Don’t gang up on us, pleads Pools chairman ahead of boycott

PLEA: Ken Hodcroft.
PLEA: Ken Hodcroft.
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KEN Hodcroft has called on Hartlepool United fans to “pull together” as a group of supporters prepare to boycott tonight’s cup game with Sheffield United.

Managerless Pools are back in action at Victoria Park this evening when Nigel Clough’s Blades head to Victoria Park for the second round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy (KO 7pm).

Colin Cooper handed in his notice within minutes of the final whistle on Saturday following the 3-0 defeat to Carlisle United which left Pools bottom of Sky Bet League Two.

A group of fans fed-up with the club’s owners IOR over a perceived lack of investment are now set to boycott tonight’s match and instead donate the money to the Hartlepool & District Hospice via an online donation page.

It follows on from chants of ‘Cooper Out’ which rang around Vic Park on Saturday, as well as shouts against the club’s owners.

In an exclusive interview with SportMail, Hodcroft said he has no problem with people expressing their opinions but has asked fans not to ‘gang up’ against the club.

“I said in my programme notes that if people want to shout and protest they can,” Hodcroft told SportMail.

“Everybody is entitled to express their opinions over anything at the club.

“I just think on a young manager it is tough. I think football fans and the club and the players need to pull together.

“Football is like that and you have ups and downs.

“It is a shame when there are downs that people tend to gang up on the manager or the chairman of whatever.

“Personally, it would be better if they complained against other people like the police and the council who are not helping this club at all.”

That was in reference to Cleveland Police charging Pools for games the chairman didn’t feel justified a police presence, while the long-running issue over buying the ground from the local authority remains ongoing.

In his programme notes, Hodcroft said: “Last week at the Portsmouth game I was asked by some fans why the club is not spending the money on new players that we received from the sale of the two recent players.

“I had to remind them that the money, in both cases, is being paid over 18-months and the money received for the player last season does not count towards the salary capping allowance for this season and the money received for James has only just had its first payment made.

“Very few clubs pay the full amount for players upfront these days.

“The main thing this club needs in order to act independently of the salary capping rules is an actual real increase in external income.”

Hodcroft added: “If all previous corporate sponsors had again sponsored the club this season that too would have helped, but income is down.

“If the police stopped charging HUFC for games that do not justify a police presence - that would help.

“If Hartlepool Council was not threatening the club with a rent increase (probably back dated several years) and had sold the ground to the owners IOR – that would help,” said the chairman who also called for a more television money to be allocated to the lower leagues.

In response, Councillor Carl Richardson, deputy leader of Hartlepool Council, said: “The amount of rent paid on Victoria Park by Hartlepool United FC was frozen some time ago pending the outcome of talks on the potential sale of the ground – and it has now remained at the same level for the last 12 years.

“Given the unrealistic offers previously made for the ground and the lack of recent contact from the Club’s owners IOR, we are now looking to implement the rent reviews which under the terms of the lease are due every five years.

“We acknowledge that a successful football club is good for the town and remain willing to re-open negotiations – but this is dependent on IOR making an acceptable offer for Victoria Park and agreeing to our insistence that any sale agreement includes a clause stipulating that the ground should only ever be used for football purposes.”