Is there a more famous Poolie in this world? I doubt it! Living in the South East you often get stopped in the street when wearing your Pools colours. The first thing people say is, "Jeff Stelling", even the non football supporters out there know of him! Known for his charisma and passion, not only is a he great ambassador for the club but his mood and attitude often reflects that of our supporters. This serves to reinforce the bond that exists and his regular appearances at games when he gets the opportunity highlight that he hasn't simply used his support of a club for his own gain. Only committed supporters travel from Winchester to Chester to watch a likely defeat on a Tuesday night. When the club needed him most, Jeff stepped up and delivered. During a very difficult period in the clubs history, Jeff worked hard to attract a saviour for the club. When that person did come forward, Jeff put his money where is mouth was and backed the club with hard cash. No Pools fan will ever forget this and it took him from being not just a fan, but also part owner. Thank you Jeff, without your contribution who knows where we would be today.
Here is what he had to say....
What are your earliest memories of supporting Pools?
First memories really are turning up at the Vic 15 minutes from the end of the game when they would open the gates to let the long-suffering fans out! If the family was flush with money I would sometimes go with my sister – who I am sure would be the only woman in the crowd. First game would be circa 1963 – can ‘t exactly remember who it was against but pretty sure it was Workington. And I think we won which was a rarity as I think we finished bottom.
What is your most memorable game?
The most memorable game was a 2-0 defeat! At Tranmere in the play-off semi-final, with Ritchie and Dimi winning the shoot out for us. I could have said the final v Wednesday but I went to bed in a Cardiff hotel straight after it because I couldn’t bear to see or speak to anyone.
How do you feel about the bigger North East clubs?
Never bothered me being in the shadows of Newcastle, Sunderland and Boro as most of the time they were not exactly pulling up trees.
Who is your favourite ever Pools player?
Favourite player was either Ernie Phythian from the Clough/Taylor era because he and Jimmy Mulvaney actually scored goals. Or more recently James Brown, lovely player, who helped me make my name with the James Brown doll on Soccer Saturday.
Who is your favourite Pools manager?
Favourite manager was Tattie Cooper, a joy to be around. And his Fergie impression was second to none.
What is it like spreading the word about Pools?
In terms of spreading the word, the nicest thing is when you go to a Motorway service station and the woman selling you a Kit-Kat knows that I support Hartlepool. So many people tell me they look out for our results. Not sure of the biggest name to know I support the club, but the most bizarre occasion was when I was half way up Kilimanjaro with Higgy and Colin Cooper when one of the Rifiki, or helpers, called Samuel asked me how we were doing. His friend had the biggest satellite dish in Tanzania, and he watched the show every week.
Can you tell us what happened when we nearly lost the club?
We were less than 48 hours from going out of business. Rachel had been brilliant, but we needed a big backer. We had been well down the line with another local businessman, but he was scared off by the mess the accounts seemed to be in and potential hidden debts. Higgy introduced me to Raj. We all know what happened at Darlo so I was slightly sceptical, but to be honest if you are drowning you don’t examine the credentials of the man who throws you the rope. I could not have been more happily surprised. I liked Raj from the first meeting. He was worried that the fans at Darlo had given him so much stick, but I re-assured him that Pools fans would love him. He wanted someone else to put at least some money forward as a show of faith, and we had had so many false promises from people who when it came to the crunch would not show the colour of their money. So that left me! I put in a fraction of what Raj did, but it was a lot to me, and Mrs Stelling wasn’t best pleased. Turned out to be the best money I have ever spent. We still needed John Blackledge to accept a deal over the money he was owed. That went to the wire, but he was, in my view a very decent man who had been very badly advised and he agreed just in time to allow us to save the club.
What happened between Dave Jones and yourself?
The League Managers Association complained to Sky. I was fuming and so rang Richard Bevan, the then Chief Executive. I knew Richard a little, but he was not prepared for the torrent over the next half hour as I told him what I thought about DJ and gave him chapter and verse about what had been going on at the club. Suffice to say he took it all on board and I didn’t hear from the LMA again. I gather Dave Jones told a newspaper I am a small man. Well that’s probably the one thing he got right.
What club do you hate the most?
I don’t hate anyone, not even Darlo, as I am too old to waste my precious time on this mortal coil hating people or things. Of course I will just love it when we get the chance to whoop them once again!
1. Dimi Konstantopolous
2. Rob McKinnon
4. Chris Westwood
5. Brian Drysdale
6. Paul Dalton
7. Ritchie Humphries
8. Joel Porter
9. Luke James
10. Adam Boyd
11. Ernie Phythian
Subs: Les Green, Tony Parry, Brian Honour, Eifion Williams, Keith Houchen.
Taken a few liberties with the formation!
Manager: Cyril Knowles