BILLY'S CONTRACT takes a trip across the Pennines



Having messed up on the holiday front which meant that I missed the first three home games and a first-ever visit to Stevenage, I was determined to get to see 'Pools at the earliest opportunity possible. This meant the relatively short hop down the M62 over to Rochdale. 

I like this little Lancashire town, home of Gracie Fields and of the Rochdale Pioneers, who founded the Co-Operative Society. In many ways it reminds me of Hartlepool, but without a sea front or a Marina ...and a lot of other things.

Despite the fact I have been to this ground on seven or eight occasions, I had yet to see 'Pools win here, our best effort being a draw.

Normally when heading home after an away trip, as tradition dictates, we hit Wetherby for fish and chips. This however is given a miss whenever we play Rochdale, as we tend to have suet steak pie and chips from 'the chippy' across the road from Rochdale's ground. As ever the scran was excellent - Gordon Ramsey eat your heart out - and the lasses who served us were good craic. It was then over the road to The Church for some holy water. ...Just to clarify for those who have never been to the Dale, The Church is a pub not a religious building so perhaps I should have said we went in for some unholy water. A blessing in disguise!"I like this little Lancashire town... In many ways it reminds me of Hartlepool, but without a sea front or a Marina ...and a lot of other things."

After our libation we decided we would head for the ground, a mere 40 strides away from the pub. Without paying attention I entered the first turnstile I came to, handed a £20 note over to the turnstile operator, and tried to gain access to the ground by pushing the turnstile but it would not move. I was just about to ask the turnstile operator to let me in when she handed me £6 change back. As I gained access to the ground I was thinking that the entrance price, as last season, should be £20 to get in and not £14. It was then that it occurred to me that I used the O.A.P. entrance. The joy of saving six quid quickly subsided when I realised that the lady on the gate did not query my age, and must have thought I was a right old codger. I know I am 58 and what hair I have is quite grey but my ego was severely dented I can tell you. My mate was incredulous as he thought that I had pulled this stunt to save a few bob. ...Having said that, if it worked once it might be worth another try at our next away game!

Pools took to the field in their new 'must have' Maroon away strip, which absolutely looks the business ...currently 'not available' from the club shop.

I have previously mentioned that I am not a fan of the 4-5-1 formation. Like my women, I prefer 'two up front', particularly as 4-5-1 sends a message to the opposition that we are scared stiff of you and are more interested in not getting beat rather than winning.

I also do not believe that we have the players to use this system on a consistently successful basis as too many individuals in our defence are prone to make elementary mistakes that prove costly. In addition I am not convinced that either Boydie or Brownie are suited to being the lone target man. As it turned out on the day, this system actually worked. Pools put in a superb performance to come away with their first win of the season.

Neil Austin had an excellent game at centre half filling in for the injured Sam Collins. Boydie had one of his best games since he returned to the club. He harried and chased and was deservedly rewarded with a neat headed goal. Poole is looking a far better player than when he was with us on loan last season and looks to be a possible star of the future. His pace is something we have previously lacked and should be utilised. As for Poole's so-called wonder strike what can I say ...well, nothing really as I missed it - I was still supping tea underneath the stand during what I thought was still the half time interval. I did not realise that the team had taken to the pitch, let alone scored a goal, until the massive roar went up that acknowledged Poole's stunner.

However the two stars of the day were the old campaigners Paul Murray and Ritchie Humphreys (if only they were both five years younger) who absolutely dominated and bossed the midfield for the full ninety minutes. Basically they used their football brains and not their lack of pace. Ritchie also had a hand in two of the goals.(He might have had an assist in Poole's first goal for all I know, but as I said earlier, at the time I was quaffing P.G Tips out of the sight of field of play!)

It has to be said that the three hundred or so fans who made the journey to Dale really made themselves heard and got behind the team, cheering every goal and tackle, which I am sure kept the lads going, particularly in the latter stages of the game.

As for Rochdale, they should have played Jake Kean. ...Perhaps not.

All this, followed by a leisurely drive home and a very acceptable curry at the new Indian restaurant next to Hornsey's on Seaton front. One sour note was that they do not do concessions for pensioners. Such is life.