Graeme Lee issues heartfelt message to former Hartlepool United teammate and ex-Mansfield Town and Stockport County midfielder ahead of Port Vale clash

Graeme Lee has issued a heartfelt message to Port Vale manager, and close friend, Darrell Clarke ahead of their meeting at the Suit Direct Stadium this afternoon.

By Joe Ramage
Friday, 15th April 2022, 7:00 am

Hartlepool United host high-flying Vale to kick-off their Easter weekend looking to build on an impressive draw at League Two leaders Forest Green Rovers last time out.

But there will perhaps be an added significance for Lee this afternoon with the Pools boss hoping he can share a moment with his close friend, and opposite number, Clarke.

Valiant’s boss Clarke recently made his return to the club in some capacity as part of a phased return to support interim manager Andy Crosby and his team for the remainder of the season before taking charge again in the summer after being given a compassionate leave of absence following a close family bereavement.

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Graeme Lee has sent a heartfelt message of support to Port Vale manager, and former Hartlepool United teammate, Darrell Clarke. Picture by FRANK REID

Clarke spent six years at the Suit Direct Stadium after arriving from his hometown club Mansfield Town in 2001.

The midfielder made well over 100 appearances for the club scoring 22 times in all competitions including a hat-trick during a memorable 7-1 win over Swansea City almost 20-years ago to the day.

Lee and Clarke shared a dressing room together at the Suit Direct Stadium during their playing careers in the early 2000’s and have remained close since.

And Lee is hoping to see his friend and former teammate at some stage this afternoon.

Darrell Clarke spent six years as a player with Hartlepool United (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

“I love Darrell,” Lee told The Mail.

“He’s a fantastic lad, from being a player at Hartlepool, but he’s a good friend of all of ours and he’s been through a tough time and hopefully he’ll be with them in some capacity.

“Since coming in here as a player he was just a character who we all got attracted to. He’s got a personality that’s infectious and you can see why he’s a successful manager because of the energy that he brings and what he’ll give and his fight.

“He’s been through a tough time and my thoughts and prayers have been with him all the time.

James Wilson of Port Vale (C) wears a t-shirt in support of Darrell Clarke, Manager of Port Vale (not pictured) prior to the Sky Bet League Two match between Rochdale and Port Vale at Crown Oil Arena. (Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images)

“I’ve had a few little bits of contact with him and even in his tough times he still asks about Gemma and sends his love.

“He’s just a great man and I’d be delighted if we can get him on the touchline.

“He’s doing a fantastic job. Let’s hope we can give him a bit of a stumbling block and then out of all the people and players, I'd love Darrell to go on and get promotion.”

But Pools will have to be on their game if they are to take anything from a Valiants side who have lost just one of their last 12 games as they chase promotion to League One.

“I feel as though the last month or so it’s been someone in the top three or pushing for the top three so it’s been challenging for us,” said Lee.

“But it gives us a good marker as to where we want to be and where we want to go. They’re on a fantastic run and that reflects in where they are in the league.

“They're fighting for automatic promotion so we’ve got to be on it. But first and foremost, our performance has to reflect that we’re fighting and still chasing as many points as we can.”