WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Hartlepool United’s Division Four promotion winners of 1990-91
JOE ALLON admits he thought it was an April Fools’ joke the day he was asked if he wanted to sign for Hartlepool United.
The Pools were perennial strugglers at the foot of the Football League and had to apply for reelection on an almost annual basis.
But the partnership between Allon and Paul Baker was the foundation on which the club’s second ever promotion-winning campaign was built.
And when manager Cyril Knowles put a defence in place to match his strike force, the jigsaw was complete and the dream was about to be realised.
Allon said: “It was only the second time in the club’s history that we had gained promotion, and it was a major achievement for us because the season before we had finished something like fourth or fifth from bottom.
“I still managed to score a few goals, mind you, something like 20 league goals.
“The next season started pretty awfully but we ended up going on this run which went right to the death and took us up for the first time since 1967-68.
“At the time Hartlepool were more or less the laughing stock of football because of the number of times we had to apply for re-election.
“I remember when Bobby Moncur and Pop Robson first got the job as Hartlepool bosses, they said: ‘We want you to come’ and I thought they were joking.
“They sold the club on the fact they were going to be successful, they put the groundwork down and then Cyril came into the club and put us on another level.
“He basically got everybody together. We were already a close knit bunch of lads and it was a very, very special part of my life.”
Hartlepool finished in third place, a point behind north-east rivals Darlington, who were champions, and only goal difference separated Pools and runners-up Stockport County.
Allon scored 35 goals that season, which earned him a move to Chelsea, and he has no complaints about finishing third.
“Brian Little was manager of Darlington and I have to say that they deserved to go up as champions. We beat them 1-0 away and I scored the winner.
“Then we drew 0-0 with them at The Vic. If you took four points off the team that finished above you, you would expect to be champions.
“But at the same time you cannot take it away from Darlington.
“We were only interested in Hartlepool, though. We went to places like Stockport and Aldershot who were flying at the time and Northampton on the final day and beat them convincingly.
“Going into the final game of the season we could either have got automatic promotion or sunk into the play-offs. Amazing to think that the season before we could quite easily have gone out of the league.”
1. Steve Fletcher: The Hartlepoolborn striker is still playing in the Football League for Bournemouth and has served the club as player-
2. Paul Baker: Worked at Newcastle’s academy before managing Non-League clubs in the north east, then became chief scout at Norwich City, a job he is now doing back in Hartlepool.
3. Chris Errington: Lives in Hartlepool and is goalkeeper coach at East Durham College’s Football Development Centre. Also runs his own academy.
4. Rob McKinnon: He returned to live in East Kilbride in Scotland and was last known to be acting as a player agent.
5. Ian Bennyworth: He is back living in Beverley on his native North Humberside and runs I J Consultancy services.
6. John Craggs: After managing Charlton Athletic, he scouted for Brighton, Manchester City and Huddersfield Town.
7. Garry MacDonald: He is now a director at iFoam Ltd in Darlington.
8. Mick Smith: He is still living in the north east and became a policeman in Jarrow.
9. Keith Nobbs: After a short spell working as a housing officer, he returned to Hartlepool United and is now community sports foundation coordinator.
10. Alan Lamb: He is living in his native Gateshead and runs a kitchen fitting and flooring business.
11. Gary Henderson: The physio is now a senior lecturer at the University of Teesside.
12. Ian Dunbar: He is now a staff coach with Chicago Magic Soccer Club, and was previously director of soccer operations at Evansville Elite.
13. Andy Davies: He owned a fruit and veg shop and then became a grocery manager for a couple of local supermarkets.
14. Steve Tupling: A PE teacher in the north east, he also coached junior football in Tynemouth.
15. Kenny Davies: He is now believed to be living and working in
the Billingham area.
16. Pop Robson: He managed Sunderland and Carlisle as well as coaching at Hartlepool, Manchester United, Leeds United and Sunderland. He is now a newsagent in Hexham.
17. Paul Olsson: He has managed Scarborough Athletic and was football in the community officer at York City.
18. John Tinkler: He worked at the Samsung factory in Wynyard, Billingham for many years.
19. Joe Allon: Has worked in the media and on the coaching staff at Leeds United and is now a director of an entertainment company called Players Inc.
20. Cyril Knowles: He stepped down because of a brain tumour and died in August 1991 aged 47. There is a stand named after him at Victoria Park.
21. Paul Dalton: Is still living in the north east and worked as a coach in Middlesbrough’s academy. Teaches at Darlington College.
22. Brian Honour: Lives in Blackhall, runs a local soccer school and has been involved in Non-League management as Durham boss.
23. Don Hutchison: Has gone into the media summarising on radio station talkSPORT and working for Sky. NOT PICTURED Brian Cox: Has worked as a voluntary driver, run betting shops and worked for an offshoot of the NHS in his native Sheffield.
Riccardo Gabbiadini: Previously a warehouse supervisor, he runs The Limes Hotel in Fulford and coaches at a local school.
Neil Heaney: Is based in Welwyn, Hertfordshire and is CEO of Judicare Group overseas property company.
John MacPhail: After a spell managing Hartlepool he is now a car salesman in Darlington.
Kevin Poole: Is player-goalkeeping coach at Burton Albion at the age of 49.