Without IOR, Hartlepool would have been playing in Conference years ago, claims Chris Turner

Chris Turner
Chris Turner

Hartlepool United would have been relegated from the Football League “years ago” without the support of Increased Oil Recovery, insists Chris Turner.

The former Pools manager enjoyed two spells at Victoria Park and he has praised the stability outgoing owners IOR provided.

The scene inside the Pools dressing room at Hull City in 2000 after reaching play-offs

The scene inside the Pools dressing room at Hull City in 2000 after reaching play-offs

And he hopes the new owners – set to be unveiled today – have “good intentions” and will provide similar backing.

Turner, now chief executive at League One Chesterfield, is well placed to reflect on IOR and outgoing chairman Ken Hodcroft’s time at the club.

IOR took charge in 1997 and appointed Turner manager in February 1999, an inspired decision with the boss saving the club from relegation.

It was the start of a remarkable rise which saw Pools reach the fourth tier play-offs for the next three seasons.

As time went on, the owners were spending more than £1million a year just to keep the club going.

Chris Turner

Turner’s first spell lasted 193 matches before taking charge at Sheffield Wednesday in November 2002, with Pools top on their way to promotion.

Reflecting, Turner told SportMail: “Without IOR, Pools would have been in the Conference years ago.

“Financially the club was struggling badly but IOR came in and stabilised the club.

“I came in as manager in 1999 and worked there for almost four years, building a squad of players that did really well for about six, seven, eight years.

Ken Hodcroft's first ever photo call

Ken Hodcroft's first ever photo call

“And that was all possible because of the backing of Ken Hodcroft and IOR.

“As time went on, the owners were spending more than £1million a year just to keep the club going.

“Berge Larsen had a big involvement in the early years and to be fair it was a fantastic club to be associated with.”

IOR was one of several companies owned by Norwegian millionaire oil magnate Larsen but their time as owners of Hartlepool United has now come to an end.

Chris Turner after the Blackpool play-off game in 2001

Chris Turner after the Blackpool play-off game in 2001

And with it, Hodcroft also departs after 18 years.

IOR enjoyed a strong relationship with supporters in the early years but that soured in recent seasons as investment dried up and the club battled relegation.

But Turner, who later became Director of Sport at Pools before a second spell as manager between December 2008 and August 2010, has praised Hodcroft’s influence.

“Ken always stayed in the background and always has done,” Turner told SportMail.

“But he was a big influence on the club.

“I enjoyed working with him and during my first spell we worked towards a plan and it worked tremendously well.

“As the years went by, they (IOR) weren’t coming forward as much financially.

“I think they climbed up a mountain, reached the top and have been slowly coming down the other side since.

“From 2007 onwards it was tougher to get budgets and players and various managers have found it difficult.

“But you can only put so much money in each year, like at a lot of football clubs.

“The recession hit all clubs – including Pools and IOR – and it has been very difficult.

“The club slipped down from League One and almost ended up down in the Conference.”

Pools, now with Ronnie Moore as manager, are set to embark on a new era at Victoria Park under new owners.

And Turner hopes they will be able to return the club back to League One.

“Sometimes I do think it is a case of better the devil you know,” added Turner, whose Chesterfield side play a friendly against Pools at The Vic on August 1.

“It has been a very steady ship for 18 years.

“I don’t know who is taking over the club but I sincerely hope they have good intentions and will support the club like IOR has done over a long period.

“I don’t like to see people come in and say ‘we are going to do this and do that’ and then suddenly within six to eight months they find out that running a football club is very expensive and costs a lot of money.

“It isn’t easy.

“I know the fans have been disgruntled for various reasons but IOR have kept the club afloat and in existence.

“I hope the people who have now bought the club can take it forward and get it back into League One.”