May 7th 2011 I finally went back to The Valley after 12 long years! And boy has it changed. Last time I went the North & West stands were both single tier and certainly were not joined. The main entrance now looks like it belongs and I love the Sam Bartram statue, although I do miss the ladies toilets that used to be in the car park! Well maybe not.....
I haven't seen Hartlepool play since 1994 when I saw them play a league cup game. To get a ticket I had to prove that I didn't support the opposition. I pulled out my CAFC Fan Card (obligatory in those days) and hey presto got a ticket to the main stand. On a freezing Tuesday (I think) night, with the wind blowing in from the north sea, I sat there and cheered on Hartlepool in my best south London accent. The opposition that night? Crystal Palace.
To be fair the game on Saturday wasn't the best but I was just pleased to be back at The Valley. There are signs that Chris Powell has a plan and with the right players, our future should be good. No goals in the game, but both crossbars were rattled and Charlton went close a couple of times. I liked the look of young Callum Harriott and hope we can hold onto him for a few years. Chris Solly is another decent young player and I'm hearing we have some more on the way.
The highlight of the game has to be the sight of 40 Hartlepool fans dressed as Oompa Loompas. If that wasn't enough there were another 10 or so dressed as Father Christmas. And the best thing of all? The Oompa Loompas and Father Christmas' swaying in synch and doing the "Poznan" Those Hartlepool fans certainly knew how to enjoy their last game of the season and for that I salute you!
Unusually for me my pre-match routine included a visit to a pub. This was a special visit as I was due to meet people i had been chatting to on Twitter. And a lovely bunch of people they are too! So my thanks to making my first trip back to The Valley such a memorable one goes to Algordon_cafc & Heidi, Whereslordlucan & Hideabout, Samkimber24, Nickorob, CAFCgirl87, Addicktedaddick, Marcocasual, Keithlewis90, Paulraisey & Bill and Deepestdarkest. And I look forward to seeing you all next season.