LED FROM THE DOCK: Hartlepool United cynics should follow the example of Middlesbrough fans

Jon Daly
Jon Daly

EVEN the butchest of butch football fans can get misty eyed when discussing their club’s past.

Next May, for instance, marks a decade since arguably the greatest day in Hartlepool United’s history.

I say “arguably” because, for all the pomp surrounding the League One play-off final at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, Pools actually lost 4-2 to Sheffield Wednesday.

Personally I’d pick the 1-0 FA Cup third-round win over Crystal Palace in 1993 in front of the Match of the Day cameras in top spot.

What too of the 6-0 demolition of a then plain Alex Ferguson’s very plain Manchester United in a 1988 pre-season friendly?

Whatever your own tipple, should Colin Cooper’s side fail to make it back to the third tier this season then no doubt the 10th anniversary of the blue and white exodus to South Wales will be used as another stick to beat club owner IOR with.

Never mind that it was IOR who masterminded Pools’ glory years in the first place, the slings and arrows of footballing misfortune are not a Victoria Park disease alone.

Saint Steve Gibson’s Middlesbrough, for instance, find themselves in the same Championship wilderness as where, er, a halo-less Steve Gibson found them when he took control of the club 20 years ago.

But he doesn’t appear to get anywhere near as much grief as IOR for Boro’s own malaise amid a recent string of failed managerial appointments.

While I believe the latest incumbent, Aitor Karanka, should be given time to settle a much-changed squad, an uneven start to the campaign suggests the Championship is where they will remain for at least another year.

Cue “Gibson out” banners? I doubt it.

Who would take over, for one thing? And you can pose that question at Victoria Park and even further up the A19 at Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United.

Saturday’s visitors to the Vic, Tranmere Rovers, have an even more sobering story to tell than our North-East clubs.

Fourteen years ago, just as Pools were launching the first of six consecutive promotion battles, Rovers narrowly lost 2-1 to Leicester City at Wembley in the Worthington Cup final.

Now they are beginning their first season back in League Two for a quarter of a century after 13 years in League One.

Peter Johnson, the architect of their rise and fall, has handed over control to former player and Football Association boss Mark Palios.

Palios, who admirably combined his moderate playing days with the start of a stellar accounting career, is naturally seen as the man to restore the club’s flagging fortunes.

Yet they too are struggling towards the bottom of the embryonic League Two table and a home victory on Saturday would see Pools leapfrog their fallen visitors.

By the 10th anniversary of Jon Daly’s glorious header and Chrissy Westwood’s disputed red card, we should have a better idea of whether the sums are going to add up for Palios’ reign.

Change though is not always for the better.

Just look what it did to poor Darlo when some millionaire called George Reynolds showboated into town.