What Is the Cure for Hiccups?


Well, it was a hiccup last Saturday, wasn’t it?

Four undefeated games against Braintree, Leyton Orient, Boreham Wood and Ebbsfleet led us to believe that, at last, we were getting things right. Sadly, we had the hiccup against Bromley and whilst most Poolies accepted being beaten by a better side, it was the standard of refereeing that left a bad taste in the mouth.

I’ve always believed that FIFA make difficulties for referees but last Saturday was just downright incompetence of basic things. I’ve never known a home crowd chant ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ so many times. Mind you, the assistant referee on the Neale Cooper side of the pitch wasn’t much better. There was one occasion where the ball was clearly about a foot over the goal line yet play was allowed to continue. If I could see the ball out of play with the onset of cataracts then just what the hell was he doing?

The National League must really get to grips with refereeing standards – if they don’t then interest from fans will ebb away. There was an expectation on Saturday that our gate would be between 3,500 and 4,000 but it fell to 2985. Was this just Pools or are people getting fed up with this grotty league and lowering standards. Don’t forget, National League, that Rome burned while Nero fiddled. Anything’s worth a try to improve refereeing – how about retired players or, dare I say it, women whistlers? Is there any chance of the hiccups being cured? Unfortunately, the omens are not good.

We have both injuries and suspensions. Carl Magnay is going to be out for some time and Michael Raynes won’t play again this season, having gone back to Crewe for rehabilitation. Then there is Luke James - how we could have done with him against Bromley. I guess he would have run them ragged. If that wasn’t enough, we now have Peter Kioso suspended for two games. And then we have up and coming fixtures – Sutton, AFC Fylde, Wrexham and Eastleigh are just some of the sides we tackle in March and they’re all above Pools.
"I’ve never known a home crowd chant ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ so many times."

One weakness I’ve noticed with Pools is that we seldom threaten at set pieces. On Saturday, we were awarded a corner at the Corner Flag side of the ground and the ball sailed over the madding crowd for a throw-in to the opposition at the Cyril Knowles stand side. How about stationing someone to pick up the over-kicked corner – at least we'd keep possession and might be able to re-apply the pressure. Something for the training ground.

Finally, when the next MB appears, we will have had Brexit (or will we?) Discussion has revolved around the possible effect on overseas players and whether they will need work permits. All this goes over my head as it's an internal matter for the bog-standard Premier League – and to a lesser extent, the Championship, whereas many clubs like Pools continue to be composed only of British and Irish players.

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Managing in a Direct Way


They say you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear and the three managers who have graced Victoria Park this season can verify this.

A bunch of serial under-achievers are coasting along in mid-table in a league we should be walking away with. All hopes of a quick return to the Football League have long since gone down the toilet. We now have Hignett back in the hot seat despite previously claiming he did not want the job. But why would Pools or any National League side need a director of football. Even Manchester United have not got one.
"A bunch of serial under-achievers are coasting along in mid-table in a league we should be walking away with."

Hignett hardly endeared himself to the long-suffering Pools fans when he took over by claiming what they knew about football you could get on the back of a postage stamp. And then proceeded to make Xavi a regular in his team, bigging him up in the process. This put a huge question mark over Hignett's football knowledge. The Mill House elite know a crap midfielder when they see one, having had to watch a succession of them over the years and believe me the little Fat Fella is a crap midfielder. This might have been an attempt at Scouse humour from Craig but he is no John Bishop.

Hignett should try driving more slowly in his car and forget about postage stamps and put his effort into beating rubbish teams like Bromley at home. It is good to see Antony Sweeney being bought into the first team coaching picture as he is Pools through and through and a talented coach in the making.

Talking of coaches it would be nice to know what goalkeeping coach Ross Turnbull does during the week. When Scott Loach joined the club 18 months ago he was arguably the best keeper in the National League. This season he is a liability. Won't come for crosses, 6ft 4in and can't jump so what has Turnbull done to him. With Dimi Konstantopoulos due to be released from the Borer at the end of the season it would make sense to sign him on and release Loach and Turnbull. Dimi certainly would not need any coaching from any of that lot at the Vic.

With time approaching to sort out the retained list for next season it is to be hoped it is a proper clear out and not just five or six players going and some staying because they will accept lower wages. There will be a flood of players up for grabs in the summer and I would say 50% of them will be better than we have at Pools.

For the record the players I would keep are Peter Kioso, Liam Noble, Luke James, Josh Hawkes and I would also sign loan men Michael Raynes and Nicke Kabamba, and possibly a couple of promising youngsters like Luka Murphy and Josh Scott, before any other club can get them off us for a song.

The price for the upcoming game against Wrexham has been reduced to £10 for adults, and not before time. Charging on-the-day punters £20 to watch the shite that is on show is daylight robbery. I have seen more effort put in by players on the Rec than by some of the bozos wearing a Pools shirt.

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North - South Divide


Don't know about the rest of you but I am looking forward to the 2019/20 season already. I am sure that when Craig Hignett, Raj, the players, those that are still with us that is, cast their eyes over next season's fixture list they will be delighted.

"Why?" you may ask.

Based on the league tables as they stand at time of writing, there will be a lot less travelling for Pools and their supporters then there was this season. That is unless Pools do something silly, such as manage to make a last gasp charge up the table and gain promotion to League Two via the playoffs (oh, how we laughed!)

Let's first look at the National League and anticipate the following:
With luck we could see the departure of Orient and Wrexham (or Sutton) as they move up to League Two.
Currently eight of the bottom nine clubs in the National League are from darn sarf or, in Dover's case, from France. Unless Chesterfield decide to press the self-destruct button we could see the likelihood of four Southern teams exit the National League in one job lot. I'll raise a glass to that.
Obviously two of these relegated teams will be replaced by two other southern teams from the National League South. All is not lost, as we could see a few old favourites from League Two such as Notts County, Morecambe, Macclesfield or Port Vale renewing their acquaintances with Pools but this time in the surroundings of the National League. The only dark cloud being Yeovil, who seem to be getting homesick and hellbent on joining the Division Two relegation battle to make a return to non-league football where they rightly belong ...along with Stevenage and Crawley.

The other added bonus is that two teams from the National League North will be joining Pools' fixture list. Chorley and, all being well, Spennymoor, who are currently only a couple of points off top spot of that league.

Should everything fall into place, it will redress the present geographical balance somewhat, as at present 15 of the 24 teams in the National League are from the south.

If my sums are correct, with all the above comings and goings that should see 4 additional teams from the north join the National League, all within a couple of hours' striking distance from the town.
"Currently eight of the bottom nine clubs in the National League are from darn sarf or, in Dover's case, from France."

Think of the benefits: less miles travelled over the season for both players and fans equals less costs for overnight stays and sundry expenses and more importantly no excuse for player or even fan fatigue.

I have to confess that, so far, I have only managed to take in four away games this season but with the near proximity of the grounds of our new northern neighbours it could encourage more fans to travel and roar our lads on to promotion. (I'll have a pint of what you are drinking!)

We could also see an increase in the number of away fans seen at the Vic. I know Spenny only brought 350 fans to Darlington this season but that is still ten times what the likes of Braintree and Havant brought to the Vic.

If, as I hope, Spenny do get promoted, it is only an eighteen mile trip to the Brewery Field, whereas the trip to our old rivals Darlow is 28 miles away thus making the Moors our new derby team.

The other major benefit to Pools and the fans alike is not having to watch these southern teams. To be fair I can't tell one from another: Braintree, Barnet, Bromley, Boreham Wood. To avoid confusion they should be forced to rename them: M25 United, M25 Town, M25 Athletic and M25 Wednesday.

My main grievance with southern sides, and let's not beat about the bush here, London Clubs, is their savvy. They are students of the art of gamesmanship so much so that they would put Don Revie's Leeds sides to shame. Time wasting, moaning throwing the ball away. In the ref's ear all the time.

Generally speaking, these teams have some very big lads playing for them but they still manage to fall to the ground at the slightest touch with an accompanying shout or a scream before they hit the deck to attract the referee's attention and then spend ten minutes getting treatment and rolling around in feigned agony. Then when they score, the scorer turns to the Pools fans with his hand to his ear.

If you can't beat them, then join them so Pools should possibly take a leaf out of their book and give them a dose of their own medicine.

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Moaning Minnies


Jake Cassidy got some flak recently when he said in the press that Hartlepool is a negative club and that the  atmosphere at the Vic can be poisonous.

You could argue that Cassidy had a bit of a grudge against the club when he made this statement. For one reason or another he himself was not exactly a fans' favourite so the feeling may be mutual, but when I think about it, he may to an extent have a valid point.

It has to be said that it is clearly noticeable that at times some sections of the crowd/individuals are far less tolerant of the team than in recent years. Perhaps this is down to the club's slow decline over the past 7/8 years and the level (I won't say quality) of football which was being served up week in and week out.

The one thing that stands out for me now is how early in the game some fans are on the players' backs or players are singled out for special attention.

At a recent home game after the P.A. announcer had given out the starting elevens you could see the tangible disappointment on the face of one fan who stands down in the front of the Town End, that Niko Muir was not playing.

He was devastated. His assigned boo-boy was not going to take to the pitch. In truth he has been on Muir's case for some time and as everyone predicted, including Monkey Business, because of his previous part-time status, at some stage Muir was going to struggle with full-time football and was inevitably going to run out of steam.

For this particular individual Muir could do no right and he was delirious with delight if Muir had given a bad pass or lost the ball, just to reinforce his case. I would love to see this fan's reaction if Muir scored a worldie. Probably walk out of the ground in disgust.

His afternoon did not end in disappointment as after 10/15 minutes or so he had found an alternative boo-boy in Liam Noble. Personally I think Liam Noble is one of the few decent footballers at the club and really should be playing at a higher level. On the day however, he was not having the best game of his life but was still giving it his all and wanting the ball.

Though not his fault, his first couple of diagonal 30-yard passes into space went out of play mainly because the wing back in question hadn't bothered to run into that space. Noble then delivered a succession of poor corners and free kicks and it was not just young fellow-me-lad in the Town End who was starting to have a go at the midfielder but other sections of the crowd as well.

Noble, not unlike like Ritchie Humphreys, always wants the ball even when things are not going his way; he will not hide when things are not going right and is still demanding it. As such, like Humphreys, he probably sees more possession of the ball over ninety minutes than any other player on the pitch which means by the law of averages he will make more errors which are all the more highlighted than for an example a teammate who hardly comes into contact with the ball or shies away from it when things are not going right.
"I would love to see this fan's reaction if Muir scored a worldie. Probably walk out of the ground in disgust."

At the end of this match the normally ebullient Noble left the field a tad crestfallen; you could almost hear him thinking "What on earth am I doing here? I don't need this abuse."

If it is bad for the seasoned professional I think the treatment to which some of our younger players are subjected is totally unfair, and this is what Cassidy is getting at, an example being Kenton Richardson. In one game under Bates, and just coming back from injury, he came on as an early substitute for an injured player and was like a square peg in a round hole as he was being played out of position. Nothing went right for the lad on the day; he did not know when to go forward or when to stay back but every error was followed by a boo or a groan or much worse from the Mill House side of the ground.

The lad is an excellent prospect for the future and has only just turned 19. With sub appearances included he has only played 30 or so games for the club and most of those last season in a very poor side. What many people forget is that the lad like many others at the club is still learning his trade.

What must he and other youngsters in the squad feel like before they leave the dressing room, knowing that some sections of the crowd will be straight on their case early on, highlighting even the slightest error. Even before a ball is kicked they must really be on edge. Worse still is what they are feeling 90 minutes later in the dressing room having been subjected to the unnecessary vitriol from the terraces.

Word gets around and many visiting players who have experienced the negative vibes directed at Pools players might be reluctant to sign for Pools if the club were to come knocking on their doors, owing to to the toxic atmosphere of the crowd within the ground that they would have to play before.

I admit that it is only a small element sporadically spread around the ground that are part of the problem but my main concern is not only how it has a negative knock-on effect on the team's performances overall but more importantly how it impacts the younger players.

One only has to look at Pools' home record - 10 wins in two seasons. I am sure that the fear factor instilled into the players through some fans has played its part in achieving this dismal record.

My message to the fans is, no matter how poorly Pools play, support and encourage them. Spur on our team and not our opponents and treat the players as if they were your own sons/grandsons who are playing (mmmm perhaps not!)

Taken from from the Book 'A Tenner and a Box of Kippers' There are a lot of nasty people in Hartlepool. There are several hundred nice proper people but the majority of them are nasty people. There are more of them at Hartlepool than anywhere else. Also from the same book, about Chris Beech getting abuse from the crowd. Chants of: "What are you doing out this half Beechy?" The result: Chris Beech was suffering a nightmare afternoon as everything he tried fell to pieces.

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Shopping List


Craig Hignett has recently gone on record stating that Pools only need to add three or four players and not seven or eight, to the current squad to become a force in the National League.

I would suggest that three or four would be a tad light unless of course he is also hoping to sign the players that we currently have on loan as well which would make that number look like seven or eight new signings.

The defence alone needs four new players, preferably with some height, as we have no full backs or a centre half and dare I say a keeper who can command his box and catch a ball.
"We need a quick, tough-tackling, holding midfielder who will move the ball forwards well as backwards and sideways, at pace."

We need a quick, tough-tackling, holding midfielder who will move the ball forwards well as backwards and sideways, at pace. Assuming that Pools sign Kabamba we also need cover for him as he is the only forward we have with height and presence who more often than not wins the ball in the air with his back to the defender, which is something that we have lacked for the last two seasons.

It is a bit early to be predicting who will be leaving the club but, excluding the loanees, but here is my list of who I would like to be with the club next season.

My Jury's out on Kitching.

As you can see from this list, allowing for Pools hanging onto the loan players that we have on board, it still leaves the squad well light and massively lacking in experience.

Reading between the lines I am guessing that Hignett is planning to hang on to a goodly number of the current squad which would be the case if he is only looking to bring in three or four new signings. On the other hand he might be alluding to 3 or 4 players signed on a permanent basis alongside a number of loanees coming into the club as well.

I hope that when the time comes that he is drawing up his retained list it will not be based on the players who have noticeably only recently started to up their games and play for a new contract but to look at those players who even though they might not have played well at times have still given their all for the cause.

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A Great Point

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 1 Leyton Orient 1 (National League)
Saturday 9 February 2019
Victoria Park

Orient, still sitting in pole position by one point after a really tough game at the Vic, should think themselves very lucky tonight. 

The consensus after the game was that we had just witnessed the best game at the Vic for a couple of seasons. It was tough at times for both teams but Pools can take a big pat on the back for taking the league leaders to the wire. Orient were a good side, well drilled with some exceptional players and a handful of what is commonly known around here as a "worky ticket" - someone who pushes the boundaries to the limit where rules are concerned. There is a video on one of the websites showing three Orient players arguing with the official after the penalty was given for a foul on Luke James.

The Orient players even argued with the ref on where Noble had placed the ball. Even picking it up and placing it himself and all this was to unsettle Noble who had come on as a sub just before the break. It could be argued that Noble should have left the penalty alone having just come back after four games but even on the radio tonight he said if asked he would take the next one even though he has missed the last three, He also missed this one after the distraction but in his interview he did not take the excuse and said he thought he would be stepping down from that penalty job.

The game was end-to-end and Pools had the upper hand in the early stages, playing some good football and creating chances. Kabamba was a handful and Luke James, Amos and Molyneux were all taking the game to the visitors. It is great to see a Pools centre forward receive the ball and hold it up as his team mates come in to back him up and this is the role played by Kabamba. We were wondering how long we could hang onto a striker who has scored three goals in three games but the word on the terrace is that he wants to stay as he is enjoying first team football and has been a revelation for Pools.

Despite our early advantage we went a goal down on twenty minutes when a deflected shot went past Loach. The ball should have been cleared but once again we did not react quickly enough to close down a player. The gifted goal lifted the visitors and they started to play some very good football; it was backs-to-the-wall and the Pools defence were immense in cutting out the threat with a great number of blocks on the line as the visitors pushed forward looking for a second goal. They were literally two inches wide of the far stick after a corner from the Mill House side was headed on and Donaldson and an attacker both fortunately did not connect when either of them could have slid the ball home.

Luke James made a great run into the Rink End box and initially I was shouting for a penalty until Kabamba, who was down on the turf, was the first to react and he slid the ball home to level the score with his third in three games.

Noble replaced Molyneux, who had been left in agony on the pitch in the Pools half as the visitors controlling the game refused to put the ball out of play. Loach put the ball out once he got hold of it and attention was given to Molyneux, who had a deep gash in his leg. Oddly he was booked by the ref and no one seemed to know why. If he had committed a bookable offence the ref would have stopped the game and given a free kick; he let the game go on and booked Molyneux once he got up after treatment. One theory was that he may have berated the ref for not stopping the game when he was in distress, but no one saw an offence by the player in a fifty-fifty challenge. Noble had stayed out during the break, getting himself ready to take on the fight.
"The consensus after the game was that we had just witnessed the best game at the Vic for a couple of seasons."

Luke latched onto a ball and set off on a run with two defenders hanging onto his tail and he was brought down in the box and with no hesitation the ref pointed to the spot. Sadly, the chance was not taken after the shenanigans I wrote about earlier as the keeper guessed the right side for the kick, but if that had gone in I am sure we could have taken this team; they looked shaky under pressure and it was an orchestrated bout of wrestling at every dead ball kick into the box and I can guarantee if you watch the replay you will see Luke James and Kabamba brought to the ground every time and the ref did diddly squat about it. Donaldson, who had a great game, set off on a run and slipped the ball to Hawkes and his inexperience let him down so it was a poor shot at the keeper when he had men free in the box.

Another chance went begging for Pools as Anderson, making a challenge in the box, was flattened and he had to go to hospital after the game as some of his teeth had been knocked out and the ref gave the free kick to the visitors.

It was a hard game for both teams but why are the visiting teams allowed to get away with bending the rules yet the home team take the bookings? We were refused two definite penalty shouts and this is the standard we are used to now. A great point taken against the top team will hopefully give us a boost in the up-coming games and secure a place in the middle of the table without the end of season clamour for points.

A few contenders for Man-of-the-Match today, which was good to see. Donaldson and Anderson were the shining examples for Pools but the lad who stole the show was the Orient defender Widdowson: he never put a foot wrong and was the most effective player both in attack and defence.

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After Boreham Comes Boredom

Match report by ALAN ESSEX

Ebbsfleet 0 Pools 0 (National League)
Tuesday 19 February 2019
Kuflink Stadium

A ground I’d never been to before, The Kuflink Stadium. Kuflink are apparently peer-to-peer lenders. 

According to the GOV.UK website “Peer-to-peer loans are an alternative investment providing opportunities for individuals to lend directly to other people or businesses without using a bank.” Sounds like the kind of scheme Gary Coxall may have been interested in a while back. I suppose this is considered progress - it is all new to me. In the past if you needed a loan you would go to a bank or building society, but so is the relentless march of capitalism.

I didn’t get to see much of the area, Kent being called ‘The Garden of England’. I would have liked to have seen oast houses, rolling hills, castles and even the local streets and shops but the area where Wallace and Gromit and I found ourselves was just several gigantic car parks and an enormous station terminal – Ebbsfleet International. In all honesty, several international airports I’ve visited have been smaller with fewer facilities. The walk to the ground was between some of the aforementioned car parks and along what I imagined was the outskirts of the industrial area, all that I could see was a Kia dealership.

The Kuflink Stadium is quite spectacular at National League level when approached from Stonebridge Road. A new metal and (mostly) glass facade along modern lines runs the complete length of the ground. The upper floor of the two appears to be given over to food and drink, they also put on entertainment, past events seem to be mostly tribute acts. The ground floor comprises offices and changing rooms.

The other side of this structure forms the backdrop to the new stand which is only 5 tiers deep, holding over 1000 seats. Opposite this is an old stand, fully seated, running about half the length of the pitch. This has several columns at the front supporting the tin roof. Behind one goal is another tin covered stand, all seated. Between these two stands is a standing area- think of the area between the Mill House and the Rink End stands. For some reason this area was crowded for the whole game despite plenty of room around the ground. The only excuse I can find for this is that it is directly next to the food and drink hut. The opposite end is an uncovered stand for standing only. They have no segregation and once paid and inside supporters of both clubs can move around at will.

By the way, if you think this is all boring, I haven’t even got to the game yet. The club itself has a fairly interesting recent history. At the end of 2007 the website ‘MyFootballClub’ entered a deal to take over the club. They had not set out to take over this particular club, they had set their sights higher, Leeds United, Arsenal and Nottingham Forest had been mentioned, there was an amount of surprise and disappointment when Ebbsfleet were named. Around 27,000 members from around the country agreed to pay £35 each providing £635,000 to take over the club, all with an equal share. I have no idea where the other £300,000 would have gone but assume it would have provided a nice cushion from financial woes. The members would eventually vote on all major decisions including team selection and transfers. In the meantime, Liam Daish their manager, continued to control who played and who remained at the club and who was brought in. It sounds like a logistical nightmare equalled only by the current Brexit turmoil. However, in May 2008, Ebbsfleet won the FA Trophy beating Torquay 1-0. They also won the Kent Senior Cup.

The first real democratic decision that was made was to transfer John Akinde to Bristol City for £140,000 with over 82% voting for this. This money allowed Daish to re-sign most of the squad and add Michael Gash for £20,000 from Cambridge City.

After a year, following a peak of 32,000 members, many did not renew. In 2009 they had 9,000 members where 15,000 was considered the break-even (around half a million pounds), a year later it was down to around 3,500 and the club were relegated from the Conference. The fewer members continued to run the club and they surprisingly won promotion back to the Conference at the first attempt. The club having financial problems then reverted back to a more traditional style of ownership. From 2013 they have been owned by Kuwaiti business KEH Sports Ltd.
"Noble’s drag back left a defender on his backside and stunned Noble so much that when it came off, he forgot to shoot."

I’ve been putting it off but here is the match report. After the weekend's surprising and most welcome win at Boreham Wood expectations were high for another good display. A couple of weeks ago who would have thought that Myles Anderson and Aaron Cunningham would be our central defensive pairing? What’s more who would have put money on not conceding after 2 away games?

Pools had to defend for long periods in the first half with Michael Cheek, a prolific scorer for his present club as well as previously Chelmsford, Braintree and Dagenham & Redbridge and Cody McDonald looking dangerous for the hosts. Pools were having to defend in numbers with Kioso moving inside to assist the 2 central defenders and Amos and Donaldson in the full back slots. With the remaining midfielders, Featherstone, Hawkes and Noble, also having to play deep. Our front pair of Kabamba and James didn’t have much joy in attack. Kabamba did have one clear opportunity but his weak shot, which was more like a gentle back pass, went straight to Ashmore, the rotund Ebbsfleet keeper (think of Martin Burleigh in his prime). Two similar opportunities for the home team from their right-hand side, inside of the penalty box, went past Loach’s right-hand post with the keeper beaten. McDonald went off injured on the half hour and Ebbsfleet didn’t look so dangerous after this.

After the break Pools came out much stronger but it was Ebbsfleet who had a couple of good chances although poor finishing, one shot went over the stand and the other hit the tin roof covering it, prevented the electronic scoreboard operator from being troubled. James was his lively self and a last-ditch block turned his shot into a corner. The 2 highlights of the game for Pools came in the last 10 minutes, Kabamba had a great shot that was magnificently saved by Ashmore tipping the ball round the angle of cross bar and post for a corner. It was good to see Ashmore and Kabamba deservedly congratulate each other. There was then a sublime movement between Noble and Featherstone interchanging short passes in the Ebbsfleet penalty area. Noble’s drag back left a defender on his backside and stunned Noble so much that when it came off, he forgot to shoot. A defender then managed to clear the ball.

A hard-fought draw between 2 equally matched sides on the night. Both defences deserved credit with just a few attacking highlights. Well done to Hignett for getting the team to up their game in the second half and for motivating a team that had been going through the motions a few weeks back.

Good to meet up with some of the ‘South East Poolies’ and a few other London based Poolies. Some supporters had come down for the previous weekend's Boreham match and stayed down. Total attendance was 1265 – as no segregation, impossible to know for sure how many Poolies – I’d say about 150, mostly exiles.

No Man-of-the-Match from me as they all played their part, albeit in a defensive manner.

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Just Not Good Enough

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 1 Bromley 2 (National League)
Saturday 23 February 2019
Victoria Park

After a run of four unbeaten games, hope springs eternal as we take on Bromley who are just above us in the division. With a depleted squad Hignett had to switch the team but today we were just not good enough and the visitors just rolled us over making us look a pretty weak side. 

As the Ditchburn Poolie said: "We struggle against sides who bully us and today we never looked like threatening them at all."

We tried to play football but it kept breaking down as the visitors look as if they play a ten-man defence and break quick but it was more than that as they controlled the game and never let go. The first goal came from a foul through but like so many of the officials in the division they seem to run on a different set of rules to normal football and the sad thing is we have never learned the lesson yet. It looks as if the man in the middle will do his own thing and take no notice of his linesmen so they do not look for any misdemeanors such as the ball going out of play and the players taking throw ins with one foot on the pitch. Ok a poor excuse but it did lead to the first goal.

The second goal was a beauty and even the disappointed Pools fans applauded it. Coulson broke through the Pools back line to take a great ball over his shoulder and very smartly lobbed Loach who had no chance to reach the ball and they were two up going into the break.

Late in the second half Pools finally managed to put a bit of pressure on the visitors but it was still a struggle to get clean ball around their goal. Noble, who did nothing all day, managed to lob their keeper but it was too little too late as the visitors claimed the points.
"...some of the officials in this division do not like coming to Hartlepool. Well, I have got news for them: we don’t like them coming here either!"

It has to be said today's referee, whoever he is, was totally biased against the home side. It may sound like sour grapes but this feller was blatant throughout the game, giving the visitors so much leeway in tackles and man-handling yet the instant a Pools player put a foot wrong he clamped down on them in an instant. It was so bad that it was comical to watch. Two regular lady fans walking out with twenty minutes to go said “I am not watching this ******* so-called referee any longer.”

Three players were booked; even Hignett was booked in the last ten minutes. The visitors' number nine, chasing a ball in the first couple of minutes, bundled Kioso into the fencing at the Town End and it could have been classed as dangerous play and he was not even spoken too. This gave him licence to go for anyone on the pitch; in fact the ref did speak to him after he chopped Kabamba down on the wing and the ref pointed out three other offences around the pitch before letting him walk away without a card. He went to book a player for diving and even gave us a free kick then changed his mind and gave it the other way and booked Kabamba for a foul.

It turns out he was the same ref who turned down Pools' penalty claim back in October when Davies was brought down in the box in front of the Town End and he waved play on. I had heard before that some of the officials in this division do not like coming to Hartlepool. Well, I have got news for them: we don’t like them coming here either!

One punter said as he was leaving and I will give you a quote: “He was not a bad ref - he was totally incompetent."

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Any Other Business


Well, another up-and-down month as Pools start to look a different side, get an improbable 4-0 away win, and then return to looking like the same side again.

Ok, so that's nothing unusual for Pools, but with it coming just at the moment when the playoffs were still just about reachable with luck, we had a couple of weeks of excitement before that dream fizzled out. So now the loss of momentum, plus an injury/suspension crisis, means that we could yet again be fighting relegation.

As if life wasn't tedious enough with Brexit!

At the Bromley match we were looking round the ground for things of interest (Pools' performance wasn't riveting) and noticed this ad on the Mill House touchline.

It seems to be well endowed with apostrophes but we couldn't work out how many were surplus to requirements (although one definitely is!) So we looked it up online and it would seem that while historically "Cameron's Taxis" would have been grammatically correct, in modern usage that or "Camerons Taxis" would both be acceptable. The brewery does without the apostrophe.

Anyone who was unaware of the health issues causing Trevor Carson to miss much of the season at Motherwell may be interested to read his story here

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Money Money Money...


The one thing about supporting Pools is that there is never a dull moment. Tell a lie, come to think of it there have been a fair few gloomy days as well as ...weeks...months and years.

First we hear is that Richard Money has decided that he no longer wants to be the manager of Hartlepool United. This road to Damascus moment apparently occurred two days into the job when the realisation of the scale of the task undertaken must have hit home. This before a ball had even been kicked under his tenure. Then discussions with the Pools hierarchy with a view to a job swop/change and being moved upstairs in some capacity or other, not connected with the playing side of things. I wager that the job description must have read something like "Experienced coach/Manager required for struggling non-league football club." Not for someone who is looking for employment above the ground floor.

Something must have been said very early doors as stated in the last edition of M.B. It was very strange to see Craig Hignett, Director of Football, in his track suit warming up the squad prior to kick offs on several occasions and then spending the rest of these matches in the dug out alongside The Money man.

What I fail to understand is why Richard Money applied for the job in the first place. He he must have known what he was walking into, having thoroughly carried out detailed research on Pools, allegedly having watched every match video ...which surely would have deterred the most enthusiastic of applicants. Collectively the CEO, the director of football and the owner of the club were all blown away with his interview and afterwards Money himself said that he knew in his blood, when he heard that Pools had gone non-league, that one day he would manage them. Talk about selling yourself and ticking all the right boxes; he should have been in the Dragons Den. I am sure Lee Bradbury is having a little chuckle to himself.
"I am sure Lee Bradbury is having a little chuckle to himself."

On the downside, you have to look at Raj's track record of appointing managers. At Darlington, Colin Todd and Steve Staunton, both big names who had played at the highest level for the top teams in the Premiership, were ultimately failures as managers. Oh and we can add Matthew Bates to that list.

I would be very surprised if the interviewing panel, as a matter of concern, had, prior to his appointment not asked Richard Money or his former club Solihull, the circumstances and reasoning behind him walking away from the West Midland outfit.

I was going to write a piece for M.B about the positives of Richard Money, and his breath of fresh air attitude of telling it how it really is:
Too many central defenders at the club.
Too many midfield players of the same type.
In all his footballing life he had never seen the ball passed backwards so much by one team (Nicky Featherstone stand up and take a bow ...or a back pass.)
Very few players could run forward with the ball.
An alarming lack of height throughout the team and the lack of a battling midfielder who can tackle.
He also hinted, but could not say a lot in case it affected the morale of the players alluded to, that a fair few of them will be shown the door marked exit at the end of the season.

I could not argue with a word of any of that.

He also quite rightly stated that in future this club will no longer be a rest home for injury prone players who were coming to the end of their careers for a last pay day. Can't fault the man.

That aside he was a man of many contradictions. We should not play three at the back. The following match - three at back. After the embarrassing defeat at Gateshead he was quoted as saying that Pools were the better team on the day. Not from where I was sat were they. Then we are told that we need to bring youth into the squad. Shortly afterwards the experienced 31 year old Michael Raynes is signed (and rightly so and needed.) And on it went.

My problem with Money (apart from the fact that I can't hold on to it) was that he did not seem to have much time for the best prospect and one of the few decent footballers at the club, Peter Kioso, who hardly got a game under his brief reign. As soon as Craig Hignett became manager Kioso was installed back into the first team starting XI. A case of if your face fits.

Out of the blue came the announcement that Money was effectively swapping roles with Craig Hignett, but not as Director of Football but as someone who was going to look at the club's infrastructure, which no one, even from outside, would disagree needs delving into.

Hignett as we all know was desperate to get back into management, having put in for the Gateshead job last season, so with this switch he will be in his element. How this will impact on his relationship with Raj Singh, if and when there comes a time when his friend has to sack him? It is indeed a tough call.

I was still getting my head round the whole Richard Money affair when I saw the headline in the Northern Echo with the word "Exclusive" reading "Richard Money Exits Hartlepool."

I immediately checked out the Mail website but nothing was forthcoming until nearly five hours later, when we saw a more low key reserved headline (obviously they had not being given the exclusive by the club and did not have all the facts to hand and actually quoted the Northern Echo) that Richard Money nears the exit door. So reading between the lines he had still not departed the club at this point.

With that I accessed the Latest news section on the HUFC website where the headline heralded: "Women roar back to form at Wallsend" (Noisy beggars). No mention of Richard Money. Interestingly, and very Kremlin-like, at first glance it looks as if any photographs/video interviews or anything to do with Richard Money has been removed from the site which suggests he has left or is leaving the club. However nearly twenty fours after the Echo's exclusive, it was also interesting to note that there had been no further mention of his departure pending or otherwise on the club's web page.

On that evening's BBC News they said, playing it safe like the Mail, that unconfirmed reports were stating that Richard Money had left Hartlepool United. At this point it looks as if it is a case of going, going but not quite gone, ...and perhaps staying on a bit longer than expected.

If I were in his shoes I would be too embarrassed to seek a pay-off, if one indeed is being sought. At the very beginning I would have held my hand up and said "look I am very sorry I have wasted my own and everybody's else's time but after mulling the situation over this is not the job for me, please cancel my contract and I'll be off. Cheerio." (...and there he was. Gone.)

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Managing to Make Us a Laughing Stock


Just when things were appearing to get back to normal at the Super Six Stadium we have a couple of weeks when it turns into Russ Abbot's Mad House.

We have a manager who has come and gone to be replaced by a Director of Football who didn't want to be manager a few weeks ago. The manager threatening to go upstairs in a job switch but thankfully walking away from the club. He should not have had the option, As soon as we realised he was not fit for purpose and he was going around telling everybody he did not want to be here he just have had a size 10 up his arris and sent on his way,

Of course this would be admitting we had made another piss-poor managerial appointment but there again the whole world knows that. I am sure Raj Singh has the good of the club at heart but he is presiding over a complete shambles.
"The four new signings look promising, especially the striker Nicke Kabamba, who is what we have been looking for all season."

Most of the football world would have got the message if they had bothered to watch the televised game at Harrogate. Now if ten years ago someone had told you we would be playing Harrogate in a league match you would have said they were having a laugh. But no, we took them on with the hosts in a higher league position than us and we were a complete embarrassment.

What we did see was Xavi, wearing the captain's armband. put in the worst midfield performance ever from a player in a Hartlepool shirt. For their second goal he tried to set up their attacker for a strike on goal and his second attempt in our own penalty area was hammered into our net before the keeper could move. The fat lad was immediately substituted but for the next game he retained his place in our non-existent midfield, which simply beggars belief.

Paddy McLaughlin is sent out on loan to York, while Conor Newton and Lewis Hawkins have been deemed surplus to requirements and can go to anybody who wants them. Don't expect a queue outside the ground then.

The four new signings look promising, especially the striker Nicke Kabamba, who is what we have been looking for all season. We need to sign him up to a permanent deal before we lose him. The centre-back Michael Raynes is a massive player for this division, a huge improvement on Carl Magnay and Myles Anderson, neither of whom is up to standard .A massive cull of these mediocre players is needed and it will be interesting to see who does it.

It is still unclear whether Craig Hignett is going to be a long-term appointment as manager or whether a new man will be brought in with Hignett reverting to his director of football role. Although what a National League team needs a director of football for is unclear. We are Hartlepool not bloody Liverpool as Tommy Widdrington used to say. The last time Hartlepool appointed one was when Kenneth Hodcroft went for a Director of Sport. And gave us a bozo who couldn't direct his own piss down a urinal.

If we were looking to appoint a permanent new manage,r Darrell Clarke is still looking for a job. This is s guy who has taken teams out of the National League and Division Two. Someone with a love of Pools who would relish the challenge and not be a bit reluctant to take on the job as the present incumbent appears to be.

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A Touch of the Two Harolds


Former Prime Minister Harold Wilson once famously said, ‘A week’s a long time in politics.’ His penultimate predecessor, Harold Macmillan, described the most important thing in politics as ‘events’. Well, over the past few days, both quotations can be twisted to Pools.

First, we had the televised game at Harrogate Town when Pools were taken to the cleaners. It was an abject performance which left us all wondering whether a relegation fight was on the cards again. What also left us wondering was who was in charge? Both Richard Money and Craig Hignett were in the dugout but this was resolved a few days later when Craig Hignett was placed in charge of first team affairs with Money undertaking an undefined role. As we go to print there’s suggestions that Money will be on his way out completely.

And so to Saturday’s game against Braintree. I had a sense of foreboding as too often in the past we’d made clubs in the bottom four play like Barcelona. We stuck to the task and the performance raised morale. Three loan signings we made – was this Richard Money? – certainly made a big contribution to the victory. Hopefully, we’ll get stability in defence with Michael Raynes who seems to be adopting a leadership role. As soon as he signed, I got in touch with a pal of mine who is a season ticket holder at Crewe. His verdict was that Raynes is a very powerful header of the ball with plenty of experience - but with a habit of giving goals away. Of course, plenty has been said about Nicke Kabamba and a goal in each of the league games shows his worth. Let’s hope he can be of some help to Luke James as he lays the ball off. And I’m sure Luke Molyneux will also make a good contribution. For me, Peter Kioso turned in a fantastic performance against Braintree and he would always be first on my team sheet. It did look as though Kioso might be out of favour with Money but thankfully Craig Hignett has restored him to the starting line up rather than having him idling his time away on the bench.
"Hopefully, we’ll get stability in defence with Michael Raynes who seems to be adopting a leadership role"

The scariest moment, of course, in the Braintree match came in added time when the opposition were awarded a corner. Bloody hell, was my reaction as their goalie went up; they’re going to equalise or get a penalty amongst all the chaos. Thankfully that didn’t happen and we breathed again. There was some talk of those shysters at FIFA outlawing goalkeepers coming up in the dying minutes. Lay off, it can be exciting or nervy depending on who you support. FIFA have taken enough fun out of the game so belt up.

The other talking point about the Braintee game was the appearance of our first lady referee. Rebecca Welch certainly put in a very competent performance and two reactions from Poolies were typical : “We’ll have her every week” and “I hardly noticed her which shows how good she was”. Bless the lady!

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Green Green Grass of Home


In the space of one footballing week I have seen three, maybe four things that should be banned never mind being allowed in the confines of a football ground.

1 Artificial pitches The game against Harrogate was the first time I witnessed 'professional' football played on an artificial surface and despite many people, particularly the Yanks, enthusing and telling us all how much this technology has advanced compared to when I used I play on a similar surface back in the late 80s at the Tilery in Stockton, all I can say it has improved though very, very marginally.

The ball, as in days of yore, moved very quickly on the surface and on several occasions normal passes looked as if they had been over-hit and the ball ran out. The bounce of the ball was not natural at all. You could actually see the Pools players struggling to control or trap the ball ...err, come to think of it, that might be down to their limited ability rather than the playing surface. What was most peculiar, almost laughable was that prior to kick off certain areas of the pitch had sprinklers in use. Prior to the second half Harrogate had them turned on, soaking the area around Pools' penalty box, I guess to make the ball run even quicker. For me artificial surfaces make for artificial football and should all, as a matter of priority, be dug up ...or should I say pulled up!

2 Thermal clothing Despite a heavy police presence the next two offences were committed at Blackwell Meadows on the evening of the Durham Challenge Cup match with Darlo. Granted it was a nippy night but 1883 took to the field of play wearing more warm clothing than some of the spectators had on. Chris Turner once rightly said that no footballer, with the exception of goalkeepers, should be allowed to wear gloves and to my mind, in fairness you can add caps to that ensemble but not of the thermal variety.

There is nothing worse in my mind than seeing a player wearing a short-sleeved football shirt being worn over a long-sleeved base layer top of a different colour. Luke James springs to mind, who sometimes wears a white base layer under his short-sleeved top. When wearing the red away top, from a distance it looks as if he is playing for Arsenal and when wearing the home top he looks like an ice cream salesman. Though, it has to be said, a very quick one.
"artificial surfaces make for artificial football and should all, as a matter of priority, be dug up"
In my view any player who insist on wearing a base layer shirt should wear a long sleeved football shirt over it and with the base layer preferably being a similar colour as the club shirt.

3 Drums Thermals aside, the most annoying thing at the Darlo match was the little drummer boy knocking seven bells out of his percussion. He has been at it for years and would be better suited belting out his instrument of torture on the Crumlin Rd in Belfast with the Orange Order during the marching season rather than performing to the few in the Tin Shed. Although they left it late in the day, I will always be eternally grateful to Messrs Hawkins and Hawkes who brought an abrupt close to his one-man performance with two late strikes of their own which themselves probably deserved ...a roll on the drum!

I had intended to have number four listed but thought better of it.
...Well, seeing as you asked:

4 Women referees I have to say that the home game against Braintree was the first time that I witnessed such a person in action. I did not notice her at all for the first few minutes until one of my mates passed comment along the lines of 'I thought that she was going to her pocket for a yellow but it turned out it was her compact that she brought out'. In the not too distant past, irrespective of her performance and capabilities, a female referee would have drawn derision from many on the terraces just for their own gratification alone. Whilst like many level headed people, think that political correctness has gone right off the Richter scale along with the Me Too, the millennial and snowflake generations, some good has come out of it. Overall It was good to see her get, and earn the respect of the majority of the crowd (and players?) and it has got to be said that she performed a lot better than many of her male counterparts who we have seen at the Vic in recent seasons. I did wonder what sort of reaction she would have drawn if she'd had a bad game herself or made some controversial decisions and how the crowd would have then reacted. In time we will no doubt see.

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A Tale of Two Tickets


As we set off for the derby match against Harrogate my mate asks me to check if I had my ticket with me. "Yes of Cour..."

"Whoa Whoa, Whoa, just hold your horses there a minute. Did you say derby match v Harrogate? Come on, you cannot be serious, it is no more a derby match than when we play the plastic Geordies from the Heed." I am surprised that Sky TV did not have the match billed as Betty's v Greggs. The very worst I was expecting was the famed Betty's boot boys throwing stale scones at us and Poolies chanting back "You can stick your sherry trifles up your..."

The plan was to get to the ground early and sample some of the pies and pasties (not Betty's) that were on offer as they had favourable reviews among the football community. This plan went out the window very quickly, as unbeknown to me the Bride had put up some scran for us and we ended up having a picnic on the 6th level of the multi storey car park next to the railway station. I am sure if one went to the 10th storey of the car park they would have got a panoramic view of Betty's fabled baps.

For the foodies amongst you our platter consisted of Argentinian corned beef made from the finest of Pampas-reared and grazed dead cow sandwiched nicely in between two slices of a Hull-, or possibly  Stockton-baked Warburton bun.

This was washed down courtesy of a flask of Yorkshire tea. Others enjoyed Harrogate sparkling water which surprisingly originated from Harrogate. Our sweet consisted of sticky toffee err mmm Mars bar (well it was very hot in the car) which hailed from Slough and was out of this world. Savoury was a bag of crisps from Leicester. I really must stop buying their products as apart from Gary Lineker getting up my nose big style, is the fact that Walkers /Pepsi closed down their crisp factory in Peterlee with massive job losses. If that was not bad enough, courtesy of Paul McCartney, Heather Mills bought the factory and it is now churning out vegan food. Not having a go at any vegans out there but I can't stand veg.

What a waste of a crisp factory.

Whilst enjoying our culinary delights I looked out over the railway lines and noticed that the bus station was sited next to the entrance of the railway station. I had never seen the like. Yes, I know, I know we have a bus train interchange in Hartlepool but not one that's full of buses going here there and everywhere. I recently learned that Hartlepool Borough Council charges each bus operator four English pounds each time a bus pulls into our interchange. Little wonder the Council make sixteen pounds a day and there is not a bus to be seen.

Owing to our dallying longer than expected in our salubrious surroundings,we had not noticed the time slip and there was only half an hour before kick off and we only had a rough idea where the ground was located. With that the Bride quickly threw the Nottingham lace tablecloth, the candelabra, the best silver and Royal Doulton china (made in China) into the back of our Hartlepool four-wheeled tractor commonly known in the trade as a Hyundai.

We asked several locals where the ground was and they hadn't a clue. If we had followed the directions one lady gave us, God bless her, we would have ended up in Ilkley.

Thankfully a couple of lads passing by put us right and told us to cut through this ginnel - what a brilliant word (it is the same a a Wynd.) and then across the Stray. A very pleasant walk if we had not been is so much of a hurry.
"I am surprised that Sky TV did not have the match billed as Betty's v Greggs"

All set to go into the ground with ten minutes to spare when my mate, the lad who had asked me if I'd remembered to bring my ticket, pulled out his ticket which read "Darlington v Hartlepool, Durham Challenge Cup." After going through his pockets and wallet, there was no sign of the Harrogate ticket which he realised he had left it at home.

Funny how your mind goes into gear in a crisis.

I said we would go to the nearby pub and watch the game on the telly (okay for me as I wasn't driving!)

No, he said it's your ticket.

I suggested we toss a coin for it. No again.

I went to see a steward and he suggested explaining our predicament to the ticket office who might be sympathetic and look favourably upon us.

Just as I finished talking to him I got chatting to the lovely Bernadette (sadly, her dad is a right ne'er do well), who suggested that my mate gets someone at home to photograph the ticket and send it to his mobile phone so he could present it at the turnstile or ticket office. (Here's me thinking that I would have to get the photo developed at Boots and the match would be well over by then.) Turns out my pal had already gone down the same route in getting a photo sent to him. He came running over to me with said photo on his phone, at the same time as this random Poolie asked me if I needed a ticket as he had one to spare.

Where did he appear from?

"How much?"

"You can have it mate."

Fair play to the lad, there are some good people about. Afterwards I got to thinking that if I had been stood four feet away in any other direction I would have missed him.

I am not going to give a match report as

1) I can't go through that again.
2) I am sure you that you all witnessed the horror show that should have been screened after the 9pm watershed.
3) I can't go through all that again.

All I will say is that a couple of days earlier, I had gone to see the excellent Laurel and Hardy film and our two most senior outfield players on the day could have taken their parts with ease as they were bigger clowns.

The pair of them should be the first names on Money's free transfer list at the end of the season. If Featherstone gets another game for Pools I will be staggered.

One other strange observation about the match. Nearly 800 Poolies in the away end who when always in number, are very vocal, hardly made a toot all afternoon. Probably they too have been battered into submission.

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