Who were the first two people I clapped eyes on when I walked into the Northern Gas & Power Stadium on Saturday?
Don’t worry, it’s not a quiz, Kelly’s Eye often likes to start 60-odd words of rambling nonsense with a question.
The first man I met was Sam Collins, the second Ken Hodcroft. Two figures who have been sorely missed by Hartlepool United.
Ken, chairman from 1997-2005, and Sam Collins, servant for almost a decade, from 2008 to just a month or two ago. I hope Ken does not mind me saying this, but there were times he’d drive me batty and we had an occasional up and down as local newspapers and local football clubs do from time to time.
But I will not say a bad word about Ken Hodcroft, who brought stability and respect to the Vic and to the town. Oh, and tons of success.
Big Sam too, who played and captained Pools with a sense of pride, a quality which he carried into his coaching role at the club, evidenced during the Great Escape when he served as Ronnie Moore’s very able lieutenant. They were back at the Vic because they love Pools. No other reason.
So too were almost 6,000 like-minded souls, many tortured souls given some of the cruel torture we’ve all been put through in the last five years. I am neither ashamed, nor embarrassed, to write that I had a lump in my throat when the crowd let out a deafening roar when the players had completed their warm-up.
For someone, who spent many an afternoon from August to May trudging from Town End to Rink End at half-time to watch Pools attack the end me and my mates were stood in, it reminded me about not just what football is about, it’s what’s being a Poolie is about. The players who had abandoned their jerseys just a fortnight earlier were being greeted as heroes because they were wearing our colours, representing us and our town. And this time they did not let us down.
Kelly’s Eye is not sure who won that 2-1 victory over Doncaster Rovers, the crowd or the players. The old Roymantic in me would like to think it was both. There was pride, and passion on both sides of the white line and while there was an unhappy ending, very unhappy, the respect, stripped away by mismanagement from the top down over to some dire performances by the team, had been regained.
I bet a pound to a penny that many of you had some of the thoughts I did. Why did chairman Gary Coxall not make the change of management sooner, when you could see after Leyton Orient that it was broken?
Why was Dave Jones so ill-suited to Hartlepool United and why did a boss with such an impressive CV get precious little out of the team?
Why did the players wait until the end was almost upon us before playing with such zest? But then I thought why look for recrimination when the damage has been done? Yes, lessons must be learned.
Now has to be the time to look forward, to embrace the challenge of the National League with the same fervour as everyone tackled Doncaster.
I’ve heard rumours that some fans are suggesting boycotting season ticket sales in order to force the club into administration. I’ve never heard so much rubbish in my life. How can you advocate ruining the club? Having seen the terrible events of 1989 and 1993, that is not the way to go.
If you are a season ticket holder, continue being a season ticket holder, there are cracking deals on offer. Continue to support the team like you did on Saturday. Give the new chair a chance. There was substance and sense in Pam Duxbury’s first proclamations and she must be allowed the time to turn things around.
Kelly’s Eye would like Matthew Bates to be given an opportunity too, or certainly an interview for the vacant job. This writer has seen more spirit, structure and skill in the last two weeks than the previous two months. He is an intelligent man, seemingly with a gift for man-management, and, at this level, that’s half the battle. A battle is what it will be in the National League, it’s a serious job that lies in front of anyone and everyone in this TS postcode. And it is achievable if we all pull in the right direction.