Hartlepool United’s current plight is like watching a slow death of a football club, according to boss Craig Harrison.
Financial troubles have dominated the landscape at Victoria Park since the end of last year.
From the club being put up for sale on December 22, Pools’ economic plight has unravelled, and their troubles have been played out in the public eye.
News that owner John Blackledge had pulled the financial plug in November, brought with it fears that players and staff would not get paid.
A winding up order petitions, administration and talk of liquidation have all followed, with the good people of Hartlepool and beyond digging deep to help Pools make ends meet.
On the field, things have been just as desperate.
Back on November 21 last year, when they beat Halifax Town 4-0 at the Vic, Pools moved to within just two points of the top seven and the play-off places.
Since then they have not won a game, been knocked out of the FA Trophy by Workington and seen their hopes of a lucrative FA Cup tie go up in smoke.
They are now staring down the barrel, with the bottom four making up ground by the week, and relegation to the National League North a very real prospect with Pools just four points above the dropzone.
All of the off field issues go hand-in-hand with the problems on it, according to Harrison.
He is of the firm belief that Pools and the town is slowly being poisoned in this current state of flux.
“It’s like watching a slow death, that’s the feeling,” Harrison said.
“The town and football club feel like that. It’s slow and that’s my best analogy, watching something die slowly.
“I’m a positive person, so at this moment in time from my point of view I’m going week by week and looking at Saturday and the next game.
“We have that to focus on.
“Forget what’s going on in the background, we are building up to hopefully have a high point on a Saturday and that’s how I’m channelling my thoughts.”
The biggest worry of all the staff at Pools, not just the players, is whether the club will pay their wages in a fortnight.
Harrison has highlighted just how real this struggle is behind the scenes.
“The killer for me is wondering about being paid,” he said.
“We got paid last month and then the countdown starts again for next time. It ramps up the anxiety as time goes on, three weeks, two weeks and people are talking about it.
“That’s how it is and it would be the same in any job not just football.
“Families are depending on it, and not just players, wives are concerned asking and it’s not a nice situation to be in. Everyone at the club is the in the same situation, office staff and players, top to bottom.
“We all need to be paid, we all have bills to pay. It’s not nice, and the sooner something is done to stop the uncertainty then we get on with it.”
Football is a release from those concerns, but it has not always proved that way for Pools.
More often than not, the weekend has brought yet more misery.
“We look at the game, one point, three points, no points, and we break it down to get through to the weekend without looking too far ahead,” said the manager ahead of the trip to Barrow tomorrow.
“Training is a release for us, it’s our sanctuary. Once we are out there training, we put the troubles aside.
“In recent weeks I’ve looked forward to training more than anything else. We get out there, we plan training, we are engrossed in what’s going in.
“We come off training and then straight away someone tells us what’s going on. But out there we are away from the problems.”
As professionals the players’ focus has to be on their next game. And in the main the squad have stuck together through this strife.
But Harrison knows he cannot control everything, especially not what goes on in the heads of his squad members.
“Everyone is different,” said Harrison.
“As a manager you realise that about your squad.
“Some people take their worries with them on the training ground because that’s how they are.
“Myself and staff try to keep everyone focused. It’s only natural it will creep in.”