Hartlepool United Football Club are an English football team currently playing in League Two.
Hartlepool play their home games at Victoria Park, which is situated on Clarence Road near the town’s coastline.
The most famous person to be associated with Hartlepool United is Brian Clough, who went on to achieve managerial glory with Derby County and to an even greater degree Nottingham Forest. He began his managerial career at Hartlepool in October 1965 but moved on to Derby two seasons later.
Another famous ex-manager is Cyril Knowles, who took over as manager in December 1989 and the following season helped them win promotion to the Third Division. Unfortunately, he was suffering from brain cancer by the time of Hartlepool’s promotion success and had to retire just after the end of the season. He died three months later, aged 47.
Mike Newell now at Luton town, one of the most promising managers in English football, began his management career with Hartlepool in November 2002. He took them into Division Two that season but was sacked as the team squandered a 16 points lead at the top of the table. Newell has since gone to be successful with his current club Luton Town.
Hartlepool’s main footballing rivals are Darlington. Early in the 1986-87 season, their ground staged one Middlesbrough game because the team from the other side of the Tees were locked out of Ayresome Park by the bailiffs.
In 1905, the amateur team West Hartlepool won the FA Amateur Cup which at the time was considered second only to the FA Cup. Partly as a result of this the opportunity for a professional team arose in 1908, when West Hartlepool Rugby Club went bust leaving their stadium ‘The Victoria Ground` vacant.
The stadium was bought and the current club was founded under the name ‘Hartlepools United Football Athletic Company`, representing both the town of West Hartlepool and the original settlement of Old Hartlepool.
The new team joined the professional North-Eastern league and West Hartlepool F.C. lost some of their players to the new professional side. West Hartlepool managed to continue for a few seasons however it wasn`t long before they broke up leaving Hartlepools United as the only team in town.
Hartlepools United made many early applications to join the Football League however their proximity to Sunderland, Newcastle United and Middlesbrough led to these applications being rejected. In 1920 the Football League decided to form a third division, however in practise this was simply achieved by absorbing virtually the entire top division of the Southern League, with Grimsby Town the only northern representative. This was rectified the following season when a Third Division North was created with Hartlepools being one of the founder members.
Despite a promising 4th place finish in their first season Hartlepools failed to gain anything having to fight for re-election on many occasions. Hartlepools had a brief good spell in the mid 50s, in 1955 they reached the 4th round of the FA Cup, their best ever performance and in 1957 they narrowly missed out on winning Division Three North. In 1958 following the death of their manager however things took a turn for the worse and Hartlepools finished in the bottom half of the table, this coincided with the FA ending regionalism and the club being forced to compete in the new Division 4 the following season.
Hartlepool’s time in the 4th division included several re-election challenges, although their fortunes improved dramatically under the management of Brian Clough. In 1967-1968, the season after Clough’s departure, they managed to finish the season in 3rd place and won promotion to the third division for the first time in their history – they were only here for one season however before being relegated once more.
Reflecting the merger of West Hartlepool with Old Hartlepool in 1967, the team were renamed to simply ‘Hartlepool FC’ following promotion. In 1977 the team’s name was changed over the close season to its current form of Hartlepool United.
The 1985-1986 season’s introduction of the playoffs and the end of re-election was welcomed with open arms by Hartlepool with whom being relegated looked more and more certain every time they faced re-election.
In 1991 Hartlepool finished in third place and managed to gain only the second promotion in the club`s history. This stint in division 3 was longer than their last one however included the renaming of the league making Hartlepool a second division team for the first time in their history. In the 1993-1994 season however, after 3 seasons, Hartlepool were relegated back to the third division.
Their first seasons back in the third division were marred by financial crisis and the team narrowly avoided relegation for 5 seasons in a row. In 1999-2000 however their problems seemed to be over and they reached the playoffs, they failed to win promotion however kept trying reaching the playoffs for the next 3 seasons. In 2002-03 they finished in second place and won automatic promotion to the Football League Second Division once more. After an exceptional campaign, which included an 8-1 victory over Grimsby Town, they finished 6th, making the playoffs. However, they lost to third placed Bristol City after two games after holding them to a draw on the first leg. This season also saw Eifion Williams called up to the Wales squad and looked set to become only the second Hartlepool player ever to win an international cap while at the club however an unfortunate injury ruined his plans for the time being. The club finished sixth in the league again in the 2004-05 season. In the play-off semi-final, they defeated Tranmere Rovers 6-5 on penalties after the sides had won one leg 2-0. In the final however they lost 4-2 to Sheffield Wednesday after extra time. Hartlepool had been leading 2-1 with 8 minutes of regular time to go. A controversial penalty decision in the 82nd minute which also saw Chris Westwood sent off and Sheffield Wednesday evening the score making it 2-2 at 90 minutes. Hartlepool missing a key defender struggled in extra time and inevitably conceded two goals.
The 2005-06 season saw the side slip down the division to the relegation places helped in part by poor management, an indecisive board room and key player injuries. Manager Martin Scott was suspended after an alleged fight with a player in the changing rooms, which resulted in his dismissal. Youth team coach Paul Stephenson was put in charge until the end of the season and despite remaining undefeated in his first five games in charge, he could not prevent the club being relegated into the fourth tier in May 2006. Some felt that Hartlepool’s relegation was unfair given that Rotherham United had escaped administration, and therefore a 10 point deduction and relegation, by delaying a CVA meeting until after the season had ended.
On June 13, 2006, Danny Wilson was appointed manager. Wilson was unable to save fellow strugglers MK Dons from relegation to League Two at the end of the 2005-06 season, and he was sacked on May 10, 2006.
In 2002 the team’s mascot ‘H’Angus the Monkey’, aka Stuart Drummond, was elected mayor of Hartlepool as an independent, under the slogan ‘free bananas for schoolchildren’, even though his candidacy was just a publicity stunt. Stuart has since been relected after throwing off his comedy image and identifying himself increasingly with the labour group on the council.
On 1 January 2007 Hartlepool United equalled the all-time Football League record of consecutive wins without conceding a goal. The 1-0 win at Mansfield Town was the 8th straight win without conceding.
CLUB GUIDE: Hartlepool United