End of an era or end of an error?
Hartlepool United fans will doubtless be overjoyed that the club’s association with JPNG and Gary Coxall is over.
Two years, almost to the day, since the Essex-based recruitment company bought Pools from Increased Oil Recovery, there has now been a parting of the ways.
Leading shareholder Coxall has departed the scene, with his shares, we are told, settled by a nominal sum, legal-speak for the party getting less than they wanted.
Supporters felt let down by Coxall and JPNG and, rather like coal-mining communities following the death of Margaret Thatcher, no tears will be shed at their exit.
The Eastender arrived in town bright and breezy, the proverbial chirpy Cockney, full of wit, but also full of promises, and therein lay the problem.
Coxall was welcomed by the fans, many of whom felt IOR had taken Pools as far as they could.
There had been a steady decline at the Vic from those heady days of the noughties when Pools were challenging at the top end of the table seemingly every season. Hell, the club came within eight minutes of the Championship.
To their credit, and to Hartlepool’s eternal thanks, IOR had worked wonders at the club since buying it from local hero, Harold Hornsey in 1997.
They had sold out first in late 2014 to a group calling themselves The Monkey Hangers.
However, chairman Ken Hodcroft pulled out at the 11th hour over doubts about TMH’s suitability.
But IOR did find new owners, JPNG, who originally wanted to sponsor Pools yet ended up taking over Hartlepool United on June 22, 2015.
Coxall was everything Hodcroft wasn’t and was soon a popular figure.
Ken was a hard-nosed businessman, who did it by the book, a straight-down-the-middle fella. There were no wild promises, in fact, no promises at all, and very few public statements.
Hartlepool United would be run like a business and run properly (he would even be the man to action purchases of bootlaces) and if anyone every gave the club a bad name, they would be out on their ear.
Coxall was a different character all together.
A Twitter user, he was engaging with fans and won immediate popularity by restoring three words to the crest “The Town’s Club” after “An IOR Company” was previously used.
And he had big ideas. His dream was to take Pools up to the Championship and he wanted the club to be at the centre of the community.
His vision was for Pools to be at the heart of a regeneration of the Mill House area where the club could make money 52 weeks a year instead of just operating as a football club.
It all sounded wonderful, but, sadly, there was no substance. Pools would founder on and off the pitch, a series of invitations to the High Court to deal with winding up orders from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs sounded loud alarm bells from fans who recalled similar events of a quarter of a century ago. Pools were losing money hand over fist.
The players were paid late too and that had an effect on the field as Pools slid from being play-off hopefuls to survival scrappers again.
Coxall made the disastrous appointment of Dave Jones, who proceeded to take the team even lower.
To the chairman’s credit, he did, finally remove Jones, though it probably came a match too late, appointing the gang of four of Matthew Bates, Billy Paynter, Ian Gallagher and Stuart Parnaby.
He received criticism for quitting in the last week of the season, but this reporter feels he deserved praise for those actions.
His absence meant there were no protests, no dissent, just incredible support from the stands and terraces for Pools who pulled off a great win over Doncaster.
Alas, it was not enough. Newport’s late winner against Notts County condemned Pools to the drop out of the Football League for the first time in 95 years. There would be no telegram from the Queen!
Finance director Pam Duxbury has taken up the reins with SAGE and is trying to turn Pools around.
They scored an own goal by sacking physio Gallagher and the rumours that Jones still holds influence over the club will not go away.
But Duxbury has appointed Craig Harrison, who has made a positive start as manager and has been backed in the transfer market, signing six players. She has also unveiled a sponsorship deal with Hartlepool company, Utility Alliance.
Duxbury has issued a detailed statement and is keen to get EVERYONE on the same page.
All Pools fans want is something and someone to believe in, someone and something to trust. The announcement will give fans renewed hope that a new era can begin.