GRANDAD SHOUTY puts in his four penn'orth
Last season was sheer heaven. We didn’t have to go to some far flung place for the last game of the season not knowing what fate awaited us. Instead, we went down to Charlton with heads held high, knowing that we’d competed with the best in the league - and secured our safety.
All this led to optimism in the close season. It’s certainly been an interesting time. Firstly, there was the season ticket offer. Secondly, there were the signings - only five but at least we blended youth (James Poole, Nathan Luscombe and Jack Baldwin) and experience (Nolberto Solano and Colin Nish).
The signing of Nobby Solano certainly created interest - very rarely have Pools been the lead story on the BBC’s League One website (as far as I can remember, the last occasion was when we were given the 5-2 drubbing against Walsall last March). These signings, together with a fully fit James Brown and a personal hunger from Adam Boyd should see flexibility in terms of team selection.
Then there’s the fixture list and the make-up of League One. Two seasons ago, someone worked out that there were only six teams north of Walsall - this season, the total has risen to thirteen thanks to the various promotions and relegations. Brighton, Southampton and Peterborough have been replaced by Sheffield United, Preston and Scunthorpe, and at the other end, Plymouth, Dagenham and Redbridge, Swindon and Bristol Rovers have been replaced by Chesterfield, Wycombe, Bury and Stevenage. All this adds up to greater opportunities for away travel by supporters as well as reducing Pools’ travel costs.
"The manual compiler of the copyright fixture list went to the Pearly Gates and took his secret with him. Couldn’t he have bequeathed it in his will?"
Then, of course, there’s the prospect of more bums on seats at the Rink End. However, the downside was that Pools are away in the opener (MK Dons) and on the last day of the season it’s a trip down to The Valley again to play Charlton. I know that Russ Green drew attention to this shortly after the fixtures came out, and he had a valid point. I’m no computer expert, but it shouldn’t be beyond the Football League to work out a programme that prevents this happening. When the fixtures were compiled manually, we never had these kind of complaints. Unfortunately, computerisation of fixtures came about because the manual compiler of the copyright fixture list went to the Pearly Gates and took his secret with him. Couldn’t he have bequeathed it in his will?
This optimism leads me on to ask who will be thereabouts at the end of the season. The top two could well be Huddersfield and Charlton with Bournemouth, Sheffield Wednesday, Preston and Pools making up the play - off places. Pools could well have made the top six last season but for tripping up against lower placed teams. Victories against Brighton, Peterborough, Bournemouth and Huddersfield suggested that we have what it takes. At one time, we had more points than Sheffield Wednesday - who would have believed that after the 5-0 drubbing? Still, both Charlton and Wednesday started well but fell away in the middle of the season. I don’t think they’ll make the same mistake this time round.
Pools have now established themselves as a ’natural’ League One club, and the fact that we’ve been able to keep hold of some of our better players underlines that the optimism is well placed. Although we’ve signed a striker in Colin Nish who doesn’t appear to have a high ratio of strikes, the overall scoring record should be better than last season. After all, Shankly’s Liverpool rarely had a player in the lists of leading scorers and they weren’t all that bad were they?
Looking further afield, a number of issues have caught the eye - and this is where the cock - ups emerge. Starting with the Olympic Games, the British Olympic Association certainly got their knickers in a twist over the footy. ’Yes, they have’, ’no we haven’t’ was the conflicting news as to whether the associations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had agreed to support the idea of a Great Britain team.
It was probably no coincidence that after the ballots for tickets had been made, footy - along with volleyball and wrestling - had loadsa tickets left. Not surprising. At least in athletics, you have some idea who will be competing but in football we haven’t a clue. Additionally, all of the teams will, in effect, be second strings so why shell out a fortune for an unknown quantity?
No jamboree would, of course, be complete without the Beckham factor and the latest is that he wants to play in the Olympics. I would have thought he’d be better employed as a househusband looking after his kids while his missus is out at work. Another point is that the games will be played at the same time as the Football League early season fixtures. Let’s hope some bright boy doesn’t come up with the idea of rescheduling.
Related to the Olympics is, of course, the future of the Olympic Stadium after the games have finished. Frankly, I’m not bothered who plays there, and the tug-of-war between Spurs and West Ham is certainly filling the pockets of lawyers. However, what has been portrayed as a side issue is, to me, one of the greatest importance - the effect on our League One colleagues, Leyton Orient.
Barry Hearn, their chairman, certainly deserves support for his stance in resisting West Ham’s move to a ground within the vicinity of Brisbane Road. Some months ago, Barry Hearn said, “The rules of the Premier League are, to my untrained legal eyes, black and white. They say that they will not grant a Premier League club consent to move ground if it would adversely affect clubs in the immediate vicinity”. The problem is, of course, that West Ham aren’t a Premier League club and to fill the new stadium, they’re going to have to dole out cheap tickets by the bucket full. Best of luck, Barry - you deserve to win this one but two bits of advice : keep it simple, and don’t upset Karren Brady. We’ll never hear the end of it.
Lastly, is the BBC’s decision to review local radio coverage. The idea floated by the BBC is that in the future local radio would only transmit breakfast programmes and traffic reports. Everything else, including footy, would be taken over by Radio Five Live. Although the idea was floated last March, we can assume that the ideas are still in someone’s pigeon hole. Local radio does, of course, provide a local footy service, particularly to supporters of clubs outside the bog standard Premier League and the opportunity to hear match reports and interviews will be lost. You probably won’t hear anything about Pools on Radio Five - unless we’re playing Manchester United in the FA Cup. I know that lots of Poolies would like to silence Alistair Brownlee, particularly on a Saturday night, but that’s a bit drastic isn’t it? Another cock - up looming.