Exclusive: Jeff Stelling talks budgets, transfers, Matthew Bates and why Hartlepool is better UNITED
Hartlepool United president Jeff Stelling has issued a rallying call to fans to stick with the manager and team after a difficult few weeks.
Pools have, for the first time this season, lost two National League games consecutively ahead of this weekend’s trip to Bromley.
And the manner of last weekend’s 3-2 home reverse to Sutton United has drawn particular criticism, with manager Matthew Bates, the playing staff and those at the top of the club all in the firing line.
Stelling, though, is keen for fans to stay UNITED ahead of a crucial few weeks for the club.
The Pools shareholder wants those on the terraces to not forget the very recent “trauma” of last season - when Stelling and chairman Raj Singh stepped in to save the club from the brink of extinction.
And he hopes that memory will bring some perspective when assessing the club’s current predicament - with Pools just FOUR points outside the National League play off places.
“I think it’s time to rally the fans,” said Stelling in an exclusive interview with the Mail.
“As a minority shareholder I have a bit of an insight into the financial situation at Hartlepool United. Raj and to a lesser extent, me, have put our money in to keep what was a sinking ship afloat and I think it has gone better than anyone could have hoped.
“I would urge the fans to stay realistic, to stay with the team and the manager.
“I know from being in the dressing room from time to time this season that there is a positivity in there, they believe in themselves and what we are trying to do here.
“We are top 10 and after the trauma of last season I would have taken that at this stage every day of the week, if offered.”
Bates, fairly or unfairly, has taken the brunt of fan anger.
Murmurings of discontent on the Super 6 Stadium terraces have starting to gather pace and social media, often not the best barometer of the mood, has been littered with fans calling for the manager’s head.
The feeling from the top of the club couldn’t be any more different.
Singh and Stelling see what Bates has achieved in a relatively short space of time and value the job he has done.
Facts are facts. Pools have lost just FOUR games in 18 this campaign, and sit just two places and four points behind seventh-placed Gateshead.
“I really believe in the manager Matty Bates,” said Stelling.
“Fans need to remember what he is working with. He has, in my view, a very talented squad, but it is also a small one.
“The run we have been on has been testing in terms of the number of games and the quality of the opposition but we are still in a position to challenge towards the top end of the division.”
Having added TEN players in the summer, and with one more in their sights, recruitment has been one of the success stories of the Singh era to date.
Incoming gems such as Niko Muir and Peter Kioso have been supplemented with quality in the likes of Liam Noble and Andrew Davies.
Stelling is full of praise for the club’s recruitment team.
“Behind the scenes Craig Hignett (director of football) and Mark Maguire (chief executive) are working tirelessly to strengthen that squad, but we can’t afford to go and pay crazy money in wages - that’s what got us into a mess in the first place.
“Whatever Mrs May might tell us, the age of austerity at Hartlepool United is definitely not over.”