Hartlepool United promotion ‘definitely sweeter’ second time around for play-off man of the match Gary Liddle

Hartlepool United have just secured their first promotion in 14 years – both of which have been achieved with Gary Liddle in the side.

Monday, 21st June 2021, 12:30 pm

A young midfielder from Middlesbrough helped Pools earn automatic promotion to League One back in 2007. Five clubs and over 600 career appearances later and he’s done it again, this time as a veteran defender.

Liddle was named as the National League’s man of the match in the promotion final thriller against Torquay United. Pools led 1-0 thanks to Luke Armstrong’s first half strike before Gulls goalkeeper Lucas Covolan scored a 95th minute equaliser to force extra-time and then penalties.

Despite missing their first two spot kicks, Hartlepool were able to secure promotion back to the Football League with a sudden death penalty save from on loan goalkeeper Brad James.

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Gary Liddle celebrating Hartlepool United's promotion to the Football League (photo: BT Sport)
Gary Liddle celebrating Hartlepool United's promotion to the Football League (photo: BT Sport)

It was a brilliant, albeit emotionally draining day for the 35-year-old as he shed a tear following the shoot-out win.

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“It’s really, really emotional,” Liddle admitted. “I didn’t think I’d cry but the celebrations and seeing that final penalty saved by Brad, it was [exhales].

"Two reasons, one because we’d won but two because I was the next penalty which I didn’t really fancy.

"My second promotion here and it’s something I dreamed about when I came back to the club [permanently] last summer, it was the manager’s aim to get promoted.

"We’ve done it the hard way but we’ve done it and to do in front of 3,000 plus fans who were absolutely outstanding on the day, I can’t believe it.

“We conceded in the 93rd minute or something and I don’t mind saying it now but mentally I was half gone. It’s a difficult situation, having defended for the last half hour, to then try and attack in extra-time and try and win the game.

“It’s been a long time coming for my second promotion and to do it here is unbelievable.

Liddle added: “It definitely feels sweeter. I’m more relieved than anything because we’ve definitely done it the hard way.

"Not finishing in the top three and requiring more games than the others to get promoted. It’s been a long season and the manager he deserves it and the lads deserve it for the graft they’ve put in and obviously the fans more than anything.”

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