Wonderin' Aloud


We are only a couple of months into the new football season but Pools, to many, including myself, are exceeding all expectations and who at time of writing with nine games played are not only holding their own in League Two but are unbeaten at home. Looking at the league table, Pools are currently a mere seven points off top place and a massive seven points from bottom.

I will be the first to admit that early in the season, owing to the late finish due to the play-offs and their jaded performances pre-season, I felt that Pools would struggle to get going in the early part of the 2021/22 campaign, especially with their lack of fire power. New forwards have been brought into the squad but it is too early to say at this stage, though unlikely, if we have unearthed another Luke Armstrong.

To date I have yet to see a League Two side who have been better than Pools. Even the sides that have beaten us did not outclass Dave Challinor's troops.

The Tranmere result was a travesty, the best team losing by a mile. The match against Barrow should have been a draw. Sutton were just a bunch of big physical route one merchants who also not only intimidated Pools but the referee as well.
"One can only imagine the huge following Pools would take to the Stadium of Light or down the A19 to the Theatre of Misery."

Let's not forget that Pools also travelled down and back home on the day for the Sutton game which cannot have helped pre-match preparations and possibly contributed to their lack-lustre performance against bottom-of-the-table Oldham a few days later.

To be currently sitting in seventh place in the league is an achievement itself when one considers that half our side have little or no Football League experience, not forgetting, as I mentioned earlier, that we have no recognised strikers of note.

Owing to the absence of Burey, Holohan, Ferguson and our talisman Gary Liddle, I feared the worst in the game against an in-form Exeter City side who were unbeaten in their previous six matches.

Whilst our firepower was, as ever, still lacking and the midfield, without our Irishman's guile and eye for goal, was not its usual fluent self, those players that took their places, particularly in defence, did a sterling job and did not let the side down.

It is still very early days and only 20% of this season's games have passed, so let's not get ahead of ourselves, although I must admit to keeping one eye on Sunderland's results in the league above and hoping that their winning form is just a slight glitch. Nothing against the Mackems per se but if they fail to gain promotion, who knows, if Pools did land a striker with an eye for goal, next season could see both sides playing each other.

Should the Mackems gain promotion I would accept as a consolation prize (more like a booby prize) Borer being relegated and being our local derby team particularly as it is only a short jaunt over to Teeside.

One can only imagine the huge following Pools would take to the Stadium of Light or down the A19 to the Theatre of Misery.

Just think of the revenue the Pools club shop could generate by selling PPE to the travelling Poolie hordes to keep them well and free from sickness, disease and possibly a lingering and unpleasant death ahead of their trip to Middlesborough.

I can just visualise it: Face masks and breathing apparatus to prevent not only smog inhalation but more importantly a bad taste in your mouth after watching the Borer in the first place; Disposable white suits to avoid chemical contamination; Industrial ear plugs to prevent brain death from having had to listen to the zombie-like chant of "C'mon Borer C'mon Borer."

We can but dream.

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Not Bad!!


Well, September wasn't a bad month was it? We maintained our unbeaten home record and secured a point away from home.

The home point against Exeter was well deserved. The creativity was first class and we certainly put the Exeter defence under pressure - eleven corners providing the necessary evidence. Shame we couldn't have made at least one of them count.

October will be a challenging month. Home fixtures against Harrogate and Northampton Town will be a stern test. Let's hope we can get the injured players back.

The big news of last week was, of course, Dave Challinor signing a three-year contract. It put an end to the uncertainty and provided stability to the club. Let's hope he can go from strength to strength with Pools. The problem is, of course, that if he continues to do well, the vultures (probably League One clubs) will gather ready to swoop. Previous managers who have done well at Pools (Brian Clough, Len Ashurst, Chris Turner and Danny Wilson) all went off to richer pastures and this is an inevitable part of the game. Still, with a three-year contact, at least we'll be able to claim compensation!!
"Still, with a three-year contact, at least we'll be able to claim compensation!!"

Speaking of Len Ashurst, it was sad to read of his death last week at the age of 82. I had the pleasure of meeting Lenny the Lion at Pools some years ago. I introduced him to Grandson Joe and Len shook his hand and signed his autograph book and gave him a few words of encouragement. A true gentleman.

The same week also saw the death of Len Ashurst's coach and trainer, Tony Toms. An ex-Royal Marine commando, Tony had the Pools' squad on assault course at Catterick Camp. Later on, he served in the same capacity at Sheffield Wednesday with Len Ashurst and Jack Charlton. On one occasion, after Wednesday were in a bad run, he had the squad camping out on a moor just outside Sheffield. It had the desired effect - Wednesday won their next game.

Finally, yet another club is in trouble - this time its Oldham Athletic. To restrict home fans from buying tickets is an extreme measure and we can only hope that the enquiry head by Tracey Crouch MP will come up with the answer to clubs falling into the hands of owners who alienate supporters. Quite clearly, the EFL don't seem to police the clubs.

Are you keeping an eye on the National League? I suppose it's force of habit and let's hope that Chesterfield can maintain their early promise and get automatic promotion. Another not-too-far-away game.

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Funny Old Game

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Top Man in the Job


The good news this month is manager Dave Challinor signing a three-year contract which gives the club the stability it needs.

Owner Raj Singh has done some great work and is getting the club run on a professional basis besides bringing in a Chief Operating Executive and two more directors.

How different to when Coxall and his cronies had their fingers in the pie and very nearly killed the club off. That episode does not reflect well on Ken Hodcroft and Co., who sold the club to this bunch of shysters and not for the first time they had done it yet Hodcroft still seems a big favourite with a section of the fans.

Let us just be thankful we have Mr Singh in control of the club and better times are certainly on the way with Challinor in the manager's seat. We have made an excellent start to the season with Challinor working with a small budget yet bringing in players who are doing a reasonable job. Granted we could still do with a regular goal scorer, but who couldn't?

The goalkeeper still does nothing to inspire confidence and I am surprised new signing Jonathan Mitchell has not been given a run in the team as he looks quite useful. With Dimi Konstantopolous coaching him hopefully we will see more improvement.
"Pools having been looking a match for most teams we have faced this season and do not appear to have anything to fear."

Gary Liddle has been a loyal servant to the club but it looks like age is catching up with him. Which makes it a bit of a surprise Lawlor has gone out on loan to Bromley but with Luke Hendrie and Eddie Jones being brought into the squad we appear to be well covered in this area. Mike Fondop looks a promising signing up front but he needs someone alongside him to add some firepower. Although we have Cullen, Goodwin, Olomola, Grey and Luke Molyneux who has been used up front to good use.

Of course we can't get anyone in on loan or permanent signing until January but a free agent could still be signed on. One such player who has been training with the club is JJ Hooper who is from the North East and has a good scoring record in the National League.

It remains to be seen whether Challinor will appoint an assistant manager to replace Joe Parkinson. Clint Hill has been helping out and would be an outstanding appointment with an impressive playing record behind him and good knowledge of the modern game.

Pools having been looking a match for most teams we have faced this season and do not appear to have anything to fear. Jamie Sterry has had a sensational start to the season and looks a class apart from this division. And Francis Angol has slotted into the defence like he has played there for years.

As long as Challinor can keep turning up players like these two the future will continue to look bright for Pools, And the crowds are turning out to watch them. Very impressive figures at The Vic this season.

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Signing of the Times


At last, after a protracted and long drawn out affair that would put the signing of Treaty of Versailles to shame, Dave Challinor has finally put pen to paper and signed his soul to Hartlepool United for the next three years.

"Thank goodness for that" say one and all and let all Poolies rejoice and raise a glass or two in praise, celebration and relief.

Long live the King.

I dread to think what the reaction of the Poolie faithful would have been if, for whatever reason, Challinor had not put pen to paper and instead walked away at the end of the season to pastures new.

Finding a replacement for Challinor, with a 46% win rate, would have been akin to finding a successor to Alex Ferguson when he abdicated the Manchester United throne. Basically some very big shoes to fill.
"Challinor has single-handedly rekindled the fans' love and passion for the club."

For the first time since the days of Ronnie Moore, thanks to last season's form and play-off final win, Challinor has single-handedly rekindled the fans' love and passion for the club. Who would have thought in their wildest dreams that at the beginning of this season Pools would be attracting 1,500 additional new fans through their turnstiles for each home game and the spending power that comes with that? On the plus side, many of these new fans are youngsters who long-term will hopefully get the bug and become life-long patriots of the club.

If the unthinkable had occurred, Challinor's departure would have coincided with a massive drop in fans' footfall through the Victoria Park turnstiles.

It is no secret that the Challinors like the club as well as the area and his son is due to attend Durham University but giving Dave Challinor a long-term contract has shown the chairman's faith in his manager which in turn will now allow him to move to the North East and simultaneously eradicates lost time spent on the road travelling to and from Chester, which in turn could be time better spent on HUFC.

I dare say that one of Raj's backroom boffins worked out that the money that could be saved in the manager's fuel allowances, travelling home and back a couple of times a week, could now be transferred and used as part of the manager's new package at no additional cost to the club. A win-win all round.

Three years will give Challinor the time to start putting his chess pieces into place and build the club on the footballing side in his own image and hopefully take it to the next level ...or levels?

[Photo courtesy of Scott Llewellyn]

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Funny Old Game

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Home and Away


And no, I’m not going to talk about the Australian soap that is on Channel 5 at present.

So we’re two months into the season and all things considered, we’re more than holding our own in League Two.

Like a few, I thought we would find it hard and be in the lower reaches of the table but the team have pleasantly surprised us with the results so far. Of course this is down to us having a very good home record. This is something that is imperative every season. Make your home ground a bit of a fortress. You’ll be expected to pick up the majority of your points tally on home turf.

Then away from home, churn out a few wins here and there, chuck in a few draws and if you’re wanting to consolidate after promotion then you’re sorted.

However, the away form isn’t really holding up at the moment. We are yet to chalk up our first win away from home and have only that point at Oldham to show. It’s not as if we’re getting hammered away from home, all the losses have been by the odd goal which is just plain old unlucky. But sooner or later we need to take charge of these away games and put the wins on the board. It must drive DC crackers and leave him scratching his head that we haven’t come away with three points from our travels yet. But like all good things, they will happen eventually. Just have faith like you do at home.
"It must drive DC crackers and leave him scratching his head that we haven’t come away with three points from our travels yet."

I mean it wasn’t that long ago when the home form was a serious Achilles heel wasn't it? Think about that...

Like all, I’m delighted that the contract issue is now firmly behind us and we have secured the services of DC for another three seasons. The Chester-born gaffer has been a real breath of Poolie air and is going a long way to cementing himself in Poolie folklore. He understands the fans, and sees the same picture as we do. If something hasn’t worked in a previous game then he will attempt to put it right in the next one. Sign of a manager that is trying to find all the right solutions. Whilst some of his signings haven’t been great, a lot of them have done what he and we want.

That’s why we have to be patient and trust the Challinor process. He has a plan, and he won’t be personally pleased until that plan has the final result he wants. Then he will go to another plan to take the previous plan to the next level. It’s all in hand, so believe in him. Oh, and did you know that Jeff (Stelling) has named his cat after DC? Yeah, neither did I but it’s apparently true like.

Although I don’t live near the town anymore, yeah it’s still fun here in Northern Ireland telling people you support Pools. I still kick every ball virtually on matchdays. The NWC have apparently brought the “noise” back to the Vic and if that can eventually transmit into everywhere else in the ground then perhaps we can get the whole ground rocking. That could then make the stadium one to be feared if you’re an opposing player. Make it an intimidating atmosphere that makes you think “Oh no, I don’t relish this,” when you arrive in Hartlepool to face Pools. It can make a difference, so let’s do it.

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No League for Gentlemen


For four years I ranted and raged about Pools' struggling to get out of the National League.

...Or as I used to refer to it, "This God-Forsaken League" (GFL), with its cynical play-acting, cheating players, poor referees, plastic playing surfaces or pitches like ploughed fields, rundown stadia and long-distance travel, as pretty much every ground in this GFL is sited in the South of England, mainly along the M25 corridor. What was there to like in this league? The short answer is nothing.
"For some bizarre reason we all, bar none, tune into the National League results to see how our erstwhile rivals are doing."

However... I have noticed a strange phenomenon since Pools were reinstated to the Football League. After the final whistle at each home game, when our little group leaves the 'Vic, all our heads are stuck in our mobile phones checking all the League Two results and each team's placing. In the past we would then move on to view the Premiership results but not any more. For some bizarre reason we all, bar none, turn to the National League results to see how our erstwhile rivals are doing.

"I see Bromley have beaten Altrincham" says one.
Another will announce that Stockport have beaten Yeovil two-nil.
"Did Madden score?"
"No, it was Rooney who got the first and Southam-Hales the other."

The following day in the football section of the Sunday papers I make a detailed study of the GFL tables and the teams' forthcoming fixtures. I swear I now know the names of more non-league football players than Premiership ones. I also pay particular attention to the progress, or not, of former Football League clubs languishing in the GFL.

To my mind the likes of Stockport and Wrexham should rightfully be plying their trade in the Football League. However, because of the recent big money investment in these two clubs who, much like Manchester City and Chelsea, are trying to buy their success rather than work for it, I now find myself rooting for the likes of Halifax, Grimsby, Notts County as well as Chesterfield, to make a speedy return to League Two for no reason other than selfishness because they are only a comparatively short drive away.

Thank goodness Pools are no longer in this GFL. I'll be the first to admit I mistakenly believed that I didn't expect them to be there as long as they were. Spare a thought for the once mighty Wrexham though, who are now spending their thirteenth season in this God-Forsaken League.

Did I learn anything from Pools' four years in this GFL? Yes, four things...
1) I was always under the impression that it was Solihull Motors and not Solihull Moors.
2) The best fish and chips were in Guiseley.
3) Locating the likes of Wealdstone, Woking, Borehamwood, Ebbsfleet and Eastleigh has improved my geographical knowledge of the UK no end. and
4) Most importantly, I don't ever want to see my football club in that GFL ever again.

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We lost a few of Pools' more memorable people in September: Len Ashurst, Martin Burleigh, Alan Fox and Tony Toms. Some younger fans may not have heard of them, but in their different ways they were all Poolie legends.

LEN ASHURST - by Bill the Biro

After the excitement of the Clough years, followed by our first-ever promotion and immediate relegation the following season, Pools returned to their old ways somewhat, with more re-elections.

There were also regular great escapes, but the greatest of them was to be after Len Ashurst joined Pools in 1971 as player-manager as his Sunderland career was drawing to a close (he still holds their record for his total of 409 outfield appearances.)

Pools found themselves in a situation where non-league Hereford United, after their giant-killing of Newcastle, were more or less guaranteed a place in the league and Pools were very much favourites to give up theirs. In the end Pools finished 7th bottom with Hereford taking Barrow's place. Len was to have a long managerial career with Gillingham, Sheffield Wednesday, Newport County (taking them to the quarter-finals of the European Cup-Winners' Cup), Cardiff (twice) and Sunderland (taking them to the League Cup final) before calling it a day, and he would put in the odd appearance at Pools afterwards.

In the close season during his time at Pools, Len could sometimes be heard on Radio Cleveland reporting from Park Drive on the cricket.

One comment that has been made in the week or so since he died (aged 82) by anyone who ever met him, is that Len Ashurst was a perfect gentleman and, although I only met him once, briefly, I doubt anyone else could say anything different.

BBC Radio Teesside sports producer Peter Cook with Darlington Manager Allan Jones (left) and Len Ashurst (right) in a photo kindly provided by Stan Laundon. BBC Radio Teesside would later be renamed BBC Radio Cleveland and then BBC Radio Tees.

And finally, a reminiscence from Running Monkey:

I liked Lenny. He once came to the Catholic Club to do a presentation to the Sunday Afternoon League champions, Owton Manor Rangers, for whom I then played. He was still playing at that time.

In those days we used to go to first team games and every reserve home game too. Lenny brought some good players to the club. The legend that was Willie Waddle soon became a fans' favourite. Neil Warnock was in the same side too, probably one of the best wingers we have had. I remember him scoring a goal at the Town End from a corner. Another legend from that era was Bobby Smith - far too good for our league at that time.

One of the minuses was Kenny Ellis, who was so far ahead of his team mates that he was playing in another game. He had a habit of dummying a pass and leaving it for the man behind; the trouble was that there was never anyone there. Maybe his team mates were not on the same wavelength as Kenny.

George Potter was a player I rated very highly - he never ducked challenge. I cannot leave out the great Barry Watling or Ron Hillyard who replaced him. But the legend's legend to my mind was Malcolm Dawes - possibly thought of in the same class as that great Poolie Kenny Johnson.

Martin Burleigh
- by Rabbi Blue and White Stripes

So it’s a farewell to Martin Burleigh who passed away on Monday 27th 2021 at the age of 70. He was one of the last ‘swashbuckling’ goalkeepers whose displays were as theatrical as they were effective. Lovingly nicknamed ‘The Flying Pig’ due to him being rather portly for a professional footballer he played a total of 97 games for Pools between October 1979 and May 1982.

He had cost £8,000 when he signed for us, a fair bit of money back then, the same amount as Darlington had paid for him when he signed from Newcastle in December 1974, where he began his professional career. He had previously played for Willington A.F.C. in the Northern League.

He played 15 times for Newcastle, signing for them in October 1968, being the back-up keeper to Willie McFaul. When he was given the opportunity of first team football his Newcastle career was virtually ended when he broke a finger ruling him out for the remainder of the season, colliding with Southampton’s Mick Channon. When he returned for the new season he walked out following a dispute with manager Joe Harvey who accused Martin of being ‘seriously overweight’. He did go back to Newcastle but only played another 2 games for them.

Martin was a member of the Newcastle United youth team that won the 1969 Rotterdam International Youth Tournament, defeating Arsenal’s youngsters in the final.

a He played 30 times for Darlington (21 games in the league) and was then signed by Carlisle in June 1975. He played 26 games for the Cumbrians in 2 seasons before returning to Darlington in August 1977 where he made a further 71 league appearances.

His most successful season with Pools was 1980 / 81 with the club finishing 9th in Division 4 on 49 points (coincidentally the same number as Darlington!). That season he shared the goalkeeping position with Graham Richardson.

In May 1982 he signed for Bishop Auckland, then Spennymoor United and finally Langley Park. He then became a painter and decorator based in Ferryhill.

For a ‘big lad’ he was surprisingly agile and thought nothing about diving at the feet of opposition attackers and frequently his own defenders. I have often felt that his modern equivalent would be Nathan Ashmore at Boreham Wood (previously with Ebbsfleet). Both of similar size and agility.

A couple of stories relating to Martin. I was friends with solicitors in the town who represented him when he got divorced. They would always know he was going to have a bad game if his ex had been hassling him regarding the divorce settlement. The second, a rather heart-warming story from Johnjo1 on The Poolie Bunker message board. “I’ll always remember him playing for us against Darlo; in the warm ups a Darlo player blasted a ball which went into the crowd and struck my mother. Martin left his goal and consoled her until a St John Ambulance man attended.”

Martin was always a crowd pleaser; his like we will not see again with sweeper / keepers now in vogue – I couldn’t imagine him racing off his line to beat an onrushing opposing forward. He played a total of 222 league games. So thanks for the memories, R.I.P and sincere condolences to his friends and family.

References: A Century of Poolies – Colin Foster 2008 The Definitive Hartlepool United F.C. - Gordon Small 1998 Wikipedia: Gibson, John – Evening Chronicle, Newcastle. 2nd March 2018 and 17th November 1973 Cumbriacrack – 28th September 2021 Poolie Bunker - Johnjo1, 28th September 2021

ALAN FOX - by Bill the Biro

I started watching Pools in the middle of the infamous re-election years and a succession of failed managers were followed by Alvan Williams who finally stopped the rot before moving on to better things.

Alvan Williams was succeeded by Geoff Twentyman. The experienced centre-half he brought in from Wrexham, Alan Fox, proved to be a rock, and was among the players inherited by Brian Clough.

He was a stylish player - a cut above what we were used to, and his couple of seasons with Pools probably showed us how well a defender could play - we were already well aware of how badly Pools defenders could play.

TONY TOMS - by Bill the Biro

While at Pools, Len Ashurst was asked if the Pools squad would like to take part in a fitness TV programme series for Tyne Tees Television.

They duly did and that's how Len met ex-Royal Marines fitness instructor Tony Toms. Tony and a former Marines colleague wrote a book of exercises to accompany the series and the picture shows my well-used copy.

Fairly soon, rather unusually, and especially so since he was a rugby man rather than a football man, Tony would become Pools' fitness coach and he followed Len, firstly to Gillingham and then to Sheffield Wednesday where he remained after Jack Charlton took over from Len. Tony was a hard taskmaster but was well-respected by the players and, both at Pools and Wednesday, Tony had the players marching over moorland and in the case of Wednesday, their hike followed a run of 11 games without a win - and they won their subsequent match!

Running Monkey adds that Tony certainly put the Pools lads through their paces and remembers once watching them running up the sand hills at the mouth of Crimdon Dene which was bloody hard work, even for fit footballers.

Tony died within a few days of Len at the age of 76.

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Funny Old Game

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Pools See Off the Pirates

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 1 Bristol Rovers 0 (League Two)
Saturday 11 September 2021
Victoria Park

The visit of Joey Barton's Bristol was always going to be a tough game as their form was so poor, two wins two draws and a loss from their five games, so we got what we expected from a Barton side who said his team will fight and battle for every ball.

Hartlepool United climbed to fourth in the League Two table with a dogged performance that saw them defeat Rovers 1-0. A first Pools goal for Jamie Sterry was the difference, with the home defence once again holding firm.

With a Joey Barton side visiting the Vic today and his pre-match comments of "We will fight and battle for every ball,” we knew it was going to be a tough game. Pools were also a couple of players down with both Holohan and Ferguson out and with the recent loss of Burey it was going to be tough game all right.

We were quite pleased at the start of the game to see the lady ref who on her last visit was voted one of the best of the recent bunch. Today she had an off day and let the visitors run riot; some of the tackles would have impressed both Mick McManus and Jackie Pallo had they been around to see it. OK, we all like to see a tough tackle when it is warranted but some of the stuff they served up today was criminal, but I am glad to say the Pools lads did get a few stiff ones in. So much for referees letting a game flow as the new directive calls it but that has to work for both teams.

The visitors were a big, strong side but strength is not the be all and end all of the game. Taylor, the centre back, was about nine foot tall but will never make a decent defender; he jumped in on players and just bundled them over time and time again. Saunders, the ex-Pools player, thought he just had to turn up at the Vic and lie on the ground and the game was all his. Not seen a winger like this one for a long time, but today they had two. Finlay was the other and one who was on the ground more times than the ball and whinged at every decision that went against him.

The game got off to a brisk start with Saunders going close but hitting the side netting. On his next run he got past Byrne just wide of the box and Byrne took one for the team as he grabbed him by the arm and spun him down to the turf.

Kicking towards the Rink End Pools started to get a slight edge on the visitors. Liddle once again spraying long diagonal balls to the wings set up Shelton who hit directly at the keeper who managed to block the shot with one hand then, with the aid of a defender, smothered the ball.

Their no 16 was wild in the challenge and took one from Olomola and was left writhing on the ground as Pools made their way to the Rink End. As the ball was cleared he jumped up, tried to kick the ball towards the Town End, failed, then fell down injured again.
" be replaced by another ageing striker, whose combined age must have been eighty plus and proving the point that strikers are hard to come by."

Just before the interval Olomola had a chance. He dithered a bit when he should have scored, was challenged when he went for the shot and the keeper tipped it over.

In the second half Pools weathered a slight rise in performance from the visitors but with their ageing striker Leon Clarke having gone off first half to be replaced by another ageing striker, whose combined ages must have been eighty plus and proving the point that strikers are hard to come by. Both Goodwin and Shelton had chances but no real threat on the keeper.

On sixty five minutes there was crowd applause for another Pools fan we have lost recently, Graham Dobson, who I can’t say I knew but he was well respected by both sets of fans and some of the players from both sides.

Molyneux tried to bend a curler around the nine foot defender Taylor but was unsuccessful.

Man-of-the-Match Jamie Sterry deserved the accolade with a first-class display of football throughout the game, capped by his first goal for the club. He came down the Mill House side just outside the box, robbed a defender, skated past two tackles and hit a beautiful left foot shot into the net. From then on Pools were cruising and looked a lot more confident in their task. Another tick in the right box for the manager and a great three points for the team.

The North West corner once again had the Vic bouncing without the Irish midfielder, and had to rely on the "Here we go, here we go, here we go / Challinor is better than Mourinho / Here go - o, rocking up the Football League" chant instead.

Tough old game and while the three points were deserved, we still need a striker. If anyone knows what Andy Carroll would want then let us know - he would fill the Vic.

Pools Don't See Off the Grecians

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 0 Exeter City 0 (League Two)
Saturday 25 September 2021
Victoria Park

I was a little apprehensive about the game today as for some reason I confused Exeter with Wrexham. Ok, wrong division but that did not deter me. I was convinced right up until I got to the ground - another senior moment.

The wife says I have got dementia and I forget everything these days. I said "Ok but I still remember your name, George" then forgot to duck and got a thick ear.

The manager had finally signing his contract, which I had been a little nervous about, but according to his statement after the signing he said there was never a problem, just dotting the ‘I’s and crossing the 'T's.

Sad news this week with three ex-Pools employees dying: Tony Toms the ex-marine who trained Pools by turning them into soldiers, his former boss, Lenny "The Lion" Ashurst our former player-manager and ex-Sunderland legend and Alan Fox was the Pools centre half.

"A manager who has never won a game since he signed his contract" I hear the opposition managers saying, [ok, tongue in cheek comment] but I think they have a lot more respect than that for Dave Challinor. Reading some comments on various messageboards, some of our own fans have to give their heads a shake. The time Challinor has spent at the club has been the most exciting for years and we as fans should thank our lucky stars that he has not been lured away by a ‘bigger club.’
"...the ball was hanging around too long in our box and should have been cleared easily, which it would have been had Liddle been there."

Todays game was just as I expected: a tough end-to-end game or should I say box-to-box game as both defences were resolute.

Exeter turned us round at the kick-off, probably on the advice of Padraig Amond who left us for a bigger club but did not get a start today. It was a brisk start by the makeshift Pools side; our stalwart Gary Liddle was out with tendonitis and our Irish midfielder was still absent along with our wing back David Ferguson.

The boss made three changes, bringing in Jones, Hendrie and Daly, who all played very well against a strong side. I say strong in the physical sense as they battered us at times with some crude tackling. One instance of this came in the second half when Fondop ran onto a ball near to the Town End byline. He dropped on the ball during a tackle and had the ball covered with both legs and was trying to get up and control the ball and a defender started hacking through his thighs to get to the ball yet the ref gave a free kick to the visitors. Fondop got very little throughout the game from the official even though he was illegally wrestled to the ground in nearly every challenge.

Pools were the brighter side at the start and really unsettled the visitors with some good runs into their half. Sterry made a great run down the Clarence Road side and his low cross caused panic in their defence but the resulting corner was cleared. Sterry was straight back for more but once again he was unlucky with his shot being blocked. Molyneux was next up as he latched onto a ball from midfield but his shot was scuffed under a challenge and the keeper managed to scramble it away. He was luckier on his next sortie as he raced onto a long ball, turned the defender and curled a low shot into the net which set us one up which we throughly deserved.

The visitors were stung into action and pressed us all the way up to half time when they hit back with a good header but the ball was hanging around too long in our box and should have been cleared easily, which it would have been had Liddle been there.

The second half was a dour affair with both teams playing less football and more long clearances, the visitors becoming more physical and both teams just looking for the end of the game to come. They were two teams on the same points and looked to be of equal ability despite our loss of regular players. With a full side I think we could have done a job against this also-unbeaten-at-home side and taken all three points.

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Any Other Business


Well, a fifth of the season gone and Pools are still in the playoff zone. Happy days indeed.

It was a great pity (for both him and Pools) that Tyler Burey had his hamstring injury, but that's an occupational hazard when you play as committedly as he does.

I'm amazed at how relatively few injuries Luke James has suffered despite his frequent contact with other players and the ground - he's lasted much longer than I expected. Still, Tyler is young and obviously determined so let's hope he comes back from this setback to enjoy the great career he seemed to be heading for, which obviously won't be with Pools.

Is it just me, but I'm finding this streaming lark all a bit confusing. After a few false starts and a Pools website that was less than inviting for newbies, I finally got into streaming last season, and would pay my tenner each week to watch some very basic live streaming and hear some amateurish, quaint, and sometimes very irritating commentary from up and down the country. My favourite was King's Lynn, where the 'expert summarizer' was the club chairman, who had to explain the monkey legend to the commentator!

I won't criticise too much though because the clubs fell into streaming in order to generate income and avoid refunding season tickets, given that fans couldn't attend for almost the entire season. They did well to set it all up from scratch and I, and probably many other fans, was grateful to watch most of the second half of the season live which, for someone hundreds of miles from the Vic, was a Godsend.

Like I said, it's probably unfair to criticise clubs that are learning as they go, but I quickly found that Pools' own commentary was the most irritating of the lot and I soon worked out that I could combine the BBC Radio Tees live commentary by Rob Lowe and the excellent Eddie Kyle with Pools' pictures, even though synchronising the two was a bit of a pain.

But now with Pools having moved up from the ramshackle National League, I'm finding that things have gone backwards. Last season I could listen to two commentaries for free. The first few live streams from the Vic this season used Rob and Eddie's fine BBC Tees commentary and all was right with the world. But now Pools have reverted to the DIY approach, charge you £2.50 for the privilege of having your ears assaulted, and the BBC commentary isn't available online any more.

For the last few games there hasn't been any live stream, and the next few are very random with some being televised and others not, both home and away. No doubt there are good reasons for all this but I'm sure that, as the Premiership big boys have known for years and as we at the Bizz found out when, due to postponement we had to launch a printed edition at Barnet - and almost sold out - the exile market can be lucrative.

So for us Poolie exiles, for whom going to the Vic is difficult even without a fuel crisis, having got used to an acceptable if not good service last season makes the current situation seem worse.

We've already sadly had a glut of obituaries for the four ex-Pools players and staff who passed away in September, but we shouldn't forget the two England stalwarts of the 1960s who we also lost last month: Jimmy Greaves and Roger Hunt.

They were close contemporaries, born only 19 months apart, were both in the 1966 World Cup winning squad, and both were free-scoring strikers. Jimmy played mainly for Chelsea, Tottenham and West Ham, scoring 382 goals in 579 matches, averaging 0.66 goals per game while Roger scored 272 in 486 for Liverpool and later Bolton, averaging 0.56 per game.

They had different but complementary styles with Greaves being a goal-poacher and Hunt more of a workhorse and both set many records and won many trophies. They'll neither be forgotten. After retirement, Roger went into his family's transport business while Jimmy went into television punditry, ironically working as a duo with Roger's former Liverpool strike partner, Ian St. John.

We have no idea where Wallace and Gromit found this notice but in fact it's more interesting that we don't know.

Were Pools acting as priests during the Second World War?

As fit young men were they testing lifejackets for the Royal Navy?

The possibilities are endless. And if all else fails I suppose we could ask.

And finally, the attendances at last weekend's games have provoked comment but I'm not sure what they prove, other than that the upstart clubs don't have big fanbases and Scunthorpe aren't doing very well at the moment after having narrowly avoided relegation last season.

The huge gap between Pools' 5,194 and Sutton's 2,873 is amazing though.

Attendances in League Two, September 25, 2021
8,436 - Swindon
5,434 - Walsall
5,252 - Leyton Orient
5,234 - Rochdale
5,194 - Hartlepool
2,873 - Sutton
2,513 - Scunthorpe
2,435 - Crawley
2,427 - Barrow
2,356 - Forest Green
2,037 - Salford
1,667 - Harrogate

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Managing Very Well


Our excellent start to life in Division Two has been done without three key members of staff who were big influences on our promotion from the National League.

Assistant manager Joe Parkinson, goalkeeping coach Ross Turnbull and physio Buster Gallagher have all left the club and that is before we mention our two top scorers Luke Armstrong and Rhys Oates. The job manager Dave Challinor has done is simply phenomenal and he is by far the best manager we have had since Danny Wilson.

The main priority of owner Raj Singh should be to get Challinor on a long-term contract. It is obvious we will not keep our manager forever so when a bigger club comes calling we should make sure we are fairly compensated for a talented manager.

Having brought in a couple of young defenders in Luke Hendrie and Edward Jones before the transfer deadline we seem to be well covered in defensive areas and although it is disappointing we were unable to add a new striker to the ranks we are not too badly off in this area. With Will Goodwin, Mark Cullen, Olufela Olomlola, Tyler Burey and Joe Grey at the club and there are a few goals amongst those five. Luke Molyneux can play up front at a push and if his goal against Carlisle in the Micky Mouse Trophy on Tuesday is anything to go by, he certainly knows where the goal is.
"The job manager Dave Challinor has done is simply phenomenal"

It is good to see Dimi Konstantopulos back at the club as goalkeeping coach and coach Antony Sweeney taking s higher profile role, having ex-Poolies involved is certainly no bad thing.

Fifth place in the league after four games is certainly a positive start but away games against talented opponents still to come will define how our season will really pan out.

I genuinely believe we will not end up involved in a relegation battle this season as long as we keep the present management set-up. And the size of the crowds at The Vic is very encouraging. Granted it is the first games with the crowds being allowed back and the team in good form and long may it continue.

On the downside we are into September and the sight of replica kits in the club shop and online is as rare as hen's teeth. After all the years of shortage of kit the lesson still has not be learned. An opportunity has certainly been missed after the euphoria as promotion and the renewed interest in all things Pools that lack of goods has certainly cost the club a great deal of money.

Let's hope our new CEO can sort things out and get our finances back on track.

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Stitched Up


Well, what do we all think of the new Hartlepool home and away replica football kits?

Judging by the long queues outside the club shop when they were released and the subsequent 'sold out' signs on the shop's website, they have both proved to be very popular indeed. Let's hope from a commercial point of view they get more stock in quickly to generate more revenue for the club.

Personally I am not fussed on the home strip, mainly because of the stripes - they don't do much for the man with the fuller figure.

At its launch, the club stated in a press release that after consultation with the fans they decided to revert back to blue and white stripes. My memory must be failing me but I cannot remember being consulted but hey ho.
"I am not fussed on the home strip, mainly because of the stripes - they don't do much for the man with the fuller figure."

I was aware of a meeting of several fans' groups at the Vic to discuss various issues including the new strip and according to the minutes published by the club at that stage, no decision could be made as the show of hands was 50% for stripes and 50% for a solid shirt design. I have said it before in these pages that it would make for a good public relations exercise between HUFC and their fans for the kit manufacturer to present three or four different styles/designs of shirt, perhaps at a social evening at the Vic which in turn would generate money for the club, and ultimately let the fans have the final vote via a postal ballot.

My other two criticisms of the home top are that firstly you cannot read a player's name on the rear of it. Yes I can easily identify the likes of Featherstone, Holohan and Liddle etc. whose faces we are familiar with but for the new signings and trialists I haven't a clue who half of them are. Secondly if I were the club's shirt sponsor I would be a tad disappointed regarding the miniscule text showing the company name. I am thinking that the printer was given the size of lettering in inches and mistakenly took them down as centimetres.

At the risk of contradicting my earlier comments about striped shirts, despite being a striped affair the away kit does look the business. The black and red coloured stripes do tend to camouflage the 'Carling tummy' far better than that of the blue and white of the home strip.

One thing that many fans have commented on is that these replica shirts are not strictly replica shirts insomuch as the club badge differs from the ones on the players' shirts. The garment sold from the club shop, instead of having a printed motif, looks to have a raised, sewn-on badge on the left breast which put me in mind of the badge that my mum sewed onto my first school blazer.

The only conclusion I can come to for the difference between the players' v fans' shirts is that the club/manufacturer must have been supplied with them without the printed badge in the first place and as a matter of urgency have gone to a local embroiderer to have the badges made up and stitched on, in order to have the shirts in the club prior to the big kick off.

I know several people who have passed on purchasing both home and away kits because the badge is not, shall we say, aesthetically pleasing.

It will be interesting to see what type of badge will feature on the replenishment stock of shirts destined for the club shop ...hopefully in time for Christmas.

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