The Ballad of Hartlepool FC

1 Leave a comment on verse 1 0 ‘Twas in the town of Hartlepool in nineteen-forty nine,
The fortunes of the football team were in a sad decline.
By the end of August they had climbed as high as fourth,
But now they were in freefall in the Third Division [North].

2 Leave a comment on verse 2 0 And so they did what every soccer club is wont to do –
They jettisoned their manager and brought in someone new.
Con Martin was the man that they appointed to the job –
They got him from Blyth Spartans for the sum of fifteen bob.

3 Leave a comment on verse 3 0 Now Con was in his thirties and possessed enormous vision.
He’d played right-half for Sunderland up in the First Division.
He set about the club like the proverbial new broom
And cast out all the moaners and the harbingers of doom.

4 Leave a comment on verse 4 0 He brought in several players from the youths and the reserves,
Saying, “To each man cometh everything that he deserves.”
He changed the training emphasis from stamina to flair,
And threw out all the old and weary pros who didn’t care.

5 Leave a comment on verse 5 0 Slowly and methodically the club began to climb
Up the Third Division [North], two places at a time.
And when they got past Southport in the first round of the Cup,
The feeling all around the town was things were looking up.

6 Leave a comment on verse 6 0 Hartlepool had always been the paupers at the feast,
Always poor relations of the clubs in the north-east.
But now the fans had cause to think the bad old days were gone,
Newcastle had “Wor” Jackie; now the Pool had their “Wor” Con.

7 Leave a comment on verse 7 0 One day after training came a knock at Wor Con’s door.
In came a balding stranger whom Con had not seen before.
The stranger introduced himself, “Yul Brynner is my name,
I wonder if you’d teach me how to play this soccer game?”

8 Leave a comment on verse 8 0 Con asked, “Are you serious?” and Yul replied, “I am.”
[This was years before he emigrated to Siam.]
So Con gave him some football boots and handed him a ball
Saying, “Okay, Yank, let’s see if you are any good at all.”
On the pitch, Con placed the ball upon the penno spot,
Then took his place in goal inviting Yul to take a shot.
And what a shot! A bullet! One that Con would not forget!
He’d barely moved a whisker when it crashed into the net.

9 Leave a comment on verse 9 0 The contract that was quickly signed had scarcely time to dry
When Con put in, at number nine, the name of Brynner Y.
Before the game at Workington, the fans were asking “Who?”
But they’d be singing out his name before the match was through.

10 Leave a comment on verse 10 0 To cut a long and boring story short, Yul scored a hat-trick
And also gained two pennos both converted by Fitzpatrick.
The home fans booed his every move, they claimed he was an actor,
But Con maintained the reason was he was a quick reactor.

11 Leave a comment on verse 11 0 The re-election fears decreased as Pool moved up the table.
The poor relations looked as though they might shake off that label.
Every pub Con visited, they plied him with free beer,
And then the greatest honour-Hartlepudlian of the Year.

12 Leave a comment on verse 12 0 The players started acting up, they thought that they were stars,
They bought expensive eau-de-cologne and hung around wine-bars.
The only one who didn’t change was Mr. Yul Brynner,
Who always went to bed about an hour after dinner.

13 Leave a comment on verse 13 0 But Con refused to sit back and join in the celebration,
His mind was always working to improve the situation.
He turned his eagle eye upon the jerseys that they wore-
He thought the stripey blue and white was frankly just a bore.

14 Leave a comment on verse 14 0 “What we need is something that will make the public clap,
Some exotic gimmick that will put us on the map.”
“Now steady on,” the chairman warned him,”Don’t do nothin’ rash.
Just because we’re doin’ well, don’t mean we’re flush wi’ cash.”

15 Leave a comment on verse 15 0 Now, Con knew an old widow-woman, name of Mrs. Price,
And late one night, he called on her to ask her for advice.
She listened very carefully until she knew the score,
And then she snapped her fingers and went through the bedroom door.

16 Leave a comment on verse 16 0 When she returned, she profferd him a large and purple heart.
“Its from my mother’s tablecloth,” she sadly did impart.
“I’ll stick it on your jerseys , it’ll make the lads stand out!
A purple heart for Hartlepool – its apt, without a doubt.”

17 Leave a comment on verse 17 0 Con was quite ecstatic and he kissed her on the lips,
He couldn’t wait to get the hearts upon the football strips.
The widow-woman promised him she’d start them right away
And have them done before the Grimsby match on Saturday.

18 Leave a comment on verse 18 0 And, sure enough, come Saturday, each jersey had a crest
Together with a large and purple heart upon the chest.
The home fans were delighted and they gave a great ovation,
The purple hearts had put them in a mood of celebration.

19 Leave a comment on verse 19 0 The Grimsby captain flipped the coin, but Stanley won the toss
And turned the two teams round on the instructions of his boss.
It was a fateful error, but Wor Con was not to know
That by half-time the force nine hurricane would cease to blow.

20 Leave a comment on verse 20 0 For the first half, Grimsby had the wind behind their backs.
They pressurised the Pool defence until they found the cracks.
They scored a goal, and then another, then came number three,
And, all the while, the strong wind whipped in non-stop from the sea.

21 Leave a comment on verse 21 0 As the Hartlepool players started wilting at the knees,
Their purple hearts began to flap bizarrely in the breeze.
The glue the widow-woman used began to come unstuck
And made each player look like a distressed and injured duck.

22 Leave a comment on verse 22 0 Con sent an apprentice to the widow in the town
To ask her very nicely if she’d kindly come on down.
She rushed into the dressing-room just as the team came in,
Flinging off their purple hearts towards the rubbish bin.

23 Leave a comment on verse 23 0 The widow sniffed the air just like a dog who smells a bone,
And then enquired, “Has anyone been sprinkling cologne?”
As all the players, save for Yul, demurely answered “Yes,”
She took a massive box of pins from underneath her dress.

24 Leave a comment on verse 24 0 “The glue must have reacted with the chemicals that’s in it!
I’ll pin your hearts back on, me boys, it will not take a minute.”
And, as she scuttled frantically from one player to the next,
The lads could see from Wor Con’s face that he was sorely vexed.”

25 Leave a comment on verse 25 0 “Ye’re playing shite!” he screamed at them.”Ye’re like a bunch of cissies!
Ye couldn’t even get stuck in to Stanley Baldwin’s missus!
Those hearts upon your chests, they were supposed to give ye heart,
Instead of which, a little breeze is blowing ye apart!”

26 Leave a comment on verse 26 0 Now, Stan the centre-half, had come straight from his riding-stable.
He’d left a bridle and a saddle sitting on the table.
Con picked up a pair of reins and, in a fit of fury,
Flung them without looking [as he later told the jury.]

27 Leave a comment on verse 27 0 As luck would have it, Mrs. Price, still busy with her thread,
Stood up very quickly and they hit her on the head.
And as the room went quiet, the old widow let a roar,
“I put a curse on you!” she cried, and vanished through the door.

28 Leave a comment on verse 28 0 And in the second-half, the wind-direction turned around.
The Hartlepool defenders found it hard to stand their ground.
Never once did it abate, it never once stood still,
And when the ref blew up for time, the Pool had lost eight-nil.

29 Leave a comment on verse 29 0 For the remainder of the season, Hartlepool ne’er won a match,
Leaving only memories of their only purple patch.
Con was hauled before the Disciplinary Committee,
Then spent a few short months in charge of Welwyn Garden City.

30 Leave a comment on verse 30 0 The purple hearts, so proudly worn, were quickly cast aside,
And Yul went off to L.A. when the atmosphere died.
But, up in the Victoria Ground, should you go along,
You’ll hear the Pool supporters reminiscing with this song:-

31 Leave a comment on verse 31 0 Wor Con threw the rein, Wor Con threw the rein,
Though your Grimsby tossed, Stan turned.
Wor Con, Wor Con,
Widow pin your hearts,
And Yul never wore cologne
Yul NE-VER wore cologne…………………..


Probably my favourite [and longest] poem. I’m very proud of the punchline. Adapted from a short story I wrote for the Shelbourne FC programme twenty years ago.

Source: https://footballpoets.org/poems/the-ballad-of-hartlepool-fc/