Is the End Nearly Nigh?


What’s going to happen to the rest of the season? That’s what is taxing the minds of Poolies as we contemplate issues such as promotion, relegation and play-offs. 

The National League seem determined to see the season out but I have my doubts as to whether there will be any more games this campaign. Its all based on geography – there are eleven clubs located in London and the South East and it's this region which is the worst affected with coronavirus - over one third of the cases and more than one half of hospital admissions. It's therefore going to take a lot longer for the game down there to get back to normal. And is it possible to contemplate a play-off final at Wembley?

As I see it, Barrow should be automatically promoted to League Two. They’ve led the league for most of the season and I’d be delighted to see them promoted. They failed to gain re-election at the end of the 1971-72 season – losing their league status to Hereford United (what happened to them?). Its been a long 48 years and they’ve done their fans proud by keeping the flag flying.
"Overall, the game is in a state of crisis. How many clubs will go to the wall is anyone’s guess."

The play-offs are more difficult to resolve. Might be more difficult to justify Harrogate Town getting the second promotion spot – so get your thinking caps on National League Management Committee.

The four relegation spots are presently occupied by Ebbsfleet United, Maidenhead, Fylde and Chorley. And surely, there’s one club there that sticks out like a sore thumb and its Ebbsfleet. Our last home game was a bad advertisement for the game with most of the trouble being instigated by the Kentish visitors with time wasting, niggling and a mass brawl after the final whistle. I saw the game from the Cyril Knowles Stand and never heard any racist comments. Yes, there were chants of "Cheats, Cheats, Cheats" and whilst I didn’t join in I sure agreed with those sentiments. Its not the first time Ebbsfleet have been involved in on-field problems and I, for one, would be delighted to see them relegated. If they do escape the drop, then I would like to see Poolies boycott the away game down there next season. Assuming around two hundred Poolies attended the game at £20 a throw then that’s £4,000 they’d lose. Serves them right. I know a lot of London and South East Poolies would be disappointed but let’s hit them where it hurts – in the pocket.

Overall, the game is in a state of crisis. How many clubs will go to the wall is anyone’s guess. I’m no stranger to long periods of inactivity. I’m old enough to remember the 1962/63 season when we had almost three months without football. The season was extended by a month, the FA Cup draw had to be suspended and husbands got under their wives’ feet or were dragged round shops. The game coped but can it do so this time? The game changer this time is that football is a prisoner of money generated by television. It was always a high-risk strategy and the suspension of the game through coronavirus might see a number of clubs going out of business. Some clubs have acted swiftly and a large number of players have willingly accepted wage cuts but not all and we’ll see if the chickens come home to roost.

Hopefully, Pools will emerge from the crisis and the fact that government help may be forthcoming might ease the pain. Forget about the end of April – it might not restart for a long time. If at all.

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Searching for something worthwhile to do in these difficult times I decided to put a shelf up in the garage. 

In doing so it meant moving what can be best described as a heavy-duty woodworking cabinet which my father-in-law made for me many years ago, and a top-notch job to be fair. As such, to lighten the load, I had to empty its contents, consisting of box upon box of photographs and as you do, you start delving into them and naturally the job in hand takes second place. 

I was sifting through some footy photos when I randomly came across a Manchester City ticket stub for the third round FA Cup tie against Marine or Hartlepool, dated the 3rd of January 1976, just three months before my 21st birthday. Price of the ticket: one pound. What can you buy at a football ground for a pound these days?

At the time of printing the ticket it hadn't being decided who would play Manchester City as the Pools v Marine replay had yet to take place. When the draw for the second round of the cup was made we hadn't a clue where Marine was until the coach landed us in Merseyside. I vaguely recollect it was my first visit to a non-league ground and and I was suitably impressed as in my ignorance I was expecting to see jumpers for goalposts and having to have a pee behind a tree in a bucket.

Pools' record against non-league clubs at the time was not good * and for most of the match Marine had Pools on the back foot. I am pretty certain Bobby Scaife salvaged Pools' pride by getting the equaliser in a one-all draw. In truth the biggest cheer of the day was reserved for the return journey home when we were listening to the draw for the third round of the FA Cup and heard the clipped tones of a BBC announcer revealing that Manchester City will play Marine or Hartlepool. The noise on the coach was incredible with everyone jumping up and down and cheering.

Two days later the replay at the Vic saw Pools run out 6-3 winners. The score looks pretty emphatic but it was a lot closer than the the result might suggest. Again my memory isn't clear but I am sure at it was three all at one stage and that Marine had for a time been in the lead, perhaps on a couple of occasions.
"By the way, I want that paper back later as I haven't finished reading it!"

I think it was a case of two games in two days that did for Marine. Mally Moore with a hat trick, Kevin Johnson, John Rowland and Bobby Scaife (once again) were the scorers in front of a very impressive crowd of just over 5,600 fans. That was it; we were off to Maine Road the following Saturday.

On the big day I headed off to West with my ticket (pictured) in my hand to meet up with my mate whose other team just happened to be Manchester City. We met at Museum Road which was filled from top to bottom with Bee-line coaches, parked up nose to tail. Come to think of it there were more coaches parked outside the ABC cinema and further up Raby Road. Looking back, Pools must have hired their entire fleet. On the way down, our coach was the first to arrive in a services area. We were greeted by a group of Man. United fans, who started on our group by taking the mickey and looking for some 'chew'. However when they saw all the other Poolie coaches pulling in they soon changed their tune, particularly when they realised that we were playing their (then) biggest rivals. Strange how on the day both Manchester clubs were playing at home. (United had Oxford in the Cup).

The Poolie convoy arrives at the services area.
Whatever became of Beggs Coaches of Middlesbrough?

Not sure if that would happen these days - not so much for any trouble that may arise but I doubt if the TV companies would allow it. Two things stand out for me from the journey down to Lancashire. My Mam, God bless her, had put up a flask of my favourite soup for me. Heinz Tomato. (N.B. Heinz Chicken was only administered if you you had a cold). For the record it was the first time I had taken soup from a flask but whether or not it had reacted with the inner workings of the flask, it tasted rank and I have never had tomato soup since. Whenever I see Heinz Tomato it always brings back that day to me.

Not long before we reached Maine Road, a Poolie a few seats in front of us said he was feeling sick. The driver shouted "Would someone give him a newspaper so he can be sick into it and not mess up the seats." His mate a couple of seats in front of him promptly gave the lad his copy of the Sun and he instantly 'upchucked' into it. On his way back to the seat his mate said "By the way, I want that paper back later as I haven't finished reading it!" Thank goodness the coach was near its destination as it absolutely 'honked' inside.

The match itself ended in a comfortable six-nil win for a full-strength Manchester City but it is mainly remembered by most Poolies, not for the result or the fact that they had, as ever, outshouted the home crowd, but for Dennis Tueart and George Potter both being sent off. Tueart head-butted Potter in retaliation for an earlier foul committed on him and in the process fractured Potter's cheekbone. Potter was actually sent off while he was being carried from the field of play on a stretcher. To add insult to injury, my mate showed me a Manchester City scarf that he had concealed about his person. 

Checking the record books, I find that after the City result Pools went on a 13 game run without a win and had it not been for a late run of  unexpected average form (Barry Endean getting some vital goals) they would have had to once again go "cap in hand" to the Football League and apply for re-election.  As it happens they left that for the following season but that is another story!

 * did it ever improve? Ed.

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Sound Advice


Lockdown shutdown - let Monkey Business give you a few ideas for how to pass the time without leaving the sofa:

Anybody watch The English Game, the six part drama on Netflix? 
Basically it is Downton Abbey with a bit of Call the Midwife thrown in ...and football!
It is loosely based on Darwen/Blackburn Rovers trying their best to win the FA Cup against all the chicanery of the likes of Eton and Harrow, who not only run the game but genuinely believe that working class oiks from Lancashire and the North should not be allowed to participate in the gentleman's game and stick to looking after trouble at t'mill.

The storyline is pretty predictable in its format and like most dramas, some dramatic licence has being taken to keep the viewers' interest (out of curiosity I later checked the goal scorers of one particular match featured and it certainly wasn't the two lead characters). Newly-formed Darlington, no less, actually get two mentions. That said it was enjoyable enough and passed away six hours of a dull day.

Nothing to do with football but one to watch on Youtube to cheer you up, I can highly recommend One Man, Two Guv'nors with James Corden. 
We saw the pre-recorded National Theatre West End show at the cinema last year and at times we were dying laughing. The actor who played the waiter in the second part of the play destroyed me. Gave a whole new meaning to laugh out loud.
"...working class oiks from Lancashire and the North should not be allowed to participate in the gentleman's game and stick to looking after trouble at t'Mill."

Previously I had never seen James Corden in anything, more so as I have not watched Gavin and Stacey. Come to think of it, I probably get out too much, as apart from commercials I must be the only person in the U.K who has yet to see Ant and Dec in anything either. What exactly is it that they do? I have got to say that Corden was excellent and worked his socks off all the time that he was on stage. He never once stood still during the whole performance.

 It is on the Youtube National Theatre website and is available from 2nd April for seven days at 7pm, after which it will be replaced by a different production each week.

Money Money Money

I read that Manchester City have back-tracked and are now going to pay all the people who work behind the scenes their wages in full until the end of the season. Talk about Big Hearted Arthur. One of the richest clubs in the world and by its standards it is penny pinching. It is beyond belief when you think that less than half of Raheem Sterling's weekly wage would more than cover that outlay.

Today Gordon Taylor is fighting for Premiership footballers' wages not to be cut by their clubs during the coronavirus pandemic. What planet is he on? I could understand it if he was putting his efforts into supporting the lowly-paid players in the lower leagues or matchstick-selling girls. It is times like this that I dislike football and those that run it with a passion.

On the other hand it was heartening to hear that Joe Cole has donated £25k to a particular department within the NHS, whilst Gary Neville has thrown open the doors of his hotels in Manchester, offering accommodation free of charge to nursing staff, or a place they can stay if their partners have self-isolated after contracting the virus. Fair play to Joe and Gary and any other footballer who is making a contribution to society. Football and in particular the Premiership should lead by example and offer something back to the people and the communities affected. Even if they purchased a handful of ventilators for the NHS it would be a small step in the right direction.

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[Recycled from Bizz no. 44 of November 1998]

"Does anyone remember Frank Pimblett?" was the question in MB No 43. 
I certainly don't and if no one else does, going solely on the information in Rothmans, his career probably went something like this:

Frank "Pimblers" Pimblett was born in Liverpool next door but one to Cilla Black, so the family soon moved to Knotty Ash. It was here that he developed his love for footie. From the school team he was signed by Mersey Celtic and then New Brighton. Eventually he turned professional and signed for Aston Villa, but it was then his problems began.

When he arrived in Birmingham, Pimblers had never been further south than Everton and he could not understand a word any of them said. Likewise they had great difficulty in making out anything he muttered.
“Me and everyone else in Liverpool talks like the Queen," he protested.
"What you mean is," said the Villa manager, "You run with the ball like the Queen."

After only 9 first team appearances, he was promptly loaned out to Newport County. Newport County played on a muddy field down in Welsh Wales, where it rained every day of the year except the first three days in May when it snowed. Their style of play was a mixture of high punted rugby kicks and water polo, and yet again Pimblers could not understand a word anyone said.
"Newport County played on a muddy field down in Welsh Wales, where it rained every day of the year except the first three days in May when it snowed."

The manager got around this problem by training him with sheepdog calls. "Come by here" meant run round the opposition and head for goal, and "Stay" meant get back and help out the defence. When his first match day arrived he was surprised to see 5 tractors. a donkey and a muck-spreader outside the ground.
"It looks like a farm sale." he said, but was told not to be rude about the home team's transport.

Pimblers was beginning to enjoy himself and had played for Newport 7 times when the manager whistled him into the office.
"Come by here and Sit." Pimblers sat. "Villa have sold you to the Pool."
If he'd had a tail Pimblers would have wagged it.
"I've always wanted to play for the Pool ever since I was a lad. I shall write a letter of thanks to Mr Shankly immediately."
"Not Liverpool you daft boyo — the blue and white lot." sald the manager.
"Oh no.“ said Pimblers, "Me and my whole family hate Everton."
By now the manager was losing his patience.
"Look you Scouse dipstick, lt's not Everton or Liverpool, it's Hartlepool - now off you trot." And off he trotted.

Up he came to Hartlepool, instead of the red & white of Anfield it was the Vic with what he called ‘the blue and white wriggly tin walls.‘ Pimblers never could say the word "corrugated."

He played only three games, then Billy Homer shook his head sadly and cancelled his contract, and poor old Pimblers was never heard of again.

P.S. I assume from the extract from Rothmans in MB43 that Frank Pimblett played for Pools 3 times in the season 1978/79, but I can find no record of this in my programmes for that season. Does anyone know in which 3 games he played? or was it all a wind-up by ECG?

The excerpt from Rothman's was genuine - I don't remember him either, but then again we've played quite a few obscure people for one or two games in pretty recent seasons and they were instantly forgettable too. - Ed. [And that Ed. was Paul Mullen at the time.]

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A Football Journey


If you’re really stuck for something useful to do, you might just wonder how a Newcastle supporter ends up writing articles for a Pools fanzine.

Well just like most Pools fans (and unlike Man U supporters) I support the team I was born with; as a nipper living on Elswick Road I could see the floodlights of St James from our landing window. That was before the high rise flats replaced the post-war prefabs by the Big Lamp. It was a no-brainer and I still remember many trips to St James’s rattling around in the back of Harry’s ice-cream van. 

My best mate Carlo was from a large Italian family making ice cream on Rye Hill, I can still hear his auntie Angela (all of 4ft 10ins but the Godfather would have run a mile) shouting “Arry, giva de boys a lift to the footbaall”. They were optimistic times, it was the early sixties and we were sure it was only a matter of time before the glorious successes of the previous decade were repeated. We still live with that hope.
"it was only a matter of time before the glorious successes of the previous decade were repeated. We still live with that hope."

I remember some iconic names of my Toon past, Trevor Hockey (a winger when he played for us), Dave Hollins (the goalie, who on his Brighton debut leaked 9 goals against Middlesbrough, 5 gifted to “Old Big 'ead.”) I remember being passed over the heads of the crowd and deposited on the touchline against Man U., being beaten in the F.A. Cup by Bedford Town, and I could go on and often did, until Boris closed all the pubs.

Anyway I was dragged down to live in a village in the Midlands by a family decision in which I didn’t have a voice, but at least I wasn’t getting beaten up twice a week, (though I was caned within 2 hours of starting at the local left-footer school, by a psychotic Irish spinster who hated boys even more than she hated Protestants). Also coming from Tyneside there has always been a language barrier until Jimmy Nail made it fashionable, so nothing really changes.

I was working quite happily in Worcester when the devil decided it was time to vomit on my eiderdown big time (that was before they ran out of ducks and started calling them duvets). I had managed to hucker-down relatively painlessly after Toon’s ignominious F.A. Cup defeat at Edgar Street, the psychological advantage of low expectations, only to be informed that I was being transferred to my company’s Hereford office. That has to rank as vindictive abuse; if there had been a European Court I would have appealed to it. Since then there are only a couple of annual milestones that mark the passing years, the Queen’s birthday, whenever that is, and the re-showing of Radford’s lucky punt every first week of January. Who said the BBC lack imagination?

Notwithstanding this, I enjoyed several years in Hereford; a friend was a season-ticket holder and I often availed myself of her brother’s seat as he usually found an excuse to not go. Some enduring memories - Dixie McNeil’s infamous Maradona-style punch into the net (at least he had the good grace to gleefully admit it, retribution for all his “good” goals disallowed), then there was the schoolboy prodigy Kevin Sheedy, a scholar of the old school “one foot for standing, one foot for kicking.”  A firm favourite with the fans was Chrissy Price, a talented attacking full-back, until Villa found out why it’s not good to sign full backs who are too ambitious.

Returning to the Midlands saw me accompanying two Coventry City supporters to their home matches at a time when they actually had a home ground. I had the pleasure of watching the emerging talent that was Mark Hateley, the disappearing talent that was Peter “Bodak’s the name, scoring’s the game” after which he didn’t. And of course Micky Quinn (he’s fat and he’s round, and he scores on every ground) an ex-Newcastle striker who was the league’s top goal-scorer, with four in his Toon debut against Leeds United. What we would give for someone like him now. Bobby Gould is another example of football’s revolving door, I watched him as Hereford player-manager, physically half a yard slower than the other players but mentally light-years ahead, he went on to manage Coventry who he had of course previously played for.

I suppose that is what is missing from our game with the massive influx of foreign players, the merry-go-round of jobbing players who we all know before they arrive at our club and can keep an eye out for after they have gone. Anyway by a strange quirk of fate Stephen, a guy I used to play football with, who is sport mad and never married (so has no constraints on this passion) decided to visit every ground in the four divisions. He supports Man U (note the use of the word mad earlier) but did this by following one team away through their whole season and Hartlepool were one of the chosen teams.

Not long after this I was attending a local music session and became aware of someone singing songs about a monkey, and in the way people subtly make you aware of things they think you ought to know, I was informed he edited the Hartlepool United fanzine. All became clear as Stephen had mentioned a local guy who did this, and so the connection was made. We both sing, write and play music so collaborated on a few things. He encouraged me to submit a few articles for MonkeyBizz, which as a non-Poolie posed a bit of a challenge; any pin that I placed on a map could equally pierce Redcar or Skinningrove. So I’ve usually gone for quirky ahead of factual, but with few exceptions we all share a common suffering that is universal among footie fans whose optimism describes the glass as half empty, but could be even emptier.

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An Old Git Remembers


Hartlepools United 1 Southend United 2 
On a bitterly cold Friday night (6th January) back in 1967, Brian Clough et al. 

I was 13 and remember that game like it was yesterday (well almost). There was great excitement due to the fact that Pools' first-ever floodlights were to be used. 

It was a magical atmosphere with the pitch having I reckon a good four or five inches of  snow covering it. The lines were green where the snow was cleared. It gave the impression of being a large Christmas cake. The ball was a dark red colour that was perfect for the conditions. I recall the ball being stuck on the line and slipping and sliding in the days when they just got with it. Today a referee would take one look and say "off!"
"Today a referee would take one look and say "off!" "

Other trivia I recall were that song by The Seekers being played over the Tannoy - We Shall Not Be Moved and that Pools, who all season had played in royal blue shirts, turned out for this one and only game in blue and white stripes. The crowd by the way was 9,586 and a mud bank Millhouse "terrace" looked impressive with all those people.

There the excitement ended except for looking at those floodlights - a big thing back then. Very strangely, I can't remember who scored for Pools. For the record, after that game SUFC were 4th having Pl. 25, Pts. 40; Pools were 6th having Pl. 25, Pts 38; and the leaders were BARROW with Pl. 24 Pts. 53.

Barrow went on to lose their Football League status in 1972 to Hereford United who, some claimed, were gunning for Pools' place that year. Barrow of course now sweat it out as do HUFC to see what happens this season with you know what having hit us.

Sigh, all we have really is our memories.

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Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 0 Ebbsfleet 1 (National League)
Saturday 6 March 2020
Victoria Park

I knew it was going to be a bad day today as the sprog made us late because she was watching a film.

Set off from home at 2:44 and hit traffic at the balls roundabout. Decided to go up Lancaster road and hit traffic as we turned into it. I got out to walk as the traffic was at a standstill but managed to make it to the ground seconds before the kick off.

Within 40 seconds the visitors had hit the bar which, if it had gone in would have left us in trouble as the visitors never ever looked like playing football and we looked as if we could never ever break them down.
"I am not sure whether it was the set up or we were just not good enough on the day"

To be fair Ebbsfleet did defend well enough and it was odds-on that one lucky break and they'd steal the points. As it happened it did not need a break as the ref gave them two penalties; fortunately for Pools the first one was ruled out by the linesman who flagged offside. No matter, he gave them another one for a supposed foul by a Pools fullback and their top scorer sent Killip the wrong way.

Referee :
* Playing advantages on forever, bringing it back after players had lost the ball.

* No cards for things that should have been for ages then suddenly loads of cards for nothing.

* Our manager booked, then sent off later in the melée.

* Two penalties given, one chalked off for offside before it could be taken.

* Talking to the captain TWICE to give a warning as to their behaviour and number of fouls, but no cards.

* Number 26 going down for nothing in the area, getting treatment then laughing at the crowd. This is becoming more common in games just to frustrate the opposition fans.

* One player off injured and claiming racial abuse was marched over to the dug out and the managers confronted. Sent back to the Millhouse then told to come back on again. Walked off sidelines, cupped his ear then claimed racism against Millhouse stand. Walked up sidelines still cupping ear, marched across pitch by referee.

* Three players joined arms and marched to antagonize the Millhouse crowd which enticed a fan to go onto the pitch.

* Ref called both managers together then Challinor went off to inform someone to make the announcement.

* Numbers 26 and 5 goading crowd at the final whistle.

* Man runs onto the pitch to confront, numbers 5 and 2 go for the man.

* Mass brawl, pretty much everyone involved including both benches.

* Goalkeeper allowed to goad fans down the Cyril Knowles side of the ground after whistle.


We need to get out of this mess as soon as possible as not only do the teams bend every rule but the officials do the same. I do hope this team do drop out even if we can’t go up as there is no entertainment in these types of games when players play the race card, which happened to us against Dover and we are a marked club.

I am not sure whether it was the set up or we were just not good enough on the day but the flowing football of our recent home games had disappeared. We missed Southam-Hales at fullback and Donaldson, who replaced him, was then missed in the middle. We created a few chances but it looked as if we were trying to knock the keeper over instead of hitting the ball past him so it made it look like the keeper had a good game. Holohan, Keena and Touré all had chances that would have changed the game.

The trouble at the end of the game was totally down to the ref as he was not capable of keeping on top of the cheating and by the time he found his cards it was too late. The trouble kicked off just before the end and added nine minutes to the game but it was nine minutes of the same. Apparently during this trouble the keeper went to the dug out and told his manager there was abuse coming from the Town End. Even the Ditchburn went up to remonstrate with the keeper but was moved on by the stewards.

I must also comment on the new set of stewards who seem to be all female and have no understanding about how fans react at a game. Bring back the old crowd before it is too late - or maybe it already is!

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Coronavirus 1 Football 0


Coronavirus. Well nobody seen that one coming did they. If nothing else it has blown Brexit as well as Harry and Meghan clear off the front pages of all the newspapers.

Although perhaps well intentioned, I am already looking forward to the day when people stop telling me to 'Stay safe'. It is like something you would say to a Kamikaze pilot. Which reminds me of the true story of the Kamikaze pilot who returned safely back to base on a couple of dozen occasions,telling his superiors that his aircraft wasn't safe to fly in. I cannot recall the pilot's name but he lived well into his eighties.

As we all know all footy has been suspended. Realistically unless some miracle cure comes along I can see the season being totally written off. If so, how will that affect one and all? The Football Association have stated that all the teams in the leagues below National Leagues North and South will have their results declared as null and void. I think that is a bit unfair. Can you imagine being the top scorer in a particular league or the chap who has got the most hat tricks under his belt only to see those achievements not being entered into record books. I would be well miffed. Mind, another part of me thinks if I was the chap who had scored the most own goals or missed the most penalties in 2019/20 season I would not mind too much if my faux pas were expunged from the annals of football history.

Whatever the decisions made by the powers that be, they are not going to please everyone. It could be a case of pleasing the few but annoying the hell out of the majority. I can see legal cases and law suits being the order of the day. What are the options? Abandon and write off the whole football programme altogether for 2019/20 season and no team will get promoted or relegated? Another argument is to promote and relegate teams based on their current league standings when the coronavirus put a stop to everything.

In the National League that would mean Barrow would get automatic promotion. How would second place and in-form Harrogate feel about that, as they are due to the play the Cumbrians at Wetherby Rd and victory would put them just one point behind. My solution for the National League would be to abandon the play-offs and give automatic promotion to the top two teams. The bottom four teams would be automatically relegated.
The big plus here, for the benefit of the whole of the National League and football in general, would be that that excuse of a football club, Ebbsfleet, drop out of the league and ply their trade at a rightfully lower level. If, by some miracle, football resumed in early May, most sides with the exception of Barnet have only seven or eight league games left to play to fulfil their fixture commitment. This could be achieved quite easily in less than a month provided evening matches were allowed to take place.
"On the plus side this measure would keep Leeds United out of the Premiership but the downside is that the Borer would avoid relegation to League One."

Presuming play is eventually resumed, many teams will be back in pre-season mode and it will be interesting to see which teams pick up the mantle and carry on were they left off post-corona. Or would we see a slump in form from others who have been affected by the long layoff?

What of the 'Greed is Good' League? Even if it is abandoned, unless of course you are a Manchester United or Everton fan, no-one in their right mind would begrudge Liverpool the Premiership title. For me, the football that they have played at times has been at another level, easily eclipsing the recent Manchester City title winning sides, particularly for pace. 

Credit to Pep Guardiola who is on record as saying that the Merseysiders rightfully deserve to be awarded the title. On the downside, if the season finished in the morning and Liverpool were rightfully crowned Premier League champions, it would be a very subdued celebration by their fans and players alike compared to, for instance, Liverpool securing the title by by taking one or three points from their opponents on the day.

That's the title sorted but what of the teams sitting in the bottom three of the Premiership. My view is that an exception should be made and that they should remain in the Premiership. Yes, there would be winners and losers. On the plus side this measure would keep Leeds United out of the Premiership but the downside is that the Borer would avoid relegation to League One. If there were no relegation in the Championship one can only imagine the delight of the Bolton Wanderers fans whose side are cast adrift at the bottom of that league, not being helped by a 12 points deduction. As I hinted at earlier there will be indeed winners and losers.

Another feasible alternative solution being put forward is to not relegate the current bottom three teams in the Premiership and admit the top three clubs from the Championship into the Premiership, which would sadly mean including Leeds United. Much to the chagrin of the top four or five clubs in the Premiership, this would mean the league having to expand to 23 clubs. This number would be reduced over the following three seasons by relegating four clubs instead of three.

The big freeze of 1963 put football back nearly three months. The Cup Final being played in the last few days of May however would much depend on the scale of the coronavirus and its time frame. Hopefully we will see the back of it sooner rather than later and get back to normal.

Occasionally, despite what Bill Shankly said, some things are actually more important than football. Stay safe. (groan)

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Any Other Business


"It's going to be an interesting couple of months!"

That's what I said in the last edition. I was of course referring to Pools' attempt to get to the playoffs. But only 10 days later, the league season was suspended as the coronavirus pandemic turned Bill Shankly's famous quote on its head by making us see that this matter of life and death is much more important than football.

The Thursday clapping shows how much the nation values the NHS staff, who are selflessly trying to minimise deaths with little equipment. No doubt the politicians whose actions or lack of them will have greatly increased the loss of life in many countries will sleep well in their beds because that's what they do.

The crisis has some huge problems for football, with lower-league clubs, many of which are already perched on a knife-edge, hoping to avoid a similar fate to Bury. So Pools have had to cut players' wages and dispense with staff while they await a decision on how the season will officially end.

A quick word about Mark Simpson, who has been a victim of Pools' staff cuts. Having since Christmas attended 3 away matches, I've seen his pre-match interviews, videos of the whole match day, and seen him in the build-up to kick-off, photographing the crowd. Then he's gone into the pressbox and done a full match commentary, and after we've all gone home he's done the post-match video interviews. And after the football suspension he kept the club website lively. I've been amazed at his contribution and wish him well, and hope he's back with Pools in a few months when some sort of normality returns.

Here's a contribution from Wallace and Gromit which, quite by coincidence, has a connection with the above*:

A Scouser was touring the USA on holiday and stopped in a remote bar in the hills of Nevada.

He was chatting to the bartender when he spied an old Indian sitting in the corner. He had tribal gear on, long white plaits, wrinkled face.
“Who’s he?” said the scouser.
 “That’s the Memory Man.” said the bartender. “He knows everything. He can remember any fact. Go and try him out.”
So the Scouser goes over, and thinking he won’t know about English football, asks “Who won the 1965 FA Cup Final?”
“Liverpool,” replies the Memory Man.
“Who did they beat?”
“Leeds,” was the reply.
“And the score?”
“Who scored the winning goal?”
“Ian St. John” was the old man’s reply.

The Scouser was knocked out by this and told everyone back home about the Memory Man when he returned.

A few years later he went back to the USA and tried to find the impressive Memory Man. Eventually he found the bar and sitting in the same seat was the old Indian only this time he was older and more wrinkled. Because he was so impressed, the Scouser decided to greet the Indian in his native tongue. He approached him with the greeting “How”.

The Memory man replied, “Diving header in the six yard box!!

* Bill Shankly was the Liverpool manager at the time of the 1965 FA Cup Final, and his most famous quote has also been mentioned, perhaps not too unsurprisingly, elsewhere in this edition.

Like everyone else on the planet, we have no idea when our lives will return to normal, let alone when football will. 

So any future plans for Monkey Business are purely speculative and could change.

However, we're aiming to continue in May with no. 190, which would have been, and may still be the final edition of the season. 

We'll use anything our contributors care to write, given the lack of football for inspiration, and we'll top it up with the odd reminiscence piece from the old printed editions, and we'll see where we go from there.

So let's hope this awful virus is kind to us Poolies and our loved ones, and we'll see you again - when we see you!
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It's On, It's Definitely On!


After taking seven points against Notts County, Boreham Wood and Solihull Moors, a place in the play-offs beckons.

And we are better prepared under manager Dave Challinor than we have been for some time under his predecessors. At the moment we have nothing to complain about in the way he is doing things and he is even getting a tune from Xavi. Although getting him to lose a few clem has obviously helped.

Bringing Ben Killip back in goal has worked but I still have my doubts about him long term. Too small for me but he is doing a job at the moment.

It is very tight in the top half of the table at present with a number of teams capable of securing a place in the play-offs. But we are as good as some and better than most and it depends on whether we keep our bottle if we can get there. The manager has been there before and knows what it takes so we must hope he can steer us into the top seven. If teams like Barrow, Halifax and Harrogate are battling it out at the top then we have nothing to fear in this league.
"Pools really need to get out of this league this season as the longer a team stays in the National League the harder it becomes to get out of it."

Our five loan signings are all doing well and looking good business by Challinor and Luke Molyneux getting back to full fitness is as good as having a new signing. Good to see Aidan Keena on target again and he can be a big positive in our remaining games. Recommended to Pools by Jon Daly who worked with him as a coach at Hearts, Aidan will be a big success if he turns out to be half the footballer Daly was with Pools. If only Jon was ten years younger and looking for a club we would really be in business.

Although Stockport and Yeovil are up there challenging it is strange to see former league clubs Wrexham and Chesterfield struggling in the bottom half of the table. Pools really need to get out of this league this season as the longer a team stays in the National League the harder it becomes to get out of it. Our present squad is better than most clubs in the top nine and now we have got ourselves into this position we must surely make it count.

Challinor is already looking at the squad with a view to next season although which league the club are playing in will play a big part in his planning. I would assume most of the loan players we have at present would be targets for next season with Gary Liddle and Mark Shelton more or less certain to stay. Macaulay Southam-Hales would be a welcome addition with some powerful performances at right-back and is someone with genuine pace which is always welcome in the side.

Some of the fringe players like Cunningham, Kennedy, Bale, Richardson, Raynes, Anderson and the infamous Luke Williams look likely to be shown the exit door. If we are promoted I would add Killip, Featherstone and Donaldson to the list but it seems Challinor sees something in the latter two that most of us cannot see. Perhaps it is because they have been around when we were perennial losers for so long it may be time for a change. Which could be good for all parties.

Ebbsfleet on Saturday gives us the chance to get rare back-to-back victories and force our way into a play-off position. After so many let-downs over the years when something good was about to happen please don't let us down this time boys.

Come on you Pools!

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Hey, Nicky, You're so Fine


I never thought I would say this but I am having second thoughts about Nicky Featherstone. It would seem that in many supporters' eyes he has turned from a frog to a prince. The effect of his recent performances is akin to that of having brought in a decent signing.

Out of all the players in the squad it would be fair to say that he has benefited most from Dave Challinor's tutelage. We always knew there was a midfield player in him somewhere and Challinor has found it. I am just hoping that it won't prove to be a false dawn as I recall that under Craig Harrison he had a similar, albeit short spell, and mainly in friendlies it has to be said, of pushing forward and indeed at times looking the part but soon reverted back to form.

The following season he got his backside into gear when Liam Noble arrived at the club
and once again he seemed to come out of his shell, pushing forward and even getting on the score sheet. His game at Halifax last season was in my eyes his best game ever in a Pools shirt and he scored a spectacular goal to boot.

Ironically, a few days later at Salford, he probably had one of his worst games for the club. One thing that is evident is that every Pools manager, caretaker or otherwise* has played him on a regular basis and he has hardly been out of the side since the day Paul Murray signed him. So am I missing something?

I have on many an occasion in MB decried his style of play. His square sideways passing. Back Passing. Being caught in possession. For me his biggest crime is the way he slows the game down unnecessarily to the benefit of our opponents by not making that one quick decisive pass.
"On current form I would say he must be the firm favourite to be the Player-of-the-Year"

I often said he would not make my eleven-a-side team but he would be first pick in my 5-a- side team. This view was shared on a recent Pools video when, owing to the atrocious weather, the team were confined to the Domes at Seaton for training. Before several 5-a- side teams were set up, the interviewer asked each player who they would want in their team and almost unanimously it was Featherstone's name that was called.

I also put the case forward that he could play at a higher level and would be better suited playing in a side that passed the ball around and built up from the back. He would slot into Pep Guardiola's side (or Barca's or Real's) with ease as long as he did not have to cross the half way line.

So how has this metamorphosis occurred? For my money it was the day Dave Challinor walked through the door and transformed him. He is an entirely different player to the one we have been watching over the last five seasons. On current form the way he is playing he just might be in with a chance of breaking Ritchie Humphreys' record number of appearances for the club.

For the Yeovil game - Craig Hignett's last at the Vic - and owing to circumstances beyond my control, I viewed the match from the Cyril Knowles stand and paid particular attention to our midfield maestro.

He made seven back passes to the keeper. One of them from an attacking position 5 yards into the oppositions half.

Normally I am quite controlled and I don't subscribe to getting on players' backs if something goes wrong or an individual makes a mistake. A quiet mumble to myself will suffice or at worse I roll my eyes to the heavens but on this occasion Featherstone had me out of my seat and flinging my dut down on the terrace in frustration. It got worse with minutes to go before the full-time whistle; Featherstone was culpable in part for Yeovil's equaliser. In fairness, minutes later he did atone himself by stepping up a gear for the first time in the match; he moved forward with pace and played his part in Pools' last-minute winner.

Two seasons on the trot Featherstone came back pre-season and was clearly carrying some, let's say 'excess baggage', and in truth looked sluggish. Challinor made comment in the media that Featherstone has recently had a change of diet and it has to be said his shirt looks a tad baggier on him than at the beginning of the 2019/20 campaign. I am speculating that, not unlike myself, he is one of these people who only has to look at a Wispa bar and puts on a stone in weight.

He is now playing further forward and supporting the front runners and more markedly the square balls and back passing to the keeper look to be, fingers crossed, a thing of the past.

He is not afraid to have a pop at goal which gives the team some added firepower. However the thing that most impressed me in the recent game against Notts County was that when pushing forward he was dispossessed of the ball and literally ran back ten yards like a terrier and retrieved the ball and set up a further attack.

Although, thankfully, it does not happen as often as it once did, he does still have a tendency to run a couple of paces with the ball rather than making a quick pass to keep the momentum from breaking when Pools are attacking. It is obvious Dave Challinor sees something in the player otherwise he would not have offered the player new terms well ahead of the close season.

On current form I would say he must be the firm favourite to be the Player-of-the-Year and provided he maintains his current form, and you heard it here first, even I might vote for him. Now that is eating humble pie.

P.S. / N.B. / Stop Press
This was typed up before the Boreham Wood game where he was distinctly average.

* Dave Jones

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Can't Be Bad!!!


Last month I said “More Consistency Needed”. And, believe it or not, the prayers were answered. Two home victories against Aldershot and Notts County (with two clean sheets); a creditable draw against Boreham Wood and then a victory against Solihull Moors. And what’s more, the games against Boreham Wood and Solihull were against two sides in play off positions.

It's not come about by accident. I’ve never known a recent Pools manager get such a good press on the social media. And Dave Challinor deserves it.

When we sold Peter Kioso to Luton he moved quickly to get a loan replacement and the defence has been strengthened by bringing in Gary Liddle. We’re no longer relying on academy players from Middlesbrough – Dave Challinor’s contacts spread much wider.
"Let’s hope that Dave Challinor doesn’t get Manager of the Month – we can do without that!"

Substutions are also relevant. As well, we’ve been unchanged for four games – another sign of consistency. There’s also variations in our attacking movements. No longer are we pumping so many balls from defence. There’s movement on the ground and that’s the way to put pressure on opposing teams in this league. Let’s hope that Dave Challinor doesn’t get Manager of the Month – we can do without that!

A look at the attendances for last Saturday reveals interesting figures. Boreham Wood attracted 932 spectators of which a third were Poolies. And Solihull Moors attracted the princely sum of 773. How these clubs can survive is beyond me. Pools are doing very well in the attendance stakes – shouldn’t be long before we’re attracting over 4,000.

Mention has been made of the support we’re getting from the North West Corner. It's very welcome and is aided by the existence of a drum. Drums are ok – as long as they’re not right behind you. I remember seeing an England v Sweden women’s international at Pools and the bloody drum was right behind me in the Neale Cooper Stand. Glad when the game was over!

On a personal note, this month is 45 years since we moved to Hartlepool. I’ve never regretted it and have watched Pools with varying success (and failure) over the years. My dad always liked to pay occasional visits to Victoria Park – preceded by a pint in the Mill House. He liked to go there most of all in the 1960s as the landlord was ex-boxer Teddy Gardner. He was still nimble In his later years!

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Man City v UEFA


I see that Manchester City are in some very hot water regarding some sort of financial shenanigans or other. I don't know the ins and outs of the case, nor care much for Manchester City, but it would appear that they have already been sentenced without a trial.

Over a year ago one UEFA official said that City are going to be fined; I think the figure mentioned was £40 million, plus a two year ban from all European competition. This being put to a court, it would appear that UEFA, or the individual in question who made these comments, must be adhering to French law whereby the accused are guilty until proved innocent, unlike in UK law where it is the reverse. The accused is innocent, no matter how bad the crime, until proven guilty.

For the record, apart from their cars I am not having a pop at the French and their way of doing things. For example I always make a point of travelling on French ships. Well, for a start, if the vessel is in distress and in danger of sinking, there is none of this British stiff-upper-lip nonsense of 'women and children first.' The French system is 'Every man for himself' which, had it been adopted when the Titanic sank, would have resulted in less loss of life than actually occurred. Makes sense to me, especially as nowadays both sexes are equal.
"a double relegation to League Two could follow, with Kevin De Bruyne having to play out the remainder of his contract with Pools"

There is also talk of City being retrospectively stripped of one or several of their league titles as a consequence. However I think this unlikely. Forgetting about the claims and compensation requests from other clubs that may have lost out, as well as rewriting the history books in an Orwellian fashion, it would be an absolute farce to administer.

I am sure that there would be be dancing in the streets in both Liverpool and on the other side of Manchester, where they have clubs which were both runners-up at the time, if they were awarded City's Premiership titles. Mind, United fans might reflect that Liverpool would be the greater beneficiary of two additional titles to United's one, so perhaps they would prefer to let sleeping dogs lie.

If City are found guilty through a Committee/Tribunal rather than a kangaroo court, of pulling a fast one with regards to their sources of income, then, depending on the severity of their misdeed, I would be in favour of either a massive multi-million-pound fine or an equally massive points deduction. In the worst-case scenario, a double relegation to League Two could follow, with Kevin De Bruyne having to play out the remainder of his contract with Pools. Mind he would have to play out of his skin to get Featherstone's shirt off his back!

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Do you know anyone, apart from those who are behind it, who thinks that VAR is a good thing? No. Me neither.

That, then, should be the end of the debate and the whole thing should be scrapped. The only piece of technology needed in my view is that which confirms that the ball has fully crossed the line. We don't need anything for offsides, retrospective penalties and the like. Leave that to the referee and his team; that is what he is there for in the first place. 

I can see a long-term goal of the people behind VAR being that matches are played without any match officials at all. That is one goal I would l definitely like to see being disallowed.

Although I am not a big fan of Premiership football, VAR is ruining the game. It is a total farce. Games halted for minutes on end whilst decisions are made. Players score then wonder momentarily if their strike will stand owing to something that happened a quarter of an hour earlier down the other end of the pitch. All I can say is: thank goodness that, as yet, it hasn't filtered down to the lower leagues.
"it has worked well enough for coming up to 200 years and if it ain't broke, why fix it?"

Cripes, we have had some terrible incompetent referees at the Vic over the years but I would rather take my chance with one of them than a couple of chancers viewing the match in a Portakabin some 200 miles away from the field of play. I would not disagree that it has been responsible for some correct decisions being made but having to wait several minutes for the decision kills the flow and pace of the game. In short the few benefits are outweighed by its disadvantages.

I think the worst incident I saw, albeit technically correct, was in the recent match between Burnley and Bournemouth. Bournemouth for a while were pinned back in their own box but the pressure was taken off with a long clearance down to the other end of the pitch and in a jif, bang, the ball was nestling in the back of the Burnley net. The relegation-threatened Bournemouth players celebrated with delight and, whilst walking back to the centre circle they learned to their disbelief that the goal would not stand and to add insult to injury, owing to an earlier handball, Burnley were to be awarded a penalty. Psychologically that must have killed Bournemouth, especially when Burnley converted the resulting penalty.

A few weeks earlier Liverpool had played Manchester City and something similar happened. Two handballs within seconds of each other in the Liverpool box, one of which was a nailed on penalty for City, for which their players appealed. Liverpool went down the other end and scored a quite spectacular goal from some 30 yards out. The goal stood. Was VAR looked at? Who knows? I rather suspect that the VAR people perhaps erred on the side of caution rather than disallow this goal at ...Anfield. ...I rest my case.

The main problem with VAR is, assuming that the people who monitor it are indeed human, that they are no different to the men in black (green yellow or even pink) on the pitch. They, like the rest of us, will make mistakes; it is only natural. You could ask a dozen people who witnessed the same car crash and you would get twelve different versions of the event and the same applies to referees as well as the VAR people.

Finally, let's play Devil's advocate, fellow Poolies. The choice is yours - One Pro and One Con regarding VAR:

Pro: If VAR had been in situ at Cardiff at the time of Pools' play-off final against Sheffield Wednesday, would Westy have been sent off and the subsequent penalty awarded in Wednesday's favour?

Con: Would Geoff Hurst's and England's third goal in the 1966 World Cup Final that did/did not cross the line have stood?

Answers on the back of a house brick please.

VAR is far from perfect, but my view is: leave it all to the man in the middle and his two linos. Although not without controversy, it has worked well enough for coming up to 200 years and if it ain't broke, why fix it?

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