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Onwards and Upwards


BILLY'S CONTRACT


Yet another month passes and Pools still remain unbeaten for ages and hanging on to the coveted second spot in the National League.

At one point, I think that Torquay had what looked to be a 14 point unassailable lead over Pools and at the time of press, Pools, albeit having played three more games, are now six points clear of the Devon club.

In fairness, I did predict that at some stage Torquay would have a drop in form, which coincided with the loss of their leading goal scorer. I said the same of Sutton but every time the 'U's look like losing a match they always seem to pull a late winner out of the bag. Today against Halifax - two nil down and if it wasn't for a disallowed goal they would have won yet again. I am not sure how many times they have come from behind and secured a point or three and goodness knows how many goals they have scored in the last ten minutes as well as stoppage time.

Sutton are the equivalent of Alex Ferguson's Manchester United and never give up until the final whistle is blown in the 98th minute. There is always hope that they may still stutter as they have a goodly number of games to cram in in a short period and are also involved in the FA Trophy, which might be a distraction.
"A win and a draw will not get Pools out of this league automatically. Draws need to be converted into wins."

Whilst there is only a slight chance of Pools catching Sutton and gaining automatic promotion, the commentator of the Stockport streaming service today was overly optimistic, suggesting that if they beat Pools on the day and Sutton lose at Halifax, County would be in with a good shout of winning the league outright. Yeah, in your dreams perhaps, or maybe next season.

I feel that at times, despite our unbeaten run, Pools have on occasions ridden their luck, even against the likes some of the lesser teams such as part-time Woking, who could and should have, by their second-half display, easily taken all three points at the Vic. That said, even the most successful teams can suffer a visit from Lady Luck.

My main worry about Pools, Luke Armstrong aside, is that despite dominating many games for long periods, we are not scoring enough goals and seem to keep supporters on the edge of their seats by hanging on to a one-nil lead. I would like to see someone playing up front alongside Armstrong to share some of the load.

Another concern is that if Armstrong picks up a long-term injury or Salford won't allow him to play in the playoffs, where are the goals going to come from as we do not have another natural goal scorer in the squad. Once again the midfield would have to take up the mantle.

All eyes rightly look on Luke Armstrong's goal-scoring exploits, and where would we be without them? Certainly not in a playoff position.

The player that has stood out for me and transformed the side is Gary Liddle. I think the best compliment I can give him is that when he came back from injury our defence improved at a stroke. Our back line is playing more as a disciplined unit and keeps its shape when he is in the side. He is playing with an enthusiasm that belies his years and this is rubbing off on those alongside him, particularly Ryan Johnson, whose game is looking more assured.

I like the way Liddle carries the ball out from the back and into midfield thus freeing up and taking some of the pressure off Nicky Featherstone who has in recent weeks been man-marked by many of our opponents. It is no coincidence that in 15 starts he has never been on the losing side. Another who I hope that we can keep injury free.

Despite one glaring error that cost a goal, Ben Killip has improved during the campaign. Of late he is catching crosses instead of punching them out into no man's land and when called into action has made several outstanding as well as match-winning saves which cannot do his confidence any harm.

An area where Pools need to get their act together is their away form which in the main consists of draws. At this time of lockdown, with empty stadiums, I fail to see how any club cannot play in the same manner as they do at home at an away fixture with no crowd. A win and a draw will not get Pools out of this league automatically. Draws need to be converted into wins.

Given that Sutton are champions-elect, the team I fear most is Notts County who, despite being eleven points behind Pools, have six* games in hand. Surely they cannot win them all. I wonder if secret agent Kenton Richardson, who has joined County on loan from Sunderland, can assist Pools in their quest to get out of this God-forsaken league.

Chesterfield are another dark horse.

Pools need to keep picking up points. There is nothing they can do about the results of rivals who are also chasing a playoff spots, though a goodly number have yet to play each other.

One thing in Pools' favour is that the likes of Torquay, Stockport and Wrexham, who are placed directly behind Pools, have all had to forfeit 3 points through no fault of their own because of the Dover fiasco.

* Written before Notts helped Pools' cause by losing at home to Aldershot.

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I'm Getting Very Worried


WORRIED POOLIE FROM SHEFFIELD




We haven't been in this situation for a number of years but I am definitely getting very worried that this team is on the cusp of doing something worthwhile.

The play offs are an almost certainty and a top 3 finish would be more than I could have hoped for after watching the 0 - 5 thrashing by Torquay.


Dave Challinor seemed to me, at the beginning, to be uncertain of his best eleven and formation but after the Torquay game he signed Armstrong and changed to a 5 - 3 - 2 formation. He also fielded a settled side and the major stroke has been to play Oates (whose signing I doubted) up front. Let's hope we no longer see a striker up front on his own again. I know he has his critics but Featherstone has been outstanding.

The team is by no means perfect but I think Challinor (our best signing for years) knows this and is aware of what needs doing. I think we need cover at left back and another striker but what I like about the team is when a regular is missing for whatever reason, we seem to have someone who can slot into the team straight away.
"However, at this time of the season, I'll take 1 - 0 victories every time."

I think we miss too many chances and the front two need other players to step up and add a few goals to the tally. However, at this time of the season, I'll take 1 - 0 victories every time. I also think someone will get a hammering from us one day when every chance will be converted.

My two fears are losing out on goal difference or getting to Wembley and the fans not being able to go. Let's hope my fears are unfounded.

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FUNNY OLD GAME




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Our Best for Years


WAGGA MOON


As we spring into April and the world is beginning to look a better place Covid-wise, Pools sit second in the league table and are looking an excellent bet for the play-offs. Things are on the up.

Although automatic promotion is looking a tough call with Sutton going so strongly, not so long ago it was Torquay well out in front but they have certainly found a few bumps in the road. At the present time the league looks like Sutton's to lose with a four-point lead and games in hand but we just have to keep winning games and hope for the best, not forgetting we have to play them before the end of the season.

What we have discovered this season is that we have the right manager in charge after some of the flotsam we had before Raj Singh got it right in appointing him and let us hope we can keep him at the club for some considerable time.

We have a decent looking squad with perhaps a more attacking midfielder, speedy striker and cover at left back the only additions needed to turn a decent squad into a really good one. I am still not convinced by our captain Donaldson and stand-in captain Xavi who are definitely weak links in the team. For the life of me I can't understand why Xavi gets a game in place of Tom White who looks a real prospect.
"The sooner we get out of this tinpot league the better. Let's hope Dave and the boys can make it this season."

Ben Killip in goal divides opinion and we are always likely to concede from a corner as he stays rooted to his line, giving big attackers the perfect opportunity to head home. Granted, he is a tidy shot-stopper but his lack of height is a big problem. I would prefer Heinrich Rivas, who is a big item, to be in goal and come and clean out attackers from corners and crosses into the area.

I see Dover finally got punished for calling off fixtures. 12 points deduction and a £40,000 fine although I would like to know how a club that is skint will pay a fine of that size.

The way this whole situation has been handled says it all about this jumpers-for-goalposts league. The sooner we get out of this tinpot league the better. Let's hope Dave and the boys can make it this season.

Do good to see Luke Williams back in a Pools shirt and lets hope he can stay fit for the rest of the season and weigh in with a few goals. One player who has proved a few people wrong this season is Rhys Oates. There were quite a few groans when we re-signed him last summer. But he seems to have found his level in this league and his pace is a big problem for opposition defenders. He is never going to be a consistent goal scorer but he gives 100 per cent effort and now and again will come up with a special goal. Definitely a good man to have in the squad.

Talking of squad players I think Mason Bloomfield has been badly under-used. Not the most elegant of strikers, he can be a real nuisance and a problem for opposition defenders and make chances for the rest of the team. Likewise Claudio Ofusu, who has been out of the picture for a long while but came on as a substitute against Stockport County. He is a very good option to bring on late on in the game with his tricks and extra pace - definitely one to call on if we need a late goal.

With the season coming into its final phase it's now time for one final push and let's see if Sutton can hold their nerve.

Come on you Pools!

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A Grand Day Out


BILLY'S CONTRACT


Can you imagine waking up after a 12 year sleep (6 pints of Brewdog Punk should do the trick) and the first thing you do is pick up the recent newspaper beside your bed and seek out the sports section.

You could be forgiven for looking at the league table (below) and, apart from thinking that Sutton is a misprint for Southend, you would naturally believe that you were looking at the top of the League One table.


Regrettably this is not the case and as we all know it's the current state of play in the National League. It makes sad reading indeed, for seven previously proud, established Football League clubs to be lying and rotting in this God-forsaken league which is full of cheats, time-wasters and third-rate referees who give the word incompetence a bad name.

My blood boils when I see some of the teams which have now replaced these 'proper' clubs in the Football League hierarchy, such as the likes of loads-of-money Salford, Wycombe, Cheltenham, Stevenage, Forest Green and the mighty Crawley Town.
"I would only expect to play these teams in the first round of the FA Cup."

To my perverted way of thinking, I would only expect to play these teams in the first round of the FA Cup. Sadly, the boot is now on the other foot. My worst nightmare would be for Pools to be drawn away to Harrogate Town in the first round of the Cup and in their match day programme I can imagine the editor referring to the visitors as being "plucky, non-league Hartlepool."

In the cold light of day the reality is that the Salfords, Cheltenhams et al are where they are on merit and the likes of Pools, Stockport and Chesterfield are also where they are on merit ...or poor bloody uselessness.

The reader might have noticed that I haven't included Morecambe and Fleetwood in this tirade. I have no gripes at all about these two former stalwarts of the non-league scene now being in the Football League. Basically they are both relatively Northern and handy to get to. A nice, scenic trip along the A66. Both nice little towns. Good fish and chips and some nice pubs. And in Wallace-and-Gromit speak "A grand day out."

I have no problems at all with Barrow being a bona fide League club either as, apart from being a nice drive out, I can remember the days when they were a bona fide Football League club.

There could be an argument for incorporating the National League into the Football League and it becoming League Three. If nothing else this would remove the stigma of Pools and other fallen giants being non-league clubs.

Similarly much the same thought could be given to putting a Honda badge (or that of any other Japanese marque) on to the front of a French car. Deceiving, but it still won't work.

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FUNNY OLD GAME




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Over for Dover -
OK for Pools


DARREN KNOWLES' TASH


We're about to enter the final two months of another season, another season which has had its fair share of high and lows. Pools are still in the big picture as regards promotion but it all proved to be over for National League rivals Dover Athletic.

I'm not going to go into the finer details but I'm so happy that Pools have a chairman like we do in Raj. Even though there are no massive amounts of cash to splurge on players, Raj has backed DC when he needed it. That speaks volumes to me and should resonate with all my fellow Poolies. I mean Paddy Madden, who scored against us last Saturday, allegedly cost County a quarter of million. At this level, that's crazy money.

Back briefly to the chairman situation, Raj is proving to be astute and doing things the right way. Sure Raj had a bumpy ride when down the A66, but he's learned from that and is slowly making Pools a marketable commodity. I mean you only have to look at the recently announced sponsorship deals that the club made. Impressive work. As chairman, Raj is certainly proving to be my proverbial cup of tea at present. Harold Hornsey will always be my favourite Pools chairman but Raj - you ain't doing too bad son either!
"Now if we could only turn some of those away draws into wins then things would be even better"

Results wise, Pools are picking up the points still and staying in contention. They're sandwiched between both Sutton and Torquay, and whilst these clubs have matches in hand, they have to make them count. While it's good to be in that kind of position, if you fail to make them count then they're no use to anyone.

Pools have been solid at home and they always say good home form can certainly underpin a challenge for honours. It's certainly been better than any of the previous recent seasons. Now if we could only turn some of those away draws into wins then things would be even better but we ain't doing too bad. One point is always better than none.

How we end up this season will determine how the squad will shape up next. If we go up, and I really hope this is going to happen, then there's a chance we might be able to keep hold of both Sterry and Armstrong. Both are, and admit it yourself, too good for the National League. They'll slip into Football League football effortlessly as they've got that quality. I'm sure DC is already pre-planning for 2021-22 even now - all managers prepare for all eventualities. Pools have never played at Wembley, so a nice bit of history may beckon.

Keep believing the dream can happen. A spot of optimism never harms anybody - right?

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A Great Read


JANE AUSTEN'S ALLEGRO


In the early nineties a friend loaned me a copy of Harry Pearson's The Far Corner. At first I declined it as it was predominantly all about North-East non-league football which in truth I had no interest in but he pointed out that there was a chapter dedicated to each of the North East's league teams, including Hartlepool.

I can say it is the funniest book on football that I have ever read. I have read and re-read it on numerous occasions and still find it hilarious. His description of Skeddy is class.

At one match his attention is taken away by an obnoxious, foul-mouthed youth stood directly behind him on the terracing with badly self-inflicted tattoos on his arms, snot coming out of his nose, cuts and bruises on his arms and hands and the worse case of acne he had ever seen. To top it all off he had several love bites around his neck. The match in question was all but forgotten about with the author thinking "What sort of person in what sort of mindset would 'neck' with this person?"

Over the years I have purchased three copies of The Far Corner which I have let my friends borrow, none of which I ever saw again as they in turn were loaned out to their friends and never returned.

Almost twenty five years later the follow up book The Farther Corner has been published. Needless to say, upon receipt I devoured it and made a bee-line to the chapter about his visit to the Pools v Salford match which, again, was side-splitting. He also makes reference to the Pools v Blyth cup match some seasons earlier, about two lads who ran onto the pitch in mankinis being chased in hot pursuit by an overweight steward and a six foot monkey waving a banana over his head.
"...as Harry Pearson said, "Something always happens at a Hartlepool match." "

I think it was even funnier as I, having been at this particular match, had forgotten all about the incident but, as Harry Pearson said, "Something always happens at a Hartlepool match."

He also refers to the train journey from Sunderland to Hartlepool, presumably on a Pacer train, as "The Durham Riveria Express". Priceless.

This book follows very much the same pattern as The Far Corner with many interesting potted facts about the teams featured and their towns. By all accounts Tow Law's ground is the highest above seal level in England and as such, the coldest. One of the club's directors once cited that at one match you couldn't see the snow falling because of the fog!

The only criticism I have of the book is that when the author, who is well-travelled and has written other books (Racing Pigs and Giant Marrows) on the North East, he refers to Aycliffe fans as being Teesciders. The last time I looked (about one minute ago), Aycliffe was nearly 14 miles from the River Tees. I cannot imagine anyone from Aycliffe wanting to be called a Teescider.

However, several chapters later, the Pearson atones for himself by painting a picture, much like The Scream, of the town of his birth. Middlesbrough.

The Farther Corner is an excellent read for those with a sarcastic and cynical sense of of life. It goes without saying that I will be reading this book again in a few months' time and if anyone want to borrow it ...they know where the library is!

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FUNNY OLD GAME




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A Close Shave


BILLY'S CONTRACT



Monkey Business continues its quest of helping our readers by making everyday savings to effectively acquire their 2021/22 season ticket for free. Don't believe us? Read on...

The following should be read aloud to loud, cheesy K.Tel record type music with a shouty ad man reading the script (A Saul Goodman type from Breaking Bad or Donald Trump would be ideal.)

Men, as well as women (MB is not a misogynist publication), why not grow a beard?

No more expensive razor blades, shaving foam or after shave to pay for, and for those with a water meter, think of the lower water usage which means smaller bills (but job losses at Hartlepool Water Company.)

Just for a moment consider the double 'savings on shaving'. Not only are you saving £££££££s but you are also saving the planet by consuming less water every morning.
"For those without central heating just think of the cost savings on sea-coal."

The obvious benefit of having a beard is it will keep your face warm in the winter months which means that you will be able to turn your central heating down a notch or two, thus once again saving on heating bills and doing your bit for mankind/womankind and the environment.

For those without central heating just think of the cost savings on sea-coal.

I estimate that a beard worn for twelve months would save the wearer in excess of £100.

Over the last three editions of M.B. we have shown readers how they can make massive savings on consumer goods and services on a grand scale to such a point that Poolies should now be able to cover the cost of a 2021/22 standing season ticket as well as a pie and two pints of lager and a lottery ticket.

As Oscar Wilde once said: 'All of us are in the gutter but some of us are looking up at the stars', which roughly translated means: Why be content to be standing on the terraces at the Vic when we can aim for the executive boxes?

Let's see what further savings we can make for you loyal Poolie fans. Same time, same channel next month for more gross* savings.

* We don't want them to be too gross, though - this is a family publication - Ed.

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A Load of Old Bull


BILL THE BIRO


This month I've been going through my box of old programmes and come up with one from 41 years ago at Hereford United's Edgar Street.

Over the years that has often been one of the closest grounds to where I live and so I've done that 60-mile trip many times, including twice when the match was postponed before I got there - in fact for one, before I'd even set off, but that taught me a lesson!

The match in question was in March 1980 when Hereford had been a league club for only seven seasons. I don't know if they still do it with my not having needed to go there in years, but their mascot wasn't a man in a Hereford bull suit, but a real bull, which was led around the pitch. I can't remember if they had any arrangements for dealing with cow-pats though - or should that be bull-pats?

Pools, managed by Billy Horner in one of his many stints managing Pools, were mid-table in Division 4 at the time and Hereford 5th bottom. Pools lost 2-1, with Derek Hampton scoring, and Pools finished the season 2 places above the bottom 4 which was then still the re-election zone, while Hereford (and Darlington) both had to go begging for another season as a League club.

G.SMITH, M.FAGAN, M.LAWRENCE, B.AYRE, G.RICHARDSON, T.RAMSHAW, K.HOUCHEN, G.LARKIN, D.LOADWICK, M.MADDREN, W.GOLDTHORPE, M.GORRY, M.OMANI, J.LINACRE, P.STAFF, Manager W.HORNER, D.NORTON, D.DUNCAN, G.NORMANTON, R.HOGAN.

After a poor start to the season Hartlepool have gradually climbed the table and can look forward to the remaining weeks of the current campaign without the usual re-election worries.

At the end of April last year it looked as though they were booked for a place in the bottom four when they went 16 games without a win but they won five of their last six games in May to finish in 13th position.

Nevertheless they hold the rather dubious distinction of applying for re-election more times than any other team in the competition since the formation of the Fourth Division in 1948. They have finished in the bottom four on nine occasions and have only managed to claim a place in the top half of the table three times.

lt has been a struggle for manager Billy Horner since he took over the reins at Victoria Park in November 1976 but he is confident that better days are on the way and those views are shared by the Hartlepool Board.

In fact this week it was reported that he had been offered a new seven-year contract when chairman Vince Barker stated “It shows how highly we rate him. He is one of the best managers in the game."

Overshadowed throughout their existence by neighbours Newcastle United and Middlesbrough, the Hartlepool club have known more of life's struggles than successes and have only once gained promotion.

That was when they finished third to Luton Town and Barnsley in 1968 but they lasted only one season in the Third Division although only 10 teams in the section lost fewer games. But they finished in the bottom four due to a total of 19 draws.

The Pool have seldom managed to make their mark in cup competitions and have only once reached the fourth round of the F.A. Cup in their 72 years history.

MARTIN BURLEIGH. Goalkeeper. Joined Hartlepool from Darlington for a £10,000 fee in September. He started his career with Newcastle United with whom he played 11 games and in between two spells with Darlington he played for Carlisle. He has totted up over 150 league appearances.

ALAN SWEENEY. Defender. He made 66 league appearances with Huddersfield Town before going non-league with Yorkshire League club Emley last season after the Terriers had turned down a £70,000 bid from Coventry City for his signature. Hartlepool signed him on a free transfer.

DAVE NORTON. Defender. A product of local Newcastle football he made his league debut for Hartlepool last season when he made 11 appearances for the club.

MIKE FAGAN. Defender. Signed by Hartlepool in August after spells with Newcastle United and Carlisle but he did not make his debut for the club until last month when Hartlepool drew with league leaders Walsall.

BILL AYRE. Defender. He won an F.A. Challenge Trophy medal at Wembley with Scarborough before joining Hartlepool the season before last when he finished with an ever- present record. Last term he missed only a handful of games.

GEORGE SMITH. Defender. Made over 400 league appear- ances during service with Barrow, Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Birmingham City, Cardiff City and Swansea City and is now in his third season with Hartlepool.

MARTIN FOWLER. Midfield. Joined Hartlepool on loan last week from Blackburn Rovers. He made 73 appearances with Huddersfield Town and had a spell on loan with Norwich City before linking up with Blackburn, with whom he has played 34 league games.

JOHN LINACRE. Midfield. Son of former Manchester City and Hartlepool winger Billy Linacre, he is in his second spell with the club, rejoining them three years ago from Whitby Town. Hartlepool turned down a £75,000 offer from Rotherham for his signature last summer.

KEITH HOUCHEN. Forward. Joined the club from local league football three years ago. He was the Pool's top marksman with a dozen goals last season.

BOB NEWTON. Forward. He was recruited from Huddersfield Town with whom he made 42 league appearances. He netted 11 league and cup goals last term and has claimed 13 this term. Hartlepool rate him at £150,000 and have already turned down an £80,000 bid.

ALAN HARDING. Forward. He scored 38 goals in 129 matches for Darlington and netted the same number in 209 games with Lincoln City from whom he was signed last year for a £5,000 fee.

DEREK HAMPTON. Forward. A late-comer to the Football League scene Derek, aged 26, was signed from Whitby Town in November and marked his debut by scoring at Lincoln. He has netted five goals this term.

Any Other Business


MERVYN THE MONKEY mops up



Well, another month passes and Pools are still second in the league. And for once their points-per-game ratio also puts them second too, so a top-three finish looks more feasible than it has since that fantastic start to the season petered out.

We Poolies of course will believe it when we see it, having been let down so often before. And with this season having shown how things can go awry when key players are missing, it will be crucial to avoid losing the likes of not only Featherstone, Liddle, Armstrong and Oates, but also most of the regular players as well, whether to injury or suspension.



This picture was found on the back of a clipping about something else entirely. (apologies for the creases - it's been folded for a long time!)

It shows Brian Clough and Peter Taylor making a presentation to Pools' then-chairman, John Curry, on the occasion of their leaving to manage Derby County in 1967.

The item being presented was a table lighter. I wonder if anyone still makes table lighters, or have they gone the way of VHS video recorders and non-cordless kettles?



I don't know if others have found the same, but as someone who tends to stand close to the pitch at the Vic (and you don't have an alternative at some of the other National League stadiums), watching the streamed matches has been a revelation.

Camera positions are usually up high, often higher than any viewpoint available to spectators, giving a better overall view of the play, and especially of the midfield passing. Here you get a better view of the interplay between the midfield players, making, for example, the perfectly-placed long pass more obvious and makes one wonder if that's a contributory factor in why some players' skills aren't always appreciated.

Perhaps the answer is that the Pools-type passing game needs to be viewed from a high vantage point from where you can better see the options each player has when making his pass, whereas the size of gaps available for passes can't so easily be judged from the side or rear.

When next I'm in the Vic I think I'll stand a bit further back - and up!




Front Page

Ready for the Big Push


WAGGA MOON



Moving into March in third position in the league with a visit to the leaders tomorrow, Pools are in a super position to make it a successful season.

Whilst playing at far from our best, our home form is superb and a small improvement in our away form would have us well and truly in the mix. Assuming the season will be allowed to run its course this is our best opportunity for years to do something positive.

Credit to Dave Challinor for assembling a half decent squad on very little money. Compared to some of the previous bozos who have owned and managed the club he is like a breath of fresh air to be running the club professionally and getting a bit of success with it.

His recent dips into the loan market in Lewis Cass, Jamie Sterry and Luke Armstrong have been brilliant signings and have a lot to do with how well the team is doing. However for all the up sides there have to be downsides and they are Ben Killip and Gavan Holohan. Killip has surely exhausted his first team opportunities with staying rooted to his line as a cross comes in to an opposition striker with the inevitable result. Or he will run out flapping and be knocked out of the way of the ball. He might be adequate as a shop stopper but is a liability always likely to cost us a goal. And to Holohan who has been off the pace for the last six games and his shooting is atrocious with numerous gilt-edged chances squandered. He doesn't seem at it for some reason and it is definitely time for him to warm the bench.
"While the point at The Shay was very welcome it should have been three and Manager Challinor said as much after the game."

Another loan signing, Tom White, brought in to cover for the injured Xavi, has done well in midfield although it is too early to judge him. But he is definitely promising so much that we hardly missed the little fat feller with his injury. Except for all the sideways and back passes that he likes so much.

Luke Johnson missed the Halifax game with injury but he has been a rock in our defence this season. Fortunately we have Cass, Liddle and Odusina in central defence all up to the job. While the point at The Shay was very welcome it should have been three and manager Challinor said as much after the game. The chances we created and failed to finish could be very costly at the end of the season, especially with Sutton United on such a good run and with games in hand.

Tomorrow's game at Torquay gives a chance to rein in the leaders and we certainly owe them one for the five-goal drubbing they gave us at the Vic in front of the TV cameras. Torquay may be without Danny Wright who netted a hat-trick first time around and is recovering from a long-term injury.

The Dover situation is still to be addressed with them threatening not to play any more games. Whether this will result in their relegation and their record being expunged remains to be seen.

But we can't rely on outside influences and if we are to go up we have got to do it for ourselves but with the squad we have I think we are capable of doing it.

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The Plumber


BILLY'S CONTRACT


I appreciate that football is a team game but where would Pools be if we they hadn't signed Luke Armstrong, the fox in the box? I would prefer if his parents had given him the first name of Jack so we could call him the Jack in the Box.

To date he has scored nine times in thirteen matches which is some going. His nickname should be The Plumber for all his tap-ins.

It is not only his goals but his work rate and closing down of defenders which is also a major part of his game, forcing them into mistakes, taking a weight off our midfield and making space for our other forwards. The big debate is about whether he will be with us next season.

First obstacle is that he has another year of his contract to run at Salford so they would expect to command a transfer fee but even a nominal one might be out of Pools' reach. Wages could be another factor as Salford pay generously. Could Pools match his existing package or get anywhere near it? I would be delighted but surprised if they could.
Could Pools match his existing package or get anywhere near it? I would be delighted but surprised if they could.

In Pools' favour, Armstrong is enjoying his spell at the club and has a smile on his face. He has oft been quoted as saying that he is keen to come back to the North East, which would suggest that he would like to play for a club nearer to home.

Obviously Sunderland and Newcastle are out of the equation as are Darlow, who are further down the ladder than Pools. And who would want to play for their Dad? Would Carlisle be a step too far for him football-wise? Perhaps even more so if they moved up a level to League One.

The only other contender in my view would be Harrogate Town who could be prepared to pay for his services. The pros for Armstrong for a move to Harrogate are that they have the resources to match his current wages and they are in the Football League. The cons: Although not a million miles away from the Tyne and Wear area, driving up and down to Harrogate every day would be a bit of a chore - losing three hours a day of your life behind the steering wheel of a car.

There is the remote possibility that Pools might be a Football League club themselves next season and even if they were still in the National League, surely a player would prefer to play in front of a passionate crowd double that of The Sulphurites.

Ultimately, much like Liam Noble, it could all boil down to money and who could blame the lad if he could earn more elsewhere and secure his future for a life after football?

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FUNNY OLD GAME




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