Pools have to hand it to hero George

MATCH SAVER: George Smith
MATCH SAVER: George Smith

OUR Match of the Day column returns today to mark the first week of the new football season.

Every Friday until May we look back at a Hartlepool United match from yesteryear and what else was happening locally at the time.

GAVIN LEDWITH begins with what we hope will be an omen for tomorrow’s clash with Southend United.

HERE is a question for you Hartlepool United fans to debate when you assemble tomorrow for your first pre-match pint of the season.

Just who is the club’s greatest goalkeeper ever?

Is it current custodian Scott Flinders or perhaps Noughties stopper Dimi Konstantopoulos?

Older readers may plump instead for Martin Hodge from the 1990s or Barry Watling from the 1970s.

Or what about Sixties promotion hero George Smith.

Just read this extract from our match report following Pools’ 2-0 win at Southend United, tomorrow’s visitors to Victoria Park, on Saturday, September 13, 1969.

Writing two days later in the Northern Daily Mail, as we were known at the time, trusty sports writer Sentinel concluded: “George Smith has played many magnificent games since coming to Hartlepool on a free transfer from Notts County.

“But none in my opinion can hold even a giant-sized candle to the performance he gave against Southend at Roots Hall on Saturday.

“Call him superb...call him magnificent...call him brilliant.

“In fact you could run right through the dictionary of superlatives and you’d still end up searching for words to describe the display that Smith, a goalkeeper who will never again see 30 again, put on in front of an audience that was generous in applauding a masterly afternoon’s work that will live for many a long year in my memory.”

Phew. How do you follow that lavish eulogy?

Perhaps it is just best to concentrate on the pick of the keeper’s numerous saves.

With Pools already 1-0 up through winger Ron Young’s 28th-minute fierce drive, Smith rose to tip home striker Garry Moore’s piledriver over the bar.

Victory was clinched with nine minutes to go when inside forward Malcolm Thompson ended a mazy dribble by firing past Trevor Roberts.

The win left Hartlepool, as they merely known at the time, in mid-table during their first season back in Division Four following their relegation the previous 
term.

But any hopes of a swift return were quickly dashed as Gus McLean’s side would not win again for seven games.

They also ended the season without scoring in seven consecutive defeats and finished in a miserable 23rd place.

By that time McLean had been replaced by club trainer John Simpson and Smith ousted by Des McPartland.

Smith would return to his native Midlands to sign for non-league Arnold Town and later emigrated to Australia.

While neither he nor Sentinel realised it at the time, perhaps his finest Pools hour in 121 appearance came just months before his departure.

Who is Pools’ finest keeper of all time or what are your memories of the players who starred for the club in their win at Southend?

Email gavin.ledwith@jpress.co.uk or write to him at New Clarence House, Wesley Square, Hartlepool, TS24 8BX.