Chronic financial issues, a crippling wage bill and an over-inflated squad put Hartlepool United on the brink of financial ruin last season, according to new Pools chief Pam Duxbury.
But the chief executive believes the future at The Vic is bright, with a number of conversations ongoing with potential investors, and the focus on delivering her promise of fan ownership, in some form, at Pools.
Ms Duxbury revealed her absolute shock when the books were opened and the club’s dire financial state laid bare, less than three weeks after she was asked to help out by former chairman Gary Coxall, who she says would struggle to pocket change after legal fees following his recent buyout.
And the threat of administration at the Vic was very real on a number of occasions, despite the protestations of Coxall, both privately and in the media.
Pools had a turbulent last season, in the High Court facing winding up orders, and on the pitch where they were relegated to the National League on the final day of the season.
Ms Duxbury says a lot of the issues the club faced, including the HMRC winding up order petitions, were down those at the top of the club, who are now not involved.
“If I had not been able to pull in investment from Sage Investments I would not have been able to pay the wages, pay the bills basically,” said Ms Duxbury.
“If there was no money coming in we would have gone to the wall.
“I have a very long standing a trusted relationship with the owner (of Sage Investments) and he backs me. He may regret it now but we want to rebuild this club for the future.
“Engaging with the business community, it has been overwhelmingly positive the amount of people who want to help the club.
“There have been people who have asked to invest in the club.
“My first question back to them is whether they are interested in a fan ownership model.
“If they don’t want to be a part of that, that is the end of the conversation.”
During a press conference at The Vic, her first with the gathered press, Ms Duxbury opened up about the issues facing her on her first few days at the club.
“I realised in the first three weeks,” she said on the club’s financial woes prior to relegation out of the Football League.
“It was a surprise for me when I opened the books.
“I am a chartered accountant by background so when you look back I do think more due diligence should have been done but you know, everyone has 20/20 vision with hindsight.
“It was a fast moving situation and I was committed to help but if I had my time over I would have maybe asked different questions.
“The club has been loss-making for some time. We were carrying too big a playing squad.
“The PAYE problems were the issue. The wage bill.
“This was demonstrated with the HMRC problems.
“I am confident we can plug the gap financially, but we need investment.
“This club has been loss-making for several years. That doesn’t stop overnight. There are overheads that need looked at.”
While it took a lot longer than she, or the club anticipated, she says the departure of Gary Coxall from Hartlepool was a massive milestone.
“It was a huge milestone,” said Ms Duxbury.
“We came into this working together. And things obviously happened towards the end of the season that meant things didn’t turn out.
“He won’t have much change out of his legal fees - that is the reality of it. It was a nominal sum.
“It has been frustrating how long it did take, but it was typical of this kind of thing.”
Looking forward Duxbury hopes that Pools can not only continue to increase their revenues on match days, but also on every other day of the year.
“The biggest thing is to try and bring in as much non-matchday income as possible,” he said.
“We want to get people through the ground doors as much as possible, 340 days a year the stadium is not being used. We need to try and change that.”