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The Early Years: 1881 to 1945

8 February 2017

We look back to the Club's inception

The Club rose from the remnants of a previously successful amateur side in 1908, survived the now infamous bombing by a German zeppelin in 1916 and join the Football League in 1921. 

A string of interesting characters pass through the Club's books over the years, both on the playing and managerial side, and this period is no exception. 

West Hartlepool Amateur Football Club was formed. 

Became founder members of the Durham FA. 

West Hartlepool Rugby Football Club buy land from the North-Eastern Railway Company, once part of a limestone quarry, now covered with allotments. The club cleared the land and the new ground was named the Victoria Ground in Queen Victoria's Jubilee Year. 1889 The Northern League is formed and West Hartlepool join soon afterwards. playing at various venues in the town. 1905 West Hartlepool Amateur Football Club win the FA Amateur Cup, beating Clapton 3-2 at Shepherd's Bush in London. 

May 1908
The Rugby club folds due to financial difficulties leaving the Victoria Ground in need of repair. On May 2nd a newly-formed association club was announced which would go forward on professional terms and had applied to join the North Eastern League. 

June 1908
On June 1st 1908 a limited liability company was registered under the name "The Hartlepools United Football Athletic Company Limited" with 2000 £1 shares offered to form a professional club. The shares are not fully subscribed, as there are doubts about professional sport, but Messrs R Martin and W Paterson, former vice-presidents of the rugby club and W J Coates, a former committee member formed the Board of directors of the new company. Although playing at the Victoria Ground, situated in West Hartlepool, the team is named Hartlepools United against public opinion as the company believe it should represent the two Hartlepool boroughs (Hartlepool and West Hartlepool). 

September 1908
On September 2nd 1908 a Newcastle United team were the opposition as Hartlepools played their first game at Victoria Park. The Magpies outfit were put to the sword as goals from Smith, Fletcher, Edgley, Seal and Lenagahan (2) meant a 6-0 win for the hosts. 

The amateurs of West Hartlepool continue to play in the Northern League but ironically need to share the Victoria Ground with the professionals, having lost their Park Road ground. Hartlepools United's first captain is Fred Priest, formerly a professional with Sheffield United, and they poach players from the amateurs and join the North-Eastern League. The ground share does not last long, as in June 1910 the amateur team folds and their assets are taken over by the professional club. 

United embark on a tour of Germany, an ambitious venture for a team outside of the powerful Football and Southern leagues. 

27th November 1916
A German Zeppelin on a bombing mission to the Teesside industrial area under attack from a Royal Flying Corps pilot jettisons it's load onto the Victoria Ground, destroying the main stand. A "temporary" replacement is built . which lasts until the eighties! The ground is also damaged by a German naval bombardment of the town. The club pressed the German government for compensation, but never received a penny. 

United took part in the Northern Victory League along with Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Newcastle United. 

United put their case for election to the new northern Section of the Football League at a meeting in Manchester. They need to finish in the top half of the North Eastern League to qualify, which they do. 

Workington transferred one of their players named Forman, for a fee reputed to be £10 and a box of kippers. 

27th August 1921
United play their first ever League game away to Wrexham. The team is Gill, Crilly, Thoms, Dougherty, Hopkins, Short, Donald, Kessler, Mulholland, Lister & Robertson. United win 2-0 with goals from Mulholland and Lister. United finish a creditable fourth with seventeen wins and eight draws. 

Egyptian Tewfik Abdallah, the first non-European to wear the club's colours, signs from Derby County, making 11 appearances at inside right and scoring one goal. He had previously played for International SC (Cairo) and Cowdenbeath and later coached in the US. 

Late 20s
With the Victoria Ground covered in a blanket of snow, and the temperature just above freezing, Bill Norman, United's manager ordered players to strip for training. When they complained about the conditions, Norman stripped naked and rolled in the snow. The players were amused, but did as they were told. 

Jack Howe was transferred to Derby after signing forms on a Lincoln railway station. He later played for England and won an FA Cup medal in 1946. 

Former Irish international centre-forward Sam English joined the club - he had previously played for Rangers and Liverpool. 

1939 -1945
War again caused normal competitions to be suspended and a North-Eastern Division formed and later the Football League North. Various guest players (usually stationed nearby) played for the teams. Albert Stubbins seemed to take a particular liking for Pools' defence, scoring 18 goals against them in 10 games. Stubbins' picture appears on the cover of the Beatles' Sergeant Peppers album.

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