Hartlepool United Football Club is in a desperate situation. With the club’s owners looking for a way out, the club is up for sale and facing an uncertain future. Sports Editor Nick Loughlin spoke with chair woman Pam Duxbury to discuss the situation at Victoria Park.

TWELEVE months ago this week, Hartlepool United employed Dave Jones as manager. As he and then chairman Gary Coxall sat and spoke at his first press conference, the talk was positive. A bright future was planned under a manager with some pedigree.

Instead, the club collapsed on and off the pitch. Jones won only three games in charge and left with Pools on the brink of relegation to the Football League, which was confirmed in May.

All the effort, work and honesty from the likes of Ronnie Moore, Chris Turner, Billy Horner and others in keeping Pools in the Football League over the years was turned over in a space of weeks.

Coxall departed the same week, leaving a trail of financial destruction in his wake.

In two years he undid all the work that the likes of Ken Hodcroft and the late Harold Hornsey carried out in keeping the club’s head above water.

Today the club is up for sale, after owners Sage Investments – who reluctantly took over from Coxall and JPNG – announced they wanted out.

Wages have been secured for next week after a big fundraising campaign. Today’s game with Wrexham at Victoria Park is a sell-out, bringing in more cash to the coffers.

Chair woman Pam Duxbury is trying to engineer a sale of the club. And is hopeful a deal is ready to be completed next week.

Pam Duxbury on wages and fund-raising

“The money from the gate on Saturday and the fund-raising goes to paying the staff and bills. We sold Connor Simpson and the gate money in advance has helped us to get the game on as there are outlays in advance.

“The Just Giving money will come in next week to help pay bills and wages. There are a lot of costs to stage a game – emergency services, stewards, catering and they have to be arranged.

“Selling out is amazing and the support from fans from afar has been overwhelming. I know how good our fans are and others coming to the fore has been warming.

“It’s a worrying time for staff and players and everyone expects the players to go out and give their all. Sport is a mental game and they have been affected by what’s gone on. We all have. Can we pay the mortgage this month? Can we pay the bills?’’

On the team and the National League this season

“Our aim was promotion at the start of the season. The decision to put the club up for sale hasn’t been influenced by on-pitch performances.

“But I think everyone, players, management, will admit we should have done better and no-one will shy away from it. It has been disappointing.

“Pre-season went well and there was a feel-good factor. The manager and his team won’t hide behind injuries, but we have had a lot of key players missing through injuries.

“We kept the club as a full-time, professional club to gain an advantage over teams in the National League. It wasn’t over-ambitious. It’s ambitious to say we will bounce back first time, but you have to set a target.

“In hindsight then we could have stripped everything back, but if we had done then we would have always wondered what if….

“We have a squad of players, with some really good young players in there too. Connor Simpson has been sold and brought in some much-needed money.

“I was told to scrap the Academy, but I don’t feel that is the right avenue to go down.

“We lose funding for the Academy. If we remain in the National League next season it goes down 50 per cent - from £360,000 to £180,000. We received £480,000 as a Football League payment and that will halve too. We have also lost the solidarity payment from the Premier League, an immediate loss.’’

On Sage Investments and finances

“There’s a lot of misconceptions about where the money has gone. Transfer fees for players we have sold are in instalments.

“We have sold players, but those payments are staggered and at the time those payments paid the bills. People are worried money goes to Sage Investments – the last time they had any sort of interest payment was April 2.

“Sage originally we providing loan finance the club and became owners by default and likewise I never intended to be chairman.

“We have been committed to try and secure a good outcome. Everything has been done with the best intention.

“The biggest thing is we have been looking for others people to join in since the summer – that was no secret. We have been in talks with various parties, a lot of them time-wasters which consumes your efforts. That time has been wasted when I could have been developing the club. There’s no many projects to launch to generate income.

“I’ve been looking at other clubs and how they are funded and it’s how you cut your own cloth. We could have gone part-time straight away after relegation, but we felt the way we went about it was the right way.

“In terms of budget and overheads from when I came in, there’s already £600,000 per year taken out and there’s more costs to save. It was running at a significant loss level, more than it is now and it’s still too high.

“Other clubs are trying to develop infrastructure around the club to bring money in.

“The club has lost money over the years, and until you lose something you take for granted that it’s there.

“One thing I have learned here is the huge pull the club has and how people want to get involved. But it’s a slow process.

“There’s no one thing to come and fix it, other than someone coming to buy the club. We need a patient owner with resources and an appetite to get to that point.

“I would guess the vast majority of clubs would only be one month away from this situation if the owners decided to walk away.

On fund-raising and the threat of adminstration

“We hope the fund-raising continues to buy as much time as we can. People are protecting their own interests, while also wanting to help the club in trying circumstances.

“This game will buy us some time to get someone in place, and there’s more pledges of money coming in all the time. The critical task for me is to keep us from administration.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there. Some interested parties have said they will only be interested in administration.

“It doesn’t resolve anything. If we enter administration then we immediately get a ten-point deduction. Given our position in the league table we can’t afford that.

“People think normal business terms apply – administration will bypass the debt. It doesn’t in this game. Player contracts are watertight. They remain in place, so do employment contracts.

“The majority of debt is in one place, to Sage Investments.

“Initially, two-thirds of that was incurred by the end of March, clearing up legacy issues from the previous regime, paying off Peter Goldberg, paying off Access Finance.

“That was £100,000, but there was a £40,000 arrangement fee. Then he repaid that with a second loan and a £20,000 arrangement fee all at five per cent month interest. It was sheer desperation.

“Being in the situation we are in now, I can empathise with some of the things Gary Coxall did. There’s no way out of things at times and you don’t think straight.

On Sage getting involved in Hartlepool United

“Gary was needing money to keep the club going, he needed to separate his business interests with Peter Goldberg.

“He came to me, I was put in front of him by Paul Watson, who knew someone I know. It was put together in a short space of time, which suited him. I can look back now and say I went wrong at that point, I should have done this, could have looked at things differently…

“Should I have turned round this time last year? I had been in a week this time 12 months ago. I met Dave Jones just before he was appointed, we all sat down and agreed a plan, a vision for the club which we all bought into.

“Based on the information I had it was very achievable and it all started to unfold in the space of two weeks.

“Then I felt I had made a commitment to the management team, I had endorsed the plan and things were ready to take off.

“Things quickly went wrong. One of the first issues I had to deal with was a fourth winding up order for £175,000.

“Pension contributions hadn’t been paid for five months, creditors were up to a couple of hundred thousand and that was in a couple of weeks of walking in.

“I was determined to fix it. I couldn’t think of any other way of resolving it other than doing it myself. I was in there to resolve it.

“Now it’s a much bigger picture than one game to come this weekend, I’m trying to support Craig and the players.

“We are under embargo by the National League. I can’t show the National League we can continue to the end of the season. They are in close contact and it is being reviewed constantly. They have been very supportive.

“Craig has been hamstrung since mid-November with what he can do.

On the future

“We play on Saturday, we pay the wages and then we look again to next month. We put the club up for sale officially on December 22 – the holiday period, everything shuts down for a few weeks.

“There has been huge interest in the club. I’ve tried to deal with it so enquiries go through solicitors and then we review them. The proof of funds element has stopped time-wasters.

“This is about the club surviving in the right way. There is the immediate survival issue, then we look longer term.

“There is potential here. John didn’t get involved for the land around the ground, he saw potential in the club itself. He is a football fan. We created an environment around the team and management to get success.

“It’s a real roller coaster and there’s been reasons why some haven’t progressed their interest – geography being one of them, but there’s ways around that. We have good transport links in the North-East.

“Some may realised there’s more to owning a football club than three o’clock on a Saturday, some think it’s a big project to run from afar, some don’t have the resources to finance the club to a sustainability stage.

“My sales pitch is the truth – we aren’t there to mislead, but I can’t guarantee things like crowds and on-pitch success. Winning teams are always going to attract more. We want to be in a position where what comes in through the gates is a bonus, not what we rely on.’’