TOMORROW’S trip north east will be an emotional occasion, and I’m not sure what to make of it, writes MARK GRIFFITHS.
Hartlepool United stand on the brink of administration, and fans across the country have rallied to help them.
An online fundraising page had topped £50,000 at the time of writing, and United anticipate a full house tomorrow as supporters flock to back the club in its hour of need.
Having seen my own club suffer so horribly, I have nothing but sympathy for Hartlepool’s fans, and desperately hope their club can keep its head above water.
However, our experience at Wrexham is why I don’t feel inclined to drop some cash in the collection buckets tomorrow.
In paying off the £200,000 which it is said is required to avoid insolvency, are we helping the club or merely paying the overheads.
After all, what will happen if the money isn’t raised? The club will go into administration. That will, naturally, be a major problem for them. The ten-point penalty will drop them right into the middle of a relegation battle; it will be hard for them to raise morale and impossible to recruit new players. We know. We’ve been there.
But would that be a total catastrophe? After all, it was going into administration which created the conditions required for the WST to take over the club. If we hadn’t made that move, there’s a good chance that we’d be supporting a phoenix club five levels lower than we are now, and The Racecourse would be a retail park.
The Hartlepool United Supporters Trust want to buy a stake in the club, but they don’t want it to enter into administration.
Cynicism isn’t why I don’t feel inclined to chuck cash in the bucket though. Hope for United’s future is my reason for that.
We should all hope Hartlepool survive, not least because they play a major role in our history.
Our first match against them was also our first game in the Football League, back in 1921. We lost that match 2-0 but gained revenge in the return fixture a fortnight later when Reg Leck scored the only goal in our first away game in the Football League to register our first win at that level.
Since then our record at Hartlepool has been pretty decent. We've won there 14 times while losing 29 in 52 visits.
Our last trip there, in September 2006, saw us capitulate to a 3-0 defeat, but the trip north before that was one of the most memorable and historic occasions in our long history.
In March 2005 we found ourselves behind after four minutes, but two strikes from Juan Ugarte put us ahead within a quarter of an hour. United equalised but a penalty allowed Ugarte to complete a first half hat trick. He wasn't finished yet though!
Hartlepool equalised again after the break, only for Ugarte to hit his fourth half way through the second period. Again United struck back, and with six minutes left they made the score Hartlepool 4 Ugarte 4!
However, Mark Jones then got in on the act, putting us ahead with four minutes left, and three minutes later Ugarte swept in his fifth to seal a 6-4 victory and ensure he'd set a club record for the most goals scored by a Wrexham player in an away game, and equalled the most scored in a league game to boot!
Only Andy Morrell, with his seven goals against Merthyr Tydfil in the Welsh Premier Cup, has scored more for us in a game.
Furthermore, it was the Basque striker's third hat trick of the season and he would go on to get one more, incredibly, all scored away from The Racecourse!
Only Tommy Bamford has scored more hat tricks in a season – he got six in 1933-34 – and no one has taken home the match ball from so many away games in a season for Wrexham.
A couple of Reds' players bring up milestones tomorrow. Goalkeeper Chris Dunn will makes his 200th league appearance, while Scott Boden plays his 325th career game.