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On the Lighter Side...

By Albatross
November 11 2003

Hartlepool United have many bizarre or humourous events associated with them; here are just some of the ones that help make this a unique club to follow.

  • The Victoria Ground was originally built to host West Hartlepool Rugby Club, and it was only when the rugby team went out of business that the Football Club was formed. Some 90 years later, the reformed West were back "home" at the Vic after selling their Brierton Road stadium. The ground share wasn't a great success and ended after one season - much to the relief of the groundsman. West plummeted out of the top division of English Rugby, and are now out of the National Leagues altogether.
  • In 1916, a German Zeppelin conducting an Air Raid was forced to jettison its bombs over the Victoria Ground, badly damaging one of the stands. A wooden temporary stand was erected, and after the war the club tried to obtain damages from the German Government. None were ever received, and the "temporary" stand stayed in place for almost 70 years.
  • Hartlepools United once signed a player called Forman from Workington for a fee reputed to be 10 and a box of Kippers. Just a little bit different from some of today's fishy deals....
  • Bill Norman, Pools manager in the late 1920s, was something of a character. One winter morning, with snow on the ground, the players refused to strip for training, complaining that the conditions were too cold. Norman thought otherwise, and proceeded to strip naked and roll around in the snow to prove his point!
  • Legendary Pools boss Fred Westgarth was also a larger than life personality. Apparently he was one time introduced to one of Fulham's directors - the comedian Tommy Trinder. "There's too many comedians in football already!" Westgarth is reputed to have told him.
  • Tales of Cyril Knowles at Pools are legion. When he took over, he described the club as "being like a holiday camp", and his half-time team talks could be heard some distance away if he felt things weren't going right. One of his first moves when he came to the club was to sign Jason Priestly on loan to replace Rob Moverley in goal - without ever seeing Moverley play. When asked how he'd arrived at this decision, Knowles replied "I could tell he wasn't a goalkeeper by the way he walked."
  • Ken Simpkins represented Wales u23 as a Goalkeeper, but is possibly best remembered for being pressed into service as an emergency striker in the late 1960s. He even managed to hit the back of the net in his brief spell up front.
  • Eddie Blackburn, another Pools goalkeeper, once received a large turkey in the run-up to Christmas. It was a "prize" for conceding five goals in a game. Although other keepers had conceded the same amount that day, the goals had gone in against Pools earlier than in the other games! The turkey was handed on to a local charity.
  • John MacPhail was a stalwart of the team that gained promotion in 1990/1 before going on to manage the team - but his most famous game in Pools colours came perhaps not in blue and white but in green. When goalkeeper Martin Hodge was sent off against Brighton, Monty took the gloves and performed heroically in the Pools goal to help earn us a draw - and get himself selected as the goalkeeper in "Shoot" magazine's divisional team of the week!
  • One windy night in 1988, Hartlepool played Sunderland in the Sherpa Van Trophy. In possibly Pools most memorable moment in the competition, Brian Honour scored direct from a corner to seal a 1-0 victory. Mackems boss Denis Smith described being beaten by Pools as a "Stigma" - and to many Poolies, he remains "Stigma Smith" to this very day.
  • Two records have been produced featuring the Hartlepool United squad. In 1972 "Never Say Die/Who put sugar in my tea" sold well locally, while in the mid 1990s local band "The Candy Ranch" got together to make a single called "Up and Away" that even reached the heights of BBC Grandstand's "Football Focus".
  • Hartlepool faced the oldest player ever to play league football in 1947. New Brighton Manager Neil McBain, a former Scotland International defender, had to play in goal due to a shortage of players - at the age of 52 years and four months. New Brighton lost 3-0, but McBain was given a standing ovation.
  • Leo Harden scored the club's first league goal following the end of World War 2, but never gave up his job of Dustman. The winger's best performance came against Rochdale in 1953, when he scored four and made the others in a 6-0 win. However, he hadn't been due to play, and when he was needed to replace the injured George Luke had to be tracked down - to the pub! The Flying Dustman's virtuoso performance came with him still smelling of Best Bitter....
  • Local MP Peter Mandelson once claimed that his Hartlepool United Scarf was one of his most treasured possessions.

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