Hartlepool United takeover, 12 months on: Scott Loach gives a player’s perspective on financial troubles, the takeover and what comes next for Pools
Comparing Hartlepool United of early 2018 to the club of today is remarkable.
Gone are uncertainties at the top and frailties from the bottom up.
At one stage, Pools’ staff did not know if their wages would drop into their bank account, with the club just two weeks away from extinction - well, according to Pam Duxbury, anyway.
What was that experience like?
In our latest feature marking 12 months since Raj Singh completed his Hartlepool takeover, we speak to Scott Loach, who was an ever-present in the side which flirted with relegation and redundancy before the Teesside businessman helped save the club.
“Not wanting to be disrespectful to anyone, but it is a proper football club now,” he said.
“Craig Harrison and Paul Jenkins were great guys but things that were going on behind the scenes did not help them. Maybe they were just here at the wrong time.
“When Raj came in, with Higgy and put Matthew Bates in charge in turned into a proper football environment.”
On payment fears Loach admits it was a worrying time for every member of the squad.
But like Gateshead and Ebbsfleet United have proven this season, it is not impossible to keep performance levels up on the park, while chaos reigns off it.
“It is very difficult for players,” admitted Loach, whose side hosts promotion-chasing Solihull Moors at the Super 6 Stadium tomorrow.
““I have got two kids and if I did not get paid for a week or two, and you had no idea if it was coming next month, then naturally you would look for work elsewhere.
“It is happening now at Ebbsfleet and Gateshead - but they have both still had unbelievable seasons. Owners who don’t know what they are doing can ruin football clubs and the work the players do on the pitch.”
The goalkeeper, who has played every game since he signed in 2017, continued: “You hear a whisper here, a whisper there and then it grows and you start to think ‘am I going to get paid or not?’.
“It is no excuse for performances really but when some lads are down all week that can transfer to a Saturday.
“It wasn’t ideal. This year has been totally different.”
If you’d taken his word as gospel, you’d have been shocked Hignett would be manager at Pools again.
But you only have to spend a short space of time in the man’s company to work out he lives and breathes the game he loves. It was only a matter of time before the dugout came calling again.
“I think everyone can see now that we are trying to do things right. With Higgy, moving forward, you can tell this club is going places,” he said.
“Was it a surprise he got the job? Not really.
“When he came in for the few days after Matthew Bates left, he lifted the mood, the players. So when you think back he was the perfect fit - it was the right decision for the group of players we have right now. “I remember playing his sides when I was at Notts County and they were always tough games with good players like Nathan Thomas and Lewis Alessandra. I think he is trying to get that back this season as goals win games.”
2017/18, Loach’s first at Pools, will go down in history as one of the most turbulent in the club’s chequered history.
2018/19 is one that is unlikely to live long in the memory, much to do with Pools’ consistent underperformance across the term.
“The players are frustrated the season is coming to a close - that shows how far we have come,” said Loach.
“We think if Higgy had got the job earlier or we had a five more games on the back end of the season we’d have a chance of the play-offs and promotion.
“We are not going to go down or go up - that is not a bad thing really.”
There will be no promotion, nor will there be a relegation this season but for Loach reconnecting with the fans is the real takeaway from the campaign.
“There is a connection again now,” he said.
“Fans will not complain if you lose having a go. It’s all about the way that you do it.
“They saw us go 1-0 down last season and lose 4-0. This time around it’s different, we always feel like we can get score goals and win games.
“That’s been a massive factor in the relationship with the fans.”