The series continues
Many fans contributed their memories to the Farewell to Feethams book in 2002.
One of the contributors was David Lippatt, who wrote about the bizarre last game of the 1991-92 relegation season against Exeter City.
The last game of the 1992 season when Darlo were relegated from the old Third to the new Third Division was at home to Exeter.
After two successive championship seasons followed by the departure of Brian Little to Leicester, lack of success was something of a novelty particularly to those fans who had joined the bandwagon during the previous two seasons.
Our relegation was confirmed long before this final game, so little sorrow remained amongst the Darlo fans who had turned up to witness our swansong in the Third. Not only was the crowd swelled by the usual morbid curiosity, but also by a large travelling support from Exeter. How often is a large Exeter contingent seen at Feethams? Exeter needed a win to be certain of avoiding relegation
alongside us. Everyone seemed determined to enjoy the occasion whatever the result, and probably because many newer Darlo fans had only ever celebrated on the last day of the season, there was an oddly misplaced good mood in the Tin Shed. The warm sunny weather no doubt lifted everyone.
Due to Exeter's greater need for a win, it was almost a foregone conclusion that we would allow them to have it. However, an odd thing happened - our star striker, who had been signed for a record fee (a fee! Imagine that!), Nick Cusack, decided that his last game for the club he had helped relegate was the perfect time to score two. The look on his face as he approached the Tin Shed has stayed with me ever since. He had finally done his record-signing tag justice and showed us what he
could do. The trouble was, nobody cared anymore. it was his last game for Darlo.
Still, he lapped it all up, and so did we. After a season of defeat after defeat, it was one hell of a tonic to run out 5-2 winners. The final whistle blew to the annual chorus of "Champions!" and the obligatory pitch invasion. The players even came back out to milk the applause! Anyone watching would have thought we really were champions.
The Exeter players and crowd were utterly deflated. Results elsewhere meant that they were relegated too, and once our "celebrations” had abated slightly, we began to make our way over to where they were fenced in by the Sports Centre.
The Exeter fans also spilled out of the gate and onto the pitch, and we started to shake hands. "Sorry lads", "Thanks for the win though" and "See you next season unfortunately” were interspersed with tears and swapping of fanzines and scarves.
Then one of theirs cried out, just as our announcer was reporting that Exeter’s great rivals at Torquay had lost (presumably to a last gasp goal) - meaning that Exeter were staying up at Torquay's expense! Cue the strange sight of opposing fans all celebrating together under the bemused eye of the police, after one side had just hammered the other! I think we could relate to their joy by imagining Hartlepool as Torquay, and us as Exeter,
I left the ground from the away end in Polam Lane that day, with three Exeter fans who were promising to come and support us when we went to Torquay next season. A truly odd but wonderful day with such a mixture of emotions and friendliness between fans. I remember the occasion every time I see or hear of violence at matches just to remind myself of how it can and should be.
Vanarama National League North
Sat, 23rd January, 3pm