Education, POOLIE IN NOTTINGHAM style



This season’s home game against Sheffield Wednesday was very special for me. As well as being my first home game of the season, it was the first ever Pools match I’d taken my eldest son to. It was the culmination of three and a half years of indoctrination, which will continue unabated until I am convinced that he has been well and truly Pooliefied.

Ewan should have been born on Saturday 8th March 2008. On that day Pools thrashed Gillingham 4-0 at the Vic, and it’s a real shame that it didn’t come to pass. He actually showed his face at three minutes past midnight, after an hour or so of nearly dropping. I’m convinced that the midwife didn’t encourage our lass to give the final push until midnight as that was when her shift officially ended, and she needed a bit of overtime.

The brainwashing process started on day one. After going home for a bit of shuteye, I sauntered back into the maternity ward in my Pools top. When I held him, I made sure that Ewan’s head end was on my left side so that he would get maximum exposure to the Pools badge. Even though I was told that bairns can’t really focus properly at that age, the sentiment seemed right.

I appointed myself chief teddy-namer as well, and it wasn’t long before Ewan’s collection of cuddly animals had been called after Pools players of the past – Tunks, Borthwick, Godwin, Doigy, and Shug. I explained to our lass that no other sprogs would have teddies with these names, so there would absolutely no confusion in a lost-property scenario." I managed to convince Ewan that going to watch Pools was very important, a duty more important than work."

Ewan was soon clad in Pools babygrows and bibs, and perhaps the best garment of all was one knitted by our lass's mate Dee to celebrate the clubs centenary year. It was a blue woolly jumper with the letters ‘HUFC’ on the front and ‘100’ on the back in white writing.

Once Ewan started talking, he was soon aware of the importance of football and Pools. This was further reinforced when he started taking an interest in books and magazines, as I would leave copies of Monkey Business and programmes lying about for him to flick through. He soon knew who H’Angus was, especially as he had a clay model of him hanging on his bedroom wall.

I managed to convince Ewan that going to watch Pools was very important, a duty more important than work. I would return home with tales of heroic performances and superb attempts to score, even if we had been thrashed. It was hard to keep my spirits up during Turner’s grindingly poor second spell as manager, but once Wadsworth got a grip of the team it was easy to communicate my enthusiasm for all things Pools.

After the birth of his younger brother Ross in the summer, Ewan matured a great deal. His attention span grew longer, he became increasingly obedient, sensible, and also more interested in footy. The season ticket offer made it easy for me to make my mind up – this would be the season that I would start taking him to matches.

To ease him in gently I took him to watch Hucknall Town v Rainworth Miners Welfare in the Evo-stik First Division South at the end of August. This division is three steps down the non-league ladder from where the Darloids currently ply their trade, and proved to be a great introduction to a live match. A small crowd, choice between standing and seating, and an entertaining match was a good start.

Granted, Ewan was more interested in playing with his toy cars and lorries than watching the events on the pitch, but he lasted the full match without causing chew, and was excited at the prospect of going to a Pools game.

Because of work and other commitments, the Wendies game was the first one I could take him to, and it couldn’t come round soon enough. Arriving in town, we picked up some bottles of Strongarm from the brewery visitor centre, then went on to the headland to get some proper fish and chips from Verrills. Parking up, Ewan spotted that the van next to us had a Pools badge in the window.

I explained to him that he would see lots of Pools badges during the rest of the day, and produced his otherwise plain grey sunhat onto which I had cunningly attached a small pin badge with the Pools logo on it.

After a bit of scran on the beach, we headed to the ground to pick our season tickets up. There were lots of Poolies about, especially in the club shop. It was in here that I bought him a blue t-shirt emblazoned with an embroidered Pools logo, something he was very keen to put on. In the queue at the ticket office he did a quick change, and he was absolutely over the moon. “This has got a Hartlepool badge on!” he excitedly exclaimed to anyone within earshot.

The Mill House pub was thronging will similarly-clad Poolies, which reinforced Ewan’s pride in his new garment. It was great to see the huge queues at the Vic, and even better to see how quickly they moved. I started to well up as we got nearer to the gate, and I had to fight back tears as the clanking turnstile span him into a Poolie world. It wasn’t quite the same as seeing him or his brother being born, but up there with some of my proudest moments as a dad.

It was a shame that Pools lost their unbeaten run, especially to a side managed by Gary Megson, but Ewan did his bit – he needed a slash after about half an hour, which meant we missed the Sheffield Wednesday goal. Again his toy vehicles held more fascination than a top-of-the-table League One clash, but he was good for the full 90 minutes and he responded positively to the prospect of going to watch Pools at Meadow Lane the following week.

An incident the next morning proved to be the icing on the cake. As soon as he woke, he wanted to wear his Pools top, something he has never done with any item of clothing before. Needless to say he had it on all day Sunday, and it was hacky black by bath time.

As an exile living in Nottingham, I have to work extra hard to make sure Pools are the team for Ewan. I’ve no doubt that as he grows up he will come under the influence of Forest or County-supporting mates, and I will not be too upset if he wants to support either of them (NOT when they are playing Pools though). After all, they are his local teams.

What I will really object to is any swaying towards one of the glory sides – Chelsea, either of the Manchester teams, or whoever is next to have obscene amounts of money thrown at them. The insidious creeping of the all-pervasive Sky Sports world-view – one in which the Premiershit is hyped to buggery and everything else becomes irrelevant – grows stronger year by year.

Supporters of smaller clubs are slowly being sucked up by the so-called ‘big’ teams, and it will not surprise me if some teams in the fourth tier need to turn semi-professional in order to survive in the next five to ten years.

I would like to think my influence will really plant Pools in Ewan’s heart, and although one day he will come to realise that he has been brainwashed, he will thank me for it. If nothing else I will need his help to continue the process with his younger brother!