4,000 seasons to be cheerful for fans

By the time you read this, I have every confidence that Hartlepool United will have passed the 4,000 target for season ticket sales and will be well on the way to 5,000.

I am writing this at 11.30am on Tuesday and I have just rang the club to get the very latest sales numbers. A very flustered member of staff could not give me the exact figures simply because they had been too busy all morning to be able to tot up the sales so far.

When I rang, the queue was stretching past the car park and every member of staff had been taking telephone sales all morning so I am pretty sure I am safe in saying the target will have been smashed.

It is an absolutely tremendous effort by the fans that have shown great support for the football club in difficult financial times, surpassed only by the unbelievable offer from the club itself and the way it has promoted the season ticket offer.

When I wrote about the offer a few weeks ago and urged everyone to get behind the club, I was confident that the 4,000 target would be reached. But I must admit, as time passed by and sales started to slow up, I was becoming increasingly worried that the fans were not going to take up the offer and throw their support behind Hartlepool United.

Many people who I talked to were keen on getting a ticket but were holding back just in case they would have to pay full price if the targets weren’t met.

The club then played a master stroke last week by announcing that the price of a ticket would be capped at £150. Even at that price, the offer was just too good to pass up and there has been a surge of fans over the last week making a commitment.

I’m hoping that today’s headline in the Mail announces that everyone will now only pay £100 to see all 23 home league games next season and I’m sure it will convince even more people to pop down to the ticket office to make their investment.

Hosting a professional football club is a privilege for any town or city and when the team sees a bit of success, it not only brings some great profile to that town but also gives everyone living there an extra boost.

It is undeniable that Hartlepool was buzzing every time the club reached the play-offs over recent years and when we managed to get to the final in Cardiff, the town was awash with happy faces and talk of the team.

I’ll wager that productivity in the workplace was vastly increased in the weeks leading up to Cardiff and that everyone’s general outlook on life was that bit more positive.

Every football fan yearns for their team to be part of those big occasions and most of us look forward to the start of every season, completely blinkered, thinking that this will be our year.

Well, this year, I am going to stick my neck out and say that this coming season might just bring a bit of success back to Hartlepool United.

All of the ingredients are there. If we can get crowds of over 5,000 for every home game then that will give the players a huge boost and has got to be worth an extra nine points over the course of the season.

It hasn’t been that often that we have had crowds of that size but when it has happened, the place has been rocking. It is fair to say that there were many games over the past couple of seasons where Victoria Park was like a morgue and it is no coincidence that our home record was one of the worst in the league. I am certain that this won’t be the case next year and the Vic will become a fortress once again.

The other week, I said I was really looking forward to the start of the new season for the first time in a couple of years.

Everyone I’ve spoken to feels exactly the same, even people who haven’t been to a match in ages.

With this revitalised optimism will come an increased air of expectation and it will be down to the team to string a few wins together to get the season off to a great start. For things to go well on the pitch, it is helped enormously if things are going well off the pitch.

Hartlepool United have been blessed over the years to be in the ownership of IOR, a company that has built the club up and brought us some of the most memorable times as fans. As a business, they have made a bid impact on the town’s economy and have made the club an integral part of the town’s fabric.

The potential for the owners to develop the club even further is huge and, working together with the council and other partners; there could be an opportunity to completely regenerate the surrounding area.

Talks over the sale of the ground have been well documented over the years and the decision by the council to sell it to the club in principle still stands.

I would like to think we can use this, if all parties are truly serious, as a catalyst which leads to redeveloping the entire Mill House area. There has been some positives moves in this direction recently and I’m looking forward to be able to firm up some proposals over the coming few months.

Finally, I know everyone loves a juicy rumour or two before the start of the football season so I thought I’d share a couple that I picked up yesterday.

The first was doing the rounds on the internet messageboards on Monday that we sold more season tickets that day (277) than Darlington has throughout the entire preseason period – and this is from a team who won a trophy at Wembley less than two months ago. How the not-so-mighty have fallen!

The other little snippet is about one of our players nearly missing out on the pre-season tour of Holland.

I’m told that the kit man drove and took the ferry to Amsterdam, with all the equipment, whilst the playing squad took a flight.

To save on the extra luggage charges, the players all put their bags in with the kit man.

When the players reached the airport, it transpired that one of them, who shall remain nameless to avoid embarrassment, had actually put his passport in his bag that was on a boat, halfway across the North Sea.

He had to wait at home for his passport to be sent back and then pay for his own flight to rejoin his team mates at a cost of over £400.

He could have bought four season tickets for that.