October 05, 2012

Things Can Only Get Better


BILLY'S CONTRACT gets musical


Was it Tony Blair who said 'Things Can Only Get Better'?

But they didn't.

He must have been a Pools supporter as well.

What a day I had yesterday. Broke the lens of my super duper camera. Had manky fish and chips in Whitby. After reassuring my wife that the toffee I offered her from an Olde World sweetie shop would not cause her filling to fall out, it promptly did.

I then got a text on the train back home from a Manure supporting mate (whom I bet 40 quid with, that Pools would reach the play off's) informing me that I might as well cough up now as Pools had been beaten again.

The only consolation I got as I disembarked from the train at Middlesbrough was seeing a platform full of Boro fans. I did not have to ask how their team got on, but just by looking at their faces I knew their team had lost. So the weekend was not a total disaster after all.

ROAD TO HELL

I decided to take the trip down to Preston mainly to tick the ground off, as it was one I had never been to before. So as I write this, only another 39 grounds to go for the set.

Had a lovely tootle down the A66 taking in the Yorkshire, Durham, and Cumbrian scenery on the way down on a gorgeous late summer evening.

I was pleasantly surprised by Preston, expecting to see a town that resembled a Lowry painting, with matchstick men wearing clogs warning us that there were 'trouble at mill'. However we instead found ourselves in a leafy suburb and managed to park the trusty Skoda but one street away from the ground.

Externally the ground itself looked striking, protected by 4 floodlights that resembled Martian fighting machines from War of t' Worlds (Lancashire dialect).

The locals themselves were very friendly, and one of the stewards not only give us directions to a local hostelry, but also took the time out to ensure that we got there by walking part of the way with us to said drinking emporium. We asked if he would care to join us in a libation but he said he did not drink on duty!

After a few reasonably priced drinks later we headed to the ground just in time to see H’Angus shake hands with the Preston mascot Deepdale Duck, (after 'Scunny Bunny' my all time favourite club mascot).

From there on the evening went downhill rapidly...apart from the first twenty minutes in which Pools dominated the proceedings without getting anywhere. Even after we went two nil down I told my mate that I still expected Pools to take maximum points or at the very worst a point, as quite frankly Preston were very average to say the least and that was being complimentary to them. Come the second half, Pools imploded and to sum up we left Preston after a good 'Deepdale Ducking' or something that rhymes with ducking!

And things got worse. We choose the M62 for our homeward bound route, mainly to take in sustenance at Wetherby. However, due to road works on said motorway we ended getting diverted into Leeds and as such by the time we hit the Wetherby Whaler (we gave up on the Frying Pan some time back) they had just served their last portion of chips and were locking up the premises. Just what we needed after our 'battering' at Preston.
" If the team had the same passion as Cooper then we would be ten points clear at the top of the league."

With heavy hearts and empty stomachs we headed home...only to find that the A19 was closed for repairs. This meant that the rest of the journey was spent on the north bound lane of the soul destroying A1. Did not hit the sack until just before 1am.

The following day Billy’s Contract junior, who is now based up in Geordie Land, told me that he was all for giving the home game against Shrewsbury a miss the following Saturday. That was until he heard Neale Cooper’s impassioned interview on the radio after the Preston fiasco. Cooper was in bits, you could feel the hurt in his voice, and how much both the club (not necessarily this team) and the town mean to him. If the team had the same passion as Cooper then we would be ten points clear at the top of the league.

I feel sorry for Coops, and sincerely hopes he doesn't leave the club (either on his own initiative or Mr Hovercraft's). Sadly we have a goodly number of underperforming players within the team/squad who at time of writing have dragged us into a relegation battle. This is either because they don't care about the club or do not want to play for Neale Cooper.
If that is indeed the case they should make their views known and ask to leave the club, however they need to take a reality check before they do so as many of them would not find another league club to take them on. Need I mention Boyd, Haslam, Larkin and Brown. In fairness to Brownie it is only his injury problems that have confined him to non-league football.

Previously, we had Behan and Gamble and numerous others who could not gain employment at another league club, which to me confirms at how average our squad has been over the last few years and proves that we have been carrying passengers and punching above our weight in this league.

On the down side Neale Cooper must take some of the responsibility for what is happening. Yes, he inherited some dead wood from the previous regime whom we are stuck with because they are under contract. However he did have the opportunity not to renew contracts of some of the players currently in the squad (we all know who they are).

If true, I find it incredible that Cooper signed Simon Walton without seeing him play. Normally he only signs players when he has them given them the once over to see if they will 'fit in'. If this is the case I was wondering who suggested his signing. I still hope the boy comes good though.

Some of Cooper’s team selections have been strange to say the least. He readily admits that he does not know who Stevie Howard's best strike partner should be. Poole is not strong enough, can't control a ball and won't put his head in where it hurts. Luke James is not the finished article by a long way. I think Coops’ hopes were pinned on Ryan Noble signing on a season-long loan who, in turn probably would have complemented Howard's play.

We currently have two wingers playing out of position on opposite wings and a centre half playing at full back (has Danny Wilson returned?) We have a non-existent midfield which contains a real grafter who has the knack of giving the ball away in dangerous areas. We have another midfielder who barely touches the ball.

Neale Cooper’s solution today against Colchester was to put Neil Austin in midfield. I nearly wept when I heard this, but on the plus side I did not make the long trip to Colchester to witness it. Austin has previously had a couple of games in midfield under Turner or Wadsworth and it wasn't good. It was like watching a full back play in midfield.

Cooper has threatened several times to drop underperforming players but he hasn't got the strength in depth either in numbers or quality to do so on a whole scale basis. For my money Cooper has part of the answer staring him in the face...or the bench, and that is to get Sir Ritchie back on the field of play.

To my mind, he, along with Jack Baldwin are the only footballers at the club. I would put Richie in midfield or alternatively - how about this for controversy - up front alongside Stevie Howard. Humps has the 'nouse' and the experience to play in this role.
I was aghast against Shrewsbury when Coops put Holden on instead of Ritchie. Whilst I am in favour of youth being given a chance, to my mind throwing an inexperienced full back in midfield at a time of crisis over someone who has been there and done that is mind boggling.

If nothing else Ritchie can pass a ball and does have a vocal presence on the pitch. As for the defence...I rest my case...nothing has changed since I gave my opinion of it in Monkey Business after the pre-season friendlies. As a unit they don't function together, and are subject to too many individual errors. If one defender's performance begins to improve almost immediately the form of one of his colleagues goes out of the window (Think Horwood and Hartley here).

Hartley must be responsible for a good half dozen goals being conceded this season even if it is just giving needless back passes back to the keeper for him to punt in to no man's land.

He has gone into Tony Adams mode by putting his hand up, unsuccessfully I might add, by appealing for non-existent offsides, normally after he has been skinned for pace by his opponent. Tony Adams, as well as the rest of the Arsenal defence had the off side trap down to a fine art form which sadly Peter Hartley and his counterparts could only dream about.

So how will it all end? All this may all be an elaborate ploy by the owners and directors of the club in achieving relegation with the long term hope of regenerating interest in the club and obtaining better ticket sales with a promotion winning team the following season.

The relegation bit I could go along with but as for the promotion, that will not happen with this squad.

FRIENDS REUNITED

I was disgusted with the verbal treatment Matty Robson received from certain quarters of the crowd when Carlisle played us at the Vic recently.

With very few exceptions most former players get a great reception from the Poolie faithful upon their return to the Vic. Look at Chris Westwood when he came back for Walsall, the cheer he got when he scored against us was almost embarrassing. I recall Scotty was scathing about this.

Can you imagine the reception someone like Eifion Williams would have got upon his return to the club...even if he banged in a hat-trick against us.

I can understand why some players do, or could get some stick upon their return to the club: Kevin Betsy, Chris Llewellyn, Mark Proctor, Andy Toman, Chris Beech and The Ginger Ninja all spring to mind as possible candidates, but Matty Robson?

Yes, Matty could be inconsistent, erratic at times but he always gave 100% to the club and never hid unlike some of the current crew when the chips were down. Certainly on current form I would have him in the Pools side now over the petulant Andy Monkhouse.

I must confess that I was gutted when Carlisle snatched the winner late on the other week, but a little bit of me was delighted that Matty scored it. If nothing else it wiped the smile from the faces of some the dimwits in our crowd. Hopefully they took it on the chin like Matty had to. Good on you Matty.