Joe Ramage: A tribute to Hartlepool United legend Gary Liddle after former Bradford City, Carlisle United and Walsall man leaves the Suit Direct Stadium

It’s not unrealistic to say this feels like a significant moment in the history of Hartlepool United.

By Joe Ramage
Thursday, 9th June 2022, 1:00 pm

Players and managers, they come and go frequently. The term ‘legend’ gets thrown around more often than smoke flares on terraces these days but with Gary Liddle, that terminology holds a little more substance.

Over 360 appearances across a combined nine year span in two spells with the club. This one strikes a little bit closer to home than most exits.

But, with Liddle heading for non-league with South Shields, maybe this represents something of a changing of the guard moment for Pools.

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Gary Liddle will leave Hartlepool United when his contract expires this month. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

While not necessarily incognito, over the last month Pools have now seen Graeme Lee, Michael Nelson, Dimi Konstantopoulos and now Liddle all leave with Paul Hartley the man now tasked with taking the club forward.

All of these are departures of figures who hold a great importance to the club for their endeavours over the last 20 years. But in their wake, perhaps gone are the ties to the club’s history. Those heartstrings that are often there to be pulled at when times are hard over the course of a season.

Players like Liddle, they get it. They’re a part of it. Despite being able to enlist another five teams on his professional CV, find a source of blood on Liddle and you can be assured it will be blue and white.

But with safety in League Two secured, and others having also parted ways with the club, maybe it is the right time for Liddle to follow suit as Pools look to progress?

Gary Liddle will leave Hartlepool United as a club legend Picture by FRANK REID.

Memories of Liddle, I’m sure, will be vast and varied dating back to his arrival in 2006.

In the days preceding me putting pen to paper on this column I’ve seen him receive many complimentary notions with regards his ability, but the words that constantly seem to crop up are: ‘True pro,’ ‘Leader,’ ‘Great servant,’ and, of course, ‘Legend.’

Liddle’s impact around the dressing room cannot be understated and how he has been able to help the likes of Timi Odusina and Neill Byrne in their roles as a preferred central defensive pairing but for Liddle, his return to the club in 2019 was about one thing: getting Pools back to where they belong.

And in last year’s promotion success against Torquay United he achieved that.

Liddle was immense that day in Bristol and typified, perhaps more than any other time he put on a blue and white shirt, what the club means to him.

With COVID-19 regulations still in full-swing, Liddle’s celebration at Ashton Gate, in front of a severely reduced crowd, was a little sheltered and in the press room as he stared into the computer screen to give his answers while swigging a bottle of beer.

But Liddle got the outpouring he deserved hours later as he was whisked aloft the shoulders of Pools supporters in Millennium Square with the party continuing long into the night.

By that stage, you could argue, his job was done. But Liddle returned last season to finish the objective and contributed hugely to Pools remaining an EFL club this year.

The torch will be there for another to take over, maybe. But Liddle’s flame will never extinguish despite his exit.

A captain. A leader. A legend.