A rough guide to... Hartlepool United

Cod Almighty | Article

by Grant Maconachie

1 August 2016

Hartlepool and the Mariners have more in common than just Amond, Magnay and Nsiala

How are you?

If Hartlepool hadn't stolen our last two lovers we might not actually know who the hell they are. But since they have, we probably can't consider them to be anything other than flashy, all-words and no-action bastards.

Or can we? Hartlepool live in the shadow of three very much bigger clubs: Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough. They play in stripes, live by the sea, are content to be derided for near-continuous abject failure and don't really care. Perhaps they are long-lost cousins. In which case it's kind of difficult to not like them, or at least accept and get on with them.

What have you been up to?

Hartlepool came in to existence in 1881 and had various guises in amateur form. Although they were very much the understudies to the egg chasers, they did win the FA Amateur Cup in 1905 as West Hartlepool.

When the rugby side went belly up, Hartlepool formed as a football club in 1908 and finally joined the League in 1921. Since then they have achieved absolutely nowt, remained in the bottom two divisions and not even remotely looked like making it higher.

Hartlepool have had a few notable managers. The great Bill Norman, who in the late 1920s was so adamant that they trained, whatever the weather, that he stripped naked and rolled around on the snow-covered training fields. Fred Westgarth (1943-57) kept chickens in his office. In October 1965 a fresh-faced character by the name of Brian Clough took charge – his first steps in football management – ably assisted by Peter Taylor. They gave a first-team debut to 16-year-old local student John McGovern; the rest, we are reliably informed, is history.

In January 1957, Hartlepool lost 4-3 at home in the FA Cup to a bunch of kids from Manchester. Sir Matt Busby always claimed it was one of the most exciting games he ever watched.

What kind of a season did you have?

Pools got on the telly twice last season against Salford City of Out of Our League fame. The rumour that they played for a draw in the first game in order to gain TV revenue from a replay was a hotly debated point.

Please don't dwell on the rest of last season. Hartlepool stormed the first three games. The winning streak clearly went to their heads and they never looked like doing it again. They survived. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't exciting, it was as dull as dishwater at times, but we took it.

How are you feeling?

Pools fans have never had high expectations. The team do have – in Carl Magnay, Toto Nsiala and Podge Amond – three elevenths of a side capable of reaching the non-League play-off finals. However, they don't play at that level, although they could conceivably be doing so next season. Two wins, a plethora of draws and the joint worst defensive record in the division do not augur well. However, their last two draws were with Plymouth and Luton, currently first and second in the fourth flight. They could be beginning to come good.

Where are you from?

There have been more US warships sunk in Hartlepool Harbour – now rather glamorously known as Hartlepool Marina – than the Japanese air force managed to sink at Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The Angel of the North statue, designed by Anthony Gormley, was built in Hartlepool. The project started in 1994, construction began in July 1997, and the structure was finally assembled in February 1998.

You must be so annoyed that everyone gets your nickname wrong?

'Pools' is derived from the fact that there are two parts to Hartlepool – Hartlepool and West Hartlepool – and indeed the club originated from West Hartlepool. The club were known as Hartlepools United until 1968, then just Hartlepool until 1977 when they became Hartlepool United. The fact that every part of the media – apart from Jeff Stelling – refers to them as 'Pool' does get their goat.

Nor are Pools called the Monkey Hangers. So much of Hartlepool's local history is tainted by that solitary incident. However, the club has adopted H'angus the Monkey as its mascot and the team comes onto the pitch to the theme tune from the 1960s show The Monkees – so it kind of ruins visitors' anticipated piss-taking.

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