Hartlepool United F.C.
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Hartlepool United F.C.

Hartlepool United
Hartlepool United FC logo 2017.png
Full nameHartlepool United Football Club
Monkey Hangers
Founded1908; 113 years ago (1908)
GroundVictoria Park
OwnerRaj Singh
ChairmanRaj Singh
ManagerDave Challinor[1]
LeagueEFL League Two
2020-21National League, 4th of 22 (promoted via play-offs)
WebsiteClub website
Current season

Hartlepool United Football Club is a professional association football club based in Hartlepool, County Durham, England. The team compete in League Two, the fourth tier of the English football league system.

They were founded in 1908 as Hartlepools United Football Athletic Company. West Hartlepool won the FA Amateur Cup in 1905 and after the club was dissolved in 1910 its assets and liabilities were subsequently taken over by Hartlepools United, who were then playing in the North Eastern League. Hartlepools United were elected into the Football League in 1921 and would spend the next 37 years in the Third Division North, at which point they were placed into the Fourth Division. In 1968, the s and the United of the club's name was removed due to the merger of West Hartlepool with the town of Hartlepool and the village of Hart - forming the new borough of Hartlepool. The club won promotion in 1967-68 for the first time, though were relegated out of the Third Division the following season. In 1977, the United was added back to the team's name. They won another promotion in 1990-91, though were relegated in 1994. They won further promotions out of the fourth tier in 2002-03 and 2006-07, having been relegated again in 2006 after losing the 2005 League One play-off Final to Sheffield Wednesday in the previous season. Hartlepool were relegated again in 2013 and ended their 96-year run in the Football League with relegation into the National League in 2017. Hartlepool achieved promotion back to the Football League in 2021, beating Torquay United in the National League play-off Final.

Hartlepool have played home games at Victoria Park throughout their history. Their main rival is Darlington. The club's mascot, 'H'Angus the Monkey', was elected mayor at the 2002 Hartlepool Borough Council election. The club also receives vocal support from Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling. Between 1924 and 1984, Hartlepool had to apply for re-election on fourteen occasions (a record) in the fourth tier of English football due to their consistent relegation battles, however, they were never relegated from this level until 2017. Hartlepool have never won a league title or played at Wembley Stadium. The club is also known for being the one that Brian Clough started his managerial career. The club's record appearance holder is Ritchie Humphreys, who made 543 appearances, while their leading scorer is Joshie Fletcher with 111 goals.


1908-45: Early years

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 Victoria Ground vacant.[2] 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 Hartlepool, known locally as "Old Hartlepool".[3]

The new team joined the professional North-Eastern league and West Hartlepool lost some of their players to the new professional side. West Hartlepool managed to continue for a few seasons however it was not long before they broke up leaving Hartlepools United as the only team in town.[3]

In 1910, the club took over the assets and liabilities of West Hartlepool who had been dissolved that year. In 1920, the Football League formed a third division. This was based almost entirely in the south, as the new division was created 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 Hartlepool as one of the founder members.[4]

1945-82: Post-war

Brian Clough was invited to manage Hartlepool in 1965. His reaction was "I don't fancy the place", but he took the job anyway.[5]

In 1968 the "s" and the "United" were dropped from the team name of "Hartlepools United". This was due to the merger of West Hartlepool with the older smaller town of Hartlepool and the village of Hart into one new borough named "Hartlepool". The appendage of "United" was restored in 1977.[6]

Under Len Ashurst (who became manager in 1971), the team slowly began to revive after years of largely indifferent form. The 1971-72 season saw a welcome improvement to 18th, and possibly saved the club; Barrow, who had finished bottom the previous year, were voted out in favour of Hereford United despite having improved to 22nd. The club once again avoided the re-election zone in 1972-73, finishing in 20th place, but with four successive finishes either in or not far above the bottom four and strong challenges coming from non-league sides, the club needed to show signs of improvement. Ashurst did precisely that, finishing in 11th in 1973-74; he then left the club to manage Gillingham.

Ken Hale took over and guided the team to 13th and 14th over the next two seasons and also reached the League Cup Fourth round in 1974-75 (still a club record). However, 1976-77 saw a return to the doldrums; Hale was sacked after failing to win any of the first nine games (including two cup matches) at the start of October. His successor Billy Horner could not stop the rot either, and the team finished in 22nd place. Again there was a strong challenger from non-league in the form of Wimbledon; however, as the club was seeking re-election for the first time in six years, it was Workington - bottom for a second successive year and making their fourth consecutive re-election application that made way. Over the close season the team's name was changed to its current form of Hartlepool United. A tragedy struck the club a few weeks before the end of the season when 20-year-old player Dave Wiggett was killed in a car crash.[7]

Chart of yearly table positions of Hartlepool in the Football League.

A marginal improvement to 21st the following year again saw the club applying to stay in the league; and again a strong non-league challenge, this time from Wigan Athletic, was enough to dispose of Southport. It seemed to be only a matter of time before Hartlepool United followed the same way.

Once again then, it was a huge relief for the supporters that Horner managed to make considerable improvements the following season. A large part of this was due to the strike partnership of Bob Newton and Keith Houchen; the latter would be the club's leading scorer in each of the following four seasons. There was also relative success in the FA Cup, with Crystal Palace being defeated at the Victoria Ground thanks to two goals from Newton as the club made the Fourth round.

1978-79 saw a finish in 13th place; 19th the following season was still enough to stay clear of the re-election zone, and then 1980-81 saw the team produce its best season in over a decade, never being out of the top 10 and looking promotion contenders for a long spell before falling away to finish ninth. Keith Houchen was top scorer with 17 league goals, with Newton also making double figures.

Financial issues were however making waves off the pitch and in particular the ownership of the ground. The Town Council were approached by the club with a view to buying the ground in January 1977, and although this was initially turned down negotiations continued. In February 1978, a deal seemed to have been agreed; however chairman Vince Barker accused the council of delaying the deal when it was not complete 12 months later. Barker would accuse the council of trying to renege on the deal in July 1980, and even threatened to move the club out of the town amidst rumours that he was prepared to sell up and allow the club to be moved to Scarborough. As of February 2007, the ground remains in Council ownership.

1981-82 saw the team finish in 14th place despite both Houchen and Newton scoring 18 goals, but their partnership was drawing to a close and with it four seasons of relative success. The club was running into financial difficulties under Vince Barker, and both forwards would be sold the following season for fees that failed to reflect their value to the club but allowed bills to be paid. The team suffered, and finished in 22nd - back in the re-election zone. Billy Horner handed over his duties at the end of March to John Duncan.

Duncan's time at the club was limited. Having been appointed on 1 April, just nine weeks later he left to take over at Chesterfield. Hartlepool appointed Mick Docherty, son of the legendary Tommy Docherty; however after six months and with the team struggling, he too left the club. Even for Hartlepool, four managers in the space of eight months was somewhat farcical; the fact that the decision was made to re-appoint Billy Horner (initially as a temporary measure, although he would actually remain in charge until November 1986) made the situation even worse.

Dissatisfaction with the club's board grew; attendances fell; performances remained poor. An eventual finish of 23rd, and a club record low attendance of 790 for the game with Stockport County on 5 May 1984, showed a club that looked to be going nowhere. The application for re-election was again successful, with the club once more polling the lowest figure of the League clubs, the result was secured on the back of an agreement being made amongst the club chairmen to enter into meaningful dialogue over direct promotion and relegation with the Alliance Premier League. Many felt that without that agreement being made, Hartlepool United would have been voted out because of their perennial re-election applications. Maidstone United were the unfortunate non-league champions to have the Football League door slammed in their faces for the second year running. During the close season chairman Barker left the club, John Smart taking over.

Once again though Horner managed to produce an improvement, to 19th, before making a team that looked capable of winning promotion. After a shaky start to 1985-86, the team climbed into the top three by mid-October; were still in a promotion spot in early March; and eventually faded slightly to finish in seventh place.

Any hopes that Horner might lead the club to promotion faded shortly after the start of the 1986-87 season. After drawing the first four games of the season, Pools then lost the next four before finally recording their first win against Lincoln City in the ninth game; a further six games without a win were enough to see the club looking in serious danger of being the first club to be automatically relegated from the Football League and saw Horner depart. He was replaced by John Bird, a former player at the club. Form improved slightly, but although the team eventually finished in relative safety in 18th, they were only three points ahead of Lincoln City who suffered relegation.

One peculiarity of the season concerned Middlesbrough; the financially struggling Teessiders had been locked out of their ground Ayresome Park, but were due to play a home game on the opening day of the season. Had they not fulfilled the fixture they would have been expelled from the League; Hartlepool stepped into the breach and offered the use of the Victoria Ground. After Hartlepool's draw with Cardiff City in the afternoon, Middlesbrough played their game with Port Vale the same evening. Days later the two clubs met in the League Cup, the two legged tie remains the only occasion the teams have met in a senior competition.

The following season saw an improvement to 16th place, this time comfortably above relegated Newport County and in fact only 11 points from the playoff places; however a poor run of form towards the end of the season (four points from the last 10 games) cost the team any hope of promotion. Notable events from the season included both Paul Baker and Andy Toman scoring 20 or more goals in all competitions, and beating neighbours Sunderland in the Associate Members Cup.[8]

Bird had however made something of a name for himself as a manager, and when early season form saw Hartlepool United in second place at the end of September 1988, he left the club to join York City. Former Newcastle United captain Bobby Moncur was appointed to succeed Bird, but failed to inspire the team; results suffered, and the eventual finishing position of 19th could even have been worse with the team as low as 22nd late in the season.

His period in charge continued to be little short of a disaster. Five successive league defeats opened the 1989-90 season, and Moncur eventually resigned in November with the club rooted to the bottom of the table having taken just nine points from 18 games with 46 goals conceded. New chairman Garry Gibson had initially turned down Moncur's request, but accepted it at the second time of asking.

1989-97: The Gibson and Hornsey years

The new manager appointed though would become a legend at the club. Cyril Knowles had been a distinguished player, and had a growing reputation as a manager; with the addition of several new signings, he achieved a remarkable turnaround.[9] From having 9 points from 19 games, Knowles led the side to 55 by the end of the season - and a safe 19th place in the table.

Even better was to follow the next season. With the partnership of Paul Baker and Joe Allon working well in attack, the team were in the top 10 for much of the season and in with a good chance of reaching a play-off place.[10] Then, tragedy struck in February 1991 when Knowles was diagnosed with brain cancer and Alan Murray took over on a temporary basis. Under Murray, the team's form improved further and the club went into the final day of the season as one of several clubs that could win not just promotion but the title. A 3-1 win over Northampton Town was enough to secure promotion in third place; Allon scored 35 goals, and Baker and Paul Dalton also reached double figures.[11]

However, Knowles was still suffering from cancer and in June 1991 Murray was given the manager's job on a permanent basis as Knowles had now undergone three operations but still had the cancer. He died on 30 August 1991, aged only 47.[12] Although Allon signed for Chelsea over the close season, Murray was able to retain the majority of the squad, and also signed players such as Andy Saville and Lenny Johnrose as the club finished in a highly respectable 11th in the Third Division.

1992-93 saw the club playing the new Division Two, as the formation of the Premier League caused a re-labelling of the divisions. With Murray having brought in players such as Dean Emerson, John Gallacher and Ryan Cross the club got off to a great start - by October, the team was in second place, level on points with leaders West Bromwich Albion.

The club remained in the playoff hunt until New Year, and then achieved one of the best results in its history when beating Crystal Palace 1-0 in the FA Cup Third round - the first time that Hartlepool had beaten a top division side.[13] However, this would prove to be the end of the club's success for several years. It was revealed shortly after the cup win that the club were in financial difficulties. To make ends meet, a number of players were released or sold, and the club set an unenviable record by going 1,227 minutes without scoring.[14] During this run Murray was sacked and replaced by Viv Busby.[15] The club eventually escaped relegation, finishing 16th.

The following season was an unmitigated disaster. With no money to bring in players, the team struggled all season. Busby was replaced in November 1993 by John MacPhail, but he could do little as the team remained in the relegation places from November until the end of the season. Relegation was assured following a 7-0 defeat at Rotherham United; the final day of the season saw the team thrashed 8-1 by Plymouth Argyle at the Victoria Ground.[16][17]

The next five seasons saw constant struggle and a succession of managers. Gibson finally sold the club to local businessman Harold Hornsey, who at least was able to financially stabilise the club; but with little money available for players times were hard.[18] MacPhail left early in 1994-95 and was replaced by Dave McCreery; he was replaced towards the end of the same season by Keith Houchen, who had returned as a player.[19][20] Houchen was in turn replaced after 18 months by Mick Tait.[21] Meanwhile, the club finished in 18th, 20th (twice) and 17th. There was also a change of ownership in 1997: Hornsey sold the club to an IOR Ltd, with Ken Hodcroft becoming chairman.[22]

1997-2012: Success under IOR

Matters came to a head in 1998-99; Tait's side were struggling, and even the signing of former England international Peter Beardsley had not changed the club's fortunes.[23] Tait was sacked in January 1999, and Chris Turner was appointed; despite being four points adrift at the bottom of the League at Easter, Turner was able to prevent the club being relegated.[24][25] Under Turner, matters improved drastically.[26] In 1999-2000 they reached the play-offs, but were beaten by local rivals Darlington in the semi-finals.[27] Pools qualified for the play-offs for the next two seasons as well - though on both occasions they were defeated in the semi-finals by Blackpool and Cheltenham Town respectively.[28][29]

In 2002-03, Hartlepool finished in second place and won automatic promotion to the second division for the third time in the club's history.[30] Hartlepool had been at the top of the league for the majority of the season but could only win one match from their final four, meaning that Rushden & Diamonds won the league.[31] Turner had however left to take over Sheffield Wednesday part way through the season; Mike Newell replaced him but was relieved of his duties over the close season.[32][33] Neale Cooper took over in June 2003.[34]

Hartlepool enjoyed an exceptional campaign in 2003-04, with highlights including an 8-1 victory over Grimsby Town[35] and a trip to Sunderland in the third round of the FA Cup (followed by 9,109 away supporters).[36][37] They finished sixth and secured a play-off place on the final day of the season with a 1-1 draw away at Swindon Town.[38] However, they lost to third-placed Bristol City in the play-offs by 3-2 on aggregate.[39] The 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 in the play-off second leg forced him to withdraw.[40]

The club finished sixth in the league again in the 2004-05 season, despite the departure of Cooper just before the end of the season due to personal issues.[41][42] In the play-off semi-final, they defeated Tranmere Rovers 6-5 on penalties after the sides had each won their home leg 2-0.[43] The club failed to win promotion, losing 4-2 to Sheffield Wednesday after extra time in front of an attendance of 59,808 in the play-off final.[44] Hartlepool had been leading 2-1 with eight minutes of regular time to go, but a controversial penalty decision in the 82nd minute, which also saw Chris Westwood sent off, allowed Sheffield Wednesday to level the scores making it 2-2 at the end of 90 minutes. Hartlepool missing a key defender, struggled in extra time and conceded two goals. Following this achievement Cooper's assistant Martin Scott was appointed as manager.[45]

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.[46] Youth team coach Paul Stephenson was put in charge until the end of the season, aided by former manager Chris Turner who returned to the club as Director of Sport, 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.[47][48] 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.[49]

On 13 June 2006, Danny Wilson was appointed manager.[50] Hartlepool returned to League One at the first time of asking, finishing second behind champions Walsall. Pools missed out on the title on the final day after losing 2-1 at home to Bristol Rovers in front of 7,629 supporters.[51] However, it was a very successful season which saw Hartlepool go 23 games unbeaten during the season[52] including a comprehensive 3-0 victory at rivals Darlington.[53] 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 eighth straight win without conceding.[54] This was the club's second promotion in four years. They maintained their League One status by finishing 15th in the 2007-08 season.[55]

In December 2008, Danny Wilson was sacked; while the club were unbeaten in four games and well clear of the relegation zone, the board felt that Wilson could take the club no further.[56] Chris Turner was quickly returned to the managerial position, combining the role with his existing position as the club's Director of Sport. In the 2008-09 season, Hartlepool celebrated their centenary season with a run in the FA Cup and League Cup: beating Premier League sides Stoke City and West Brom respectively.[57][58] Pools went into the final round of fixtures with a three-point cushion and six goal buffer over the relegation zone. They were beaten 4-1 by Bristol Rovers but survived after Northampton Town lost 3-0 at Leeds United.[59][60]

Hartlepool started the 2009-10 season well, and were in the hunt for a play-off spot early in the season.[61] However, after a 5-0 home defeat at the hands of MK Dons,[62] their form dipped, and the club were dropped into a relegation battle, with matters not helped by a three-point deduction for fielding an ineligible player during a victory over Brighton.[63][64] The club survived on the final day of the season with a 0-0 draw against Brentford being enough to keep them in League One,[65] albeit on goal difference alone after Gillingham lost 3-0 at Wycombe Wanderers, a result which sent the Gills down instead.[66] Despite the shaky end to the season, survival did mark a milestone for the club, as it marked the first time that they would be playing a fourth consecutive season outside of the League's lowest tier.

Chris Turner resigned from the club a few weeks into the following season[67] and Mick Wadsworth took over on a temporary basis, before being appointed permanently a month later. The 2010-11 season ended up going much the same as the previous one, with the club in play-off contention in the middle of the campaign[68] before falling away as the season went on. However, the drop in Hartlepool's form was not as severe as it had been in the previous two seasons, and they finished in 16th place, well clear of the relegation zone.[69]

The club started the following 2011-12 season well, and were 3rd going into October,[70] but a bad run of form resulted in the sacking of Wadsworth in December,[71] with former manager Neale Cooper returning to the club as his replacement.[72] While Cooper was not able to get the club back to their early form, the side stayed generally consistent for the remainder of the season and secured a 13th-place finish, the highest the club had achieved since the play-off campaign in 2005.[73]

2012-17: Decline into non-League football

The following 2012-13 season started with just one win in fourteen league games,[74] and in the wake of a defeat by bottom-placed Bury, which saw the Lancashire club overhaul Hartlepool and move them to the bottom of the table,[75] Cooper resigned, bringing an end to his second spell after less than a year.[76] He was replaced by John Hughes,[77] and while the club's form gradually improved, they were ultimately unable to overcome the first half of the season, which saw them secure 9 points and just one win from their first 23 games.[78][79] Hartlepool finished second-bottom of the league after six seasons in the third tier.[80] Hughes publicly stated that he wanted to remain as manager despite the relegation, however, he was sacked by Hodcroft and replaced by Colin Cooper.[81][82]

After an extensive overhaul of the playing squad during the summer, Hartlepool recovered from a poor start to the 2013-14 season and by early spring they were making decent progress and looking to make a late play-off bid.[83][84] However, a terrible run of form late in the season put them into the relegation battle, which they did not earn definite safety from until the penultimate match of the season.[85] The club finished 19th that season, their lowest finish in 15 years.[86] In the 2014-15 season, Cooper resigned a few weeks into the campaign following a 3-0 home defeat to Carlisle United which left Hartlepool at the bottom of the Football League.[87] Paul Murray replaced Cooper, only to be sacked just two months later, with the club six points adrift at the bottom of League Two, and having just suffered an FA Cup elimination at the hands of non-league Blyth Spartans.[88] Ken Hodcroft, resigned and sold the club to Peter Harris in December 2014.[89] Harris' first decision was to appoint former Tranmere Rovers manager Ronnie Moore to the managers' job.[90] The takeover ultimately fell through due to Harris and his associates being involved in dubious activities[91] with the club reverting to Hodcroft's ownership. After being ten points adrift in bottom place at the turn of the year, in what has been termed the "great escape"[92] and "miracle",[93] a revival in form saw Hartlepool escape the relegation places and secure survival in the penultimate game of the season.[94]

June 2015 saw a change of ownership,[95] handing over to Essex recruitment firm JPNG (liquidated in 2017),[96] who appointed director Gary Coxall[97] as Chairman. Pools' third season in League Two started with a run of three wins[95] but form gradually dropped off and by February, Hartlepool were in 21st place. JPNG decided to sack Ronnie Moore[98] and replaced him with Craig Hignett.[99] Pools won eight games under Hignett including a comprehensive 5-2 victory at Morecambe and eventually rose to a 16th-place finish.[100][101]

The 2016-17 season started with Hignett being sacked in January 2017[102] and replaced by the experienced Dave Jones.[103] Form under Jones deteriorated with only 13 points gained from a possible 54.[104] Hartlepool failed to win their next eight matches after a 1-0 win against Cambridge United which had put them nine points clear of relegation.[105] Hartlepool dropped into the relegation places with three games to go after a pitiful loss at home to Barnet.[106] This result triggered a passionate rant by Jeff Stelling live on Soccer Saturday, which resulted in the sacking of Dave Jones.[107] The final round of fixtures meant either Newport County or Hartlepool would be relegated alongside Leyton Orient to the National League. After being 1-0 down to Doncaster Rovers in front of a sell-out crowd, Hartlepool looked doomed. Nevertheless, substitute Devante Rodney scored two unanswered goals to leave Hartlepool above the relegation zone. However, an 89th-minute goal for Newport consigned Hartlepool to a first season in non-league after 96 years in the Football League.[108]

2017-21: Non-league

Former Middlesbrough defender Craig Harrison was appointed as manager ahead of Hartlepool's first campaign in non-league.[109] Hartlepool started the 2017-18 season with just one win from seven attempts.[110] However, a win at Guiseley kick-started a run of only one defeat in thirteen matches. By November, off-field financial issues intensified which coincided with a winless run of eleven games.[111] In a statement, Pam Duxbury (then chairwoman) claimed that a number of "legacy issues have consumed high financial and human resources" and that the club needed £200,000 in order to survive.[112][113][114] In response to the financial issues, fans set up a JustGiving page which raised just over £85,000, including donations from supporters across the UK and a £2,500 boost by the former Middlesbrough striker Danny Graham.[115][116] An initiative called 'Save Pools Day' took place on 20 January 2018 for a fixture against Wrexham where supporters from other clubs visited to raise funds via ticket sales. Hartlepool lost 2-0 with 6,833 supporters in attendance.[117] The poor run of form resulted in the sacking of Craig Harrison[118] in February who was replaced by caretaker manager Matthew Bates. Bates' first win came on 21 March[119] during the televised away fixture at Barrow. During this match, Hartlepool went 1-0 down and briefly fell into the relegation places. Hartlepool won three consecutive matches to pull away from the relegation places and finally guaranteed safety from relegation on 17 April with a win against Leyton Orient.[120] Hartlepool's first season in non-league ended with the club avoiding liquidation when Raj Singh bought the club in April.[121] Hartlepool ultimately finished a turbulent season in 15th place.[122]

The pools' second season in non-league started with 6 wins in 8 games, leaving Bates' side in the play-off positions going into October.[123] However, six consecutive defeats culminating in Hartlepool's lowest league home attendance since 1998[124] forced Raj Singh to sack Bates after 9 months in charge.[125] Matthew Bates was replaced by the experienced Richard Money.[126] However, after only six matches in charge, Money decided the job wasn't for him and switched roles with football director Craig Hignett in January.[127] Pools' home form improved under Hignett with five wins from eight. Hignett guided Hartlepool to a disappointing 16th-place finish - the lowest league finish in the club's history.[128]

Hartlepool made a sluggish start to their third campaign in non-league, winning five out of their first sixteen fixtures.[129] Despite being four points from the play-offs, Raj Singh took the surprising decision to sack Craig Hignett after a defeat at Stockport County.[130][131][132] Club legend Antony Sweeney acted as caretaker manager for five matches before the appointment of Dave Challinor.[133] Pools' league form continued to gradually improve under Challinor, and by early March, Hartlepool were within touching distance of the top 7.[134] However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the season after 39 games with Hartlepool in 9th place, three points from the play-offs.[135] Following a decision to finish the league via a points-per-game basis, Hartlepool finished in 12th, the club's first top-half finish since the 2006-07 season.[136]

In 2020-21, Hartlepool earned promotion to League Two at the fourth attempt via the play-offs.[137] The season was defined by the COVID-19 pandemic with the vast majority of fixtures being played behind closed doors.[138] Between February and May, Pools went on a sixteen game unbeaten run and won eight consecutive home games.[139][140] Hartlepool finished 4th in the regular season, meaning that they met Bromley in the play-off eliminator where they won 3-2.[141] In the semi-final, Hartlepool narrowly won 1-0 at Stockport County.[142] In the 2021 play-off Final, Hartlepool played Torquay United at Ashton Gate. Hartlepool took the lead via Luke Armstrong in the first half. However, Torquay equalised in the 95th minute thanks to a header by the goalkeeper Lucas Covolan to take the match to extra time. The match remained at 1-1 through extra time meaning that the final would go to a penalty shootout. Hartlepool managed to win the shootout 5-4, which ended their four year spell in non-league.[143]


Statistics from recent seasons. For a full history see; List of Hartlepool United F.C. seasons

Year League Level Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts Position FA Cup League Cup FA Trophy Average attendance
2010-11 League One 3 46 15 12 19 47 65 -18 57 16th of 24 R3 R2 - 2,933[144]
2011-12 League One 3 46 14 14 18 50 55 -5 56 13th of 24 R1 R1 - 4,961[145]
2012-13 League One 3 46 9 14 23 39 67 -28 41 23rd of 24
R1 R1 - 3,613[146]
2013-14 League Two 4 46 14 11 21 50 56 -6 53 19th of 24 R2 R1 - 3,723[147]
2014-15 League Two 4 46 12 9 25 39 70 -31 45 22nd of 24 R2 R1 - 3,736[148]
2015-16 League Two 4 46 15 6 25 49 72 -23 51 16th of 24 R3 R2 - 3,890[149]
2016-17 League Two 4 46 11 13 22 54 75 -21 46 23rd of 24
R2 R1 - 3,788[150]
2017-18 National League 5 46 14 14 18 53 63 -10 56 15th of 24 R1 - R1 3,350[151]
2018-19 National League 5 46 15 14 17 56 62 -6 59 16th of 24 R1 - R2 3,124[152]
2019-20 National League 5 39 14 13 12 56 50 +6 55 12th of 24[a] R3 - R1 3,355[156]
2020-21 National League 5 42 22 10 10 66 43 +23 76 4th of 22
R1 - R3 N/A[c]


A diagram of Victoria Park

The home of Hartlepool United has been Victoria Park since the club's formation in 1908.[161] The ground is currently under the ownership of Hartlepool Borough Council.[162]

The capacity of the ground is 7,856. The four stands of the ground are the Town End (1,775 capacity), the East Durham College Neale Cooper Stand (1,617 seated and 1,832 standing), the Rink End/Smith & Graham Stand - which is used for away supporters (1,003 capacity) and the Cyril Knowles Stand (1,599 capacity).[163]

The ground was bought by Hartlepools United following the bankruptcy of the local rugby club which had purchased the ground in 1886. The ground was named in celebration of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.[164] In 1916, the stand on Clarence Road (the current location of the Cyril Knowles Stand) was bombed by a German Zeppelin and was completely destroyed. The club attempted to claim compensation from the German government but failed.[165] A temporary stand was introduced and was used until the Cyril Knowles Stand was completed in 1995 in memory of former manager Cyril Knowles who had passed away in 1991.[166] Furthermore, following the death of former manager Neale Cooper in 2018, the Cameron's Brewery Stand was renamed in his memory.[167]

Due to sponsorship reasons, the ground was formerly named as the Northern Gas and Power Stadium (2016-17) and the Super 6 Stadium (2018-19).[168][169]


O'Neill's currently manufactures the club's apparel. The current home and away shirt sponsor is the Prestige Group, a company owned by the club Chairman, Raj Singh. Previously, the home shirt has been sponsored by Utility Alliance, Seneca Homes, Dove Energy and Cameron's Brewery. The club's previous away sponsors have included Northern Gas and Power, Bartercard and Drive Vauxhall.

Period Kit manufacturer Shirt sponsor
1975-1977 Umbro none
1977-1978 Bukta
1978-1980 Admiral
1980-1981 Le Coq Sportif
1981-1982 Umbro
1982-1983 Spall
1983-1984 Admiral New County
1984-1985 Umbro Cameron's Brewery
1985-1988 Spall
1988-1990 Scoreline
1990-1991 none Yuill
1991-1992 Bukta Heritage Homes
1992-1993 Umbro
1993-1995 Loki Cameron's Brewery
1995-1999 1908 Gold
1999-2000 Super League
2000-2002 1908 Gold DNO International
2002-2004 TFG Sports
2004-2015 Nike Dove Energy
2015-2017 Seneca Homes[170]
2017-2019 BLK[171] Utility Alliance[172]
2019-2020 O'Neill's[173]
2020-2021 Prestige Group[174]
2021- Orangebox Training Solutions[175]


The club is owned by HUFC Holdings Ltd.[176]

Popular culture

Mascot elected mayor

In the 2002 council election, the team's mascot "H'Angus the Monkey", aka Stuart Drummond, was elected mayor of Hartlepool[177] as an independent, under the slogan "free bananas for schoolchildren". Even though his candidacy was just a publicity stunt, Drummond has since been re-elected after throwing off his comedy image and identifying himself increasingly with the Labour group on the council. On 5 May 2013, Drummond left his post of Hartlepool's mayor after a November 2012 referendum meant that Hartlepool would no longer have a mayor, instead being led by committees.[178]

Famous fans

In recent years the most visible fan of the club has been Jeff Stelling, presenter of Soccer Saturday on Sky Sports. The rock star Meat Loaf, Janick Gers of the metal band Iron Maiden, MP Peter Mandelson, Christopher Timothy, Football Ramble presenter & radio host Pete Donaldson and film director Ridley Scott are also fans of the club.[179][180]

Fancy dress tradition

In recent years, on the final away match of each season, Hartlepool fans get dressed up in fancy dress in a pre-agreed theme.[181] This has included knights, clowns, penguins, Where's Wallys, mime artists, Morris dancers, Smurfs, Stormtroopers, Thunderbirds and Oompa-Loompas in recent years.[181][182]

Supporters and rivalries

In 2003, market research company FFC surveyed fans of every Football League club across the country to find who they consider their main rivals to be. Hartlepool United fans chose Darlington as their main rivals. Additionally, in 2008, 95% of both clubs named each other as their biggest rivals.[183] Between the two clubs, Hartlepool have won 60 games, compared to Darlington's 57 games in the rivalry.[184] However, the two clubs haven't met since 2007 in a league meeting[185] due to Darlington's financial issues and subsequent relegations.[186] Hartlepool's other rivals include: Sheffield Wednesday (who defeated Hartlepool in the League One Play-Off Final in 2005), Carlisle United, Rushden & Diamonds (now extinct) and Sunderland respectively.[187]

In 2015, a Hartlepool United's Supporters Trust was founded with the intention of "articulating the views of Hartlepool United supporters, lobby the club and provide the basis for some element of fan involvement and influence with the football club."[188]






Club Records

As of 9 December 2020[190][191]

Player & Team Records

  • Most appearances: Ritchie Humphreys, 543 (2001-2013)
  • Most goals: Joshie Fletcher, 111 (1908-1913)
  • Oldest player: Dimi Konstantopoulos, aged 41 years 15 days (14 December 2019 vs Harrogate Town)
  • Youngest player: David Foley, aged 16 years 44 days (25 August 2003 vs Port Vale)
  • Longest serving current player: Nicky Featherstone (31 October 2014-)
  • Consecutive wins: 7, (1913, 1956, 1968, 2000-2001, 2006-2007, 2007)
  • Consecutive clean sheets: 7, (5 December 2006 - 1 January 2007)
  • Unbeaten run: 22, (30 October 1909 - 19 March 1910)
  • Most wins in a season: 28 (1955-56)
  • Most clean sheets in a season: 25 (2006-07)
  • Most goals in a season: 28 Joe Allon (1990-91)
  • Transfer fee received: £750,000 (Tommy Miller to Ipswich Town)

Most appearances

As of 15 June 2020[192]

# Name Career Appearances Goals Position
1 Ritchie Humphreys 2001-2013 543 37 MF
2 Watty Moore 1948-1960 473 3 DF
3 Antony Sweeney 2001-2014 444 62 MF
4 Ray Thompson 1947-1958 424 3 DF
5 Alan Goad 1967-1978 418 11 DF
6 Ken Johnson 1949-1964 413 106 FW
7 Brian Honour 1985-1994 384 36 MF
8 Micky Barron 1996-2007 374 4 DF
9 Jackie Newton 1946-1958 362 19 MF
10 Tommy McGuigan 1950-1958 351 79 MF


As of 16 September 2021[193]

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

Out on loan

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Pos. Nation Player
17 MF England ENG Josh MacDonald (on loan at Whitby Town until 30 June 2022)

Retired numbers

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Pos. Nation Player
25 MF England ENG Michael Maidens (2004-07)[194]

Player of the Year

Team of the Year

The following have been included in the PFA Team of the Year or National League Team of the Year whilst playing for Hartlepool United :

Hartlepool United Ladies

In 2015, a Hartlepool United Ladies team was launched.[196] They currently participate in the North East Regional Women's Football League (5th tier).

Club officials

As of 23 August 2021[197]

The board

Coaching and medical staff

Role Name
Manager England Dave Challinor
First team coach England Antony Sweeney
Goalkeeping coach Greece Dimitrios Konstantopoulos
Physiotherapist England Ian Gallagher
Head of sports science England Jake Simpson
Youth team coach England Ian McGuckin
Kit Man England
Club doctors England David Russell
England Dan Palmer

Club staff

  • Operations manager - Rose Stoker
  • Club shop manager - Richard Cooper
  • Media officer - Alex Chandy
  • Ticket office supervisor - Dawn Stuart
  • Accountant - Sarah Williamson
  • Admin apprentice - Emily Easson
  • Head groundsman - Dave Brown
  • Assistant groundsman - Karl Hammond


  1. ^ The 2019-20 football season was disrupted by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The National League was suspended in mid-March 2020 and the clubs voted six weeks later to end the regular season programme.[153] Teams had not all played the same number of matches, so it was agreed to construct final league tables on an unweighted points per game basis.[154] Hartlepool United were placed twelfth; moving down from 9th place.[155]
  2. ^ In October 2020 due to ongoing financial issues, Macclesfield Town were expelled from the National League.[157] Furthermore, also due to financial issues inflicted by COVID-19, Dover Athletic were unable to complete their fixtures.[158] Therefore, only 42 fixtures were played instead of the intended 46.
  3. ^ Due to the ongoing disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, all but two home fixtures (against Weymouth and Bromley) were played behind closed doors.[159][160]


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