Atletico Madrid, Project Pools and '˜blue-sky thinking' - a look inside Hartlepool United and Gary Coxall's pursuit of Dave Jones

Oscar Fernandez. It won't be a name familiar with many in the English game.

Saturday, 21st January 2017, 5:00 am
Hartlepool United chairman Gary Coxall. Picture by Frank Reid

But ask any football fan in Madrid, especially those who frequent the Estadio Vicente Calderón, they will be able to tell you not just who he is, but how well respected he is the Spanish game.

Fernandez is one of Atletico Madrid and Diego Simeone’s trusted generals, operating as the head coach for the club’s B team.

He even had a spell as interim manager at Valencia a decade back when former Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores was given the boot. What has that got to do with Hartlepool United, Gary Coxall and Dave Jones, though?

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Well, had things turned out differently this week, it might well have been the Spaniard who was meeting the assembled local, national and broadcast media at the Vic on Thursday, and not straight-talking Scouser Jones.

Fernandez, who applied for the post within hours of the sacking of Craig Hignett last weekend, is a measure of the level of coaches who were keen to take the Pools reins.

He was not alone. Rookie Steve Harper put his hat in the ring, a manager currently in work in League One was another who showed a desire to work with Coxall.

Ex-Sunderland man Alex Rae would have jumped at the chance given half an opportunity and, so we’re led to believe, would the likes of out-of-work Football League stalwarts Danny Wilson, Ronnie Moore and Nigel Adkins.

Even a well-respected manager north of the border had eyes for the Northern Gas & Power Stadium top job.

More than 100 CVs dropped into Pools’ inbox in the three days they were without a manager.

And while Coxall was taken aback by the calibre of coach keen to dip their toe into the mix at Pools, he says he only ever had eyes for ex-Southampton, Cardiff City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield Wednesday boss Jones.

“We made the approach to Dave,” revealed Coxall.

“He was a manager we knew we wanted from the very beginning. He did not have to apply for the post, we went for him.

“In the end, it was not a hard decision to make, despite the level of coaches who applied for the post. As soon as Dave made it clear he was interested, we made our move.

“Dave is a Premier League manager. He has taken clubs to the FA Cup final. He has managed through play-offs, achieved promotions and worked in every division.

“He ticks so many boxes.”

Coxall admits he did think Jones might turn their approach down.

“Part of me thought he would say ‘no thanks’,” said the chairman.

“But he has done the opposite, he has thrown himself into it.”

Getting Jones on board was seen as an ambitious move by many, but Coxall delivered.

Ambition is something that courses through the veins of the Londoner, you only have to spend five minutes in his company to get a sense of that.

“We didn’t have to sell Hartlepool to the manager. Not at all,” continued Coxall.

“He knows what can be achieved here.

“I hear people all of the time talk the club and the town down. I won’t. I think we can achieve whatever we want to at Hartlepool. Dave thinks that, too.

“Limitations are what you set out in the first place.

“He who says he can and he who says he can’t. As the saying goes, they are both probably right.”

The sky is the limit for Pools in Coxall’s eyes.

His message to the fans is to believe, because soon enough, he says, his actions will speak louder than his words.

If he’s right, exciting times could lie ahead. And the appointment of Jones, by the sounds of it, could be just the tip of the iceberg.