Analysis: Matthew Bates' Pools working on winning back Hartlepool United hearts & minds
Three very unusual things happened at Victoria Park on Saturday.
The first was the most obvious. Hartlepool United actually picked up a point - this has happened scarcely since the drop to the National League, and even less so since November.
The second was a clean sheet. This was only Pools’ third since October. Their first since the November 21 defeat of Halifax.
Poolies gave every one of their own a standing ovation on the final whistle. So few results and even fewer performances have merited it. This one did.
And those who were there wilfully gave their appreciation to the lads who left it all out on the pitch against their promotion-chasing rivals.
Given all the off-field strife and some of the abject showings on it, there has been a definite disconnect between fans and club.
Hartlepool United can ‘stamp their authority on any team’ - Matthew BatesPunters still bleed blue and white, of that there is no doubt. But crowds have begun to dwindle since the sell-out high of Save Pools Day. Talk of saving the club has been divided. Some punters, having dug deep once, will not do so again and see a phoenix club as the only answer.
There is an apathy, or perhaps that is better described as a confusion and utter frustration, that no one - investor, club or anyone else - seems to have the answers to the million and one questions relating to what the future holds for their club.
This is no criticism, it is just part and parcel of experiencing failure after failure. It would happen anywhere. It is happening at Sunderland, it has happened at Newcastle United in the past. Any football fan who claims that their club is exempt or special is talking out of their backside.
Something came back to the Vic at the weekend. And it sparked the whole place into life.
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Matthew Bates’ voice in the dressing room has been well received. Craig Harrison was popular, but maybe his words had lost their meaning in the end. Respected Bates has breathed fresh life into a tired, depleted squad who looked destined for the drop.
In doing so, Bates may well have also got the fans on-side.
They were desperate to get behind their boys and all it took was a feeling of injustice and a flashpoint in the game. From the moment Bruno Andrade acrobatically tumbled to the floor after an altercation with Scott Harrison, it sparked Poolies into life.
Gone was the criticism and back came the cheers, jeers and atmosphere which has been so absent this season.
Harrison would go on to be dismissed and Pools were to ride their luck, but this all added to the drama.
Pools played the role of the hard done to underdog to perfection, and their public warmed to the battle, hard work and determination shown by all 14 who wore blue and white on the day.
Aldershot was the shot in the arm the club needed. Boreham Wood was about the restoration of some semblance of pride. What Pools now need is the points to go with it. Fylde might just be Pools’ most important weekend of the season.