IT’S never dull at Hartlepool United.

As Pools crawled over the line and reached the end of the campaign having ticked a huge box in their list of targets, they now find themselves at another crossroads moment in their history with the appointment of a new manager on the horizon.

After the mental torture of a gruelling National League promotion, Pools could have done with a relatively stress free season back in the Football League.

Never going to happen. Two managerial departures, FA Cup upsets, one penalty kick away from Wembley and a raucous set of supporters cheering them all the way through all the madness. That was an eventuality that was never going to change.

On paper, the season looks back very favourably on Pools but a poor end threatened to taint it. There may well have been doctors and nurses on hand at Scunthorpe but no amount of medicine was enough to keep Pools’ season alive at that point and now the club are in clean slate territory.

The same can be said for last summer’s events. Promotion from the National League after an enthralling penalty shootout win over Torquay United left the club with just six registered players on the books. The season was beginning in six weeks time.

It was never going to be a case of implementing fine-tuned transfer strategies or having the time to go out and scout potential targets. They just needed to build a squad and fast. It was all hands to the pump for Dave Challinor and his staff who dipped straight into the free agent market with six new players. The loan signings of prospects Matty Daly and Tyler Burey eased fears that Pools were enforcing a ‘get your hands on what you can’ policy.

Nevertheless, a famous day awaited at the Suit Direct Stadium on the opening day and it lived up to the bill as Gavan Holohan, a club favourite who went on to leave in March the following year, swept home the match winning goal late on against Crawley. Pools were back and as the weeks went on, they continued to defy the odds and finding life comfortable again in League Two. But home and away form were polar opposites. Clarence Road was a fortress while travels on the road were dire.

While the hysteria of a season back in the Football League gripped the fan base and the town, a cloud was continuing to hang over the club. Challinor’s prolonged talks with the Pools' hierarchy over a contract extension were threatening to shake the foundations of the club.

The Northern Echo: Hartlepool United manager Dave Challinor.

The saga that would unfold in the coming weeks threatened to undo the vast amounts of work to get the club to this point. After months of back-and-forth, the deal was done with the manager and an exciting future potentially awaited after putting pen-to-paper on a fresh three-year deal. Until Stockport County came calling. 38 days later, the rifts between manager and hierarchy were seemingly laid bare when he swapped life in the Football League to drop back down a division to leave Pools season hanging in the balance.

With Graeme Lee, there was an idea and a strategy behind the appointment. A young up and coming manager, who knew the club and had an affinity for the area, was tasked with keeping them in the Football League. And perhaps more.

His remit was to make them a tough side to play against and one defeat from his opening eight games got them off to a great start. Timi Odusina looked a revelation in the heart of their defence under Lee and their away form was corrected as Pools climbed the table but a clear problem in front of goal continued to plague the side.

Lee was backed in the January transfer window to find a goalscorer which was top of the targets list. Enter the experienced Omar Bogle to fill the void. While it hasn’t been the free scoring return the club will have hoped for, his hard work and endeavour freed up the likes of Luke Molyneux and others to start finding the net on a regular basis. An astute pruchase.

Undoubtedly, a number of moments stand out from the season away from the league. The dismantling of Blackpool on home soil in the FA Cup threw them into the national limelight as they booked a date with Crystal Palace. While it ended in defeat, they were far from disgraced at Selhurst Park as the footballing world came together to fundraise for Graeme’s wife Gemma for her inoperable brain tumour in a moment that transcended the sport.

The Northern Echo: Graeme Lee and his Hartlepool United players at Selhurst Park.Graeme Lee and his Hartlepool United players at Selhurst Park.

After further giant killings in the Papa John’s Trophy, the arch of Wembley was in touching distance as a record crowd made noises that could be heard from the Trinkamelee and further out to sea against Rotherham. Their agonising loss on penalties was the moment their season turned sour. Having rarely flirted with the relegation zone, they were producing the form of a relegation threatened team.

They dragged their way to League Two safety but Lee would go on to lose his job after an unconvincing run-in of one win from eleven games.

Off the field, a clear plan and strategy has slowly been coming to fruition with the redevelopment of the stadium, a head of recruitment appointed and a huge boost in attendances. But what that does for fortunes on the pitch should only be decided by the new man in the dugout, whoever that may be.

It's almost impossible to predict the course of next season. Mostly because it’s Hartlepool United and they don’t do things the conventional way. But with the club outlining plans to push for the top end of the League Two table, big decisions need to be made in the summer and it all needs to be a streamlined and concerted effort.

BEST PLAYER: Luke Molyneux

After a season of struggle in the National League, Molyneux has been stand out figure for Pools terrorising defences with his pace, skill and trickery whilst scoring 12 goals in the process.


Described by some Pools fans as one of the worst players to don the shirt, his only real highlight was the striker doing the ‘Sui’ celebration during a Papa John’s Trophy win. Can you call that a highlight?

BEST GAME: Hartlepool 2-1 Blackpool

There has been some outstanding games for the neutral where Pools have come from behind against the likes of Harrogate and Northampton Town but there’s nothing like an FA Cup upset.

BEST GOAL: Gavan Holahan vs Carlisle United

Luke Molyneux’s wonderful curling effort against Harrogate was a very close second but Holohan showed outstanding control and technique to lash home his matchwinning volley. His last goal for Pools.