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Dr Christopher Hull, Senior Lecturer in Spanish and Latin American Studies, has turned a lifelong passion for Hartlepool United into a reality with his new book, Alchemy: Brian Clough & Peter Taylor at Hartlepools United (The History Press). 

With research from archive newspapers and interviews with surviving players, Chris reveals the humble origins of Clough and Taylor’s rise to the top. 

Despite growing up in London, Chris has followed Hartlepool United since 1978. He said: “I was attracted by the name Hartlepool, and the fact they were in the North East as I’d enjoyed a family holiday to Goathland in North Yorkshire and visited nearby Whitby too.

One day in about 1976, I wrote to the club secretary, whose details were in the Rothmans Football Yearbook. Secretary Bill Hillan, who I later discovered had been in post since the early 1960s, replied with three slender Hartlepool match programmes and unwittingly set in motion a process that led to this book. My instant fixation with a bird’s-eye view of the Victoria Ground on one programme cover has yet to diminish. After watching the team for the first time in 1978 I was hooked. I’ve been travelling around the country to watch them ever since.” 

Chris particularly enjoyed interviewing players and regional newspapers from the time. He said: “The players fondly remember those seasons in the 1960s, the camaraderie in the dressing room, although it was very much a raw experience, playing for a club with the most basic of facilities and always scratching for money.” 

“Reading the regional newspapers of the period was a joy too, and Clough’s match programme notes, all carrying his golden quotes. He was a football correspondent’s dream, always providing them with great copy, and a boon to a writer like me. Reading newspapers from that period, you really become immersed in those seasons, the struggle to improve results and move out of the danger zone at the bottom of the Fourth Division, with minimum financial resources. It was a battle for survival at every level. Not forgetting, of course, that Clough was trying to make it in football management after the premature and tragic end to his high scoring playing career through injury in 1962. In that sense, there is a parallel between the man, the football club, and the local town (or towns, Hartlepool and West Hartlepool being separate towns until April 1967), already suffering steep industrial decline by the mid-1960s. All three, Clough, Hartlepools United, and the Hartlepools, were down on their luck.” 

Chris found researching the book during the COVID-19 lockdowns particularly challenging as it proved difficult to carry out interviews face-to-face and to use the Reading Rooms at the British Library to carry out his newspaper archive research.  

And although he has a busy career as a Senior Lecturer, Chris found his passion for the subject the key to managing his time and he advises his students to do the same. 

He added: “My interest in the topic and keenness to research and write about it were sufficient motivations for me to dedicate holidays, evenings and weekends to this project. I advise my dissertation students at Chester to find a topic that interests them and that will draw them in.” 

To buy a copy visit here. 


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