Robinson steps down as Hartlepool Rovers coach, Benson takes charge

Carl Robinson watches from the sidelines
Carl Robinson watches from the sidelines

Carl Robinson said he was “gutted” to be stepping down as Hartlepool Rovers head coach but feels he has made the right decision.

The former stand-off has called time in the aftermath of Saturday’s 17-15 home defeat to Novocastrians, a result which moved the club closer to the relegation trapdoor.

I’m proud and honoured to have coached this club.

Rovers have acted quickly to replace him, appointing former West Hartlepool full-back, winger and stand-off Jon Benson, who will take charge of training tonight.

The ex-Consett boss’s first match will, ironically, be at former club Ryton who currently lie bottom of Durham Northumberland One.

Robinson had coached Rovers for the last three and a half years to good effect.

“I’m gutted it’s come to this,” he told SportMail. “We started the season so well.

“Given the players we have here at the club, we should be flying up near the top of the league.

“I’ve had a great time, I really have. When I was a player I never thought I would be the coach of Hartlepool Rovers.

“I’m proud and honoured to have coached this club.

“I can look in the mirror and know I did my best.

“I thought the way we started on Saturday against Novos that it was going to be our day – we went 15-0 up and I thought we were cruising but we capitulated, our good play fell apart and we gave away penalty after penalty.

“But I’m fine with the decision I’ve made and I wish the team and everyone at the club well.”

The first two and a half seasons he shared the coaching duties with his old team-mate, Graham Puckrin, before work commitments forced the prop to leave.

While Robinson also played for Hartlepool, Horden and Athletic, he’s a man steeped in Rovers tradition, having played stand-off during the club’s best years in the noughties.

His record was a good one, eighth in 2013-14, followed by fifth and seventh-place finishes, with three successive Durham Intermediate Cup final appearances.

The omens looked bad ahead of this season when Rovers lost two of their best players, stand-off Ryan Foreman, and flanjer Lee Maddison. Despite those circumstances and a testing start fixture-wise, the Friarage outfit began well and were among the leading pack.

In fact, when they won at Gateshead on November 5, the side were in sat comfortably in fourth but a run of seven defeats in the last eight fixtures has seen them slump to 12th. Injuries and unavailability have decimated the squad and at South Shields Westoe, they were forced to select three back-row forwards in the backline.

Rovers are just three points above Novos in 13th, with the Newcastle side having a game in hand.

Robinson’s assistant, Michael Henderson, has also stood down while fellow right-hand-man Darren Smith, who works with the pack, will continue while Benson settles in.