Under-fire head of recruitment set to leave crisis club Hartlepool United

Hartlepool United chief executive Pam Duxbury. Picture by Frank Reid
Hartlepool United chief executive Pam Duxbury. Picture by Frank Reid

Hartlepool United’s under-fire head of football operations, Paul Watson, is set to leave the club.

We have learned that Watson will not depart immediately, although it is expected to be confirmed before the end of the season.

With the club’s future uncertain a streamlining of operations has begun at Victoria Park – and Watson is the first, and most high-profile casualty of what could be a painful few months for Pools.

A whole host of the club’s staff behind the scenes at the Vic have had their jobs placed under threat, with redundancy talks understood to already be underway with a number of employees.

Whitley Bay-born football agent Watson has come under fire from fans for his involvement in a number of decisions, including deals from the failed Craig Hignett and Dave Jones regimes, as well as some transfers last summer.

The biggest criticism from fans comes in relation to whether a club like Pools, now in the fifth tier, needs a head of football operations, and the considerable salary that goes hand-in-hand with that.

Watson is also credited with bringing current chief executive Pam Duxbury and owner John Blackledge to the club.

The duo had a lengthy business relationship prior to Sage Investments ploughed their cash into Pools at the back end of last season.

Duxbury is a former secretary and director of FullNinety Sports Management Limited – the company which also, until he became involved at Pools, provided Watson with employment.

The current Pools chief resigned from her role at the agency in December 2016.

It is not yet known whether Watson will be replaced at the Vic, but given the club’s current plight, it seems unlikely, especially with question marks over the immediate and long-term future.

On that front, Pools are no further forward to finding a solution to their cash-flow problems.

The club must pay an outstanding, overdue tax bill to the HMRC, which saw them issued with a winding up order petition on February 1.

Their court hearing for this bill, totalling around £48,000, has been set for March 21.

The club must also cover staff and player wages for the month of February.

Fears inside the Pools camp are that this will not be fulfilled, leaving scores of employees out of pocket.

But these fears are nothing new, given that rumours have been rife since Blackledge pulled the plug on the finances in November, which coincides with when Pools bad run started. The club are winless since November 21.