Can the Pools return to League 1 at the first attempt?
We look at Hartlepool United, who returned to League 2 after five years away from this division. Can Colin Cooper seal an instant return to League 1 after Pools suffered relegation last season? To find out when we'll take on Hartlepool in 2013/14, visit the Blues website on June 19th when the fixtures are released.
In 2002/03, Hartlepool finished runners up and won promotion to the Second Division (League 1). Mike Newell was surprisingly replaced as manager at the end of the promotion campaign, with Neale Cooper taking over. The following season was a similar one to the last with momentum playing a key part in a campaign that saw Pools finish in sixth place. However, the club lost to Bristol City in the two-legged semi finals. 2004/05 was again, similar to the previous season but Pools lost in the play-offs again. 2005/06 saw the club relegated to League 2, but, under the guidance of Danny Wilson, Pools made an instant return to the division where they have been for the past five years prior to last season’s relegation.
Durham-born Colin Cooper was appointed Hartlepool manager in May 2013 after the dismissal of his predecessor, John Hughes. This coming season will be Cooper’s first as a permanent manager after temporary spells in charge of Bradford City in 2011 and Middlesbrough the year before. As a player, Cooper represented Millwall, Nottingham Forest and Sunderland, as well as having two spells with Middlesbrough, the club where he began playing. The 46-year-old played twice for England in his 20 year playing career.
Regular goalkeeper Scott Flinders will be the reliable number one for Hartlepool in 2013/14. The 26-year-old began his career at Barnsley prior to playing for Crystal Palace, Gillingham and Brighton. The big stopper signed for Pools in 2009. In defence, local lad Peter Hartley will take the captain’s armband, and is likely to be alongside Jack Baldwin, Neil Austin and the experienced Sam Collins in the back four. Sitting in defensive midfield will be former Leeds United and Plymouth Argyle man, Simon Walton. In front of Walton, long serving Anthony Sweeney, Jonathan Franks and Andy Monkhouse will hope to supply 23-year-old James Poole with the ammunition, as Pools look for an instant return to League 1.
The highly rated Luke James will be the man to look out for in 2013/14. The youngster in only 18 but has already made over 50 appearances for the club since making his debut in 2011. James won the “League 1 Apprentice of the Year Award” in May 2013, and scored three goals last term as Pools slipped through the relegation trapdoor.
It was a disastrous 2012/13 for Pools as they were relegated to League 2. At one point in the season, Pools went on a 20 game winless streak in the league, picking up only five points in that run. John Hughes’ side did have a revival, winning three games in a row in February; however, it was a case of too little too late as their fate was sealed on 16th April without Pools even playing, after Oldham Athletic beat Yeovil Town.
As of yet, Colin Cooper hasn’t brought in any players. However, Evan Horwood, Colin Nish, Adam McHugh, Nathan Buddle, Paul Johnson and Nathan Luscombe were all let go at the end of the season. Another to depart Victoria Park was long-serving Ritchie Humphreys. The 35-year-old, who was voted as Pools’ Player of the Century in 2008, left the club after 12 years of service.
BLUES vs. HARTLEPOOL UNITED:
The last time the two clubs locked horns was in League 1 in 2009/10.
Home: Blues 3-2 Hartlepool United
After two first half goals for the visitors, Blues produced an excellent comeback to take the three points. Adam Boyd but Pools ahead after eight minutes, a lead that was doubled when Anthony Grant put through his own net after half an hour. However, Blues pulled one back just after half time when Francis Laurent headed home before Lee Barnard’s brace sealed the win. Ben Clark was sent off for Hartlepool late on.
Blues: Mildenhall, Malone, Morrison, Barrett, Christophe, Grant (Walker, 70), McCormack, Moussa, Barnard, Ibehre, Laurent (Scannell, 61)
Unused: Joyce, Sankofa, O’Keefe, Calver, Freedman
Away: Hartlepool United 3-0 Blues
A clinical hat-trick from loanee, Roy O’Donovan won the game for Hartlepool. The Ulsterman scored in the 16th, 32nd and 90th minute to seal a comfortable win for Pools. Alan McCormack was sent off for Blues that day in March 2010.
Blues: Mildenhall, Francis, Baldwin, Barrett, Mvoto-Owono (Malone, 46), McCormack, Scannell, Moussa, Paterson (Spencer, 72), Vernon, Laurent
Unused: Jack, Sankofa, Herd, Crawford
Hartlepool United are 4/1 to win promotion this coming season.