109 Years in the Football League: Can Hartlepool United Survive Again?

Hartlepool United's Liam Donnelly during the Sky Bet League Two match between Leyton Orient and Hartlepool United at Brisbane Road, London on April 17, 2017. (Photo by Kieran Galvin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

After their 0-2 home defeat by Barnet on Saturday, Hartlepool United now have two games to save themselves from relegation. Failure would see them relegated from the Football League for the first time in their 109-year history.

109 Years in the Football League: Can Hartlepool United Survive Again?

United finally pushed the panic button after Saturday and sacked manager Dave Jones. He had been in charge just three months. However, with the club in massive danger of being relegated to non-league football for the first time, he lost his job. 30-year-old defender Mathew Bates has been given the caretaker job, and will front a four-man team that will take on the huge task of keeping Hartlepool in the league.

History of survival

Sadly for United’s supporters, they are no strangers to battling at the wrong end of the Football League. Up until 1986, a re-election process was in place. This was instead of the promotion and relegation scenario we are familiar with today.

The worst clubs in the Football League had to attend a meeting, put their case forward to stay and hope for the best. The rest of the Football League would then decide whether to keep the league side or promote a non-league team. Hartlepool never lost a re-election. They hold the record for the highest number of re-elections with 14.

Since the introduction of promotion and relegation, United have flirted with the drop on many occasions but have always found a way to survive. Since returning to League Two from a spell in League One they have struggled, finishing 19th, 22nd and 16th.

This season

Craig Hignett set about changing the clubs fortunes last summer. An overhaul in the squad took place with the hope of ending a run of seasons battling relegation. The season began well and five points from the opening three matches gave some fans hope.

Two defeats in the first 12 league games showed they were tough to beat; however, just three wins was not a great return. From then on it was a real struggle. Any win was usually accompanied by defeats and the occasional draw as the team slipped down the table.

In an attempt to stop the slide, United relieved Hignett of his duties in January and replaced him with the experienced Dave Jones. Unfortunately for the club, the former Southampton and Cardiff boss did not fair well. 13 points from a possible 51 has left the club second-bottom in League Two.

Two games to save themselves

Two games are all that stands between safety and relegation. With Leyton Orient already relegated, the final relegation place is between Hartlepool and Newport County. Newport currently have a two-point advantage and a win for them this Saturday could save them if Hartlepool fail to beat Cheltenham Town. If United get through this weekend, then they have the daunting task of playing already-promoted Doncaster Rovers.

Pool fans will have everything crossed that come the Doncaster game, they are still fighting. With Rovers already promoted, it could give United their best chance of staying up.

Hartlepool and their fans must give everything now to stand any chance of survival. However, if Newport do their job, then it could end up being Hartlepool’s worst-ever season. But as history has already told us, if anyone can survive, Hartlepool United can.

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