Four years of hopes, dreams and emotions tied in one game, with Torquay United standing in their way at Bristol City’s Ashton Gate Stadium on Sunday afternoon (KO 2pm).
From Dave Challinor’s side, 3,100 supporters will roar by all means, chartered planes, trains and cars.
Among the Pools contingent will be club president and Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling, the club’s most prominent supporter who has helped keep the club in the national profile for years during his leadership role in football. Saturday every Saturday afternoon.
How he would like to be able to showcase the club as a Ligue 2 team next season.
Stelling, in an exclusive interview with the Mail, looks back on the incredible work Dave Challinor has done, the key role owner Raj Singh has played with much praise also for the players who have brought the club to this point.
It has been a memorable season for so many different reasons and Stelling is hoping the “phenomenal” progress shown under Challinor will end in one final bloom.
Ahead of Sunday’s game, Stelling said: “It’s a sign of the progress we’ve made, it’s phenomenal, it’s become a bit of a cliché but it’s thanks to DC, the players, they all have ultimate respect for him and he is a top manager.
“But that’s also because the players a) have abilities but b) this incredible unity – they just can’t contemplate losing games. Stockport far has shown that.
“Here we are, 2,700 Stockport fans, against a team that had phenomenal form and spent money, everything was against us but we refused to be pissed off. We defended brilliantly, constrained them, got out and showed great resilience.
“A lot of it depends on their abilities, but also on the size of their hearts and this incredible unity. It’s been a phenomenal season no matter what Sunday, the improvement this year has been remarkable, some brilliant transfer deals.
“It has been a memorable season and I hope it has a super memorable ending – even if Torquay isn’t a cup.
“Challinor likes to play on the front foot, but also to change and adapt when necessary.
“He sees the big picture so it’s been great, the players just have total respect for him, it’s really important and they want to play for him.
“Dave may be Mr. Cool on the sidelines, but inside his heart is going to race.”
The Hens had to reach the final the hard way, with Bromley defeating at The Vic before the semi-final victory over Stockport last weekend.
Stelling will be there to watch alongside club owner Raj Singh who helped stabilize Pools off the pitch with the club’s financial woes – before Singh took charge – well publicized.
Stelling added: “You also have to thank the President, the day he found out Challinor had been sacked by AFC Fylde he called me and said he was going to get him.
“He said ‘absolutely I want to have him’ and he went and got him and he’s been supporting him ever since in the loan market and the transfer market, he’s backed Dave Challinor.
“They are both getting their awards and hopefully they get an even bigger award on Sunday.”
Stelling knows all too well what the victory and promotion on Sunday would mean for the city.
“The football club and the city, even if you are not a football fan, it gives people a sense of pride.
“You can see the interest in it. It has been difficult during the lockdown and people have lost their jobs and been put on leave, it is something to boost the morale of the whole community.
“I thought those first few seasons that we lost, we’re not going to come back to the Football League in my lifetime and that’s still a possibility, but we’ve given ourselves a phenomenal chance – we’re 90 minutes away.
“If we don’t do it this year, then I have every confidence and belief that we will do it next year.”
Ahead of the finale, Stelling was inundated with messages from well-known well-known well-known supporters, friends and faces he has worked with over the years.
“There is a lot of goodwill in the world of football,” added Stelling.
“I’m sure he won’t mind saying this, but just before the kickoff on Sunday I got a text from Nigel Clough saying ‘good luck to your team today, I would like to see them again in the football league “.
“I also got a message from him afterwards and from all my old friends, Paul Merson, Phil Thompson, Charlie Nicholas, there is tremendous goodwill.
“Be careful, it counts for nothing on Sunday!
“I am very optimistic, put it that way. I felt going to Stockport was as difficult as it gets, they were 18 games unbeaten and they really believed they were going to knock us down.
“After you go there and do that, then it’s possible. I would have a lot of hope.
And a final word on Pools support – with fans lining up overnight to get the last of general sale tickets.
Stelling said: “The hardcore fanbase has absolutely supported the club throughout – the support has always been tremendous.
“On Sunday these 3,100 fans will have a hell of a fight, they will be fantastic for us.
“I desperately hope we give them something to cry out for, I’m sure we will.”
* Jeff Stelling is getting ready for his latest UK Prostate Cancer Walk Charity Challenge – and it will start at St James’s Park.
Sky Sports star Stelling will cross the country for Prostate Cancer UK for the fourth time later this summer, inspired by the loss of a close friend and football hero to illness – and he wishes that 400 football fans join him.
The longtime Sky Sports presenter raised over £ 1million for the leading men’s health charity across the UK in 2016, 2017 and 2019 – and returns in August and September to support Prostate Cancer UK in their quest to help stop prostate cancer. A killer.
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