Wild At Hartlepool

First featured in MEHSTG Vol. 1 Issue 6 - January 1991
(A trip to Hartlepool in the League Cup 2nd Round 2nd leg on 9.10.1990)

Oh, crikey !  Where ?  How far ??  Oh, alright.  Go on then, get me a ticket.  The "Groundhopper" in me always wins out in the end.  The thought of travelling tot he other end of the earth country was not an appetising one and a number of our usual travellers had fallen by the wayside.  We were to go boldly to an area where a Cockney accent is as welcome as the word "re-election" !!  The traffic jam only added ½ hour to our 4 hour trek to the North-East.  The regular away trip quizzes helped occupy the passing miles whilst battling for the attention with the scenic charms of Middlesbrough.

We arrived in Hartlepool at just about the right time.  6.45 p.m.  Just as it was starting to get dark !  I don't think we missed too much, as the ground was nearly full anyway - except the Spurs end.  The Victoria Ground was an odd concoction.  One new cantilever stand, one covered end, one uncovered end (guess who occupied this terracing ?) and along the other side a motley collection of bus shelters, prefabs and a cricket pavilion!! There was a large 5-metre strip of grass separating the miscellany of accommodation and the pitch which served multiple purposes. Police patrolled, players warmed up and photographers snapped the action from there. The pitch itself was in good condition, apart from the Mysteron sign, which had focused on the corner of the field in front of us. On the terraces, we settled down for the evening’s entertainment only for the rain to fall heavily. "Ah, the ritual soaking", we thought. But no, after a mere 10 minutes, the clouds closed up and the last of the Spurs coaches arrived to complete our numbers. The rain had left watching the match a hazardous task, as each bit of terracing had a wooden edging to it, so when you moved forward to get a better view your ankle was in perpetual risk of being fractured! However, our minds were diverted from this by sections of the away end (believed to be from Blackpool) who launched into a highly amusing rendition of "Hey Hey We're The Monkees !!"

     It must show that I'm advancing in years as even Spurs' goalkeepers are looking younger these days! The person fending off the warm up shots looked about 14 and had gloves that leaked 4 sizes too big for him. Perhaps he'd stood behind the goal and had been a recipient of Erik's generosity. Paul Walsh was a starter for a change, but, oh dear, who was that in the No.8 shirt?? The thin frame caused us to fear for Gazza's constitution, but the blonde wedge soon set us right. Oh no, it was John Moncur! This feeling of depression was countered by the inclusion of Justin Edinburgh and the (substitutionally) wonderful Mitch.

    The match itself was very entertaining considering the tie was already over. Both teams attacked with great gusto and speed at every opportunity. Spurs worked the ball out to the left and Justin hit a hard cross off a difficult bouncing ball. Stewart's falling header gave Spurs an 11th minute lead, before Walshy and Edinburgh both went close, with Vinny's quickly taken free-kick being well turned around the post by Cox. Pool attacked, but the quality of their final ball was lacking and the quality of Spurs' defence was not. Dearden made a couple of sharp dashes from his line to smother any danger and stopped shots and handled the crosses very well.

    Gazza and Nayim exercised to great acclaim. The "Nayiiiiim" chant brought a thumbs up or clenched fist, while "One Paul Gascoigne" produced a toothy grin or salute, before the crowd turned to "you fat ......  “.  Venners had arrived on the bench looking very pleased after about 15 mins. of the game. Obviously with Golden Gary missing he'd wagered £30 on Stewart to open the scoring and had been to collect his winnings!! The crowd welcomed him with a song that earned a wave. Quick as a Gazza free-kick the fans came back with "You fat ......." !! More hilarity followed with a chorus of "We all agree Terry is fatter than Gazza". Other targets of the "fat" chant were a particularly chubby St. John's Ambulance man and Nayim!! I wonder what he makes of it all??

    The second half was barely two minutes old when Stewart was put through, took on a defender and fired in a shot from 12 yards out and flicked off a defender on its way to the back of the net. A couple more chances came Paul's way (I thought he was a golfer - Ed.) (Some fans often wish he was - Sarcastic Deputy Ed!), which would have seen him taking home the match ball,, but the keeper blocked two shots and his control let him down on another occasion.

    Most of the entertainment was taking place off the pitch as Gazza warmed up before he entered the fray. He had been pushing over photographers and was soon surrounded by the local "teenyGazzas" thrusting autograph books at him. His sprints up and down the grass strip were accompanied by a swarm of small children. This turned into a full training session as he had them jumping to head an imaginary ball and stretching to touch their toes. After about five minutes of this, he got them to drop to the ground and do some press-ups, then promptly trotted off to the bench leaving the tiny tots who's faces were having a close encounter with the grass!!!

    Gascoigne soon came on and his first involvement was to give away the ball. Hartlepool broke away down the right wing and Dalton cut inside Edinburgh before hitting a shot which ripped past Dearden, who had no chance. Boosted by this, Baker then hit a dipping volley from the edge of the penalty area that just cleared the bar. Dearden produced a great point blank save and with the Spurs defenders for once all over the place, the rebound fell to a Pool forward, who lofted the ball over the goal which gaped open in front of him. Nayim came on for the inept Moncur and he and Gazza linked up down the left to play 'keep ball' and also to produce chances For Walsh, Stewart and for Gazza himself a couple of times. Bambi, however, seemed to be having a run out to please the expectant hordes and wasn't getting as fully involved as he normally does. It raised the thought that although the crowds turn out to see him, should he play (especially if there is the hint of an injury) just to please the crowd? As the tackles began to fly it took on an increased importance. He was still in it enough to instigate a move that ended with Paul Alien slipping a shot past the keeper, but unfortunately also past the post.

    The match petered out as the night closed in and we trudged off into the dark North-East night. As we headed in the direction of the Coronation Street look-a-like road where we had left the car, I had a warm glow of a victory to take with me. It was not something that had accompanied me on the long hauls back from Lincoln and Torquay at this stage in the past. I suppose the Hartlepool fans also returned home reasonably happy. After all, they had not been disgraced on their home ground and may have well deserved a draw for their second half endeavours. On the long drive home as we struggled to stay awake in the driving rain, we pondered on the destination of our next trip. Would it be the lure of the West and Exeter or a journey to a familiar place, like Old Trafford or Anfield. As I got into bed at 2 am, I surmised that a home tie and a safe place in the Fourth round may not be such a bad thing after all!

     (And no, it wasn't a dream - we really were drawn at home to Bradford City in the next round!)



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