This weekend, Hartlepool visit the EBB on Non-League Day, a day designed to get more bums on seats and where fans can choose how much they want to pay. Having just witnessed our lowest league home gate for some time, here’s hoping that there will be a bumper crowd of… well, why not have your say in our poll and make a guess!
Craig Hignett was yesterday relieved of his duties as Hartlepool United manager following an indifferent start to the 2019-20 National League season.
Pools sat 16th in the table after 16 matches but with just five wins all season and one in their last seven, the club opted to part ways with the former Middlesbrough and Blackburn Rovers player.
The sacking came as something as a surprise as United were still only four points off a play-off place and had ample time to turn things around. But with money tight, the risk of another season of mediocrity was looming as Hartlepool decided to take preventive action. The two chief factors?
Stockport County defeat
Arguably the final straw for Hignett. Hartlepool’s 2-1 defeat at Stockport County came the night before his sacking was confirmed. Their first half display was sloppy as they found themselves 2-0 down before picking things up slightly in the second half. The defeat confirmed a run of one win in seven and five in the opening 16 games of the 2019-20 season.
Fallout from the shocking refereeing display against Dover Athletic which saw Hignett shown a red card by the referee. He was later charged with two counts of misconduct and subject to a two match touchline ban. He only got to serve the first match of that prior to his dismissal.
Hartlepools to Hartlepool
In 1905 the amateur team West Hartlepool F.C. won the FA Amateur Cup which at the time was considered second only to the FA Cup. Partly as a result of this the opportunity for a professional team arose in 1908, when West Hartlepool Rugby Club went bust leaving their stadium “The Victoria Ground” vacant. The stadium was bought and the current club was founded under the name “Hartlepools United Football Athletic Company”, representing both the town of West Hartlepool and the original settlement of Old Hartlepool. The new team joined the professional North-Eastern league and West Hartlepool F.C. lost some of their players to the new professional side. West Hartlepool managed to continue for a few seasons however it wasn’t long before they broke up leaving Hartlepools United as the only team in town.
Hartlepools United made many early applications to join the Football League however their proximity to Sunderland, Newcastle and Middlesbrough led to these applications being rejected. In 1920 the FA decided to form a third division, however in practise this was simply achieved 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 northern third division was created with Hartlepool being one of the founder members.
Despite a promising 4th place finish in their first season Hartlepool failed to gain anything having to fight for re-election on many occasions. Hartlepool had a brief good spell in the mid 50s, in 1955 the FA Cup 4th round which is reached the best the club has ever achieved and in 1957 they narrowly missed out on winning the league. In 1958 following the death of their manager however things took a turn for the worse and Hartlepool finished in the bottom half of the table, this coincided with the FA ending regionalism and Hartlepool being forced to compete in the new division 4 the following season.
Hartlepool’s time in the 4th division included several re-election challenges, although their fortunes improved dramatically under the management of Brian Clough. In 1967/1968, the season after Clough’s departure, they managed to finish the season in 3rd place and won promotion to the third division for the first time in their history – they were only here for one season however before being relegated once more.
In 1977 the team’s name was changed over the close season to its current form of Hartlepool United, reflecting the merger of West Hartlepool with Old Hartlepool in 1967. The 1985/1986 season’s introduction of the playoffs and the end of re-election was welcomed with open arms by Hartlepool with whom being relegated looked more and more certain every time they faced re-election.
In 1991 Hartlepool finished in third place and managed to gain only the second promotion in the club’s history. This stint in division 3 was longer then their last one however included the renaming of the league making Hartlepool a second division team for the first time in their history. In the 1993/1994 season however after 3 seasons in the of English football Hartlepool were relegated back to the third division.
Their first seasons back in the third division were marred by financial crisis and the team narrowly avoided relegation for 5 seasons in a row. In 1999/2000 however their problems seemed to be over and they reached the playoffs, they failed to win promotion however they kept trying reaching the playoffs for the next 3 seasons.
In 2002/03 they finished in second place and won automatic promotion to the Football League Second Division once more. After an exceptional campaign, they finished 6th, making the playoffs. However, they lost to third placed Bristol City after two games after holding them to a draw on the first leg. That 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 ruined his plans for the time being.
The club have finished sixth in the league again this season. In the play-off semi-final, they defeated Tranmere Rovers 6-5 on penalties after the sides had won 2-0 over each other. In the final however they lost 4-2 to Sheffield Wednesday after extra time. In 2002 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.
Ones to keep an eye on?
If he starts. Kabamba (remember him?) And Jason Kennedy I reckon.
Will we start more confidently on Saturday. Before Shamir’s opener on Tuesday, the first twenty minutes were very tentative and a fair example of the team performances so far. After the second goal was scored, we were a team transformed, almost to the point of champagne football. And how we loved it.
Here’s Danny Searle’s thoughts after the win over Dover.