POOLIE IN NOTTINGHAM talks about eras


I reckon I can pinpoint the moment during the history of Pools when an era ended. A tangible sense of something passing which I didn’t fully realise at the time, something which has been restored thanks to the reinstatement of Neale Cooper as manager.

The moment I’m referring to was towards the end of the home game with Bristol Rovers in May 2007. That was the game which could have seen us win our first ever silverware. In the 86th minute Ricky Lambert scored to put Bristol Rovers 2-1 up, meaning that the League Two title would be claimed by Walsall, not us.

The outpouring of disappointment was more like a slowly deflating balloon than a popping one. The outcome almost seemed to be expected. We had led the table with a few games to go, and our destiny was in our own hands. We had blown it, just as we had a few years earlier at Rushden and Diamonds (and where are they now by the way?)

Although the players did a lap of honour, and we had the open top bus thing for getting promoted, finishing second was an awful way to end that rollercoaster season. A crap start was followed with an unbelievable unbeaten run which saw us storm past everyone to the top of the table. We would chant ‘we are unbeatable’ wherever we went and we really believed it. Does anyone else remember going 3-0 down at Stockport after half an hour or so, and knowing in the back of your mind that we had it in us to come back?" Eventually it all caught up with us, and that awful home losing streak resulted in Poolies avoiding the Vic like the plague."

But when it really counted, we really rolled over. Winning only 2 of our last 6 games, coupled with Walsall having a great run, saw us pipped at the post. And that was that. The next season we were back in League One, to see mid-table respectability in a season which started off promisingly but petered out from November onwards.

From an outsider’s point of view, Danny Wilson had done a great job, getting a demoralised side promoted at the first time of asking, then consolidating the following season. However, there just wasn’t the same buzz about Pools, it all seemed a bit too comfortable, there wasn’t the same urgency or passion in our play.

The fast flowing stream of promising youngsters that had stepped up to the first team slowed down to a trickle, with steady old heads being preferred to youthful enthusiasm. It was more of the same the following season, and finally we said goodbye to Danny Wilson who found himself in demand from Swindon.

Chris Turner stepped in as caretaker, and presided over not one but two last-day-of-the-season relegation escapes. The apathy which had now set in by now was pretty clear to see. Turner left shortly after the start of the 2010/11 season, after being seduced by those chancers wanting to take control of Sheffield Wednesday. Step forward Mick Wadsworth, who it has to be said did a bloody good job at steadying the good ship Pools. Especially for someone who had publicly stated many times that he was happy being a coach and didn’t really want to be a manager.

Still, Wadsworth wasn’t exactly packing them in at the Vic, and it took a masterstroke from the club with the season ticket offer in order to spark more interest in the club again. Signing Nobby Solano didn’t do us any harm either, and a great unbeaten start to the season kept the momentum going.

But whilst the results were of the right sort, we weren’t great to watch. Eventually it all caught up with us, and that awful home losing streak resulted in Poolies avoiding the Vic like the plague. Like many Pools fans, I was surprised when Wadsworth got the elbow, and even more surprised at who Uncle Ken appointed as his replacement.

Neale Cooper left Pools just before the end of the 2004/5 season, and I have never heard the definitive reason why. Plenty of Poolies who consider themselves to be ‘in the know’ have given myriad reasons why he went, but none of the stories stack up. All that is water well under the bridge now, and I’m glad to say it looks like Cooper’s picked up right where he left off.

Carlisle came to the Vic on the back of an 8 game unbeaten run, but Pools made them look ordinary. Crap, even. Those same players who had been stumbling blindly round the pitch, hoofing the ball aimlessly in the general direction of the opposition half, devoid of confidence and purpose, had been transformed - chasing, harrying, carrying the ball, beating men, niggling, getting stuck in, making runs, looking to play it early, getting balls to feet. Looking sharp, quick, solid, cunning, creative, and like they were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Flinders didn’t have a save to make, and Pools could easily have scored more than 4.

This new spirit can be summed up by the presence of a young lad who is probably the most exciting prospect to come through the ranks in living memory. It’s still early days, and he’s still got a hell of a lot to learn, but Luke James looks like a real gem. Although the standard is different, he reminds me of a young Michael Owen when he burst through the ranks at Liverpool.

Every time the ball was played anywhere near him there was an air of expectation amongst the faithful. And most of the time he produced. The experienced Carlisle defenders shat themselves every time he got the ball. And with good reason - as well as scoring twice, James brought plenty of others into play and was a general nuisance that they just couldn’t handle.

My 3 year old son had come with me to the match, and spent most of the time not watching it, content to play with his toy cars instead. Every time Pools put a promising move together, I would get his attention with something like, “Look! We’re getting near to the Carlisle goal,” or “Watch! We might score here!”

However, when James chased down their keeper and Browny played him in with only the keeper to beat, I couldn’t help myself shouting, “Look, he’s going to score again!” Sure enough, he never looked like missing, and he didn’t disappoint.

And that is the Cooper Effect in a nutshell. Usually I barely dare hope that Pools convert penalties when they are awarded, but I got properly carried away as I just knew the third goal was imminent.

So, Poolies left the Vic happy again, not just with the result or the scoreline, but the manner in which it had been accomplished. I’ve never been one for misty-eyed nostalgia, but it really was like the good old days were here again.

Welcome back Neale, you have been missed. I’m hoping that another era has just started.