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So Far So Good


WAGGA MOON



After a stumble early doors we have now hit the form we were hoping for before the start of the season. Eighth place in early September must go down as a good start and a crack at the league leaders to come on Saturday night is just what we need.

With our past custom of letting the fans down on the big occasion let's this time give them and the viewing TV-watching public a display to be proud of and show the rest of the league that this season we are really meaning business.

The disappointing first few games with some goalkeeping howlers were a worry but the young keeper with a loan signing brought in to gee him up seems to have put those errors behind him and is beginning to look the part in goal. I certainly wish him well as he looks dedicated to the cause and so keen for Pools to do well. But the big turnaround in the team was getting a real midfield playing together after the years of pass sideways, pass backwards and don't cross the halfway line.

Craig Hignett had finally seen enough of it and relegated his favourite midfield dynamo, the overweight little guy to the bench. About time too, Craig, most fans have been crying out for this for the last five years. And what do we get, Liam Noble back in the side alongside Jason Kennedy and Gus Mafuta, a midfield we have been needing for years. And a 100 per cent improvement on what we have been used to seeing. And a back five who look much more solid and reliable.

It was good to hear the Torquay supporters saying we bullied them out of it. Nice to see us with a big team physically and we are not afraid to put it about a bit when, under the years of Colin Cooper and Matthew Bates, we were the softest touch in all the leagues. How these guys could manage a professional team and have them playing like a bunch of Dorises I will never know. You would have thought they wanted them team to play with a bit of fire and desire but looking back to their playing careers they were hardly men up for a battle. More of a 'After you, Claude' attitude which begs the question, "How the hell did they get a manager's job in the first place?" It's passionate managers like Chris Wilder and Sean Dyche who go for committed strong players that are successful in their careers unlike some shrinking violets we have had in charge.
"Ryan Donaldson did an excellent job up front against Barrow and some say up front is his best position."

It is good to see Gime Toure topping the goalscoring charts; it is a long time since a Pools player did that. It is unfortunate our two strikers Nicke Kabamba and Niko Muir are both out injured as their extra firepower would be most welcome at the present time. Having said that, Ryan Donaldson did an excellent job up front against Barrow and some say up front is his best position. Him being so versatile is a good thing as he can help out in a number of positions.

Two players who have been a big disappointment this season are Luke James and Josh Hawkes. James is a striker who doesn't look like scoring a goal while Hawkes doesn't seem to be able to get fit. I would send these two out on loan and see if they come back in any better form.

Two players we can look forward to returning from injury are Luke Molyneux and Luke Williams. Now that Molyneux has finally had an operation we can look forward to having him back in three months. No timetable for Williams's return yet but I am prepared to wait and give him all the time he needs to get fully fit, not like some of the moaners who are shouting to get rid of him. Make no mistake a fully fit Williams will terrify the National League defenders. They won't be able to cope with him.

I would just like to wish Jeff Stelling all the best on his latest charity effort and all he does for promoting Pools and keeping us in the public eye.


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What's in the Bottled Water, Then?


GREAT GRANDAD SHOUTY



Not a very good start was it? 

Home defeats against Sutton and Bromley, a home draw against Fylde (after being two goals up), an away defeat against Halifax, an away win against Maidenhead and, by all accounts, a poor performance in the 0-0 draw against Chorley. It left Pools just above the relegation zone and it led us to think ‘Here we go again.’

Yet, it all came good with three wins on the trot and, at the time of writing, we’re level on points with the last play off place. I was tempted to think it was brought about by something in the bottled water. However, things have been coming together all at once. The defence (well marshalled by Michael Raynes) and Ben Killip are beginning to have confidence in each other and there is now a tendency to shoot on sight rather than trying to walk the ball into the net. The last three games have also seen virtually the same side taking the field – a sure sign of confidence. It all sets us up nicely for the televised game against Woking.

A shame that Luke Molyneux and Luke Williams are still sidelined. There was great expectation on the part of Poolies that both would be available to spearhead a successful start. However, we must all wonder whether Williams will ever take the field in a Pools shirt. Unfortunately, Molyneux’s injury was worse than originally feared - and it looks as though he’ll be out till Christmas/New Year.
"The last three games have also seen virtually the same side taking the field – a sure sign of confidence."

The problems which Bury have been having brought home the situation at Pools two years ago. Once again, it is the football authorities (in his case, the English Football League) who have singularly failed to supervise the affairs of their clubs. OK, people are approved as fit and proper persons to take over clubs but after that anything seemingly goes. We can only hope that the 71 clubs in the EFL approve Bury’s application to play in League Two next season. When Pools looked as though they might go out of business, supporters of other clubs chipped in with donations. Never heard of supporters of north west Premier League clubs doing the same. Of course, most Manchester United fans don’t live in the north west do they? The one thing we don’t want is the courts being involved. That might scare off the EFL clubs and enable Bury to take their place in the family of the smaller clubs.

There’s been a lot of discussion lately on the standard of refereeing and a pal of mine in Tasmania sent me a rather amusing article on an Aussie Rules football game. A spectator was ejected from the ground after calling the umpire “a bald headed flog” (translated from Aussie to English, the expression means “a bald headed w****r). I did tell my pal that if people were ejected from Pools for insulting referees then there’d be an empty ground. Within this context of our insult, there is a dictionary definition which describes such a person as “a worthless, contemptible person”. The last thing I heard was that the spectator was consulting his lawyer with a view to suing the Australian Football League – presumably for defamation. It gets better!

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FUNNY OLD GAME




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Noble Players


BILLY'S CONTRACT



Last season's leading goalscorer Liam Noble, it would seem, is not everyone's cup of tea on the terraces. Personally I think he is (inverted commas) the best footballer at the club.

Some of his passes are sublime but more often or not his team mates are not alert to them or the pass itself is at fault as it should be played several divisions higher than in the National League. 

When he first put pen to paper for Pools The Non League Newspaper hailed it as the best signing by any club, such was his pedigree and, certainly for the first half of the 2018/19 season, that was indeed the case. After his penalty miss at Gateshead his form did seem to dip and at times, perhaps because of the pizza-gate affair he did not seem to be firing on all cylinders and his performances dropped to the same level of some of his team-mates. Perhaps a case of, if you can't beat them, join them. Another contributing factor may well have been his expectations of being in a promotion-winning side but, in reality, the automatic promotion spot soon slipped away at a very early stage in the campaign. As for the much-vaunted playoff-place, that never even was sighted on the radar. In truth. all there was to look forward to was the possibility of yet another relegation battle.

That is now all in the past, a new season has dawned and despite having a slow start as well as being on the bench it looks as if Noble has got his mojo back. In one recent game at the Vic he came on as a late sub and could not find his man, only his opponents. Several passes went astray or into touch. Some groans in the crowd were raised but, fair play to the lad, a bit like Matty Robson or, dare I say even the Ginger Ninja, he never once hid or let his head drop, he just kept looking for more.

Without doubt Noble's performance against Wrexham was a masterclass. It was the best midfield performance I have witnessed since the days of Ritchie and Tinks. Scored two, and chipped in with two assists for Gime Toure's goals, as well as winning the penalty for himself. For me his piece-de-resistance was his 20 yard shot in the first half which Son of Dibble did well to save. From where I was stood in the Town End it looked like a conventional shot but when I later viewed the highlights it was a piece of absolute magic. I must have watched it a dozen times. If it had gone in it would have certainly been goal of the season and possibly next season as well.

Notwithstanding that I would have given him a mark of 9.5 out of 10 for his performance, in quick succession he then gave two misplaced passes and a couple or three fans on the terrace were on his case in a jot. It seems that most players have their own self-appointed  boo-boys who are delighted when the player in question makes a mistake. On the other hand the same fans must go home down in the mouth and disappointed when they watch their targeted, or dare I say 'hated' player leave the pitch clutching the match ball in one hand after scoring a hat trick, and a bottle of bubbly in the other, having being named Man-of-the-Match.
"He doesn't seem to know when he is beaten. How did he get missed by other clubs even at a higher level."

There is another Marmite midfielder in the squad who I am not altogether fussed on but even if he makes a mistake or some other error I might only sigh or mutter under my breath at him during the match. But after the final whistle has blown I will have a good moan to my mates in the pub about his abject performance. I see no point whatsoever in being verbally abusive to any Pools player on the pitch, I want them all to do well as I firmly believe that it is detrimental to a player's performance and confidence if someone is constantly yelling at him.

If fans are passionate, and they don't come more passionate than Hartlepool supporters, they should direct their attention to the opposing players and give them a hard time instead. Gus Mafuta revealed as much, when he played against Pools for Salford at the Vic last season, he said that he had 'lost it' as the Poolie crowd had targeted him after some incident, and got 'on his case' and ultimately 'into his head'. As a result he was hooked towards the end of the game by the Salford bench for fear of his getting a second booking which would mean him missing the play-offs. Basically if you want the do the team a favour, then if you can't shout encouragement keep stum.

Gime Toure. If we don't get a million pounds for this lad in the next transfer window I'll show the editor's bottom in Binns window.*  Talk about a find. When I first read about him he sounded very much like a Nicholas Anelka type character - a bit moody, sullen, temperamental and petulant, someone with a bit of a chip on both shoulders, all of which could be described as typically, well if I am brutally honest, French. His footwork is dazzling and his work ethic is the equivalent of having an additional midfielder/defender or forward in the side. He doesn't seem to know when he is beaten. How did he get missed by other clubs even at a higher level. His signing is a real coup.

One player who has really come into form is Mark Kitching. When I first saw him play in last season's friendly match against Spennymoor I thought that he looked the business ...ermm hmmmohhhhh and so did Louis Laing for that matter! It would not be disingenuous to say that many of his performances last season did not set the world alight. It could be argued that he did not get much support from his team mates when he pushed forward by their not making themselves available or again when he was defending at times he received little or no cover. In the current campaign he seems to have a new found belief in himself, is keen on getting forward and putting decent crosses in. Against Wrexham he had three shots at goal which is something we have not see from a Poolie left back since the days of Hugh Robertson. The positions he takes up should see him bagging a few goals, particularly at the far post. Good luck to the lad.

Fraser Kerr is another lad who has been a slow burner, taking time to settle but of late he is starting to show why he was so highly rated at Gateshead and why Pools willingly paid £2,000 for his services. Again, not one who is blessed with pace, but he has started to do the simple things, particularly not being too clever and just putting the ball into touch when needed even at the expense of giving away a throw-in. Playing alongside Michael Raynes has got to be a big plus as well as an education for the lad.

I often wondered how Gary Pallister's career would have fared had he not had the likes of Tony Mowbray or Steve Bruce of Borer and Man Utd respectively at his side. He admitted himself he was like Bambi on Ice without these two seasoned players in the trenches with him.

Slowly but surely, in comparison to the start of the season, many of the current squad are starting to get into gear. It could be down to competition for places and keeping the shirt but whatever, if they all click at the same time they will take some beating. Let's hope it is not a flash in the pan.

[*No you won't - Binns closed down years ago! - Ed.]

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GEORDIE THE BRUCE

SHEDRICK & ELMO


Geordie the Bruce, possibly a descendant of Robert de Brus, Lord of Hartlepool, is back in his shed in Newcastle, contemplating his position after the first few skirmishes of the new season.

His difficult boss, the Lord of Newcastle, Michael de Ashley, is having more problems with his business empire, so is likely to be even more awkward than usual, and apart from an unexpected victory in north London, his army’s campaign is not going especially well.

So Geordie seeks advice on the web, where he sees his old mentor Sid the Spider, and asks him how he can make his army more consistent and thus avoid the wrath of His Prickly Lordship.

Sid ponders on this for a while, then says “We spiders make nets. You football people have nets. We sit on ours, waiting for someone to come along and get caught up in it. Your goalkeepers do much the same. In fact Hartlepool's goalkeeper recently did get caught up in one. Why don’t you do what we do? If an opposition player gets close enough to your net, your goalkeeper should eat him. That will give you a numerical advantage, although it might give the goalie indigestion.”

“I’m not too happy about that,” says Geordie, “but I’ll put it to the boss.”

And the very next day he’s sitting in His Lordship’s office, recounting his conversation with Sid the Spider.

“That’s a great idea,” says His Lordship, “it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there so what’s wrong with player-eats-player?”

Geordie then says “Think of all those expensive players who could be lost though.”

“Good job we haven’t got any then!” says His Lordship.



FUNNY OLD GAME




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Positive v Negative


JANE AUSTEN'S ALLEGRO



I am beginning to think that Craig Hignett is joining a vast number of football managers and fast becoming a serial whinger.

Pretty much the first month of this season that was all he did. Granted 'Pools were not pulling up trees, but listening to him or reading his interviews was depressing to say the least. What must his team talks be like?

First it was referees. Yes we all know at National League level the quality of referees, with very few exceptions, ranges from the dire to the comical.  Most are inconsistent and some are downright awful and not fit for purpose but it is the same for every team in this league.

Craig Hignett, like most other managers whose team has just won by a significant margin despite the referee having an abysmal game, never seem to comment on the officials' display or glibly dismiss it. On the other hand, lose, and all hell breaks loose. Then we had his rant about social media and the keyboard warriors. He stated that he does not look at or read what is put online but clearly he does as he had taken umbrage about something or other to make comment on it in the first place.

After the home defeat by Bromley, Hignett put on his Carol Kirkwood head and it was all about the windy conditions that prevailed. Unless they were windproof surely it must have been just as bad for Bromley as it was for Pools on the day. Hartlepool players should be well acclimatised to the wind as it is pretty much blowing a gale from the North Sea every other day of the week.
"Basically he sent a message to Fylde that we fear you and he might as well have run up the white flag."

The best was yet to come when the manager felt that Ben Killip's and Fraser Kerr's form had suffered because they were struggling to adapt to playing in front of large crowds, only being used to playing in front of a few hundred spectators at their previous clubs. Surely they must have played in away games such as at Wrexham, Chesterfield and Pools, who have decent sized crowds.

I would argue that any player worth his salt would want to play before a big crowd. I would also argue that playing in front of smaller crowds can be equally as intimidating if not more so as if an individual fan is dishing out grief to a particular player or team it can be heard not only on the pitch but throughout the ground. Subsequently I was fully expecting Hignett's response to restrict the crowd limit to 637 for a couple of home games then gradually increase the limit until Killip and Kerr felt comfortable. I think Hignett was out of order making this statement in the first place as if true it does not reflect greatly on the players themselves in terms of their confidence. Goodness knows how they would perform in front of the television cameras in full view of the nation. In the plus column both players have grown in stature having found their feet ...and hands.

I don't know if negativity is drummed into players at the Borer at an early age as a matter of course but if one considers Cooper, Bates, Harrison and indeed Hignett, they all appear to sup from a half-empty glass when compared to the opposite end of the scale, to the likes of Neale Cooper, Danny Wilson, Ronnie Moore and Chris Turner who tended towards the half-full glass. I know which managerial group's team I would rather watch.

Against Fylde, Hignett more or less admitted that Pools' tactics were set up to keep them at bay and hit them on the break as he felt that Fylde are a top team and will be one of the promotion front runners (not the case to date). Hignett's plan worked for a short while, one nil up then sit back and hit them on the break which we did but crucially we sat back even deeper. Eleven Pools players in their own half defending corners and then the inevitable happened:  it was two all in the blink of an eye. Even then with only a few minutes remaining Fylde kept pushing forward for a winner and if Pools had a corner Fylde put three men up front which tied up four Pools defenders. Fundamentally, Hignett's game plan was flawed. Far too much respect was afforded to the opposition which gave them the momentum to pick up a point. Basically he sent a message to Fylde that we fear you and he might as well have run up the white flag.

If the team were managed by someone with the optimistic ebullient nature of say a Neale Cooper or a Danny Wilson, Pools would have been set up to have Fylde on the back foot from the moment they set foot in Fortress Victoria Park, where no prisoners are taken. As such the main objective by Pools' opponents would be to keep the scoreline down to a respectable level.

So come on Mr H, without going gung ho, go shake off those Borer shackles like sitting back, defending deep and playing on the counter; let's have a more positive adventurous attitude and at the Vic at least play like the home team not the away team.

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A Very Good Team Performance


Match report by RUNNING MONKEY



Pools 4 Wrexham 2 (National League)
Monday 26 August 2019
Victoria Park



A bit of a cockup today between the ref and HUFC. As he blew the whistle to start the game Pools only had ten men on the field. 
I understood that the ref was responsible for counting the players in case there were too many and in turn any short of a full team. Mafuta ran on after the kick-off, presumably instructed by the fourth official but was promptly booked. 

Higgy was kicking off but I did hear that Featherstone was supposed to be starting. He ended up on the bench after apparently being stuck in traffic.

The game set off at a good pace and both teams looked dangerous. Son of Andy Dibble was in goal for the visitors but he looks suspect and lost his rag a few times as decisions went against him. Wrexham had some decent players but maybe they have been down the divisions so long they all seem to adopt a falling-down approach to the game. It really is farcical watching grown men tumble to the floor at the slightest touch. Football used to be a man's game.

Approaching the break Pools went a goal down to a really cruel defection that initially Killip had covered. But once again Touré came to the rescue winning a header at the Rink End to level the score by half time.

At half time the Pools fans were upbeat and most thought that as we were kicking down the slope this half, we could do some damage. I also spoke to the legend that is Peter Beardsley and he thought we looked an 'average' side and that is why we are in this division. Funny how others look upon our team, I wondered if he was sniffing around for a job if Hignett got it wrong again today - he may have been under some pressure.
"It really is farcical watching grown men tumble to the floor at the slightest touch. Football used to be a man's game."

A bright start to the second half saw Pools taking the game to the visitors. It looked as if Hignett had found the right balance to the side, maybe only accidentally after dropping five of the players who had a game on Saturday. A lousy game that was too according to reports. A team that had shipped five goals in each of its last two games and went down today to the same score had held the mighty Pools at bay.

Pools were given a break as the ref pointed to the spot and indicated that Noble had been held down and he was so keen to take the pen he was raring to go as the visitors were still arguing with the ref. Noble eventually sent Dibble the wrong way to give Pools the lead.

Noble had his best game I have seen this term and was really testing out the Wrexham defence. He suckered a defender into a tackle and bounced the ball off him then hit it into the net giving Dibble no chance once again, taking the score to 3-1. Typical of the quality of officials in the division, the ref returned the favour by giving the visitors a penalty for a holding offence. Odd this, when all throughout the game Pools players were dragged and pulled all over the pitch and he never took any notice.

Even at three-two I sensed that Pools had the beating of the Welsh side and Touré stepped up with a wonderful looping header, a great cross from Noble being met by Touré and he headed back across the goal over the head of the grasping Dibble who got nowhere near the ball as it dropped into the back of his net.

The Wrexham player Lawler saw a red card for a two-footed tackle on Kennedy and apparently this is his second red this season and we have played how many games? Kitching, who was my Man-of-the-Match, almost got on the score sheet, racing in on goal and from a very tight angle his shot was pushed over for a corner by Dibble.

Today was a very good team performance and I cannot find fault with anyone. Killip made some really good saves and even Hignett gets a plus point for his subs that did not disrupt the cohesion in the side.

I just wonder if Beardsley had the same opinion at the end of the game.

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Out of Ideas


Match report by RUNNING MONKEY



Pools 2 Bromley 3 (National League)
Saturday 17 August 2019
Victoria Park



Another fine day at the Vic for football and initially the game got off to a good lick. 

Both teams were pressing and it was the visitors that got the early goal this week who hit us on the break. Kiilip tried to make himself big in front of goal but it was easy peasy for the striker who pushed his way through the midfield to roll the ball into the net.
The Pools of last season would never have bounced back so quick, Holohan fought well to make the chance and he made no mistake with the shot to even up the score just five minutes later.

The game was getting niggly and Raines and a Bromley attacker were spoken to by the ref for some off the ball shenanigans. The visitors played some good football in patches and Pools had to be on their guard throughout as they pushed us hard in the first half.

The second goal came from some hesitation from Pools who had the opportunity more than once to clear the ball but persistence by the visitors scrambled the ball into the net,
"It was a great pleasure to see a Pools player take on the opposition in such a determined fashion"

Mafuta once again came to the rescue with a cracking shot from distance to level up the score just before half time.

The second half was a more sedate affair as it looked as if the visitors had run out of steam and Pools looked as if they had run out of ideas. Muir had a decent chance as he broke into the box but his shot came off the post and was cleared upfield.

Toure showed his class as he took the ball out wide, went to the dead ball line and jinked back into the box leaving at least four defenders in his wake. It was a great pleasure to see a Pools player take on the opposition in such a determined fashion and he was very unlucky to see his shot blocked by the keeper.

Pools had a decent spell hoping for a winner and were still making chances but not connecting in front of goal. Good crosses from Holohan, Donaldson and later James found an empty box. The visitors broke free and Killip was at fault, not beating the attacker to the ball and it was laid on for an easy goal to take all three points.

I have to take issue with the manager's substitutions as giving out-of-form players like Noble five minutes even if he was replacing Featherstone who, incidentally, did ok.

There was no point in taking Kitchen off for Kennedy when the game was over. even though we did play five minutes of added time, Even Donaldson was holding up well and the James substitution changed nothing, I think Hignett was just making a show for the sake of it.

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FUNNY OLD GAME



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Sterling Performance


Match report by RUNNING MONKEY



Pools 2 Fylde 2 (National League)
Tuesday 13 August 2019
Victoria Park



I never really expected anything from this game especially after getting beat twice last season from Fylde and they proved to be a good side getting to the play offs last season. Ever the optimist I still predicted a 3-1 win for the home side. As I always do, one day I will get it right.

Two minutes forty-two seconds into the game and sheer delight as Toure collected a ball out wide left of the Rink end goal and hit a belter over the top and into the goal catching the top of the side netting. What a brilliant start it was. I criticised Hignetts set up last week and it looked as if he had it spot on today. Cunningham, Raines, Kerr, and Kitching with Featherstone and Donaldson and Noble in the middle and Mafuta backing up Muir and Toure up front.

We played some good football yet Fylde still looked a threat on the break and probably had the better chances in the first half yet we looked steady in defence and did not panic, just controlled them. Killip got caught up in his own net and struggled to get free and he was in a panic, not sure how the ref would see that? Do you let play go on or stop the game to free the keeper? As it happened he wriggled free with the visitors coming his way. Nico rounded off the first half and was so unlucky to see his belter bounce off the post.

Second half saw Pools sitting too deep and it looked as if we were trying to hold out which would have been madness against such a good footballing side like Fylde, Toure made one of the best runs we have seen in a game at Pools since “Adam was a lad” he took the ball out wide and danced his way through the Fylde defence and left the keeper for dead for his second goal of the game. The three one finish was on the cards. Or even a three nil. I know I should not mention the ref but the Ditchy started it, Kitching was chopped down and we know he has a gangly run but is very effective going forward, he was up-ended out on the line and the feller in the middle waived play on and it led to their first goal.
"this team of battlers held on and could have scored at least twice before the end if only they had had a touch of luck."

Hignett was booked shortly after and we presumed he had taken it up with the fourth official or possibly the Churchillian wave he made at the official may have had something to do with the booking. They scored another soon after and the Pools of old would have capitulated but this team of battlers held on and could have scored at least twice before the end if only they had had a touch of luck.

It was a sterling performance despite the two goals against considering Fylde are one of the favorites to go up. Bring on Bromley.

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Hitting the Ground Losing


Match report by RUNNING MONKEY



Pools 1 Sutton United 3 (National League)
Saturday 3 August 2019
Victoria Park



This season's opener saw a good crowd at Pools, all hoping for a good start. Before the game we were discussing chances for the season and after watching four pre-season games I was really upbeat and predicted a top-three spot for Pools. A good job I am not a betting man, unlike the lady just along from me who has already put a whole pound on Pools to win promotion.

Sadly, by half time I had revised my expectations to mid way in the table. It was sad to watch our lack of enthusiasm and negative play in the first gruelling forty minutes. Two good goals from a very lively BEAUTYMAN were a real set back (who should be in a model's parlour with a name like that, and not on a football field.

People behind the goal criticised our keeper at least for the header but he was nowhere near the first one, and he was never really challenged. We have to wake up as these sides are on the ball and take no prisoners. Despite having rail travel problems - all the Southern Poolies travelling to the game took up all the seats and some of their players had to stand throughout the journey - this was no drawback to Sutton as they ran riot for the first half.

I felt for our young full-back Critchlow-Noble who had a nightmare against a big bustling winger that was an old hand at taking in raw kids. What annoyed me more was that the Pools team left him exposed and gave little help to the lad. The Ditchburn Poolie thought he would not come out second half but Higgy showed good management and kept the lad on until he found his feet and put in some great crosses which must have given him some confidence. As I mentioned before, in the pre-season games he was looking a star.

Kabamba scrambled an effort in late in the half but second half the Sutton game management plan came into play. We saw a lot of this last season with players taking turns to go down holding their heads as once that is done the ref has to stop the game. This was getting monotonous; every time Pools looked to be making some headway Sutton were down on the ground feigning injury. One of the main culprits was their keeper who, when taking kicks had to fiddle with both his shin pads four times and replace the ball another three times, and it took the ref ninety-two minutes to speak to him.
"every time Pools looked to be making some headway Sutton were down on the ground feigning injury"

Young Richardson is developing into a canny player and he was really taken out of the game in a bad way as he followed the ball over the line way down the Millhouse side. Sutton's Jarvis launched into him even though he was off the pitch; the lad limped off and I'm not sure on how bad the injury is.

The visitors were fighting a rear guard action for most of the second half but we just could not break them down as they kept to their game plan. Do we criticise Higgy for his selection? He has injuries but let’s hope today was an experiment and we get it right at Halifax. Not the start we were all hoping for.

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Any Other Business

MERVYN THE MONKEY mops up



Another August gone,

and like in most of the last hundred or so, excited expectation turned quickly to glum realisation that yet again we'd be disappointed, the perennial lot of Poolies. Many of the hundreds of players in Pools' squad seemed to be either already injured or soon would be.

Then things turned around with three wins on the trot and suddenly the excited expectation has made a return. And this time Pools seem to have at last found out how this league works, having learned the unwritten rules that you don't succeed in it without big defenders, fast breakaways ...and gamesmanship.


As a long-exiled Poolie in Southern England,

I've tended to only see Pools either on a rare trip home or when they had equally rare matches near me. Otherwise my following of them has been mainly by accessing what little information I could gather at the time. That in the 1970s meant having the Footy Mail posted to me each week and listening for the night match results on the radio. 

Then when fanzines and the internet came along they opened up new avenues. But then the various websites, including the official club sites and local and national newspapers started cashing in by either charging us fans or bombarding us with ads and so things seemed to go backwards for a while. Match commentary was available for a fee on Pools' club website and also from BBC Tees, but only on a radio somewhere near Teesside.

Sent in by Wallace & Gromit
But this season is a revelation. The Pools match commentary is now free, and the BBC commentary is now on the internet, although that's only available online if Boro aren't playing at the same time. Nevertheless, having a choice of commentaries is a great improvement on watching the BBC website text feed, which, in the National League, if there aren't any goals, bookings or subs could comprise: "Match kicks off. Half time. Match restarts. Full time." Added to that, the Mail and Echo websites are now less aggressively irritating their visitors.

Well done to all involved for keeping us exiled Poolies more in the loop.



Egton

This picture, taken at the Vic 38 years ago this month by Keith Middleton, shows the decrepit old stand  which replaced the one bombed in the First World War, and behind it the Egton, a ship built in Sunderland for which there was never very much work and thus she spent her last 10 years tied up in Hartlepool before being scrapped. 

For younger readers, the row of white letters was a legacy from the days before mobile phones, the internet and even public address systems. A list of matches also being played that day would be printed in the match programme, each identified by a letter, and during the interval each half-time score would be shown next to its appropriate letter, using numbered tiles hung on hooks. How quaint it seems, even tho those of us who remember it!



Like many others I suspect, I remember the Egton just always being there. The only other ship I remember often seeing was the "Boctok 5" (or "Vostok 5" in English characters, named after an early Russian manned spacecraft), a smart Russian ship which used to bring pit-props for the collieries. And as Ditchburn has pointed out, quite a few of those pit-props turned out for Pools.



Bolton and Bury


Announcements were recently made on successive days that Bolton Wanderers had been rescued from winding-up while neighbours Bury were expelled from the league after both had been involved in circumstances with which we are all too familiar.

There remains the suspicion that more effort was put into saving the more famous club.

It seems that, in these days when presidents and prime ministers tell blatant lies and when the Amazon jungle can be deliberately destroyed, all with impunity, the whole world has lost its moral compass. A few little men being allowed to use perfectly legal fiddles to screw over some little football club is now nothing out of the ordinary.
Which one will be next?



And finally...

This was found and submitted by Wallace & Gromit:

Forest Green are a notorious away day in League Two. The Gloucestershire club became the world's first 100% vegan football club in 2017 and while they must be applauded for their environmentally friendly approach, they are wide open for some niche chanting.

The Walsall faithful delivered on Saturday when a visiting Forest Green player was on the deck receiving treatment, singing: "That vegan b*stard, he's eating our grass!"


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Buckle up, Here We Go Again!


BILLY'S CONTRACT




You know, I was really starting to enjoy the close season. Long summer days, Saturdays and the occasional Tuesday evening were now my own, enjoying day trips to Northumberland and North Yorkshire and even The Headland. 

Best of all, excluding the Women's footy, there was no Match of the Day to watch and having to listen to Gary Lineker pontificating about anything and everything with the exception of the taking away of the TV Licence from over 75's. I noticed he did not say anything at all on Twitter about Pepsi closing the Walkers crisp factory down in Peterlee. I was horrified to learn that it would take 11,500 licence fees to pay his annual salary. Don't get me on about Claudia Winkleman or Graham Norton. But I digress.

It has to be said that the back end of May and early June were so relaxing and stress-free for me until Craig Hignett started signing players en masse for Pools. It was even rumoured that at one stage Hignett was looking to sign the entire Gateshead squad. Surprisingly for some, Scott Loach hadn't got the words out of his mouth that he was leaving the club when Ben Killip from Braintree becomes Pools' number one. Suddenly my appetite was re- whetted and I went down to the Vic and ordered my season ticket much earlier than in the past.

I began counting down the days not to when the football season began but when the pre-season matches started. At one point it seemed as if Pools were signing players on an hourly basis. Craig Hignett then stated in the media that he had used up all of the budget that Raj had allocated to his recruitment of new players. Fair enough but then in the next breath the excellent Jason Kennedy puts pen to paper.

Reading between the lines, the number and quality of players that Pools have signed all point to Raj and Craig Hignett having an agenda of making a genuine and realistic attempt of getting Hartlepool United out of this God-forsaken league. Close season I had my doubts, and like many I was once again, not unlike the previous season, more than disappointed when the club announced its retained list as in my view three or four more players should have been released. 

I began to question Pools' ambition for the 2019/20 season as I could not understand why Carl Magnay was apparently offered a new deal. A good player and a nice lad but on his own admission he did not want to play right back any more because of his lack of pace, much preferring to play in a central role, where we already have a surfeit of centre halves. Allied to this is his recent record of injuries which showed that, through no fault of his own, we were only getting half a season out of him. I know it sounds hard but surely freeing up his wage would allow someone else to come into the club. Worst-case scenario financially and from a playing point of view for the club, could possibly have seen both Magnay as well as Luke Williams in the treatment room for most, if not all of the of the season.
"At one point it seemed as if Pools were signing players on an hourly basis."

You could have knocked me sideways and bowled me over backwards when I read in the Mail that a certain midfielder had resigned. However when I re-read the piece I had obviously mistaken 're-signed' for 'resigned'. In light of the number of quality midfielders that we now have in the club I am wondering if Craig Hignett might be regretting his haste in re-signing this player.

Having been on holiday I only managed to get to the Billy Town and Macclesfield pre-season games but out of the new signings the two who have stood out so far are Gus Mafuta and Jason Kennedy. Mafuta has a physical presence. He has pace and something that our midfield has not had in many a year - he's a midfielder who will actually break up attacks as well as bring the ball forward, and he is not afraid of letting his opponents know that he is there. I am surprised that Salford actually let him go. I firmly believe that he will become a crowd favourite in time.

Kennedy only played in the second half of the game against Billy Town but in that short time he controlled the game without running round like a daft Alsatian and was involved with everything. That is called experience and the lad has shed-loads of it. Not once did he lose the ball. He was always available to give and receive a pass and linked up well with Liam Noble, even having a hand in one of the goals.

We seem to have a decent-sized squad blessed with central defenders and midfielders, so much so that when it was announced that Hawkes and Molyneux are likely to be out for the first few games of the new season, instead of that being a crisis, other players seamlessly slot in and take their places, which also offers competition for the shirt and reduces the chances of players feigning injury.

A problem area which looks as if steps have been taken to resolve is that of the man between the sticks. Scotty Loach was a fans' favourite who gave his all for the club but has now moved on. In truth I would have let him go in any event. Despite having the benefit of a goalkeeping coach at the club, the lad would rarely come off his line and preferred to punch a ball out rather than catch it. Loach was probably one of best shot stoppers in the league but in almost every game he would parry the ball back into play in a dangerous area, normally straight into the path of an on rushing opponent, with dire consequences in some cases. It was definitely time for a change. Ben Killip seems very assured but in truth, apart from videos of his time at Braintree, I have only seen him play twice and apart from one save he did not have anything to do in either match.

The left back position since Ritchie left the club has never been suitably filled but R.C Noble, who has signed for the rest of the season from Huddersfield Town, seems capable of addressing the problems in this area. Some of the main attributes needed at National League level are pace, physicality, height and aggression, things that Pools have lacked in abundance for many a season. Hignett seems to have taken this into account and hopefully we will not see Pools bullied, even on home turf, as they so often were last season. It will be good to see Pools dishing it out for a change both physically and vocally - Raynes and Mafuta spring to mind.

Pools also need to be more savvy re opponents' time-wasting and play acting and need to be in the ref's ear more often, in the manner of Liam Noble.

My main area of concern is the forward line as we do not have a natural instinctive goalscorer. Hopefully I am wrong but I am sure that James, Kabamba, Muir and Toure will all chip in but I would be surprised if any of them reach double figures. Once again I think the goals will come via the midfield or, if he is fit, Luke Williams.

You know, it just could be our season.


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FUNNY OLD GAME




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