A KEEN football fan who met a passionate Poolie on holiday around 20 years ago has followed the progress of Hartlepool United and enjoyed a trip to the town every year since.
Billy Thomson, 62, from Greenock, in Scotland, met Hartlepool man Jimmy Gettings during a holiday in Bulgaria in the early 1990s.
Jimmy, 72, who runs La Mirage framing shop in Murray Street in the town, regularly visits Bulgaria and was actually handed a Bulgarian Red Cross silver medal for his dedication to supporting orphanages in the capital Sofia and elsewhere in the country.
The pair have stayed close ever since, with Billy enjoying an annual trip over the border to watch Hartlepool United play.
And since striking up their friendship, Billy, a dad of three, granddad of nine and great-granddad of one, recognised that Pools and his team of choice Greenock Morton actually play a part in each club’s history.
Back in 1922 Morton celebrated their greatest day when they beat Scottish football giants Glasgow Rangers in the Scottish Cup Final.
But the following day the team boarded a train to play Hartlepool United in a pre-arranged friendly and delayed their cup final celebrations another day.
And coincidentally just a year later Hartlepool United changed their kit to royal blue and white hoops, extremely similar to that worn by Greenock Morton.
“I always try to look out for connections between Greenock and Hartlepool now,” said Billy, who lives with wife Fiona, 62, a meat cutter.
“My team is Morton but the first team I ever look for after them is Hartlepool.
“Me and Fiona visit Billy every year and we always go and watch Pools.”
Billy and Fiona are looking forward to this year’s trip to Hartlepool in October or November.
Since their very first visit, Billy and Fiona have made a number of friends including Jimmy’s close friend Derek Hall and staff at Hartlepool United.
Jimmy, a dad-of-one and granddad-of-one who lives in Hutton Avenue, in the town with his partner, Paddy Horsley, 70, said: “We met Billy and stayed in touch and then invited him down to Hartlepool and he has been visiting every year since.”
Jimmy, who is a Pools season ticket holder and went to his first game back in 1948, added: “Billy’s always on the phone to see how Pools are doing, I always look out for his team and he looks out for mine.”