Chris Turner ended his second spell at Hartlepool United when he resigned as director of sport on Thursday. Sports Editor Nick Loughlin reviews his two spells at Victoria Park from 1999-2002 and from 2006 to this week.

WHEN he arrived at Hartlepool United in January, 1999, Chris Turner’s remit was a simple one.

He had 14 games to keep the club in the Football League.

After leaving for the second time on Thursday, the task of the next manager at Victoria Park will remain pretty much the same – keep the club in the same division.

While Pools aren’t in the precarious spot of 11 years ago, this season will be about avoiding the drop into the bottom division. Turner knew as much, hence his frustration at being unable to add to his ranks.

For four seasons now they’ve been out of the bottom rung, a club record.

And over the last 11 years there have been some rollercoaster rides under Turner, IOR and their managers.

Darlington had David Hodgson – three times a Quaker. Pools had Chris Turner.

He’s had two spells, but with his relationship with the chairman irrevocably broken, it’s hard to see him returning for another stint.

His spells in charge were contrasting.

First time he built up a reputation as a talented boss before moving to Sheffield Wednesday.

Second time in charge of the first team, even though he retained the glorious title of director of sport, was a struggle.

He never found the spark that drove Pools forward from 1999 to 2003 and, for many, he was never forgiven for leaving the club to join Wednesday.

But he did the job that was asked in the last two seasons and kept Pools in League One – just.

On his 1999 appointment, after leaving his post as Wolves’ youth coach, the fresh-faced 38-year-old was ready for the task ahead.

Pools were at the foot of Division Four, only Hull and Scarborough beneath them.

With a squad including the likes of David Rush, Graham Stokoe and Gustavo Di Lella, it took him six games to record a first victory.

By the time Paul Baker slotted in the rebound from Denny Ingram’s missed penalty in injury time at Shrewsbury, Pools were adrift at the bottom of the table with seven games to go.

He described the club at the time as being “possibly at its lowest ebb’’.

But his vision was simple: “When I came here I said the club could be in the division we are now or the next one playing in front of a 5,000 crowd. People laughed at me.

“My first game was against Rotherham. I walked out on to a pitch with no grass on it and there were a couple of hundred people on the Mill House terrace.

“One voice came out and shouted ‘Turner, what you doing here, what have you come here for?’.

“People didn’t think we could get 5,000 in every week, but we did it.’’ A Peter Beardsley goal over Orient with three games to go as good as secured safety.

But he wasn’t willing to sit back and relax in the relative success; the hard work had just started.

From then on he reshaped the team, got the best out of existing players and led Pools into the play-offs. It was some turnaround.

For three seasons in a row, Pools made the end-of-season knock-out but each time they fell short, beaten in the semifinals, first by Darlington, then Blackpool and finally Cheltenham.

“Making the play-offs first time was a big achievement,’’ he admitted.

“But on each season the play-offs were a hurdle too far.

“Twice we made it on the last day – one at Hull (2000), one at Exeter (2002). The other time came in 2001 when Chesterfield should have been deducted enough points (for financial irregularities) to stop them going up automatically – we were in fourth place by a mile.

“That year we beat Cardiff at home 3-1 on the last day of the season and they had been promoted – we had a good side. But we couldn’t turn winning games into winning play-off games.

“The Blackpool game in the 2001 play-offs was a watershed. It was a red-hot day, too hot, and in a game when we needed a draw or maximum one-goal defeat, we couldn’t do it.

“Cheltenham came the next year and we outplayed them home and away.

“We conceded a last-minute goal at home to draw 1-1, then they smacked one into the top corner from distance to make it 1-1 away. They hung on, hung on and hung on – then we lost on penalties. That was how it went for us.

“The next season started that night at Cheltenham because I knew I had a squad of players capable of getting into the top three and staying there.’’ Pools started the next campaign on fire, as they raced to the top of the table.

When Turner left for Wednesday in November, 2003, they were clear.

“Leaving was the hardest and the easiest decision to make for me,’’ said Turner. “I didn’t want to leave, but the only club I would have left for – or even thought about leaving for – was Sheffield Wednesday.’’ But he couldn’t keep his new club in the First Division, his old club got promoted in second spot and they were soon in the same division.

Ironically, Pools went to Hillsborough in the first round of the League Cup and won on penalties.

But he was one of many unable to turn around The Owls and was sacked in September, 2004.

Appointed boss at Stockport shortly afterwards, he lasted little over a year at another club dogged by financial constraints.

When Pools were looking for a new boss in February, 2006, Turner was keen on a return to the club.

His strong relationship with Ken Hodcroft meant he was always in contention, but in a different role.

He revealed: “I got a phone call from Ken after I left Stockport and after Martin Scott had left the club. We met up one Sunday night and Ken said they were looking at a different role – manager, but not being manager.

“I was looking for something different, rather than being a football manager.

You go somewhere for 18 months and move on again. I’d had that before.

“I was looking to develop a niche role and they offered me this position,’’ The club’s new director of sport was on hand to offer Paul Stephenson assistance during his caretaker spell in charge.

He then played an instrumental role in appointing Danny Wilson as Pools got back on track with an instant promotion.

But Turner’s heart was always on the training ground and in the dug-out.

When Wilson left in December, 2008, the manager was already in place.

Yet he admitted at the time: “I’ve been here two-and-a-half years and I didn’t come back here looking or wanting to be manager of Hartlepool United.

“I have a position working for IOR which I enjoy doing and now I’m in another position with the club. When I left the club in 2002, my real regret was that we didn’t get that season finished off.

“I left in a very good position, but it was an opportunity for me personally and I’ve no regrets about the decisions – leaving or coming back.’’ Turner’s passion for the club was evident.

“The longevity of the job is getting shorter – there are 50 or 60 wanting a job,’’ he said in putting his own case forward.

“But of those people, how many of them have interest in the job they are going for?

“It’s just a job for them and it’s important when you have people coming in there is more than the ‘just a job’ outlook.

“Why bring someone in from down south, someone who has no affiliation with this club or this town?

“It’s important we have someone who is passionate, who wants to progress with this club.’’ His first game back in charge was a 3-0 win over Southend.

But it didn’t get any better than that, as Pools floundered their way to League One safety.

Allowed to reshape and rebuild the squad last summer, Turner was unable to shake off the problems that had long dogged Pools – the biggest failings of all coming away from home.

Pools have lost a shocking 43 league games in their last three seasons on the road.

Changing the players didn’t alter the outcomes. Time will tell if changing the coaching staff will.

Turner's Hatlepool highs

1: Avoiding the drop in 1999.

When Turner was appointed, the club was in a precarious position. Relegation to the Conference was on the cards and Turner had 14 games to avoid it. A dramatic injury-time win at Shrewsbury provided a platform and the key was a home win over Scarborough, which went a long way to keeping Pools safe and relegating the Seasiders. 2: Making the play-offs.

Pools had never made the play-offs but under Turner they made it three times in a row. Twelve months after avoiding the drop, they finished in the top seven and a play-off semi-final with Darlington. They lost that one – and at the same stage in the next two seasons too – but the club had been turned around. 3: Key signings.

Turner, in his first spell, made signings who would go on to enjoy unqualified success. Mark Tinkler, right, Chris Westwood, top, and Ritchie Humphreys were three who helped shape the team and all played a massive role. Few recruits, however, had as big an impact as Gordon Watson, below. 4: Record-breaking.

In transforming the team, Turner transformed club history. A string of thumping home wins – 7-1 over Swansea, 5-1 over Rushden to name just two – they created a number of records in the process. Most have since been beaten, but those runs (21 league games unbeaten, longest run of successive wins, to name two) set new standards. 5: Tears at Brentford.

Two days before the final game of last season, Pools were deducted three points for fielding Gary Liddle when the defender was suspended. It left them in a relegation battle and, after a 0-0 draw was enough to keep them up, emotions got the better of Turner and he broke down in tears during an emotional post-match interview.