Posts


Coasting Along


BILLY'S CONTRACT




A lad I know recently told me that supporting the Borer was a bit like being on a roller coaster ride. I said in comparison the Hartlepool United roller coaster ride makes the Borer's look like the Mad Mouse that was in Seaton's amusement park back in the seventies.

Ours is a ride that you cannot get off, set on an unstable structure with a carriage that has only two wheels no brakes or any seat belts and a corroded safety bar.

In a two week period we have seen Pools needlessly crash out of the FA cup to Gillingham owing to a moment of absolute madness (Stupidity more like) by the hand of Carl which has cost the club £35k in much needed prize money. Was he fined? I think not.

Even the post match comments from Matthew Bates in the Mail are worth a second or third glance just for the entertainment value alone. Had Bates said that Carl was doing his impression of Scott Loach punching the ball out for a corner it could not have been funnier. “He won’t know himself what has gone through his head, it was a sickener at the death for us and for him. It was a moment of madness. But he has held his hands up in the dressing room and we move on."

Holding his hands up in the dressing room was the least of his problems.

A few days later we have the Dover-gate affair. Liam Noble is dropped by Bates for the game because of an alleged altercation with some of his team mates involving food take aways on the team coach. I have heard several different versions of the 'hearsay' of the incident nd if any of them have a shred of truth about them it would seriously put into question not only of the professionalism of a number of senior players within the squad but that of the manager for allowing it to happen and that of the club itself. If that is the case they should take a good look at themselves and recall how the supporters and fans from across the country contributed to the survival of the club and paid their wages. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. Were any of the players apart from Noble disciplined or punished? Again I think not. The manager in my mind did not not emerge with any credit whatsoever after this episode.

The only thing that was not verified regarding these rumours was what type of fast food it actually was: Indian, Mucky Macdonalds, a Chinese or KFC? The smart money is on the Pizza. Hopefully they were not supplied by Matthew Bates' restaurant in Stockton.

I feel that it was a great opportunity lost that the clubs official weekly video 'Away the lads' did not feature all the antics on the team coach on the way to Dover. It would have made a great stocking filler for Christmas and earned vital revenue for the club in video sales as well as getting product placement revenue for the fast food featured.

You can say what you like about our uncle Ken but I once saw a code of practice in a handbook issued to the young players of the club that either he or IOR had put together. As far as I know every player had to sign up to it. In short it read along the lines 'Not to let yourself down or embarrass the club in any way. Remember you are representing Hartlepool United F.C.as well as the town of Hartlepool.' I don't think that would be a bad idea to have this reprinted, and laminated and pinned up on to the Home's team dressing room wall as well.

The least said about the result against Dover the better. A total embarrassment. Losing to a team that had only won two games all season.

The Roller coaster ride continues with fans either falling off or jumping off the cart...

The next match, against Fylde, did not see any improvement and as ever Pools played at home as if they were the away team with the inevitable, predictable, seen-it-all-before ending.

When Pools were awarded a late penalty in that match I am sure that I heard Bates praying that Liam Noble would miss it to quell his popularity. To add insult to injury Pools' crowd of 1,750 was almost half the normal attendance and the lowest at the Vic in twenty years.

The following day before it came off the rails altogether, Raj threw Matthew Bates off the roller coaster.
"If, as Hignett claimed, Mark Kitching was tired, it only echoes what many on the terraces have voiced about the fitness levels of the players at the club."

Speculation that Craig Hignett had been waiting in the wings to fill Bates shoes are thankfully unfounded as he ruled himself out of the job both verbally and then later in his caretaker manager's role thanks to his dire substitution in the 88th minute against Dagenham.
In truth there is no need for him to put himself up for the managers job. Why should he? In his current role he has a modicum of job security. compare that to any number of managers who have been shown the door marked exit in recent years years and I know which job I would prefer if I had a mortgage to pay. Hignett is a friend of the chairman and surely it would have an impact on their relationship if Raj were put into a position whereby, at some stage he would have to relieve him of his managerial duties.

Against Dagenham it would be fair to say that Craig Hignett's side played much better than we had seen Pools play in several months. Lots of pluses. Until the latter stages of the game we mostly played ball to feet and had two men on the half way line when we defending corners. Albeit we did not score from open play Pools created more chances than they had in several games put together and should have been out of sight before the ref blew the final whistle. More encouraging was that we did not defend deep once we had took the lead. All positives then, until, out of nowhere came Hignett's disastrous substitution. In the 88th minute Conor Newton on for Mark Kitching, who on the day probably had his best game ever in Pools colours. Unless Kitching was injured it has got to be the worst substitution that I have ever witnessed in any football match.

As we all know, within seconds of Kitching leaving the pitch Newton gets skinned resulting in a Dagenham goal. A minute later owing to his lack of pace Newton gives us a repeat performance with the same outcome. Conor Newton is not a full back and should not have been put in that position. The manager later claimed that the Kitching was tired. However with only a few minutes left he should have instructed Luke James to drop deeper to give him some cover.

I have a lot of respect for Hignett but, like Magnay, he should have held his hands up and been man enough to take it on the chin and accept that it was his responsibility and his mistake instead of blaming the player in the media for his own faux pas. If, as Hignett claimed, Mark Kitching was tired, it only echoes what many on the terraces have voiced about the fitness levels of the players at the club. In pre-season a couple of them looked positively tubby.

It is noticeable in the latter stages of many games, whether Pools are playing part-time or full-time sides (and I include Kidsgrove Athletic here), that Pools look off the pace and are generally given a right old run around in the last quarter which is perhaps the reason why they concede so many late goals. This is embarrassing as, after all, Hartlepool United are a professional football club and their fitness levels should be exemplary. I am surprised that Matthew Bates was not taken to task by the director of football over this issue. The fans could see it so why couldn't the management, directors and backroom staff?

Raj and Hignett are hoping to have a new manager in-situ before the Maidenhead game. Fingers crossed that he (or she!) will have previous experience of dodgy roller coasters ...Awallll aboard!(said in an American accent)

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A POOLS-STYLE ELECTION – VOTING WITH THE FEET!


GREAT GRANDAD SHOUTY


Well, what a week! For some, the sacking of Matthew Bates was the good news. 

The bad news was twofold. First, we extended our losing run in league games to seven and, second, our attendances nosedived to around 1,700 and 2,000 for last week’s encounters. This was surely a case of Poolies voting with their feet and its this that must have finally influenced Raj Singh in seeking a change of manager.

In some ways, I did feel sorry for Matthew Bates. He led us to safety last season but a combination of tactical naivety and bad luck ultimately cost him his job. The naivety came with relying on two ‘midget gems’ as strikers and against the big centre halves they were left struggling. We thought that perhaps Luke Williams would make things easier but, hey ho, he hasn’t kicked a ball in anger since signing for Pools. I’ve always thought that Liam Noble shouldn’t be taking corners – better to be in the mix in the opponents’ penalty area where he could cause problems. And then there was the Barnet game. We went into the game without Andrew Davies and Carl Magnay, through suspension, and we paid the price. Injuries and suspensions are things that a manager can’t control. Having started off so well, we are now all wondering whether another relegation dogfight stares us in the face.

I can quite believe Raj Singh when he says the club have had a lot of applications for the manager’s job. Pools will always be attractive to out of work managers and those seeking to climb the ladder. Do well at Pools and there’s a chance you’ll get a bigger club – Brian Clough, Len Ashurst and Chris Turner being examples. All sorts of names are being bandied around as to who should be our next manager. Some say that Ronnie Moore should return but maybe I have my doubts. When Ronnie Moore led us to safety some three years ago his main attribute was tapping the loan market. Quality players like Aaron Tshibola and Jordan Hugill came to fight the Pools cause but would quality players like that come and slum it in the National League? I very much doubt it.
"we are now all wondering whether another relegation dogfight stares us in the face."

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Pools will have to start playing for the full game – and that includes added time. Both this season, and last season, we have given too many goals away in the final minutes and its cost us dear. Still, we’ve given a new manager time to turn things round. Who knows, seven WINS on the trot might put us within the play offs.
Anyway, let’s hope it’s a happy Christmas for us. We need cheering up.

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Harrison v Bates

(Not exactly Wilder v Fury)



JANE AUSTEN'S ALLEGRO



At the start of the season there appeared to be a wind of change within the club. The club had been saved. Then it was a case of out with the old and in with the new. New owners, a new manager and new, seemingly better players.

It is fair to say that amongst Poolies there was a wave of optimism about the forthcoming season and a new dawn was on the horizon. The dawn we expected turned out to be a false one on the pitch in many respects. We are now almost halfway through the season and we have almost been given a repeat performance of last season. Call it Dog Day Afternoon or deja vu gone wrong.
When one compares Craig Harrison's record against Matthew Bates's at the same stage of the season it is almost identical.

The opening games saw a slow spluttering start, then Pools went on a nice, though not a convincing, winning streak to put them within reach of an automatic promotion place. Then came a long losing run which saw Pools steadily drop off downwards through the play-off spots and eventually out of contention of reaching the play offs at all, with a bottom four place calling.

Similarly in the case of both managers results were not forthcoming and entertainment was way in short supply. Both managers seemed to persist with the same tactics and neither had a plan B. Whether it was the players that did not suit the system or the system that did not suit the players or that the tactic(s) were so over-complicated that the players did not understand them.

Both managers were rookies at this level. Both previously played for Middlesbrough, whose mantra, since the days of Jack Charlton (Bryan Robson era excluded), has been not to lose at all costs and to defend a one goal lead rather than go chasing a second goal and bore everyone watching in the process. This they achieved on a regular basis except the not to lose bit of the mantra.
"Both managers seemed to persist with the same tactics and neither had a plan B."

Out of the two who is the better manager? That's a hard call as if you look at their records league-wise they are almost identical with just one point separating both managers. Bates's record in the FA cup is slightly better, having scraped past the mighty Kidsgrove Athletic and then holding Gillingham to a creditable draw away from home whilst Craig Harrison at the same point saw his side fall at the first hurdle to relegation-bound Workington.

On field Craig Harrison had the erratic performances of the Chuckle Brothers Louis Laing and Scotty Harrison. Off field he had other distractions such as the players' wages not being paid, a transfer embargo, players leaving the club and what, at the time looked like the certainty of the club folding. Bates had no such pressures and seems to have been given a lot of leeway, although in the close season the fact that he did not release more of the deadwood that was in the club surprised many. However I would say that the players that he has brought in, particularly Muir, Kioso, James, Davies and Noble are superior to any of those in Craig Harrison's squad and indeed the squad that saw Pools get relegated into the fifth tier.

For the record here's the record:

Craig Harrison: P22 W7 L8 D7 F22 A23 Pts28
Matthew Bates: P22 W7 L7 D8 F23 A29 Pts29

As you can see it is a close call but what else have we learned from this exercise of duplicity? Matthew Bates is the new Craig Harrison.
Luke Williams is the new Luke George.
Myles Anderson is the new Louis Laing,

Conclusion We could add both Colin Cooper and Craig Hignett to the equation which would probably throw up some similar stats. Here's hoping that when it comes to appointing a new manager, he has no links to, or played for, or even lived in Middlesbrough!

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Not Much Cop


BILLY'S CONTRACT



The BBC National News recently carried a disturbing feature on the policing levels in Hartlepool, highlighting the fact that it only has ten officers on patrol at any given time on an evening for a town that has a population of 92,000 inhabitants.

Like much else in Hartlepool, whether it be the hospital or the coroner's offices, everything seems to be closing down and moving over to Teesside. The prison cells in Hartlepool are now being made redundant and any arresting officer now has to travel 16 miles to drop their captive (lowlife or scumbag) in the cells at Middlesbrough police station, which could mean that, depending on circumstances, no police officers at all could be on the streets of Hartlepool.
"Where have all the bobbies gone? Chasing motorists? Austerity cuts? No."

Where have all the bobbies gone? Chasing motorists? Austerity cuts? No. I counted twelve of them in the Rink End watching the Gillingham match along with three big vans parked outside the ground the other week. I felt like writing to the BBC, as well as the national press who also took up this story, to complain and tell them where they all were.

Joking aside, I know the police have a hard old time of it. But even if this is an overtime jolly for them, which the club is paying for, and if nothing much is happening on the terraces they should be made to go out on patrol. After all, Church Street is only a few hundred yards from the ground and the exercise would do a few of them the world of good, whilst at the same time protecting the good citizens of Hartlepool from the ne-er do wells of the town.

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Festive Freebies


ELMO



Following Monkey Business tradition, we've once more knocked up a calendar for readers to print out and fold up, featuring the two grandstands named after deceased managers.

It might be interesting to speculate on whose name might come into the reckoning for a third, but I suspect that that one hasn't been appointed yet and may not even have been born yet!

This year's calendar is again very simple to produce. If you print it on an A4 sheet of card or photo paper, crease it three times, fold it up, then join the ends together, that's it finished.

Download the file here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1ut8-_QB-QAJvW6Oz3YWAV74EtoPF5Y7S

And if anyone fancies their hand with a pair of scissors, the old Bizz models of the old Hartlepool Corporation Festive Bus (which was saved from being scrapped last year) are still available for you to print and cut out, and we thought it was time for a reminder.


For anyone wanting to see what that was all about, or would like to have their own festive bus model, here are links to the relevant downloads, as featured in the December 2012 and 2011 editions of Monkey Business (and both are to the same scale as 00-gauge model railways, if anyone's interested!):

The one from 2012 is model of the Hartlepool Corporation Christmas Bus in its earlier, mostly-red livery, with a roof and chimney, and Santa on top, and the download file is now at: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1v4v2UIIbLxWR-MWYFcU0_ES0LTufPpmp

The one from a year earlier features the Hartlepool Corporation Christmas Bus in its later, mostly-cream livery, with Santa, sleigh and reindeer on top, and the download file is now at: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1qHp6rVGSaKSvcpW0Pz2h5tq5_f9mjrw2

And if you can't be bothered with any of that, we hope Santa brings something you'd really like, such as a lot of points for Pools.

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Pools v Barnet - as Exposed on TV


Match report by RUNNING MONKEY



Pools 1 Barnet 3 (National League)
Saturday 18 November 2018
Victoria Park



Not for the first time, Pools never turned up for a televised game.

I, like a lot of Pools fans, was so fed up by the lack of commitment from the team that it took me till Sunday to get over it.

Once again we take an early lead and think the job is done. Two gifted goals for the visitors saw the heads of both the Pools players and the fans drop as the visitors turned up the volume.

Virtually a free header from the tallest man on the pitch and then the normally steady Kioso did an impression of a Featherstone turn and was robbed of the ball by their striker, who had a free run on the goal from twenty yards out.
"silly bookings with a limited squad like ours will have dire implications."

Anderson repeated the Featherstone trick and the visitors ran out three one winners. We never really got a look in in the second half and it was mentioned by the Ditchy that the lack of discipline in the team in previous games where both Davies and Magnay were out through suspension cost us dearly.

It proves the point that silly bookings with a limited squad like ours will have dire implications. Still, we all had a cup game to look forward too.

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6
No Cup Joy

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY


Pools 3 Gillingham 4 (FA Cup round 1 replay)
Wednesday 21 November 2018
Victoria Park



Another blast from the past fixture as Pools take on Gillingham Town in a cup replay after against the odds draw down at the Priestfield Stadium. The only notable thing I can remember of Gillingham was that Len Ashurst left us to go and manage there before he went abroad to manage in a warm country.

Reports of the game sounded good and having home advantage could also be good you would have thought, but remember who we are these days: a non-league side who are on the slide. All we needed was a cup run to get ourselves back on track.

The two errant defenders, Magnay and Davies, were back but Kioso was dropped after his clanger in the Barnet game. It was a decent start for Pools who unusually were two goals to the good by half time and looked like we were coasting. A header from Magnay gave the keeper no chance and we looked good going forward, causing the Gills a lot of problems.

The lino down the Mill House side had to be subbed off but he was poor anyway.

McLaughlin pounced on a rebound from a Dinanga shot and Pools were strolling at two nil. I thought it was odd to see Anderson warming up for a long time on his own in the first half and, sure enough, he replaced Davies, who just seemed to drop to the turf after clearing a ball. The manager says it is a not going to keep him out of the Dover game but sounds like we have another crocked player on the books.

The visitors got their act together in the second half, scoring a quick goal and kicking towards their seventy or so fans they kept us under a lot of pressure as we never got out of our half.
"remember who we are these days: a non-league side who are on the slide."

On a rare break Luke James managed to test the keeper but he took the ball at the second attempt just before it spun over the line. It was a shock to me to see Bates calling four and five of our players back to defend even when we were taking a corner in front of the Town End, Noble was furiously urging all the lads to go up for the corner and Bates was waving them back. I have heard it said that Bates is scared of losing but anyone knows if you are up in the game with fifteen minutes to go attack is the best form of defence.

Loach was booked for wasting time and four minutes had been added, One of their players had recovered the ball and placed it ready for the goal kick but Scott moved the ball to the other side and then moved it back again, bringing the wrath of the ref on him. Apparently there is s directive going around that refs should jump on timewasting late in games by the team which is leading. The four minutes was almost doubled as the visitors threw everything at us.

Magnay, feeling the pressure brought on by his manager's handling of the game, stuck out a hand as he misjudged a cross. The man behind him would have scored anyway but we had the chance of saving a penalty. Sadly Loach was sent the wrong way and the game into extra time. A goal from a Gillingham free kick and a late push saw them go four two up and our cup run was over.

The young lad from the Borer came on for the last twenty minutes and battled really hard with two defenders and still broke into the box to score a third goal for Pools.

Shola Ameobi of Toon fame is supposed to be training with us with a view to signing and another Toon youngster, nineteen year old Sorenson is supposed to be in the sights of Bates for a loan deal but is probably too good for our level.

I would think Dover is going to be a big game for Bates.

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FUNNY OLD GAME




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Hignett Loses It


Match report by RUNNING MONKEY



Pools 1 Dagenham & Redbridge 2 (National League)
Saturday 1 December 2018
Victoria Park



This was the first match following the sacking of former manager Matthew Bates two days earlier. In my opinion it had been deserved; he was far too defensive in games we should have won, he could not change a game when it was going wrong and he stuck with plan ‘A’ as that was all he knew.

Today the atmosphere was slightly up from the Fylde game and there was an air of expectancy about the ground and with the fans.

I have to say this was one of the best games I have seen Pools play this season, All the bad passing had gone; we did very little turning back to goal and on the day we hammered them, even if the result may say something different!

Ok, we got a deserved early penalty and it obviously settled the lads; we played some great football and for all of the first half we pinned them back; I counted five shots from Pools in the first seven minutes. As the Oracle (AKA the Ditchburn Poolie) said, we played more football today in the first fifteen minutes than we played in the last two home games. Maybe the shackles were off as it is still the same players and apart from three changes, two because of injury and Paddy dropped, we were a different team by a country mile. I think it was a mistake to drop Paddy as he was captain last week and over this recent spell he has probably been our most productive player.

This was the first game in which I have seen Luke James get the service he needs; the lad can rise high in a heading challenge and he won a few today; normally he is back to goal hoping to challenge giants for with the hope of quick header then he has to win the ball and turn his man. It was so better to see him running onto long passes, jinking around defenders and breaking for goal. His greatest asset is his speed and control and today it was all on show from the lad.

Kitching was fouled for the penalty and the confident Noble sent the keeper the wrong way to give Pools an early lead. Pools were playing some good football and the visitors were playing like Pools did last week -- giving the ball away with poor execution of passes and tackles. They did have the odd flourish towards the end of the half and Loach was only really threatened once when he had to make a double save after a snap shot from the visitors just before the break.
"The Daggers had been down and out before the substitution"

The second half started the same way with Pools on top. James was really rattling the Dagenham defence and should have had a penalty as he was flattened deep in the box by a defender. He was such a danger that he was being man marked throughout. He had a  chance to break free when he was on his own charging down in front of the Cyril Knowles stand and he was totally wiped out from behind. The defender was booked but that was no advantage to Pools and it was one of the few times anyone was penalised for the treatment Luke got throughout the game.

Noble was on fire today and was directing some of the junior players into better defensive positions when he needed to. He was very unlucky in the second half when he connected with a cross and his shot bounced off the base of the post with the keeper beaten and Featherstone hit the rebound straight at the keeper.

In my opinion the Director of Football cost us this game, He took Kitching off in the dying minutes and replaced him with Newton who, with his first touch gave away a free kick on the right side of our box. It could have been a penalty but I was in line with it and the ref got it right. A free header for Dagenham resulted in a equalizer and it was sods law that the time they had wasted would be added to the clock and sure enough they snatched a winner.

The Daggers had been down and out before the substitution and I just don’t see the logic of changing a player so late and upsetting the rhythm of the side. Pools' official website said he had been knackered but that is hogwash to save face. Kitching can run all day and could have lasted to the end of this game no problem. It was a bad decision by Hignett and he knows it.

The Director of Football, taking over the reins, says he does not want the job but looking back he was Director of Football while Bates was making a mess. How much input did he have on our recent fall from grace? As the Oracle also said today "When you look back at the recent crop of managers linked to the Borer, no wonder we are in dire straits."

One post on the internet claims Gordon Watson is pushing for Chris Turner to return and he would join him. I sincerely hope not, Turner was the luckiest manager Pools have ever had, as he came to Pools when IOR did and he benefited from the best finance deal the club has ever seen, then he turned his back looking for the glamour of a big club and when he did return he was still rubbish. He was the cause of the downfall of the printed Bizz.

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Early Christmas Present for Dagenham


ALAN ESSEX



A friend of mine, a Dagenham and Redbridge supporter, decided to make the epic journey from the East London / Essex borders to visit Hartlepool and see how his team would fare being on a good run of late after a dire start to the season. This was handy for me as I was going to be out and I could rely on him for regular texts and calls whilst getting the opposition's point of view. I am sure there are other reports of the game in MB so I’ll not dwell on what may have already been critiqued.

Firstly, he insists on calling his team ‘Dagenham’ or preferably ‘The Daggers.’ He has supported the team since they were just called Dagenham and objects to the ‘and Redbridge’ appendage. “We play in Dagenham and not Redbridge, how would you like it if you were called Hartlepool and Darlington”. I tried to explain that Darlington wasn’t a neighbouring borough and for accuracy it would be something like ‘Hartlepool and Stockton’ or ‘Hartlepool and Greatham’ or even Billingham Synthonia and Hartlepool – he said, referring to me that “I doth protest too much, methinks” and that I’d loathe it – he does have a valid point. Not wanting to stereotype anyone I was amazed that he knew any Shakespeare and suggested his team be called Dagenhamlet.

The first call was after quarter of an hour, Hartlepool had scored from a penalty, the scorer a shaven headed, bearded thug with an attitude problem. Ah, that would be Noble I said, our leading scorer with 9, 6 of those penalties. My friend then asked what had happened to the ginger player we had that had scored and missed another at their place earlier in the season. I replied that the management thought he (Woods) was obviously not good enough, being highest scorer last season and so gifted him to Harrogate, currently 3rd in the League – a smart move on our behalf. He laughed and said that his side were in financial difficulties as well.
"I was then ...told that following an inspired substitution Dagenham had scored twice in 2 minutes."

Several texts and calls followed, to be fair most of them praised Pools who were apparently playing some good football. He singled out James (“short lad, shorts down to his knees, no socks, number 33 – do you really have 30 plus players?”) and Donaldson (“swarthy fellow, probably spends more time on his hair than in training, didn’t he used to play for Cambridge?”)

As the afternoon wore on my friend thought Hartlepool would win but not score again. “Hartlepool wouldn’t score from open play if the game went on for another two weeks.” He said that we (Pools) had many chances but they were either high, wide, straight at the keeper or took too many passes before losing any scoring opportunity. He was obviously biased but probably correct.

Thinking that the game was won and our losing streak had been ended I luxuriated in the Italian restaurant I was in and ordered another sparkling water. I was then surprised (I know I shouldn’t have been with recent results) to be called and told that following an inspired substitution Dagenham had scored twice in 2 minutes. Who was this ‘Wunderkind’ I ventured – some rustling of a programme followed and I was then told it was Connor Newton, who had come on in the 88th minute and turned the game around. So, another case of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory for Hartlepool United.

Next time I see him I shall ask “Is this a Dagger I see before me, the handle toward my hand?”, referring to this latest of Hartlepool’s tragedies.

His ‘Man of the Match’ by a long chalk was Connor Newton (Dagenham and Redbridge).

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FUNNY OLD GAME




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Any Other Business

MERVYN THE MONKEY mops up


The season started unexpectedly well in the circumstances, given the warnings that this would probably be a season of consolidation, and perhaps we were spoiled a bit.

But then things started to go awry and it became fairly inevitable that Bates might have to go, given the effect the results were having on the attendances. Some have said that Pools should persevere with managers, when they inevitably hit a bad patch but with the retail industry (of which Pools, as well as pubs and shops, is a part) struggling to get people to spend their money, it can be very much a matter of survival if you irritate your customer base for a couple of months.

One thing of note has been Craig Hignett's disinterest in the Pools managerial vacancy, although he states that he would like to go back into management at some point, but not at the Vic. Presumably he thinks that the sacking of any manager by a Conference-level club (Bates for example), will be the kiss of death for his managerial career at any higher level, so Craig would rather not risk it. Given the way he single-handedly turned a victory over Dagenham into a last-minute defeat, perhaps he's right.



A rather sad coincidence. The Pools coach cartoon on the previous page was drawn and ready to upload when we learned that Peter Boizot, the founder of Pizza Express, had died on December 5th at the age of 89. Not only did he do much to popularize pizzas and pizza restaurants, but he was very attached to his home town of Peterborough and in 1997 became the owner of Peterborough United.



A pessimistic Poolie meets an optimistic Poolie and says "I've asked Santa for snow for Christmas so we won't drop any points." The optimistic Poolie replies "I've asked him for a pair of winter draws." [submitted by Shedrick]



Magpies Flee the Nest In a protest against Mike Ashley's eleven-year ownership of Newcastle United, a fans group asked supporters not to take their seats for the match against West Ham at St. James Park until the eleventh minute. Call it perfect timing by the organisers, as West Ham scored their opening goal bang on the eleventh minute. The Geordies, God love them, obviously did not fully get to grips with this protest as most of them had left the ground ...eleven minutes from time! [submitted by Billy's Contract]



And finally, the Festive Season is almost upon us, which will include two local derbies with Gateshead, and probably too much turkey and not enough exercise!

So we'd like to wish all at Pools, all our readers and all Poolies wherever they are a happy time over the next few weeks and best wishes for 2019.

It remains to be seen whether we'll find ourselves happier with Pools' progress than we've been lately.




Ticking Boxes


JANE AUSTEN'S ALLEGRO



Just for a treat and to see how the other half live my mate and myself availed ourselves of the special discounted price to savour the hospitality of the Michael Maidens lounge for the cup tie against Kidsgrove Athletic.

In reality we were on a reconnaissance mission. We normally stand on the Town end terrace and what with our advancing years and creaking knees and feeling the cold as well as not being able to hear the Tannoy announcements we thought it was a good opportunity to suss out the Cyril Knowles stand for future reference.

I think it prudent to plan in advance and much like choosing the care home that you wish to spend your final years in, equal consideration should be given to the important decision of which stand in the Vic you would prefer to sit in the autumn of your life. My preferred choice is the Cyril Knowles stand as the toilets are quicker to get to than those in the Mill House side. Let's be brutally honest here, watching Pools has aged many of us much quicker than we would have liked.

We didn't get off to the best of starts as the steward on the gate was unable to find our names on the guest list. Turned out they were the first names on the top of his clipboard but the clip had obscured them.

I had hardly sat down and was just getting stuck into the complimentary match day programme when a member of the bar staff took our orders ...and orders must be obeyed at all times so a pint of Strongarm and a pint of Venezuelan goat's urine (Fosters where I come from) were shortly plonked in front of us.

Prior to having my meal I had a bit wander round to savour the ambience of the surroundings ...basically I was going to have a bit of a nose.

Considering that the Michael Maidens lounge, along with the corporate boxes, are in basically a giant Portakabin, it is none the less very impressive: clean and well laid out with many framed photographs in the corridor of the great and the good who once donned the blue and white of Pools. Try as I may, I could not see a photo of David Jones anywhere, not even in the toilets.

The lounge itself was packed with around fifty people but surprisingly only two of the six corporate boxes were occupied. In passing my mate mentioned this to the CEO Mark Maguire when he popped in and he suggested that consideration should be given to reviewing the pricing structure or to offer special one-off promotions to fill these boxes.

Last season most of the boxes were permanently empty and at one point the club were selling raffle tickets in an effort to fill them. Even if the boxes were offered at a heavily discounted rate surely to a club like Pools one percent of something is better than one hundred percent of nothing. The hospitality side would probably generate more revenue on the increased sales of alcohol/half time lottery tickets just by having more fans in the boxes in the first place. The CEO said that he would look into it. Watch this space.

One of the sponsors at our table told us that his employer had to ring the club's commercial department on several occasions, almost begging them to send them an invoice so they could pay for the outstanding sponsorship which had already been provided. Some things never change.

The meal on the day was chicken curry, rice and a poppadom. Very tasty. I asked the girl who was serving what other option there was, if, like my wife, you do not like chicken. I was told that they had vegetables in one of the sponsors' boxes, which were available on request.

Prior to kick off our friendly bar maid/person/serving wench/pump operative/hostess asked if we would like to order some drinks for half time. Although I was on Strongarm and my mate was drinking what was loosely termed as lager, neither of us were impressed by the quality of what we had quaffed. Could be down to the pumps only being used every second or third week. Who knows?

I asked one of the lads on our table what it was that he was drinking as it looked like a pint of mild. He told me it was Guinness. I could not see Guinness on the pumps and he said it was from one of those pressured cans and very kindly let me a sip. Having just come back from Ireland it was light years away from what a pint of 'Yer man' should taste like. Based on this my pal and I put in an order for a pot of tea.

Kick off:
One of the advantages of being in the sponsors' lounge is that you don't have to stand/sit in the cold and can take your reserved seat in the Cyril Knowles just before the game kicks off. The main problem with being sat in the CK stand is the setting sun (Not sure if it sets due west but for the purpose of this piece let's just say it drops somewhere behind the Raby Road area) and nearly everyone has to shield their eyes. From the Town End it looks as if the occupants of the CK stand are all en-masse saluting, U.S Navy style. This is another commercial opportunity missed. Mark Maguire, in order to protect the fans' eyes from damage and UV rays, needs to get someone from the club shop, much like the role of the ice cream lady in a theatre, with a tray of baseball caps for sale, or at the very least for hire. Better still, to save the expense of paying someone to do this job, and taking another example from the theatre, the baseball caps could be installed in a dispenser much like opera glasses behind each seat and issued when a coin is inserted into a slot. Thought should be given to including some rose tinted spectacles within the same dispenser.

We were sat directly behind the Pools dug out and apart from a quick word with the fourth official concerning an industrial tackle on Luke James and much later an even quicker word with Ged McNamee, we never heard a squeak or saw any animation from Matthew Bates. Mind, in Bates' defence, owing to the way Pools were playing, he was probably, like most other people in the ground, he was probably in a comatose state.

Several of us were debating the manager's tactics. We could not ascertain, with all the side-to-side, backward and going-nowhere-in-particular passing that was being employed, if we were trying to tire Kidsgrove out or just bore them to death.

Half time:
Even before the referee had blown the whistle for half time most fans with a weak bladder had made a sprint that Usain Bolt would have been proud of to the loo's, which enabled me to have first dabs of the packet of assorted biscuits that was laid out on the table. The jam cream was mine!

It has to be said that the tea was on a different level altogether. It certainly was stronger and tastier than the alcohol that I had had earlier. A revelation really when one considers that both were made with water from Hartlepool.

Second half:
In the past I have mentioned that the view you get of the game from the side of the ground is totally different from that which you see from behind the goal. For a start you can see how the teams are set up - surprisingly, Pools line up in a 3-5-2 formation, whoever would have thought that?

The other thing that you can see when the sun is not in your eyes is how well or how badly players are performing. This theory was put in doubt when, forty minutes into the game, I sent a text to one of my pals in my usual haunt the Town End, asking him if the game looked as bad from where he was stood as it was from our vantage point in the Cyril Knowles. Much worse was the reply.
"Let's be brutally honest here, watching Pools has aged many of us much quicker than we would have liked."

Full time:
I did not leave my seat and stayed back, not to applaud the team that I have supported for nearly 50 years but for the plucky part-time underdogs The Grove, who at worst should have earned themselves a replay, let alone progressed through to the next round.

Back in the lounge a fair number of people were sat comfortably at their tables halfway through their pints and I could not work out if they had left their seats in the Cyril Knowles stand well before the final whistle to grab a drink or even if they had actually bothered to come out to watch the second half at all. Just goes to show how Pools can drive you to drink.

The main topic of conversation on our table was Pools' poor performance on the day but as my mate in ultra-positive mode correctly pointed out,  we should look at the positives.

1 It was the result and not the performance that counted.

2 Progressing to the next round earned Pools £25,000, which, if nothing else, should cover Louise Laing's contract payoff.

3 The other bonus was that we are in the hat/bowl for the draw of the next round of the cup and who knows, we could making our way up to the Stadium of Light. If he only knew. If he only knew. Bloody Gillingham.

Our trolley dolly sans trolley asked us what we would like to drink.This time we decided that we would give the cider a shout. Not a bad shout either, but I am cannot recall if it was Stowford's or Stow-on-the-Wold or Toe-in-the-Hole cider so I am unable to recommend it.

Overall a very enjoyable day - only spoilt by the football.

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Still on the right lines

GREAT GRANDAD SHOUTY



Although we didn’t beat Wrexham on Tuesday night, we still emerged with credit. Despite going down to ten men for most of the game, Wrexham could only win 1-0.

After the game, our record read as follows:

Home: Played 9 Won 3 Drawn 4 Lost 2
Away: Played 9 Won 4 Drawn 3 Lost 2

When you consider what it was like just under a year ago, then you’ll realise how far we’ve come – both on and off the field. Its not going to be easy to get out of this league and its suggested that Raj Singh has a three year plan. Wrexham give us some idea of the difficulties involved. They were relegated to the National League at the end of the 2007-08 season and are now making promotion a realistic possibility. Once the foundations have been laid, there’s no reason to be overawed by League 2. Tranmere and Lincoln aren’t doing too badly are they? A look at the current National League table reveals just how badly Chesterfield are doing. Know the feeling!!

Speaking of Wrexham, how many of you remember the home game on Saturday, 5th March 2005? Wrexham came to Pools as certs for relegation but what a surprise we got. It all looked good when Gavin Strachan scored an early goal but what followed shocked everyone. Wrexham ran out 6-4 winners, with Juan Ugarte scoring five of them. I think it was one occasion when Neale Cooper was lost for words. Wonder what odds the bookies would have offered for that score?

"A look at the current National League table reveals just how badly Chesterfield are doing. Know the feeling!!"
Two matters are of concern the National League. The first is referees and nearly every time you go on social network there’s always complaints about the whistlers. I have my own theories – first is that they lack experience and, secondly, they’re a bag of nerves when officiating in front of what for them are large crowds. Its something the National League will need to address and I’m sure that supporters of other teams will have their gripes as well.

The other concern is reported violence at the end of Salford City’s home games. There were reports of crowd trouble after the Pools game and when they played Braintree. After the latter game, the Braintree chairman found it necessary to intervene. Hope it stops pronto.

Finally, after a visit to Sheffield this week I was asked about a game at Hillsborough between Wednesday and Liverpool which was played on Sunday, 11th May 1997. At the time, I was working in Sheffield and thought I’d spend my Sunday afternoon at the game. It was a 1-1 draw which enabled The Mags to qualify for the then European Cup. The talking point of the game was that Wednesday played three goalkeepers. Kevin Pressman had to go off injured and his replacement,. Matt Clarke, was sent off for handling the ball outside the penalty area. Andy Booth went in between the sticks. However, included in the Wednesday line-up was one Ritchie Humphreys. But that’s another story!!

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FUNNY OLD GAME




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