Richard Mennear’s Hartlepool United comment: IOR stay on but questions still need answering

THE WAY THEY WERE:  Ronnie Moore, Peter Harris and Sam Collins. Picture by FRANK REID
THE WAY THEY WERE: Ronnie Moore, Peter Harris and Sam Collins. Picture by FRANK REID

CAST your mind back to Tuesday, December 16.

On a dramatic day in the club’s history Hartlepool United had just announced that IOR, who took control of Pools in 1997, were selling the club to TMH 2014.

A new company, led by Peter Harris, that had only been registered with Companies House in the days before the announcement.

Harris’s interests lay in construction, nightclubs and investment but was keen to move into the world of football and Pools, who were up for sale, fit the bill.

Promises were made, including that new manager Ronnie Moore would be given the necessary funds to fight relegation.

It was also announced the club was debt free – IOR had offered to wipe £14m of debt as part of the sale.

When it became apparent money wasn’t being readily invested during the January Transfer Window, serious questions began to be raised.

Aside from Harris, little was known about TMH, although Swindon Town’s former general manager Steve Murrall, an associate of Harris’s, was at Victoria Park when the ‘takeover’ was announced.

Harris, so vocal in his first few weeks, had disappeared off the radar recently and hadn’t written any programme notes for the Plymouth match.

That’s because he’d been told to keep his distance as TMH were still waiting for Football League approval, seven weeks after the takeover was first announced.

The date for the takeover to be fully completed was January 31 and while TMH 2014 had passed the necessary owners and directors test and proved they had sufficient funds – and sponsorship deals in place – concerns over their long-term intentions for the club were growing among the current Pools hierarchy.

Pools fans had initially rejoiced when they thought Ken Hodcroft and IOR were leaving the club but there was some anger yesterday when it was revealed he would be staying on.

In the long term, that anger may be seen as misplaced, if he and IOR did indeed act in the best long-term interests of the club.

IOR have had a long association with Pools and enjoyed a lot of success until relations turned sour in recent seasons, but there must have been very valid reasons for why the takeover was thrown out so late in the day.

IOR – who have been funding the recent loan and permanent signings and paying the staff their wages – could have simply walked away and allowed the deal to go through but they chose not to.

We will have to wait for the full reasons to emerge, but, in the meantime, there are a heck of a lot of questions that need answering.

A little more communication, as ever, would certainly help on that front.

When Harris was named as the incoming chairman he promised increased communication and engagement with supporters and even talked of bringing a supporter into board meetings.

Yet the statement released yesterday was back to the bad old days.

Even by Hodcroft’s standards, the statement was short – amounting to all of 42 words – finishing with those all too familiar words “The club will not be making any further comments.”

Now, for legal reasons, the club are likely to be restricted in terms of the details as to what they can and cannot release following the takeover collapse.

But surely fans deserve to know what the plan is going forward?

SportMail understands they are looking for new investment in the club and have been for a couple of weeks, including talking to local businesses.

Presumably the club is still up for sale, given chief executive Russ Green – who knew TMH through a mutual friend at the Football League – had made a point of saying how the crash in oil prices had affected the investment IOR could pump into Pools.

With season ticket sales and the staggered money from the sale of Luke James and Jack Baldwin to Peterborough, the club will continue to function, albeit on tighter reins, but what happens come the end of the season?

Will it depend on whether Pools are in the Conference or have actually managed to pull off the ‘Great Escape’ and stay in the Football League?

The great irony is that at the height of the disruption off the pitch, the team is actually producing its most consistent displays on it.

A huge factor in that is Ronnie Moore, the boss appointed by TMH 2014.

All he and the players and supporters can do is to continue to do their very best for the club and hope that, come the start of May, Pools remain in the Football League.

There is growing hope on the pitch and the chaos off it cannot be allowed to become a distraction.

After all, the club’s motto is Never Say Die.

But one thing is for sure, the fans do need some answers about what the future holds and there has to be some major lessons learned.

Still, on the plus side, it’s a good job the IOR signage had never been removed from Victoria Park.