Following on from the sad and unnecessary relegation of Leyton Orient, Jeff Stelling’s Hartlepool United joined them yesterday after a 96-year stay in the football league. This video clip encompassed every emotion that a football fan can go through. Jeff is a proper fan and in the early days of Soccer Saturday I was lucky enough to sit next to him at a friends’ birthday dinner and his passion for his hometown team and football in general was then pretty obvious way before he became one of the most famous faces in English football media.
All Addicks will remember the Pools’ fans at The Valley the day we won the League One title, their traditional dressing up for their last game of the season adding to wonderfully memorable day. Last week at Cheltenham mime artists was the latest theme.
Hartlepool replaced Craig Hignett with the much experienced Dave Jones in January when Pools were 7 places off relegation. Yet Jones’ won just 3 games from his 17 and following this Stelling rant, the board sacked Jones and brought in Matthew Bates for their final 2 games, but the horse had well and truly bolted and mostly because of the incredible turnaround going on at Newport County.
Newport have always been a team I and others in my family have looked out for and club legend Mike Flynn, who took over in March when the Exiles were 11 points adrift, masterminded survival winning 5 of their last 7 games. As Stelling celebrated Hartlepool’s 83rd minute goal at home to then league leaders Doncaster, he then looked on with utter despair when with a minute left in the game between Newport and Notts County, Mark O’Brien fired home to send packed Rodney Road into raptures and thus dumping Hartlepool into the National League.
There is a lot to like Newport for. They are fan-owned, and the one and only Lennie Lawrence was appointed as Flynn’s assistant to help with their almost impossible task of league survival. Oh for a Lennie back at The Valley, eh?
The Welshmen went out of business in 1989 less than a year after finishing dead bottom of the 4th Division with only 25 points. The UEFA Cup Winners Cup quarter finalist’s just 8 years previous were reformed by a group of 400 supporters. They began in the Hellenic League (then four divisions below the Football League) took the name Newport A.F.C and adopted the nickname The Exiles and played their home matches in Moreton-in-Marsh 80 miles away from Newport. After a 25-year absence they returned to the Football League in 2013.
Triumph for Newport but utter despair for Jeff and those terrific Pools’ fans.