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Ever the Optimist


BILLY'S CONTRACT


Virtually overnight, as far as some Pools keyboard fans are concerned, it is doom and gloom and even more gloom on an epic scale which we have not encountered since Dave Jones was in the managerial hot seat.

Last night after the two nil win over Betty's Wanderers, one Pools fan went on one of the message boards saying that this win is irrelevant as it is only a Mickey Mouse trophy and that Paul Hartley is the worst manager that this club has ever had. He genuinely sounded well miffed that Pools had beaten Harrogate in some style, giving the team its first win of the season. I would have given anything to see what sort of comments he would have left online had Pools lost. There is always someone having a go.

It is undeniable that Pools have got off to a poor start to the season but how far does the 2022/23 season actually differ from last season?

Fair enough, Pools got a thorough good hiding and were knocked out in the the first round of the EFL Cup by Blackburn Rovers. No change there. At the same stage of this competition last year a lowly Crewe side beat us at home one nil. Crewe eventually were relegated having finished bottom of of League One.
"Pools ...have more than doubled their goal tally by scoring 5 goals against the two they scored the previous season."

However in the opening game of the Papa John's Trophy, Pools beat Harrogate by a convincing two-nil win whereas last season they lost after extra time to Carlisle. Surely a plus?

Let's have a look at the scores on the doors, comparing Pools' results so far with those against the same teams last season [thus excluding Wimbledon].

As you can see from the figures generated by the MB computer, on the downside Pools have one win and two points less against the corresponding games from last season, having only scored two goals and conceding 13.

In the 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life' camp we can already see an improvement in that Pools, though conceding one more goal in the 21/22 campaign, have more than doubled their goal tally by scoring 5 goals against the two they scored the previous season.

Another unseen positive which the MB computer picked up, giving reason for hope, was that although we had our obligatory annual thrashing at Brisbane Road, last season under the mighty Dave Challinor we conceded 5 goals without reply. And not only did Pools, through rugged defending, keep Orient's tally down to a mere four goals but they also did themselves proud by scoring twice to become the first away team to score there this season.

Having examined these facts and figures along with analysing other data based on future possible results, the MB Amstrad computer has determined that Pools will finish the season in sixth place in the division.

The recently installed Spectrum computer in Monkey Mansions has not only told us that Harold Wilson will be the next Prime Minster but our research has discerned that Paul Hartley will be awarded the Queen's Medal for gallantry over and above the call of duty while coming under heavy fire from his own blue and white army.

Watch this space.

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Never Again

(or not until the railways are sorted out)


SHEFFIELD POOLIE


I always travel up for the first home game of the season and the tradition was continued for the Wimbledon game.

Unfortunately, even though I was booked on the train, I could not get on the 10.21 from Sheffield and it was too full and seriously overcrowded. Instead of sitting down to a full English in Hartlepool's station cafe (excellent value) and then strolling to the Corner Flag for a couple of pints with some of my mates and paying my annual subs, I arrived in Hartlepool 1 hour 20 minutes late, with just enough time to grab a pie* in the ground and get on the terrace for kick off. This will be the last time I use the train until the railways are a functioning system.

The match itself was pretty good, considering the visitors were in Division 1 last season. We were (and still are) in need of a goal scorer. I didn't like the set up for a home game though, i.e. 6-3-1. I don't care what anyone says but we were far too defensive because Niang was playing as an extra central defender.

My early season thoughts are: Umerah is not a striker but a target man and he needs support alongside him. He also needs to stay upright a lot more. He goes to ground too easily and referees have already started noticing this and ignore him when he hits the ground. Surely Joe Grey must be given a run alongside Umerah, not stuck out on a wing.
"Surely Joe Grey must be given a run alongside Umerah, not stuck out on a wing."

Ferguson (this is not the first time I've raised this) cannot defend and just look at how many goals come from the opponents' right wing. He must play as a wing back/winger type player and we must have a proper full back in his place. Mind you, we haven't had a decent left back since Rob McKinnon.

None of the new signings (and there were plenty) have stood out for me. Mind you, the ones we have let go are not pulling up any trees with their new clubs.

My mate George reckons it is Hartlepool's geographical position which prevents us signing a lot of our targets but I suspect money is a major part of the problem.

I understand the club's accounts have been recently issued. As a shareholder, I have contacted the club three times to see if I'm going to get a copy but I haven't had the decency of a reply. We really are a very amateurish outfit. Has anybody else received a copy of the accounts?

* Why do the refreshment counters in the ground advertise meat and potato pies when they don't stock them?

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Funny Old Game


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Hartley's Pool


JANE AUSTEN'S ALLEGRO


Eric Morecambe would occasionally ask 'Well what do you think of it so far?'

As ever the answer was 'Rubbish'. Myself, I would say 'Arrrrrgggghhhhh' and 'Arrrrrgggghhhh' again. It is long and many a day since I have seen Pools get off to such a poor start at the beginning of a season. I am more used to seeing an innings collapse from them towards the final weeks of the season.

I would wager that Graeme Lee's side of last season would comfortably put Paul Hartley's current starting eleven to the sword. In fact I would even go so far as to say that the same outcome would apply if Pools played the 2016/17 side that got relegated.

Where to start? It is far too early to begin criticising Paul Hartley who was head-hunted and joined the club with glowing recommendations from those in the know. As yet he has not got his feet fully under the table and there is already talk from some quarters about when Raj should wield the axe, or perhaps he would leave under his own steam if things were to continue as they are.

The new signings? A mixed bag indeed. Some show promise, some show they might be released at the end of the season whilst others don't look up to speed. He needs to bring in quality players.

What of Paul Hartley? Still bedding in players new to the club, the area and their team mates. I am not sure if he knows who his first choice starting eleven is, nor his preferred formation.

Whatever they are, he needs to very quickly sort out a poor defence that is leaking in more goals than the Titanic leaked in water. The Murray and Lacey combination is a throwback to the Louis Laing and Scotty Harrison pairing. Interestingly, Paul Hartley signed Harrison when manager at Falkirk. Not sure if he wants that on his CV.

There is a massive lack of fire power up front and a midfield that a stealth aircraft would have difficulty in locating.
"He is both animated and vocal ...putting one in mind of Neale Cooper. Must be a Scottish thing."

Hartley comes across as someone who is very passionate about the task in hand to the extent the he and the management team now occupy the old away dug out at the Vic in order that he can be closer to to the lino. Presumably that's to offer some 'meaningful advice and constructive criticism' when and where needed.

He is both animated and vocal, and paces up and down the touch line stalking his prey, be it officials or Pools players alike, putting one in mind of Neale Cooper. Must be a Scottish thing.

I sense that Pools fans have yet to warm to Paul Hartley but he in turn needs to engage with them: some form of communication or even, win lose or draw, the odd polite clap or other acknowledgment in their direction at the end of each game would do wonders.

In interviews he can come across as terse, gives one sentence answers and doesn't appear to suffer fools gladly. Nevertheless I can see from his point of view some of the 'bleedin' obvious' questions that get fielded would try anyone's patience. 'A four nil defeat Gaffer, tell me what the mood is like in the dressing room.'

It goes without saying that, even at this early stage of the season, it is an understatement that Paul Hartley has his work cut out. Let's hope he can turn things around - and quickly.

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Not the Best of Beginnings


DARREN KNOWLES' TASH


It is the lunchtime after the game last night against Harrogate Town in the Papa John’s Group Stage. Despite only 1500 being in attendance, a mammoth 75 of them from Harrogate, we saw something strange that we haven’t seen all season ...a win!

It is something to behold and the question now remains, is this particular monkey off our back? One would like to hope so, yeah?

Prior to this, the pressure has been building up and building up on Paul Hartley so much so that one wondered how much time he would have left at the helm. Bearing in mind that Graeme Lee was dismissed for a dismal run of defeats, would Raj be prepared to wield the managerial axe once more on the Scot? At the moment, Paul has a massive stay of execution in place but I think he knows as well as we do that one win isn’t going to save him from the guillotine should he fail as manager. The main thing is that the we have to start to perform regularly otherwise choppier waters lie ahead.

The season started with the worst possible beginning at Walsall in the Poundland Bescot Stadium. With a decent pre-season behind the team, obviously we felt that something special could happen but if anything was like Poundland it was Pools' performance on the day. A 4-0 loss and the beginning of the dismal sequence of events. We’ve seldom picked up since and at the time of writing, only Rochdale lie below us in the League Two standings. Do we really want to go backwards and head back to the barren land that is the National League? I know we don’t; it look us ages to get out (not as long as Wrexham, Torquay and, dare I say it, St**kp**t) and even newly-relegated Scunthorpe are finding it hard now.

Looking at the players we have, they shouldn’t be in this kind of position. We have brought in a good number of newcomers, and granted it might take time to gel, but the buck remains with Hartley. He is the one that has given them the tools and instructions, the problem is that once they cross that white line then it all goes a fair bit wrong. Correct me if I’m wrong, and as an exile I’ve not seen the team play live for ages, but are we missing players such as Molyneux, Odusina and Byrne for example, that much? From what I hear, the answer is probably yes. But as I said at the start, we need to build on that Papa John’s win and use it as a springboard to push the name of Hartlepool United up that table. I’d take mid-table security now as a finishing spot considering how badly we have started in the opening month.
"he knows as well as we do that one win isn’t going to save him from the guillotine should he fail as manager."

Just suppose then that Raj decides to dispose of Hartley. He will have to pay him off which means possibly less money for transfers once the new window opens. Then also, who would be interested in succeeding at a team that is massively underperforming? Exactly, that’s the bind we're in.

Rochdale sacked Robbie Stockdale recently - you know, the old Borer full back - but he’s too inexperienced to take over in my eyes. He’s a good number two but not an out and out number one. Then there’s Keith Hill, dismissed at Scunthorpe a few days ago. Hill has the experience but I certainly wouldn’t be shocked if he heads for yet another stint at Spotland. Finding a possible successor to Hartley if he is relieved of his duties might be harder than some people might think it is.

So it’s on to Colchester this Saturday in search of the elusive first win of the league campaign. They, under Wayne Brown, haven’t had the best start either to their league campaign and lie just three places above us. So you could say it’s a huge game for both teams already. The main question is, will Hartley stick with the team that beat Harrogate or will he change it up? They always say that you should never change a winning side unless your hand is forced to do so. Let’s hope Hartley follows that mantra.

Things can only get better - well, we are hoping they do anyway.

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Funny Old Game


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From Great Expectations to Bleak House


GREAT GRANDAD SHOUTY


Can't help thinking there's a Dickensian feel to Pools after the first few matches. We all looked forward to the new season and the flurry of new signings was encouraging.

I did think that getting a Scottish manager determined to make his name in English football would take us forward but its not worked out that way. OK, we started off the season facing tough challenges against the likes of Walsall, Wimbledon, Northampton, Bradford City, Tranmere and Leyton Orient but last season we put in creditable performances against most of those sides - remember the 3-1 win at Bradford CIty?

Where's it all gone wrong? Seems to be everywhere. Weaknesses in defence, a midfield not creating and lack of a finisher. The policy of having a lone striker in Josh Umerah plays into the hands of opposing defences. As well, we've been too keen to ship players out. I was always a fan of Omar Bogle, yet he went to Newport County. Guess what? He's scored more goals for them than Pools have scored so far. Unless we can turn it around, support will ebb away and the enthusiasm of last season will be gone. Too late now - the transfer window has closed.
"Unless we can turn it around, support will ebb away and the enthusiasm of last season will be gone."

Yet, there has been something to shout about and that was the performance against Harrogate. OK, it was only the Papa John's you might say but what was heartening was the way Pools took the game seriously. The defence was outstanding and was aided by a top class performance from Ben Killip. Two goals from Mikael Ndjoli saw us through - and he wasn't just the lone striker. Wes McDonald worked tirelessly and the 1500 Poolies went home satisfied. Let's hope the result creates momentum.

Off the field, there could be worrying signs. Up to now, the energy crisis has received little attention from within the game yet I can't help thinking it could be a problem for the smaller clubs like Pools. Floodlight costs could go through the roof thus forcing earlier kick off times when floodlights needn't be used. I'm old enough to remember the energy crisis of 1973-74 when we had a three day week and evening kick offs were moved to daylight hours. Is history destined to repeat itself?

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Early Impressions


BILLY'S CONTRACT


Six league games and one cup game played to date show a return of five defeats, two draws and no wins, and with two goals scored and seventeen conceded, it does not make good reading.

We are constantly hearing the mantra from players, fans and management alike that the season is only in its infancy and it is far too early to be concerned about the final outcome. At the start of last season I am sure that Scunthorpe and Oldham fans were served up with the same fodder. Looking at Scunthorpe's current standing in the National League, it could be a case of déja vu. Third bottom with three points from five games and that with two ex-Poolies in their squad.

Raj Singh must shoulder some of the blame. When Dave Challinor left HUFC, the chairman took an absolute age to appoint his successor. Again much the same has happened with the appointment of Paul Hartley. Yes, he was the man the chairman wanted for the job and fought hard to secure his services but in the interim a great deal of time was lost in recruiting players, to such an extent that when the club flew out to Portugal for pre-season training, there were hardly enough bodies available to field a full starting eleven.

Why on earth the club had a pre-season stint in Portugal in the first place is beyond me. Complete waste of money which could have been better spent elsewhere.

Funnily enough, West Ham and the Borer find themselves in a similar type of situation; after procrastinating over new signings, they are getting second- or third choices and trying to bring in new blood weeks after the football season has kicked off, resulting in possible panic buys before the transfer window closes.
"It is not just the newcomers to the club who are struggling but also some of the old brigade."

The 2021/22 campaign was one of consolidation and Mr. Singh has gone on record as saying he is now looking for a squad that will be in the top half of the table and possibly pushing for a play-off spot.

Based on the performances and players we have had to endure so far this season, I would prefer to see a squad that would prevent Pools from dropping back into the National League.

What of the new signings? Apart from Umerah and on occasion Menayese, none have yet really set the pulses racing. At best some of them look very pedestrian whilst others alarmingly look unfit, or worse still, unfit for purpose. This could just be down to coming from non-league or Scottish football and they are yet to adapt to the pace and physically of League Two.

By all accounts the manager has put in offers for other players whose signatures he hopes to obtain before the transfer window closes. These new recruits need to be experienced players with lots of games under their belts and not untried rookies.

Worryingly, this weekend the Hartlepool Mail has reported that Pools are looking at taking Newcastle's Joe White back on loan.That smacks of desperation. He's a tidy player no doubt but one who drifted in and out of games far too often last season and who made little or no impact. White could be one for the future but we already have Joe Grey so I cannot see why his services are required. If we were going to bring in former loan players then Richie Bennett, who has since signed for Barrow, would have been an ideal signing as a presence up front and a foil or another option for Umerah.

This then gets one thinking why on earth have the club employed a director of recruitment who has never played professional football and, judging by the current lot of signings, is seemingly another waste of money.

As a priority, we require another forward to help our lone solitary striker Josh Umerah up front otherwise he is going to burn out due to lack of support. Worst case scenario in that Umerah gets injured with no-one else available to fill his boots.

Our midfield has become stagnant and non-productive. We are crying out for a pacy midfielder in the mould of Gavin Holohan who can actually carry the ball forward and knows where the goal is. The more I think of it. I believe that Pools' loss of form coincided with Lee benching the Irishman last season.

An experienced dominating centre-half who can read the game is a must.

One player we do miss is Gary Liddle. So far, none of the centre halves brought in comes close to Liddle in terms of performance, leadership as well as know-how. I would be the first to admit that due to injuries, he at times last season did struggle and his lack of pace was a problem. That aside, he led by example. Who will ever forget his performance when two-nil down at home to a slick Harrogate side he came on as a second half substitute and single-handedly turned the game round in Pools' favour.

It is not just the newcomers to the club who are struggling but also some of the old brigade. Shelton seems lost and not involved. Featherstone has reverted to his playing crab-like football, carrying the ball any way but forward. Ferguson has had a massive drop in form. He cost us two goals at Orient, one with a dreadful pass which went straight to an Orient player. As for his trade-mark crossing and free kicks, he needs to reset his coordinates in that department.

Jamie Sterry looks frustrated as well as fed up. You can almost hear him thinking "I am working with amateurs." The club needs to make an early start regarding the offer of a new contract otherwise we are going to lose the most natural footballer at the club at the end of the season.

I get the impression that Crawford's face, much like Shelton's, does not fit with the manager's plans. Surely one or other of these two players should play in midfield ahead of Cooke. Cooke and Featherstone in the same side just does not work. They are too similar and lack pace.

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Any Other Business


MERVYN THE MONKEY mops up


YES, IT'S SEEMED TO BE A DISMAL FEW WEEKS

However, as has been pointed out elsewhere in this edition and given the opposition they've faced, Pools' form isn't greatly different to that of last season. Pools surprised everyone last year by not being the basket case we had all expected but without setting the world on fire. It was only after Graeme Lee replaced Dave Challinor that things started to look up before they looked back down again, resulting in Spike's departure.

Then this season, a new manager with an impressive CV comes in and after a large change of personnel we find Pools second bottom of the league. However, Tuesday's win, against a potential relegation rival but with both teams showing a few cup-competition changes, will have given Pools some confidence and there are signs that this team could at least avoid the drop. Or not.

The usual excitement of the closing of the transfer window produced the usual disappointment of only one new (loan) signing, another midfielder rather than the central defender that would have been most people's priority.

LENNY JOHNROSE and KEV MINTON

Sadly, the death was announced in August of Lenny Johnrose, a striker who became a Pools favourite, playing 82 games and scoring 16 times before moving on to become a favourite with Bury and then Burnley.

After retirement he became a teacher but died at the age of 52, having lived for five years with Motor Neurone Disease but faced the inevitable outcome with great bravery and stoicism, even writing a book, 'Finding a Way,' about his career and his life with the disease.

Also, a few weeks earlier, Kevin Minton, AKA 'Ripper' on the internet, died after a battle with cancer.

We at the Bizz first met up with him on the organising committee for the 'Monkeyhangerz' CD single in 2005, and he was an enthusiastic contributor of the project (which raised £10,000 for charity) as well as being an enthusiastic Poolie.

We pass on our condolences to the friends and families of Len and Kev, both taken too soon by incurable illnesses. RIP.



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Football Special Header

Not a Good Start

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Walsall 4 Pools 0 (League Two)
Saturday 30 July 2022
Poundland Stadium

After decent pre-season run of games and a look at all the new faces in the side, the Pools fans headed to Walsall for the first game of the season.

One comment I heard was that this was the first time in many years that we'd started a game with so many debutants in the team. Only three survivors from last season were in the side: Killip, Featherstone and Ferguson, but sub Sterry came on in the second half.

It was a quiet start and despite not having any real chances we looked like we could control the home side with some decent defending. Then disaster struck when a short corner was not cleared and a midfielder blasted a shot towards goal which hit a defender and spun past Killip.

Soon after that the home side, buoyed by their luck with the first goal, broke from their own box and raced upfield. Sadly no challenge was made with at least five players around our box when new signing Johnson hit a ball from which Killip initially made a good save. However, the ball dropped for Johnson who gave Killip no chance as he struck from close range. Pools rallied a little before half time but it was all so desperate end not controlled, and an effort from Umerah went wide without troubling the keeper.

At half time the Pools fans were shocked at the way we were being pulled about and just hoped we could get back in and make some chances. Alas it was even worse in the second half as Walsall used their physical advantage and lumped the ball any chance they got and we just could not take a hold of the game, looking second best. Most of the action was at the Walsall end and Johnson claimed two more goals that knocked the heart out of Pools.
"Sad to say the team we were watching in pre-season was a long way from that today"

Sad to say, the team we were watching in pre-season was a long way from that today and we could barely make a pass or even a decent challenge to win the ball in Walsall's goal area. Pools had one chance very late in the game when Sterry made a dash into the box, challenging a defender but was brought down. Instinctively he stuck his foot in and the ball hit the keeper and bounced up into Hastie who could not force it over the line before the keeper covered.

A last-minute loan signing from Mansfield looks like good business by Walsall and to think that both Bogle and Ogle managing to score for their respective teams only rubs salt in the wounds for Pools fans.

There were some very angry fans after the game, demanding that manager Hartley should come out and face them but I think that is a bit of a daft idea to think that that would happen. The Pools players who had just lost four-nil came up to applaud the travelling fans and sadly were blasted by these angry fans. Is this not the first game of the season with a new manager and virtually a new team? Some of them want to give their heads a shake.


A FAIR POINT

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 0 Wimbledon 0 (League Two)
Saturday 6 August 2022
Victoria Park

After last week's shambles, I think we were owed a decent game today and I suppose a draw was, on reflection, a good result.

Remember we are a new team in the making and most would agree today there was more to be pleased about. The first home game of the season saw a crowd just short of five thousand which we need to maintain and improve on for the good of the club and the squad.

The first half was typical early season - sounding each other out with just the odd chance for each of the sides.

Killip was probably the busier keeper in the first half but he was really good, catching and punching the ball when he had to. Hastie went close but the lad still looks like he needs games; he has the ability but tired later in the game and was replaced by Taylor.

It was not the best half and there were a few individual niggles going on between some the players. The Wimbledon full back Brown hit a screamer from distance that surprised Killip who could only block it but the ball was cleared. Killip was tested a few times in the half but it looked as if he was on his game, making a double save late in the half and even his kicking was better today.
"Wimbledon ...looked to be glad to get away with a point - and probably we were too!"

The second half saw Pools step it up a bit and you could see the pressure they were putting on the visitors as most of this half the visitors passed back and forth along the line and wasted as much time as they could. Crawford made the case for him to be in the starting line up. He went very close with a great header but he also makes the team tick, driving them forward.

Hastie had a decent run in and the lad can cross a ball on the run but the ball was cleared before Pools could do any damage. We put a lot of pressure on them late in the half, but Wimbledon held the line and looked to be glad to get away with a point - and probably we were too! No one had a bad game and I thought Cooke or possibly Umerah could have been Man-of-the-Match.


Pools Draw Another Blank

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 0 Tranmere Rovers 0 (League Two)
Tuesday 16 August 2022
Victoria Park

Wes McDonald: remember that name as this lad could become the Hartlepool SuperMac on his performance tonight.

He won four or five corners with his close ball skills and was dragged down every time he made a run. They were really scared of him. He certainly looks a live wire, just what the team needs.
One move by him in the second half was a real touch of class as he picked up the ball just outside the box, nutmegged a defender and raced along the edge of the box and hit a shot that was deflected high for a corner. Chandy said it was a wild shot over the bar - so why did we get a corner?

Killip was getting grief again from some of our own fans and I just do not understand it; the lad made some great catches today and despite kicking a few long balls in the second half with a strong wind behind him. I thought he played well. He made some good saves and despite having some big forwards to deal with he kept another clean sheet.

Jake Hastie has not produced the same skill since his good work in the pre-season games and looks a little tentative when going forward. The lad has the speed and the skill but today he made one great chance but hit the keeper when he was one-on-one and should have scored the opener. I would still persevere with him as he will come good with more games. To be fair to him, He does chase back when needed.
"It is great to see a proper centre forward fighting like he does up front for Pools; he takes a lot of stick and never gives an inch."

Josh Umerah had his best game for the club as he dragged Byrne and co all over the pitch. It is great to see a proper centre forward fighting like he does up front for Pools; he takes a lot of stick and never gives an inch. He got booked today after a clash of heads that the opposition player made the most of. In fact the lad had to go off after coming back on and really played the ref. Umerah was just doing his job and I was disgusted at the effort Byrne and co used in attempts to get him booked again - feigning injury at every challenge yet man-handling him throughout the game as he was too good for them. Byrne did make one great challenge in the dying minutes to rob Umerah inside the box as he was odds-on to break the deadlock.

Menayese was magnificent, I don’t think he lost a header all day and even after the odd slip he made sure that he chased back and won the ball again. He was my Man-of-the-Match despite the accolade going to Supermac. Menayese made a game-saving tackle to rob Levitt who had a few chances but just fired blanks and thought he was better than he was.

Ferguson went close with a miss-hit shot late in the game, and both he and Sterry played their usual first class game and snubbed out any threat from the opposition.

Featherstone once again ran the midfield but struggled at times to get forward to aid the strikers. Cooke had a quieter game than last week and was carded round about the time the ref lost the game. Murray did ok but was replaced early in the second half by Sylla who looks another good signing. Lacey Looks like turning out a decent player too, looks confident on the ball and will push forward.

Taylor came on for Hastie late in the game but lost out on his first challenge which looked as if it affected him and he had a quiet game. Early days for the lad.

Apparently Josh Hawkes came on but to be honest I never even noticed him.

Tranmere were hanging on at the end when Pools made a late challenge and the strangest time wasting ploy came as one of their defenders went down again and this time asked a team mate to come over and fasten his laces for him. Would you not think that would have been his mother's job or at least the coach's. I said Byrne was being a bit of a pain and when their player went down, Byrne started mouthing off at the Town End fans.


A Bad Day

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 1 Bradford City 3 (League Two)
Saturday 20 August 2022
Victoria Park

A game against Bradford in our current form was always going to be hard.

Today we scored our first goal at home in over ten hours of football. Also twelve games without a win equals our record. So as you would guess it was a bad day today as we lost three-one in a very one-sided game.

We went a goal down in four minutes and it was the first real chance of the game for Bradford, scored by Banks who had been a Pools target. With a goal coming so early it was backs to the wall; sadly, we were wide open. We made our own pressure and a smarter man than I would say our set up for the game was bloody awful. We just could not link the play throughout the team, Fergie and Sterry are wasted in this formation. We were going side to side and side to back and Bradford were just the opposite, direct and ruthless on the ball. It's not often I hear the Ditch say "$SN ±%£(^*%" in a loud voice but he repeated it a few times today at the way we were playing.

Fergie did force the ball into the net after a decent cross from Hastie, probably his best cross of the day. Soon afterwards Killip, the target of the boo boys again, made a great double block to thwart the visitors from close range. Some hate him yet others like me think he is a good keeper in a bad line up.

Featherstone with just the keeper to beat shanked a bloody awful shot-cum-punt that even had the Pools fans laughing, apart from those that were swearing. More Ditch expletives - and he is such a quiet young man when he is not ranting up and down the terrace or chasing a referee. Shortly afterwards we repeated the process. This time Cooke was the offender to more Ditch expletives. It really was a bad day for him today; good job he has a long drive home as he would have been kicking the cat, first chance he got.
"Third bottom after five games is not a happy place"

Second half we were coming down bank and expected to press a bit but sadly we are still coming down as we never got a look in in the second half. It was pressure all the way. It was like we had gone back five years and we were tippy-tapping the ball backwards in our own box and getting punished for it. Umerah did make a break and he was the only one. I honestly think the ref had something against him; he was dragged to the ground repeatedly and I do not remember him ever being given a decision throughout the game. On this occasion he chased a ball into the box and was manhandled to the ground so blatantly that I would have even felt sorry for Darlo if they had been treated like this and, sure enough, the ref ignores the challenge and the Bantams race upfield and score a second goal.

While Pools were still scrambling around, Bradford got a third goal in extra time to add insult to injury. But we were our own worst enemies today and this was probably the worst game we have seen in a while for lack of effort.

With Pools fans shouting for the head of Hartley, it is not a good look at the Suit Stadium at the moment. It looks like it is going to be a very hard season for the Poolies; Hartley has probably blown the chance of any more help from the chairman. Third bottom after five games is not a happy place and the only consolation is that Stockport are not saying “Thank you very much, Hartlepool” any more.


BEST GAME OF THE SEASON SO FAR

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 2 Harrogate Town 0 (Papa John's Trophy)
Tuesday 30 August 2022
Victoria Park

Only 1500 Poolies turned up tonight to see our first outing in the Papa John's Trophy against Harrogate Town. I supposed that a few would stay away after our recent form since the start of this new season - you pays your money and you takes your choice. This has always happened, but a fiver for seniors and a tenner for adults I thought it was a good deal.

Sadly the Poolies that did not turn out missed the best game of the season so far. Despite the changes made by the manager Pools looked the better side with Menayese back and Paterson making his first start. Niang and Crawford in midfield certainly changed our fortunes and we played them off the park for most of the game apart from a short spell late in the second half when Harrogate brought Armstrong on.

I think Simon Weaver made a big mistake in playing Daly instead of Armstrong as he was totally ineffective and did not look the Daly Cup man we knew last season whereas Armstrong coming on late rattled Pools a bit but despite a few quick turns and shots that were blocked, he did not really get a look in.

Both teams were off at a good pace trying to get the advantage and Killip made a very good catch from the first corner. At the other end we got a free kick just wide of the box but Sterry seemed to change his mind last second and hit a very poor low shot that was easily cleared. Killip again made a great save from a snap shot in the box and he did well to get down to smother the ball. Harrogate were a bit physical and Sterry took a real hack to his shin as he slipped past a player. I had just written in the notes “no outlet’ when McDonald made a fantastic run leaving defenders in his wake and it amazes me how he can control the ball in such tight challenging conditions but he made his way into the box and and he laid the ball off by Sterry for Ndjoli to score his first goal.

The visitors stepped up a little and, under pressure, Pools almost gave them the equaliser but the flag on the Clarence Road side ruled them offside. They came straight back at us and again Killip was on the ball in a flash, blocking the effort. Then the triple header was used, obviously a practised art by Pools on the training ground that worked to perfection. A run and cross by the mercurial McDonald was headed back across the goal by Sterry which was met by Niang who in turn headed the ball back across the goal where Ndjoli headed past the keeper. Two nil to the Hartlepool.
"Harrogate stepped up their pace but could do little against a Pools side full of confidence."

This angered the visitors and they started the long ball game hoping to pressure us and Killip made some exceptional saves, a blocking shot from outside the box and then a tremendous double save during a lot of activity in the box as the visitors fought back. Killip made a block on his knees and instantly dived to his left to stop a certain goal by a finger-tip scoop, pushing the ball round the post. Pools went in at half time with a two goal lead that was throughly deserved. We played the better football and some of the interchange between the players flicking and heeling balls was amazing when you look at what we have watched recently.

At half time Snapper showed me the finger-tip save Killip made and it makes me wonder even more why he gets stick on message boards; the lad is a top keeper and we would be stupid to change him.

Second half, Harrogate stepped up their pace but could do little against a Pools side full of confidence. Tom Crawford almost hit the goal of the season as he spotted their keeper off his line and from a yard inside the half-way line he hit the perfect shot that looked if it was dropping behind the keeper into the goal but, to give the keeper his due, he managed to get a couple of fingers on it and push it over the bar. Shortly after that they brought on Armstrong and he made a few runs and caused a bit of mayhem around our box but the defence tonight was as tight as a drum.

Pools brought on Joe Grey and Jack Hamilton to test the visitors and Killip was still equal to anything that came our way. A great night for the 1500 Pools fans. Hopefully this will set us up for Saturday away to Colchester, who are struggling a bit.

Man-of-the-Match was Killip by a country mile but there were some very good performances throughout the side. We need to have the wing backs as we tend to lose our way and cut down on that outlet which tonight's game proved.

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Hartley's Pool


BILLY'S CONTRACT


Needless to say, with the appointment of a new management team other contributors of MB will be airing the same predictions, hopes, concerns and fears about the forthcoming season. So if you can't beat them join them.

When the announcement was made of Paul Hartley's appointment as Hartlepool United's next manager the reaction amongst many fans, myself included, was much the same. A resounding 'Who?' In truth it was much the same response that applied to the appointment Neale Cooper, Craig Harrison and to a lesser extent Dave Challinor.

Hartley came highly recommended to the Pools hierarchy and his record in gaining promotion for three different clubs in the Scottish Football League speaks for itself. I like the fact the he has no previous connection with the club and has brought in his own number two, Gordon Young, rather than one of our own backroom staff. It does indeed look like a good cop / bad cop pairing.

Like all newly-appointed managers, Hartley is saying all the things the fans want to hear. He talks of his preferred style of football as being fast-paced with no dwelling on the ball and getting into the opponents' half as quickly as possible.

New full back signing Reghan Tumilty is quoted as saying that his former boss is demanding and voluble. I am all for that. Obviously the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
"A priority signing needs to be another striker."

Many Poolies are unfamiliar with the names or pedigree of Paul Hartley's signings as half of them hail from league clubs north of the border or have come from English non-league football. Not much difference between the two some might argue.

The fan base is split about Pools' chances, some believing that we will make the play-offs whilst others, including the bookmakers, see the 2022/23 season as a fight against relegation.

Having only been to the one friendly (v Sunderland) without names on the shirts, it was hard to identify all of the new signings.

I thought Jake Hastie was a reincarnation of Molyneux but more direct. Euan Murray looked commanding in the middle of the defence. Pick of the bunch for me on the night was right back Reghan Tumility who played the full 90 minutes and looked good going forward. I'm unsure if he can be accommodated elsewhere in the side once Jamie Sterry is fit.

Some other players shone but I was unable to name them whilst one or two, including members from last years sqaud, looked decidedly off the pace and did not seem to get involved.

My main worry is that our midfield, even with substitutions, looked painfully slow and disappeared completely in the second half. I was going to suggest that Reagan Ogle should be given a chance in that area but it looks as if he is off to warmer climes in the form of Sunny Scunny. We definitely need to bring in someone with pace who can carry the ball forward and/or who could make ghost runs like Gavan Holohan.

A priority signing needs to be another striker. Hopefully Josh Umerah will make the jump from non-league to Football League standard. If he doesn't, or if he is out injured, we do not have another out-and-out front man which is a major concern.

It is early days, very early days. I think we will have a slow start as the squad in my view have not been very long together and are still getting to know each other and their styles of play.

To many, Raj seems to have picked up another footballing unknown. let's keep our fingers crossed he has unearthed another Dave Challinor and not a Craig Harrison.

One friend is so pessimistic about Pools' chances of survival this season that he has put a ten pound bet on them finishing bottom of League Two. Heartened after a couple of late signings by Paul Hartley, my friend has had a change of mind and, in order to cover a potential loss, he has now put another tenner on Pools to not finish bottom but second bottom.

He has since informed me that he is looking to the future and is searching for favourable odds on Hartlepool United playing Darlington in competitive football in the 2023/24 season.

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The Jock Strap Ensemble
(Mk 2)


GREAT GRANDAD SHOUTY


In the 1960s, two LPs were issued entitled 'Rugby Songs' and 'More Rugby Songs'. A bawdy collection, they were sung by the Jock Strap Ensemble.

It now looks as though Pools have our own Jock Strap Ensemble - a Scottish manager who has recruited from north of the border. And why not? Scottish managers and players have enriched the English game from its earliest days; indeed one of the founding fathers of the Football League, William McGregor of Aston Villa, was a Scottish-born draper.

How things have changed. Once the bog-standard Premier League was formed, clubs began to lose interest in players from Scotland and preferred to recruit foreign players with unpronounceable names who were experts at making a fast buck. Today, you'd be hard pressed to name Scottish internationals in the Premier League. Off hand, I can only think of four - Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney, Scott McTominay and John McGinn; of those only Andy Robertson and John McGinn are thoroughbred Scots - the other two qualifying through Scottish parentage.

Which brings me on to Pools. Over the years, the Scottish influence has always been there. Neale Cooper gave us the glory days and reinforced the squad with Jack Ross and Hugh Robertson. Who will ever forget Hugh's goal against Luton Town? I also remember a goal he scored against Blackpool from a direct free kick just outside the penalty area. He netted with a screamer but the referee made him retake the kick as he'd spotted an infringement. Not to be outdone, Shuggy then also scored with the second attempt. Magic!!
"...clubs began to lose interest in players from Scotland and preferred to recruit foreign players with unpronounceable names who were experts at making a fast buck."

Before that there was, of course, Rob McKinnnon who found fame after leaving Pools for Motherwell and was capped for Scotland. So why not tap Scotland for talent? We haven't done badly over the years have we? You never know, we might start a trend.

Three things caught my attention outside the Women's European competition.

Firstly, the Pools calendar for 2022. I had a count up and seven of the twelve players are no longer with us. Maybe in 2023 we could have players of yesteryear or pics of magic moments (e.g. Adam Boyd's hat trick goal against Sheffield Wednesday).

Secondly, I noted that the Under 21 international between England and Slovenia at HUddersfield only attracted 5,236 punters; the place was like a ghost town. Pools would have done just as well staging the game - at least there would have been some atmosphere.

Lastly, the PL and EFL are to implement automatic club bans on pitch invaders. OK in theory but how the hell are you going to implement this when thousands invade a pitch? What do they put in the tea?

Enjoy a tartan season!!!

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Time For Another Reset ...Again!


DARREN KNOWLES' TASH


My summer hiatus is done and dusted and it’s time to start writing again.

I always have at least two or three months away every year from writing, whether it about Pools or ice hockey and it’s good to switch off from time to time. That said, I’ve not shied away completely, watching developments happen day by day. That’s the beauty of the internet like, especially for us exiles like myself here in Northern Ireland, I can stay up to speed with things going on at the Vic as much as I would if I was still living in God’s hometown.

Anyway, we have bid farewell to Graeme “Spike” Lee after a short but ultimately unsuccessful spell as manager. No doubt Graeme will go on and carve his own niche elsewhere but it really didn’t work out for him here did it like? Seldom does a former player become a success when he becomes the team’s manager, look at Bryan Robson and the Borer closer to home if you want an example of this. So, after plenty of guessing games and that, we have acquired Paul Hartley from Cove Rangers in the Scottish Leagues. A former Scotland international and a player with Celtic and both Edinburgh clubs, he certainly has the pedigree playing wise. But what about his managerial career? Well, he’s won promotions with three of the four clubs he’s managed so that’s a positive, isn’t it?

One of the things that strikes me and I’m sure I’m not alone like, is that he’s very bullish and up front indeed. He sounds like he’s not come here to be a yes man and a puppet, he wants to show that his efforts at Alloa, Dundee and Cove are not strokes of luck but well-earned indeed. He’s got that glare too which would be frightening indeed as a player under his tutelage, that kind of glare that says if you don’t perform then you’re out of the team regardless of if the fans love you to bits. He’s also not afraid to make tough calls and undergo rebuild jobs. He can be just what this club needs; someone with no direct connection to the Club and his own man. Just like a certain Neale James Cooper was.
"But what about his managerial career? Well, he’s won promotions with three of the four clubs he’s managed so that’s a positive, isn’t it?"

He's brought in 12 new faces this summer and contended with the loss of such popular players as Luke Molyneux, Timi Odusina and Neill Byrne to divisional rivals. But it’s time again to find new heroes in the blue and white. No doubt in my mind, the aforementioned three deserve a warm welcome back to the Vic this season; they certainly played their own individual parts especially Mols who could be, on his day, pretty much unplayable. So of the new faces, the name of Jake Hastie is the stand-out one of course. Still only 24, the former Motherwell wide man can be an upgrade on Mols dare I say. His performances for the Steelmen earned him his dream move to Ibrox but it didn’t work out. So we could have acquired a bit of a gem here, and I’m sure he will provide plenty of attacking threat going forward which fits in with Mr Hartley’s blueprint. Who’s impressing you so far?

I say thank heavens, but I’m so glad to see the back of O'Neills as our kit supplier. If we thought that BLK weren’t good then the Dublin-based provider were just plain bad. The Errea home design is well smart for sure, it’s probably one of the best home jerseys we have had in recent times to be honest. So much I am considering investing in one, providing I can work out what size I am on their sizing charts haha. Certainly, would gather a few glances my way wearing it in Northern Ireland for sure like. That said, there’s been a few hiccups again but isn’t always the case with Pools no matter whom they partner with? The day everything as regards kits runs smoothly, I probably won’t be alive at all. That said, I’m also hearing that a few other clubs (some even in the Greed is Good League, aka the Prem) have had kit supply problems too. So, for once, we aren’t alone in this regard.

After last season’s unpredictability, I really hope that Mr H gets this new look squad performing for us. We might be not the biggest club in the division, but we certainly aren’t the smallest. If Forest Green Rovers can make it to League One on a size like ours then who can discount Pools? The odds of 10/1 generally around to get promotion is worth a wee dabble should that take your fancy, and obviously bookies haven’t read much into Mr Hartley’s collection of honours in creating that. I really think the squad could finish top seven, providing those aforementioned inconsistencies can be ironed out. That and finish above Stockport too which would be everyone’s wish, just to go to show that money does not buy success but hard work prevails.

The key to everything is to make your home form unbeatable and being able to garner points away from home. The target must be high 70s in terms of points if this achievement is to be a success. It’s all about hitting the ground immediately as a slow start can leave you playing catch up - not that it affected Nottingham Forest last season in the Championship.

It will be foolish to think we are going to tear the division apart as the league is as tough as it can possibly be. Anyone can beat anyone on a given day, and the title is not a foregone conclusion at all. After all as John Donahoe famously said: “…it’s a marathon not a sprint”, and he isn’t wrong. 46 Cup Finals await Pools, maybe 49 if they end up in the play-off spots; they just need belief in themselves that they can climb the mountain that faces them. It’s not Everest, but one that can be scaled. Let the rollercoaster ride begin. Are you strapped in?


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