FOOTBALL has the power to unite. The manner in which supporters of teams from across the country set aside traditional rivalries to raise funds for the campaign led by Sunderland fan Bradley Lowery showed that the game possesses a heart.

Football can also breed bitterness, animosity, hatred even.

It would be nice to think that news of an impending rescue deal for Hartlepool United gets wholesale support from fans of other local clubs but we are nothing if not realists here at the Echo. We know there will be some Quakers’ fans who have revelled in the recent travails of their local rivals in much the same way that those of a Pools persuasion took pleasure in Darlington’s financial struggles, demotion and cursed their successive promotions.

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The Echo holds a unique position among the region’s newspapers. Being a title which reports the important matters which affect the whole of the North-East - rather than just one city - frees us and our readers from the one-club shackles which limit other newspapers’ coverage. Six days a week our back page is up for grabs to the strongest sports story of the day. That is not the case at the Chronicle, Gazette, Sunderland Echo and others who serve up partial coverage in both senses of the word.

The Echo’s historic home is in Darlington town centre and we make no secret of the fact that we want Quakers to succeed, but we are also delighted by news, broken by our reporter Nick Loughlin, that financially-stricken Hartlepool are on the verge of being rescued.

The football crazy North-East needs its clubs to survive. Hoping they can thrive and actually win something is another matter entirely. Wearsiders may not like to admit it but Sunderland AFC's world is all the richer for having bitter rivals Newcastle in it. The same appplies to Hartlepool and Darlington. By all means enjoy tit-for-tat rivalries but wishing one another out of existence does nobody any good in the long run.  

It might be impossible for some people to support both Pools and Darlo, but as a newspaper which wants the whole region to succeeed we do.