The verdict on the bizarre Richard Money job swap at Hartlepool United

Richard Money has been a man backing out of Hartlepool United since the minute he walked through the door.

Thursday, 24th January 2019, 2:04 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th January 2019, 5:38 pm
Richard Money walks off the coach for his first game in charge of Hartlepool United at Leamington in the FA Trophy (via Shutterpress).

And for that reason it would be no shock to see the 63-year-old quietly ushered off the Pools stage this summer, after his shifting upstairs this week.

Money lasted just 43 days in the top job at the Super 6 Stadium. That's 17 more than his last posting on these shores at Solihull Moors. He also resigned there, after 26 days, in 2017.

Keen not to tar him with the 'quitter' tag, many gave him the benefit of the doubt on arrival. His words did little to disprove the outcome would inevitably prove the same, just a little further north.

In one of my first dealings with the manager he talked about walking out of "semi-retirement" to take the job. Make of that what you will, but for those lucky enough to be there, listening to his comments in context, it was easy to tell this was a man who felt he did not need to work, did not need Hartlepool, and when the going got tough, he scarcely needed the hassle of another battle to win over the club's fans, whom he went on to criticise publicly.

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After the Boxing Day defeat at Gateshead, things took a bizarre twist.

Two thousands Poolies and a handful of lads in the press benches watched on as Pools were played off the park for 45 minutes. They rallied slightly in the second 45 and somehow almost snatched a point with two late penalties.

Money came out and said this: "I don’t think we’d have been stealing a point had it been 2-2. I thought we were the better team throughout the whole game."

Listening to this left me gobsmacked. And I think anyone who witnessed Pools that day would have been insulted by that evaluation. Football is all about opinions, but fans are not that daft. They know when someone is trying to pull the wool over their eyes. This was something Money did at every turn.

He is a manager who hates three at the back - it doesn't work - he'd say. He described the system as a "cop out". He then went on to play three at the back.

Long ball football is not befitting of a club of Hartlepool's stature. He builds a team around Jake Cassidy, then Nicke Kabamba, and persists with long passes, particularly against Maidstone United and again at the weekend at Harrogate.

He hinted Nicky Featherstone is a player who does not fit his team, then plays him in a holding role - although, in Money's eyes, he does not have a defensive mind - even allowing him to take the captain's armband on Saturday.

Pools will NOT be looking for experienced players in January, it will be youngsters with something to prove who can bring a youthful vibrancy to the club - Money's words, not mine. His first major signing of the window - 31-year-old Michael Raynes.

Mark Kitching is a wide midfielder, not a defender - hooks him after 45 minutes of his failed trial in a 'front three', then plays him left back at the CNG Stadium.

Danny Amos, one of Money's signings, was the best player on the park in the AFC Telford loss, according to the manager. We've not seen him since.

Newspapers are to blame for calling the system a 4-1-4-1 and having a negative impact on fans' views - it was a 4-1-4-1 by the way. Money wanted it called a 4-3-3.

His short rein is one of contradictions. It's one that will go down as one of the worst in the club's history, alongside former Cardiff City and Wolves manager Dave Jones.

It's the first real error of the Raj Singh, Craig Hignett and Mark Maguire era. It's a decision - particularly the 'job swap' nature of it - that should leave some at Victoria Park with red faces.

Money was a fit that made little sense on appointment, and one that makes even less now - the main reason being it went against many of the ideals of the new regime.

Talk of a manager who can grow with the club, a younger model, not a 'been there, done that' Jones type has been the mantra from Singh & Co. That's exactly the reason they appointed Matthew Bates when they did, and, of course, because the finances of that deal made sense.

Having scoured the market for a manager keen to sharpen his tools at Pools, and having baulked at the fee required to land Lee Bradbury, the club opted to turn their back on their own model for finding a new manager and appoint Money, with a patchy recent record but who had enjoyed success in the past at similar sized clubs.

It has not worked. Pools have had to renege on their call. They got it wrong, and fans will be quite rightly scratching their heads.

There are so many unanswered questions at Pools at the moment.

Hignett is in charge, but for how long? Will he step back upstairs in the summer? If so, what will happen with Money?

What happens if Hignett does not work? Will he go back to director of football? And what calibre of manager would then come in to work in a system where they will feel pressure from above before they even start work?

Even closer to home, who was signing the players? Were they Money or Hignett signings? And if they were Money additions, then why was he allowed to sign players if the club thought he was unfit to continue in the job?

The list of uncertainties is endless.

One thing that is for certain is that chairman Singh has played the ace card he hoped would stay in the pack, for a little longer at least.

Singh and Hignett are very close. Hignett was the man who convinced Singh to put his cash into Pools. They trust each other and Hignett is loyal to his owner and employer.

Should Hignett stay on as manager beyond the end of the season, the day may come when Singh has to sack his friend and confidant, no matter how good a start. If that day ever materialises, it feels like it might be the point the fun stops for those in the halls of power at Pools.

Until then, Pools do, of course, have a more than able deputy ready to step in. Hignett's first reign was tarnished by the Gary Coxall regime, player payment problems and signings and sales made without his knowledge or consent. Due to the closeness of the relationship between Singh and Hignett, he will have no such problems this time.

While Money never lost the dressing room, despite suggestions otherwise, Hignett is a player's manager. He is one of the lads, can have a laugh, but also knows his stuff when it comes to talent spotting and organising a team.

One thing Hignett must do is save some face for Pools, because this recent episode has been another low point in what has been a challenging 12 months for Poolies. I think he will. He's certainly a more natural fit than Money, whose continued role is yet undefined, ever was.