South Shields-Hartlepool United: As Seve Ballesteros would say, Pools have ‘gotta win’

Michael Woods celebrates his late winner.

Picture: TOM BANKS
Michael Woods celebrates his late winner. Picture: TOM BANKS

Sometimes this murky profession of mine brings some fringe benefits ... and I’m not just talking about a free lift home by Frank Reid, at supersonic speeds.

If you thought Concorde had been retired, think again. Only kidding officer.

To the neutral, Saturday’s fourth qualifying tie Mariners Park has everything you’d want in the FA Cup

.

Seriously, you get to watch top sport, gratis, free, for nothing, all that. Occasionally, you get to meet some legends.

Some, like Sugar Ray Leonard, Billy Beaumont, Francois Pienaar and Jimmy White live up to their billing. Some, like Roberto Duran let you down enormously. Great fighter, appalling fella.

Kelly’s Eye spoke to all the above with great professionalism, well all that I could muster. But one of my many regrets was I did not pull rank and nip through to Sedgefield to interview one of my idols, Severiano Ballesteros. I instead despatched Lee Ryder with the aforementioned FL Reid.

Forgive me for the last five pars of blatant self-indulgence, I am getting to the point, yes there is one.

Hartlepool United must take heed of one of my fave Seve stories ahead of this week’s FA Cup derby at South Shields.

What do you mean ‘what’s Seve got to do with Pools and the FA Cup?’.

Back in 1997, Seve was preparing his European team to meet the USA in the Ryder Cup at Valderrama. Early in match week, the home skipper was low key, relaxed, talking in reverential tones about golf’s greatest team competition, He told his players to go out and enjoy the event.

But when the tournament arrived, the great man’s mood changed and talk of enjoyment faded to a point when he implored his players “You just gotta win”. That is Craig Harrison’s job this week.

To the neutral, Saturday’s fourth qualifying tie Mariners Park has everything you’d want in the FA Cup – an ambitious, talented side on the way up hosting a club who have seen better days. When you hear the phrase the magic of the cup trotted out, this is what it’s all about.

But for Pools this is a serious business.

If Pools are to go anywhere this season (like back to the EFL) they need more than romance and a nice day out. They need readies.

Three wins in the FA Cup will bring in over 57 grand – that’s just in prize money from those nice people from Emirates before you even start taking into account gate revenue, and possible live TV fees. When Pools reached the third round in 2016 the run made the club a small fortune. anything like that might just fund that little extra push to promotion.

The FA Cup and FA Trophy are not irritations to Pools like the Carabao Cup is to Premier League teams.

Stoke City going out at the first stage in that is not pleasant for them or their fans, but given they get £100 million a year from the TV deal, they don’t need the few bob the League Cup pulls in.

But the FA Cup cash is critical to Pools.

Of course it’s not ALL about the dosh, Kelly’s Eye does not want to come across too materialistic.

A win at Mariners Park keeps the momentum going ahead of a vital home date with Sutton the following Saturday.

But, returning to a golf analogy, a tie against South Shields is no gimme.

Twelve months ago, it would have been League Two v Northern League, a match were it a pre-season friendly would be a 5-0 job.

However, the gap is now tighter and South Shields love winning. A lot. They have won nine out of 10 in Evo Stik North this season, plus three FA Cup victories already, including National League North’s ex-EFL sides, Darlington and York.

It’s going to be tough, but there is more riding on it than local pride.

So no pressure then fellas!