close season, Murray was able to retain the majority of the squad, and also signed players such as Andy Saville and Lenny Johnrose as the club finished in a highly respectable 11th in the Third Division.
1992–93 saw the club playing the new Division Two, as the formation of the Premier League caused a re-labelling of the divisions. With Murray having brought in players such as Dean Emerson, John Gallacher and Ryan Cross the club got off to a great start – by October, the team was in second place, level on points with leaders West Bromwich Albion.
The club remained in the playoff hunt until New Year, and then achieved one of the best results in its history when beating Crystal Palace 1–0 in the FA Cup Third round – the first time that Hartlepool had beaten a top division side. However, this would prove to be the end of the club's success for several years. It was revealed shortly after the cup win that the club were in financial difficulties. To make ends meet, a number of players were released or sold, and the club set an unenviable record by going 1,227 minutes without scoring. During this run Murray was sacked and replaced by Viv Busby. The club eventually escaped relegation, finishing 16th.
The following season was an unmitigated disaster. With no money to bring in players, the team struggled all season. Busby was replaced in November 1993 by John MacPhail, but he could do little as the team remained in the relegation places from November until the end of the season. Relegation was assured following a 7–0 defeat at Rotherham United; the final day of the season saw the team thrashed 8–1 by Plymouth Argyle at the Victoria Ground.
The next five seasons saw constant struggle and a succession of managers. Gibson finally sold the club to local businessman Harold Hornsey, who at least was able to financially stabilise the club; but with little money available for players times were hard. MacPhail left early in 1994–95 and was replaced by Dave McCreery; he was replaced towards the end of the same season by Keith Houchen, who had returned as a player. Houchen was in turn replaced after 18 months by Mick Tait. Meanwhile the club finished in 18th, 20th (twice) and 17th. There was also a change of ownership in 1997: Hornsey sold the club to an IOR Ltd, with Ken Hodcroft becoming Chairman.
Matters came to a head in 1998–99; Tait's side were struggling, and even the signing of former England international Peter Beardsley had not changed the club's fortunes. Tait was sacked in January 1999, and Chris Turner was appointed; despite being four points adrift at the bottom of the League at Easter, Turner was able to prevent the club being relegated. Under Turner, matters improved drastically. In 1999–2000 they reached the play-offs, but were beaten by local rivals Darlington in the semi-finals. In fact qualified for the play-offs for next two seasons as well – though on both occasions they were again defeated in the semi-finals.
In 2002–03, they finished in second place and won automatic promotion to the Football League Second Division once more. Turner had however left to take over Sheffield Wednesday part way through the season; Mike Newell replaced him but was surprisingly released over the close season, Neale Cooper taking over.
After an exceptional campaign in 2003–04, which included an 8–1 victory over Grimsby Town, they finished sixth and made the play-offs. However, they lost to third placed Bristol City after two games after holding them to a draw on the first leg. This season also saw Eifion Williams called up to the Wales squad and looked set to become only the second Hartlepool player ever to win an international cap while at the club; however an unfortunate injury in the play-off second leg forced him to withdraw.
The club finished sixth in the league again in the 2004–05 season, despite the shock departure of Cooper just before the end of the season after an apparent fall-out with Ken Hodcroft. In the play-off semi-final, they defeated Tranmere Rovers 6–5 on penalties after the sides had each won their home leg 2–0. The club failed to win promotion, losing 4–2 to Sheffield Wednesday after extra time. Hartlepool had been leading 2–1 with eight minutes of regular time to go, but a controversial penalty decision in the 82nd minute, which also saw Chris Westwood sent off, allowed Sheffield Wednesday to level the scores making it 2–2 at the end of 90 minutes. Hartlepool missing a key defender struggled in extra time and conceded two goals. Following this achievement Cooper's assistant Martin Scott was appointed as manager.
The 2005–06 season saw the side slip down the division to the relegation places helped in part by poor management, an indecisive board room and key player injuries. Manager Martin Scott was suspended after an alleged fight with a player in the changing rooms, which resulted in his dismissal. Youth team coach Paul Stephenson was put in charge until the end of the season, aided by former manager Chris Turner who returned to the club as Director of Sport, and despite remaining undefeated in his first five games in charge, he could not prevent the club being relegated into the fourth tier in May 2006. Some felt that Hartlepool's relegation was unfair given that Rotherham United had escaped administration, and therefore a 10-point deduction and relegation, by delaying a CVA meeting until after the season had ended.
On 13 June 2006, Danny Wilson was appointed manager. Wilson was unable to save fellow strugglers MK Dons from relegation to League Two at the end of the 2005–06 season, and he was sacked on 10 May 2006. On 1 January 2007, Hartlepool United equalled the all-time Football League record of consecutive wins without conceding a goal. The 1–0 win at Mansfield Town was the eighth straight win without conceding. The record was also held by Barnsley and Wigan Athletic. However, the record was then broken by Stockport County on 3 March 2007 when they recorded their ninth successive win without conceding. The club went on to complete a 23-match unbeaten run which finally ended against the team they last lost to, Barnet.
Hartlepool returned to League One at the first time of asking, finishing second behind champions Walsall. This was the club's second promotion in four years and they maintained their League One status for a second successive season by finishing 15th in 2007–08. In December 2008, Danny Wilson was sacked; while the club were unbeaten in four games and well clear of the relegation zone, the board felt that Wilson could take the club no further. Chris Turner was quickly returned to the managerial position, combining the role with his existing position as the club's Director of Sport, and kept the club clear of relegation that season.
Hartlepool started the 2009–10 season well, and were in the hunt for a play-off spot early in the season. However, after a 5–0 home defeat at the hands of Milton Keynes Dons, their form dipped, and the club were dropped into a relegation battle, with matters not helped by a three point deduction for fielding an ineligible player during a victory over Brighton and Hove Albion. The club survived on the final day of the season with a goalless draw against Brentford being enough to keep them in League One, albeit on goal difference alone. Despite the shaky end to the season, survival did mark a milestone for the club, as it marked the first time that they would be playing a fourth consecutive season outside of the League's lowest tier. Chris Turner resigned from the club a few weeks into the following season, and Mick Wadsworth took over on a temporary basis, before being appointed permanently a month later. The season ended up going much the same as the previous one, with the club in play-off contention in the middle of the campaign before falling away as the season went on. However, the drop in Hartlepool's form was not as severe as it had been in the previous two seasons, and they finished in 16th place, well clear of the relegation zone.
The club started the following season well, and were among the front-runners early on, but a bad run of form resulted in the sacking of Wadsworth in December, with former manager Neale Cooper returning to the club as his replacement. While Cooper was not able to get the club back to their early form, the side stayed generally consistent for the remainder of the season and secured a 13th place finish, the highest the club had achieved since the play-off campaign in 2005. Unfortunately Hartlepool made a terrible start to the following season, and in the wake of a defeat by bottom-placed Bury, which saw the Lancashire club overhaul Hartlepool and dump them to the bottom of the table, Cooper resigned, bringing an end to his second spell after less than a year. He was replaced by John Hughes, and while the club's form gradually improved, they were ultimately unable to overcome an appalling first half of the season, which saw them secure a paltry 9 points and just one win from their first 23 games. Hartlepool finished second-bottom, only avoiding last place because of Portsmouth being deducted ten points for entering administration, and Hughes was sacked for failing to prevent the club's relegation, with Colin Cooper replacing him.
After an extensive overhaul of the playing squad during the summer, Hartlepool recovered from a poor start to the 2013–14 season and by early spring they were making decent progress and looking to make a late play-off bid. However, a terrible run of form late in the season plunged them into the relegation battle, which they did not earn definite safety from until the penultimate match of the season. The club finished 19th that season, their lowest finish in 15 years. An even worse start to the 2014–15 season resulted in Cooper resigning a few weeks into the campaign. Paul Murray replaced Cooper, only to be sacked just two months later, with the club six points adrift at the bottom of League Two, and having just suffered an FA Cup elimination at the hands of non-league Blyth Spartans. By now the fans had turned against Ken Hodcroft, who resigned and sold the club to Peter Harris in December 2014. Harris's first decision was to appoint former Tranmere Rovers manager Ronnie Moore to the managers' job.
Nike currently manufacture the club's kits. The current shirt sponsor is, Dove Energy, an oil company associated with the club's owners. Previously the shirt was sponsored by the Norwegian oil company DNO International and before that Cameron's Brewery. The club's kits have also been sponsored by Larsen Oil and Gas, which is a branch of IOR.
The club was owned by IOR Ltd (Increased Oil Recovery), an Aberdeen based oil company, who purchased it from Harold Hornsey in 1997. Despite initial scepticism from fans towards a company with no links to either the town or football, the relationship has proved a successful one for the club, and has provided it with financial stability. The period has seen substantial investment in the stadium, and IOR have spent over £10 million on the club. According to The Northern Echo the club is "effectively subsidised by owners Increased Oil Recovery by about £1m a year."
Mascot elected mayor
In the 2002 council election, the team's mascot "H'Angus the Monkey", aka Stuart Drummond, was elected mayor of Hartlepool as an independent, under the slogan "free bananas for schoolchildren". Even though his candidacy was just a publicity stunt, Drummond has since been re-elected after throwing off his comedy image and identifying himself increasingly with the Labour group on the council. On the 5th May 2013, Drummond left his post of Hartlepool's Mayor after a November 2012 referendum meant that Hartlepool would no longer have a Mayor, instead being led by committees.
In recent years the most visible fan of the club has been Jeff Stelling, presenter of Soccer Saturday on Sky Sports. The rock star Meat Loaf, Janick Gers of the metal band Iron Maiden, MP Peter Mandelson, film director Ridley Scott, and singer Ed Sheeran are also fans of the club.
- As of 21 December 2014.
Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
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- Middlesbrough FC Official Site – Article on using the Victoria Ground in 1986
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- Manager History from Soccerbase
- Season by Season record from In the Mad Crowd
- Law, Ed, Hartlepool United, (Derby; Breedon Books, 1989), ISBN 0-907969-57-7
- Official website
- The Poolie Bunker. The main fans forum
- Into The Blue – Home of Richard R Richardson III Esquire and slightly odd Hartlepool forum
- Vital Hartlepool – Independent Hartlepool United news and forum
- Hartlepool player database at poolstats.co.uk
- Hartlepool United resource