Hartlepool’s 96-year stay in the Football League came to an end on Saturday as their relegation was confirmed despite a 2-1 win over Doncaster.
Pools’ finest hour undoubtedly came at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, in 2005 when they were eight minutes away from securing a place in the Championship for the first time in their history.
A ‘Great Escape’ in 2014/15 which saw a 10-point gap to safety overhauled under the guidance of Ronnie Moore was an impressive achievement but can hardly be deemed a high and fans have not had much to get excited about over the last few years.
Here, Press Association Sport’s Andrew Carless takes a look at some of the most significant highs and lows in the history of the north east club .
Hartlepool were a founder member of Third Division North in 1921 and had been a Football League club ever since. That’s not to say they hadn’t come mightily close to losing their status, with the club applying for re-election 14 times between 1924 and 1984. Relegation was not introduced in the fourth tier until 1987 by which time Pools’ fortunes had – to some extent – improved.
Brian Clough was a ‘young man’ when he took his first steps into management at Hartlepool in October 1965. He appointed Peter Taylor as his assistant and the pair built one of the most successful teams in the club’s history before leaving for Derby in May 1967. Angus McLean took over from Clough and led Pools to promotion for the first time in their history in May 1968. They were relegated back to the fourth tier the following season.
Close to extinction
Hartlepool were on the brink of extinction in the early 80s, only to be saved at the last moment by then-chairman Vince Barker. Star striker Keith Houchen was sold to Leyton Orient as the club looked to fend off the Inland Revenue. In 1993, the club was issued with a winding-up petition over an unpaid bill for the construction of new dugouts. Things escalated from there and chairman Garry Gibson found himself in the High Court where a CVA was agreed and most of the first-team squad were sold to cut costs.
Nice one Cyril
The appointment of Cyril Knowles as manager in December 1989 was a master-stroke. The former Tottenham full-back allayed any fears of relegation in his first season before leading a promotion charge in the 1990/91 campaign. Sadly, Knowles was diagnosed with a brain tumour in March 1991 and was forced to step down, with Alan Murray – chief executive at the time – given the task of finishing the job. With Joe Allon and Paul Baker leading the line – the former scoring 28 league goals that term – promotion was secured with a third-placed finish. Knowles died in August 1991 but is fondly remembered by the club, with Pools’ main stand named after him.
Pools hit the headlines in January 1999 when they signed former England international Peter Beardsley on a deal until the end of the season. He may have been in the twilight of his career but Beardsley’s arrival was still seen as a coup for the club. He made 22 appearances and scored twice, including a stunning strike against Cambridge on his debut.
Hartlepool made the play-offs five times in six seasons between 1999/2000 and 2004/05 but have a woeful record. They lost to Darlington (2000), Blackpool (2001), Cheltenham (2002) and Bristol City (2004) at the semi-final stage – the latter in League One – before finally reaching a final in 2005 after beating Tranmere in a penalty shoot-out following a 2-2 aggregate draw. Pools were beaten 4-2 by Sheffield Wednesday in Cardiff, playing extra-time with 10 men after defender Chris Westwood was sent off conceding the penalty which took the game into an extra 30 minutes. Adam Boyd starred for Pools that year, scoring 22 league goals, while strike-partner Joel Porter bagged 14.
Pools have never been league champions but have tasted promotion four times – the last of those in 2006/07 when they put together a 23-game unbeaten run. Mike Newell blew a 14-point lead after taking over from Chris Turner in November of the 2002/03 campaign as Hartlepool missed out on the title in a last-match decider at Rushden & Diamonds.