New Hartlepool United owner Raj Singh yesterday revealed to the Mail the details of his takeover, as well as outlining his plans for the club moving forward.
In the second part of an in-depth interview, today Singh discusses the futures of Matthew Bates and Pam Duxbury, as well as clarifying what his and Craig Hignett’s role will be at Victoria Park.
Concerns with the black hole in the budget are also touched upon, as well as the reaction of Poolies to the takeover by the former Darlington chief.
*What will be your role at Hartlepool United?
Singh said: “Ideally I will be involved and on call all the time. But one other thing I have learned is that it is important to keep the football club and business separate. What will keep the money coming in is my business. I will not get anyone from my own business involved in the club. I am hoping my involvement will be as little as possible because that means things are going well. But I am there if needed.”
*And Craig Hignett, what will be his duties?
Singh said: “He is a director of football. At Darlington we had the playing staff, the coaches then me. I felt because of that we made a lot of wrong signings. We went on agents recommendations, etc, and that wasn’t the right thing to do. The idea this time around is that Craig knows the town, knows a lot of the players, knows the club inside out and can hit the ground running. He can be the link between the playing squad and the board. Any manager will identify players, Hignett will go out and get them. It will all be done above board. I have known Craig a long time. He could have gone in there as manager, he has done it before, but we want him in this role because he has connections across the North East footballing world.”
*Does caretaker Matthew Bates have a future at the football club?
Singh said: “I met with Matty and we had a good chat. It was Me, him and Craig (Hignett). We are heading in the right direction, so we said ‘why rock the boat?’ I told him to give us a decision to make.”
*Will under-fire Pam Duxbury remain on board?
Singh said: “Short-term Pam will be involved. She is one of the reasons why this club is still here. The fans might not have their own opinions of Pam. I do not know her well enough to form an opinion of her for the long-term, but I know for a fact she is one of the main reasons why we are here with a football club to take over. She went and did the deals with the council, got short-term loans to see the club through - not many people would have done that. Many people would have walked away and the club would have collapsed. Pam, with the fans raising money, is the reason why there is a Hartlepool United. And I am thankful for that. It might have been a different picture altogether if this club had gone into administration, then liquidation. Short-term she knows the club inside out, it could even be long-term. There will be other people on board. On the face of it she has done a cracking job to keep the head above water. We will keep her in now, and take stock, as we will with everyone. She is more good than bad for the club, contrary to some people’s beliefs.”
*Will the Hartlepool United Supporters Trust have a part to play moving forward, or get a place on the board?
Singh said: “I have told the trust that we are looking for investors. I want them to get their money in and we can talk. At the moment they haven’t. The same goes for anyone else. If they come with some cash we can talk about involvement at board level moving forward. One person put his hand in his pocket and the other one backed him - that is where we are at. Until that changes we won’t have anything to talk about.”
*Are you concerned that you have not got the full £1.8million that was part of your three-year plan?
Singh said: “We had a choice to make. Ideally I would have preferred to have the money there. The first thing I said was we need to have enough money for three years and then we are not worrying about bills getting paid, if we have a bad season, etc. That would have been my preference. But what do you do? Go with the money you have got or let the club go to administration. We decided to run with it. Once we get the club stabilised, hopefully people will come forward to support us. We have had plenty of people making the phone calls, but no one is showing the colour of their money. Once they see the direction the club is heading I am sure people will come forward.”
*Did the club’s precarious league position and the threat of relegation ever create doubts about you doing the deal?
Singh said: “In the back on my mind, yes. If you go down it will take x,y,z to come back and that is more money in the black hole. Now, we are not out the woods but it is better than it was a week ago. Hopefully we will be OK, and we can build from there.”
*Have you been surprised by relatively positive reaction by Poolies?
Singh said: “It has been mostly positive, some negative. I want, in two or three years time, for Pools fans not to think I was their only choice. I want them to think that given their time again, even with five or six other potential owners, they’d have still chosen me. At the moment people think ‘what choice have we got?’ And they’d be right. But I hope that might change over time. I just want the fans to judge me from now, forget about what has gone on at Darlington. For me now, it is all Hartlepool, Hartlepool, Hartlepool.”