BILLY'S CONTRACT gives his take on the Pools slump


In the last edition of 'The Bizz' I was going to write about my concerns about Pools and Mick Wadsworth. However I chose not to, as I thought it a bit churlish considering that Pools where on a great run and winning on a regular basis. Somehow I could not bring myself to voice my concerns about 'The wheels coming off the Poolie wagon'. Now, however, is that time as the wheels have well and truly fallen off ...from third in the table to looking like relegation candidates in a matter of weeks.

Mick Wadsworth has done a great job in securing League One status for Pools, particularly with the resources that he was left to work with. However, I now firmly believe that he has taken Pools as far as he can, and now is the time for him to step down and let an experienced manager take the reins. Last season my main concern was that we played too defensively, with 5 across the middle, and once we conceded a goal it was normally game over. Tactically at times MW left me bemused.

Last season, away to a very average Sheffield Wednesday side, Pools, not having had a shot on target, played 5 across the middle. It was only when Pools went 2 nil down around the hour mark that substitutes McSweeney, Behan, and ten minutes later Michael Mackay were introduced. Collectively they had scored one league goal between them all last season. Even now I am at a loss to understand why Mick Wadsworth used these subs when Humps and Colin Larkin were also on the bench, and to my mind offered the better options in terms of skill and commitment as well as goals. What is more bizarre is that all three subs are no longer with the club. Were they just being put in the shop window on the day? "What happened to the attractive football we played a few seasons back, when Sir Ritchie would play to feet and to the likes of Monky or Matty Robson who would in turn terrorise their opponents with mazy runs into the box?"

I get the distinct feeling that MW is more concerned about avoiding defeat that actually winning matches.

If my memory serves me correctly, making allowances for the close season, from March 15th until August 20th, Pools only won one match.

I really do not think that MW knows what is his best team is or what his best formation is either. So far this season I have seen 4-4-2, 4-5-1 and 3-5-2, the latter being used against Wycombe, who prior to playing Pools were in the bottom three and had not won away from home.

Against Rochdale away we played really well, and came away with a 3-1 result. In my opinion you shouldn’t change a winning team, but in order to accommodate Nobby Solano's return from injury, against Exeter, Monky was benched and Ritchie was moved over to left back. To my mind Ritchie (who had a blinder against Rochdale) should have stayed in midfield. Moving him over to left back, not his best position, changed the whole balance of the team and served no purpose at all. Since then Ritchie has not played in the middle, which is a total waste of resource as at present he is probably the only creative midfield player we have at the club.

Too many players are being played out of, or not in their natural positions. We have seen Sweens playing out wide, Monky playing on the right and up front, Stephen Wright at right back as well as left back, Neil Austin as a wing back and Evan Horwood in a midfield role of sorts. None of which works, as in the main the following week the same players occupy a different position.

What of Mick Wadsworth's signings – Poole, Luscombe, Solano and Nish. At present only Colin Nish, and that is only of late, are not capable of playing for a full ninety minutes. Poole and Luscombe (as well as Jack Baldwin) are all for the future. Nobby Solano to my mind is a bit of a luxury at this level, and I would rather have a grafter out on the wing, running up and down the line and putting pressure on the opposing full back whilst covering his own full back. Stephen Wright looks comfortable at centre half but I am not so keen on him on either full back roles.

Pools have picked up some great wins this season particularly on the road, but from what I have seen in pretty much all cases they have all been 'backs to the wall’ performances, with the opposition having the majority of play in terms of possession, shots on targets, and corner ratios almost double what Pools achieved in the same game. This was a major concern as at some point these stats show that we are constantly under the cosh, and eventually this will lead to more defeats than victories as our luck deserts us. And so it has come to pass.

My main gripe about Pools is the style of football that we play, or should I say 'hoofball' that we play. After the Bury game their manager, former Poolie hero Ritchie Barker was lambasted on many of the message boards for daring to suggest that we were not a footballing side, and that we opted to lump the ball upfield for our forwards to latch on to. I think he was absolutely spot on, and could not argue with his observations.

There is a time and place for the long ball game, and it can be quite exciting taken for what it is. For instance, when all other options have been exhausted, with three minutes to go before the final whistle, being a goal down, chasing the draw, or pushing for cup replay it can really get the crowd going.

Unfortunately we are not even very good at the long ball game. Our centre halves play the ball out wide to our full backs and they in turn hoist the ball as hard and as high as they can. 9 times out of 10 the ball comes straight back at us in the form of the opposition's attack.

What happened to the attractive football we played a few seasons back, when Sir Ritchie would play to feet and to the likes of Monky or Matty Robson who would in turn terrorise their opponents with mazy runs into the box, and either create or score the odd goal or two. I cannot recall of late either full back pushing up and supporting the attack.

We have a lot of decent players at the club. We have seen what they can do and what they are capable of, but at this time of writing too many of them, particularly the senior players, are under performing or lacking in confidence.

It is a good season and a half since I saw Monky skin and put the fear of God into his full back like he used to. When he gets the ball nowadays, he always passes back and as such it slows our momentum down.

Many a time I have watched a game and did not know that Gary Liddle was playing until I read the match report ratings in the Mail. Lidds needs to spend some time on the bench.

Neil Austin, the ex-Barnsley man, is not the player he was when he first joined the club. His crossing, distribution and more alarmingly of late his defending is woeful.

Big Sam is going through his seasonal bad patch, which as ever is proving costly for the side, and in my view his place should be taken by Stephen Wright. Evan Horwood is another who is looking shaky in defence and does not seem confident going upfield.

None of our defenders seem capable of carrying the ball over the half way line and making a decent pass. All of them bar none tend to lump the ball in a hit and hope attitude. I wouldn't mind, but it is not if they cannot make a decent pass. Against Charlton I counted 13 of them...all back passes to Scotty Flinders...who lumped the ball forward.

I do have some sympathy for the forwards however, as the service they are currently getting is poor if non-existent at times, which must be frustrating for them. However, Boydie needs to look like he is putting some sort of effort into his shift like he did at the early part of the season otherwise I can see another trip to Boston for him to recharge his batteries.

I think the televised horror show which was the 3-0 defeat by Notts County showed up all our recent shortcomings. Poor tactics. No midfield. No presence. No motivation. No leadership. No confidence. No hunger, and worst of all, no idea.

I always had reservations about Mick Wadsworth being appointed as manager, as I always felt he would an excellent number two, preferably to Neale Cooper. Now that would be my dream team.