Hopefully everyone is safe and well during this time of unprecedented uncertainty. I thought I’d write something to try and catch up and update any situations that may have developed during these last few weeks.
Firstly I must begin on a really sad note with the passing last week of Doris Ford. Doris was the ultimate description of a supporter. Hartlepool United had been her life and for her to volunteer for the length of time she did and give her time and effort to the club will never be forgotten and she’ll be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with all of her family and friends at this time. Rest peacefully Doris.
On a positive note, I must congratulate Myles Anderson for the effort he’s made in an attempt to fundraise for the NHS. A great show of initiative for a great cause and at a time when everyone needs some positivity. Also, to get all of our players involved was great, to then expand and get the National League as a whole involved was a brilliant effort. Well done to all concerned and the main thing is hopefully plenty of money raised to help the fantastic people who are committing to helping our country during this pandemic to look after, care for and ultimately save as many lives as possible. It has also meant that I set up an Instagram account to be part of the live story. Social media is normally something I don’t get involved with but this was a great reason to do so. Lots of people……and Poolies have requested to follow me, I’ve accepted everyone hopefully…….but don’t expect to see a lot of me on there!!! If I get used to it and find the time it may be something I use more further down the line, especially when we get back to football and the dreaded (by most) pre season training.
It’s difficult to know where to start in terms of updates as although there doesn’t seem to be a huge amount happening, the amount of speculation going on behind the scenes makes things seem really busy. All players and staff were furloughed last week so there has been plenty of dialogue between myself and the players. This was and is a difficult and uncertain time for everyone and from the players point of view, everyone is in an individual situation that’s unique to them. Family circumstances, contract length, bills and outgoings, so many variables. Although I can’t go into detail, I must say the players have been fantastic in understanding the situation that ours, like every football club is in at present and every single player and staff member agreed to the furlough and wage reduction as a result.
One of the variables I’ve mentioned was player contracts. This is, even in normal circumstances, the horrible part of being a football manager as I am potentially affecting peoples livelihoods. It’s the ruthless part where as a staff we make decisions on how we think we can improve next season. We do this, very aware of the application, attitude and commitment that the players have given us since we came into the club. I will thank them sincerely for their efforts over the past three or four months and this gives me a chance to thank them publicly. We have a group of players who’s contracts expire in the next week but regardless I will be speaking to all players and we will make public a retained released list in due course when those conversations have taken place. In the meantime, negotiations continue with players we want to keep at the club moving forward and in the main conversations have been positive.
Before the lockdown we agreed a new deal with Gav Holohan and he joined the group that are contracted for next season. As a piece of breaking news, though it’s not new news, is that we were hoping to release a story on another player who agreed and signed a contract extension at the same time as Gav. Unfortunately at the point of looking to publish something everything stopped and been put on the back burner. I can though confirm that not only did the player reach a significant milestone in playing his 250th game for the club before we stopped playing but he was also rewarded for his performances, so to add to the players that will remain with us, Feaths has signed an extension and will be with the club next season. He’s been terrific since we came in and is and will be integral to what we want to do and what our ambitions are for next season.
I am talking about next season but we have no idea when next season may be. A decision was made by National League clubs to finish the ‘regular season’ with no more games to be played, largely due to the contract situation that I’ve just spoken about with contracts expiring on 2nd May in lots of cases. How things progress from that, I have no idea. I think everyone has an opinion on what should happen but without question, human nature will in many cases result in people’s opinions being guided by self gain and preservation. Decisions need to be made, I don’t envy the people making those decisions but as a league we probably need to fall into place and be guided by the Premier League and EFL and be reactive from them. The big issue from our perspective as a club is when next season starts. Again, speculation, August, September, January? Who knows? I’m reading the same as everyone else and unfortunately have nothing further to give you on this one.
As a club, it goes without saying we rely on our amazing supporters and I know you all want to help at this time. Season ticket sales provide the cash flow to keep the club in a safe place and with unfortunately no start date it’s impossible to plan and get these on sale. I’m sure that as soon as there is the opportunity, this will happen and we can sell as many as possible and look forward to being back together once deemed safe to do so.
Speaking about supporters and due to the enforced end of a season, it gives me chance to thank you all for your support this season. The club, players, staff are hugely grateful and recognise how lucky we are to have your unbelievable backing. From a personal perspective I’d like to thank everyone for the welcome my family and I have received from everyone at the club. It’s been amazing and in the short time I’ve been here it’s easy to see what a special place this is. It would give me no greater pleasure than to play a part in getting you and this club back to where you deserve to be. Within that comes plenty of challenges and hard work which is something that everyone that we have at the club accepts and relishes. We had built up a bit of momentum, some belief and a feel good factor around the place. That’s been curtailed for the time being but once things return to being in some part normal, we’ll get this back and have everyone looking forward. You, as supporters will be a huge part of that. You, as supporters can and are the difference between us and other clubs at our lower levels. It’s at times like this that you need to look forward to things in the near future and to sit and imagine football returning and playing in front of a bouncing Victoria Park is I’m sure something we can all look forward to in great anticipation.
Stay safe, look after yourselves and all of your friends and family and hopefully we will see each other in the not to distant future.