November 04, 2011

Black October

GRANDAD SHOUTY muses over the Pools slump and other, less important issues


When Harold Wilson was Prime Minister he once famously said that a week’s a long time in politics. By the same token, a month in football is an eternity.

At the end of September, Poolies could be forgiven for taking a short break on cloud nine as the wins and the draws left us undefeated. Yes, it all went pear shaped during October, didn’t it? Four home games lost on the trot (one goal for and ten against) changed the complexion completely. Of those four games, I thought we more than matched Sheffield Wednesday and certainly did the same in the first half against Tranmere. Unfortunately, we lost goals in those two games through poor concentration at the back and when it came to fighting back we found crowded midfields which were more than capable of snuffing out any build-ups.

It can be argued that the injuries to Solano and Sweeney played a part yet during the unbeaten run everybody put in a valuable contribution. Good players don’t become bad players overnight." Still, we’ve got rid of October - November is another month so maybe there’s something to look forward to. We’re still nearer a play-off spot than the bottom four despite our shortcomings. "

And so to the game against Charlton. This game couldn’t have come at a worse time - it seemed that the confidence of the players was at rock bottom and Charlton took full advantage. In short, we needed a psychologist or a motivator. I couldn’t help noticing the reaction of Bradley Wright-Phillips when he scored Charlton’s second goal; unklike his first goal, he didn’t go overboard in his celebration. Maybe he won‘t score an easier goal all season and didn‘t want to humiliate us.

The despondency even seemed to get to the fans- I’ve never seen so many Poolies stream out of the ground before the end as Charlton popped in their third goal. Throughout the game, they seemed to fear the worst.

Still, we’ve got rid of October - November is another month so maybe there’s something to look forward to. We’re still nearer a play-off spot than the bottom four despite our shortcomings.

One of the tinkerings that Mick Wadsworth made was to pair Andy Monkhouse and James Poole as central strikers. This pairing certainly paid dividends against Chesterfield and in the long term has possibilities. I’ve always been an admirer of Andy Monkhouse; he’s got skill and pace and his all round ability, together with positional sense, make for problems for opposing defences. Yet, come the Charlton game, Monky was back on the left wing where his abilities were surely wasted. Colin Nish and Adam Boyd certainly aren’t delivering the goods at the moment - they seem to be two players affected by the loss of confidence.

Still, the next five weeks may give us a chance to re-group. League games against Orient, Scunthorpe, Yeovil and Preston plus two FA Cup Saturdays is maybe what the doctor ordered.

Plenty going on elsewhere. The Olympic Stadium fiasco seems to have played itself out and Leyton Orient’s future looks more secure. Whether we’ve heard the last of it is anyone’s guess.

Something else that bears the imprints of a high level cock-up is the composition of the Great Britain Olympic team. I must admit I’m in agreement with Arsene Wenger when he says that the Olympics is more about track and field events than football. Remember, football is the one event which still has bucket fulls of tickets left. I was once asked by someone in the States if many people would be going to watch the footy - my reply was no chance. I would expect an epidemic of hamstrings when Stuart Pearce comes to select his side -there’s no way the clubs from the bog standard Premier League are going to risk their players for a Mickey Mouse tournament.

Talking about the bog standard Premier League, two recent events only served to focus minds on what its all about. First there was the statement emanating out of Liverpool that the big clubs should get a bigger share of the TV receipts as they are the ones most watched on television, particularly overseas. The Premier League as a whole is underwritten by TV and it's easy to work out that the so-called big clubs will dominate things even more. What I believe they’re after is getting more money in so that they can get round the forthcoming restrictions laid down by UEFA.

The other thing which came out of somebody’s big gob was that the Premier League may do away with relegation. I’ve always been brought up to believe that promotion and relegation is the life blood of any sport and creates a competitive environment. So whilst Richard Scudamore sought to assure everyone that nothing would change his words may not have any long term meaning. In some sports in America, there is no such thing as relegation and there are some who will want to change our footy culture. After all, if in the long term nearly all the clubs fall to foreign owners, the chief executives of the Premier League (whoever that may be) will have to do as they are told by the clubs. Nothing more - nothing less. That will also apply to taking Premier League games abroad. I thought that idea was dead and buried but as things are going, nothing will be sacred.

On the other hand, let’s look at something a bit more light hearted. According to the press, Harry Redknapp has been saying that the well-known ex-Pools player, Neil Warnock might make a good manager for England when old Fabio retires after Euro 2012. Quite honestly, I’d never thought of that but the mind works overtime, doesn’t it? There wouldn’t be a dull moment - and Neil Warnock’s been known to swear at the press from time to time.

Some years ago (I think it was when Terry Venables resigned as the England manager), one hack asserted that the ideal qualifications to be the England manager were to be thick skinned and not to be too worried about what was in the tabloids. Unfortunately, said the hack, the only man around at the time with such qualifications was Ray Illingworth - the former England cricket captain and one time chairman of the selectors.

Still, it could be just as entertaining with Martin O’Neill at the helm. Arising out of his interest in legal matters (he was a first year law student at Queen‘s University, Belfast), his hobby is researching murders and once diverted the Wycombe team coach to visit the grave of James Hanratty - the last man to be hanged for murder in this country.

I suppose we should belatedly congratulate England on reaching Euro 2012. I’ve no doubt that the BBC will be sending the army of pundits over there at considerable cost to the licence payer and that some of them will be plotting England’s way to the final before we even get to Poland/Ukraine. Still, nothing’s straight forward, is it? Rooney gets sent off and will miss the group matches thus triggering off miles and miles of column inches as to whether we should take him along. Quite honestly, I couldn’t care less. I’ve more important things to think about - are Pools going to end their dismal run?