Showing posts from August, 2011

the online fanzine for Poolies

Welcome to a different way of reading the Bizz

As you can see, the online Monkey Business is very different, but at the same time very similar to how it's always been. The same people are organising it, the same people are creating and writing it, and (at least to start with) we've tried to make it not look too different.

Articles appear, one to a page, on pages of varying length. To read the magazine, you simply scroll down from the top. One month's-worth of articles will be visible, which will comprise the current issue, plus any additional stuff that may arise such as match reports. Some long articles may be split up, with a 'read more' link at the bottom of the first part. The link will take you to the whole article. To return to the home page, select the 'Fanzine/Home Page' link above the 'cover' page.

The other links above the cover page roughly correspond with the ones on the old Monkey Business website, and tell you more about contributing to the fanzine, its history, etc.

At the bottom of each article are links which enable you to quickly email each article or link it via Twitter, Facebook etc.

The panels on the right (at least the ones which aren't adverts), are features used by many websites like this.

The Archive panel is a list of all the articles in the online Monkey Business, which are sorted by title, then by month, then by year, so that you can find, not only an article in the current month's output, but also (once we've got more issues under our belt), from previous months.

The Google search panel will allow you to search for text articles by any words or phrases that you can remember from them. It may not work properly until the Bizz has been online for a while.

The Labels panel is a list of keywords. These are keywords that were attached to each article when it was posted (i.e. put on the internet.) Thus if some articles about H'Angus have H'Angus as a keyword , and you click on the H'Angus link in the list (the number in brackets shows the quantity of articles), it will display all the articles with that keyword.

The Followers panel is a list of people who have chosen to follow Monkey Business. You can do that using the blue button, but it's not compulsory, and will be of interest mainly to those who are familiar with social networking websites.

We at Monkey Business are hoping that with the help of our readers, Monkey Business can continue commenting, joking and reminiscing like it's always done, and evolve in new directions opened up by the new medium.

CHIP FIREBALL talks about the summer's goings-on at the Vic

Hello readers, and welcome not just to a new season, but also to the first online edition of Monkey Business. I had hoped when John and Lol advised me that the fanzine was being made redundant to be enjoying my retirement, but here we are once again embarking on another season, I think my 13th writing for The Bizz. Hopefully it won’t be an unlucky 13th.

As ever, much has happened during the close season, and as often seems to be the case at Pools most of the news has been centred on matters off the pitch. This time last year we were going into the season with a sense of dread, under a manager nobody really wanted, who claimed it would take a miracle just to see us avoid relegation, and owners widely rumoured to be selling up. Twelve months on there is a real buzz about the place, home sections of the ground are sold out, and fans are expecting, not without good reason, a finish in the top half of the table.

The seeds for this transformation were sown by Mick Wadsworth and his management team about 10 months ago, when there were signs the team were finally looking organised and able to compete, even with the better sides away from the Vic. Players who had looked bereft of confidence and out of their depth under Chris Turner, were finally starting to fulfil their potential.

Some of the younger players were being given an opportunity to play first team football at the end of the season, and by May our main worry was which of the better players might be poached by other clubs!
"Players who had looked bereft of confidence and out of their depth under Chris Turner, were finally starting to fulfil their potential"
As it happened, Wadsworth was able to keep all of the players he wanted, with only Gary Liddle not committing to a long term deal. There were no surprises when the announcement came as to which players were leaving. A few on the message boards expressed surprise that Joe Gamble and Leon McSweeney were released, but neither player impressed me much, and I wasn't sorry to see the back of them.

No sooner had the dust settled on the publication of the retained list, when the news that has been the talk of the town all summer came. Many of us had been calling for a radical overhaul of the season ticket pricing structure, but what Pools announced took even the most optimistic by surprise.

The offer of watching first team football for an entire season for just £100 seemed too good to be true, but eventually over 5,500 took advantage of the deal, meaning potentially full houses for most of our home matches. It was certainly a bold piece of marketing by the club, and the gamble to guarantee prices when sales were faltering around the 2600 mark paid dividends when the herd mentality kicked in and those hanging back suddenly laid siege to the ticket office.

Strange as it may seem to say this, selling the tickets may actually have been the easy part, such was the generosity of the offer. I'm sure those buying season tickets for the first time will turn up on warm days and nights in August and September. Whether they will do so once the bad weather kicks in will largely be determined by how well the team fares on the pitch.

We saw during the reign of Martin Scott how quickly an optimistic and large Pools support can turn against its own players and manager, which is why a good start this season is vital to keep the new fans and those returning on board. Under Scott Pools picked up just 4 points from their first 6 home games, and never really recovered. While the expectation levels will not be as high as they were on the back of the trip to Cardiff, simply surviving in League One, which was the goal last year, will no longer qualify as a success.

Whilst nobody is expecting us to walk away with the league title, most of the 3,000 who didn’t attend last season but will be this time around, will have expectation of seeing a side not just winning but playing good football as well. I really can’t see us putting in the sort of shocking performances we did at the start of the last campaign at the Vic, when we contrived to lose 5-0 and 4-0 against Sheffield Wednesday and Carlisle respectively, but early season home Tuesday night games against Huddersfield and Preston should give a good indication of where we stand against sides expected to be challenging for promotion.

All in all the fixtures in the first 6 weeks or so do not look particularly demanding, and with a bit of luck, and some expected improvement being wrought by the new signings, we could get off to a good start and keep the positive vibes about the place.

Whilst IOR deserve immense praise for the resounding success that was their bold marketing of season tickets, the much less well publicised 25% increase in matchday seating to £25 per game disappointed me and already looks like a bit of an own goal.

The move has already been picked up by the Supporters United organisation who described it as a cynical ploy to make visiting supporters pay through the nose to subsidise home fans season tickets. Given the increase by Pools was made when seating areas for home fans were guaranteed to sell out, it is very hard to disagree with the comments of those representing supporters as a whole. It is also noticeable that the increase has already been picked up by Huddersfield Town fans on their message boards, and widely slated with several of their fans recommending a boycott of the game at the Vic. With sales for seats for the Huddersfield fans planned to commence on the 1st August this is the first test of IOR's increases and to say they have met with some negativity would be an understatement.

By making the £5 increase, Pools now have the honour of being the most expensive ground in League One, along with Charlton Athletic who also intend to charge £25. Had Pools made a smaller increase to say £22-£23 then it probably would have slipped under the radar. Making your club the most expensive never goes down well, and in my humble opinion was a marketing error.

Yes, diehard supporters of other clubs will still attend, and in all likelihood IOR will increase revenue as a whole from the Rink End. However it also goes without saying that the move has already, and will continue to generate negative publicity, and sets a worrying precedent for those who like our away games should other clubs follow suit.

Going back 10 years or so I went to pretty much all of Pools away games. During the last couple of seasons I have been very choosy as to which away games I attend, because I can no longer afford it. Price is a major influence when picking which games to attend. I did very reluctantly go to Charlton last season and paid my £25, as it was a new ground for me following the abortive trip the previous January. However, I certainly did not get value for money paying what I consider an obscene amount to watch a meaningless end of season third tier game and I certainly won’t be going back in a hurry.

Stevenage would have been my first away game this season, but the £23 admission is very off-putting. I hear through the grapevine it’s a fixture where half price admission may apply if I collect tokens from a national newspaper, and if this is the case I may well still go. I was also relieved to see Pools trip to Notts County is being televised (assuming Rupert Murdochs empire hasn’t crumpled within the next 10 weeks). Given admission there is also £23 it's another fixture I would happily have swerved anyway.

Going to away games is tough enough in the current economic climate, especially with ever increasing transport costs. While the whopping increase for away fans at the Vic won’t affect me personally I really hope it isn't something that is going to be replicated by other clubs, otherwise working class fans are going to be priced out of going altogether. Supporters United also highlighted plans by QPR to charge £50 for visitors to their ground next season, a 150% increase in the price since we were last there. I'm not sure that sort of price is worth paying for a bit of success.

Anyhow, back to matters on the pitch and as usual I will be making a prediction for how the season will pan out. I haven't been to any of the pre-season games so have no idea how the new signings will fare, but the team has a solid enough looking feel about it, there was improvement last season, and I expect that to continue this season. I think we will finish in the top half of the table, but only just, and will stick my neck out and say we will end up tenth. I have however had a small wager at 4/1 with Corals that we will finish above Stevenage, Walsall, Tranmere, Oldham and Yeovil.

CENTRAL PARK examines his support of Pools

Not long now, and I can hardly wait. I’ve spent the summer avidly watching the total of season ticket sales steadily mounting and desperately searching for announcements of new signings. You would think I had nothing better to do, and you would be right. And therein lays my problem.

What does it say about the quality of my life (not to say mind) that I should give such prominence to the fortunes of a football team. After all ‘sport is an adornment to life - not a substitute for it’ as the great Barry Davies said, quoting some other wiseacre who thought he had an understanding of the meaning of life. I think he was probably some languid public school layabout who never had to do a day’s work in his life and spent his time studying Virgil and Homer (not Simpson, the other one) and listening to classical music – Bunter I think his name was. Well all I can say is that his sensitivities must have been incredibly dulled by his indolent life style.

You see, the trouble with these blokes is – they’ve never lived.

Oh it’s all very well sitting through Mozart concerts and Shakespeare plays but they can’t possibly produce the same thrill that was produced by the stunning 30 yard drive of Les Crook against Notts County in September 1970 (yes I looked up the date on the Pools stats web site. I remember the goal but I can’t be expected to remember exactly when); or that wonderful feeling, a combination of exhilaration and malice, that I felt when Eifion Williams scored that goal in that magnificent victory at you know where.
"I mean, fancy arranging a wedding for the forthcoming winter, and doing it before the fixture list came out"
It is said that on the day America entered the Second World War Winston Churchill went to bed and ‘slept the sleep of the saved’. I know how he felt, because I was there when Willie Waddell turned in the six yard area and smashed in the life saving goal at the Stadium of the Damned in 1972.

How on earth can anybody with a grain of sensitivity compare watching a Shakespeare play or listening to a Mozart concert to the emotional experiences described above? I think the proper word for it is ‘rapture’.

There are those (I’m married to one) who say that Hartlepool United plays a far too important, not to say disproportionate, role in my life.

I’m not going to exaggerate by comparing my consuming interest to the sufferings of genuine substance addicts who literally cannot function without a daily intake of their particular poison; and I’m going to get into a competition with those who go to all of the away games and are able to remember the number of miles they have travelled in support of the team. My particular affliction is the belief that if 'Pools are playing at home and I’m not there then some unimaginable horror will occur. I’m not daft (short pause while certain slow ‘wits’ try to think of a printable rejoinder). I know that in the real world nothing very much will happen if I don’t turn up, nevertheless I have a compulsion to get to the ground if the team is in action in league or cup games. I start to panic if something looms up that might possibly stop me from getting there.

It’s not my fault; it’s the way I grew up. Well that’s the excuse used by every other crack pot whose deviant or eccentric behaviour has led to him being up before the judge; whether it be for murder or the even worse crime in Hartlepool; parking a car on the zigzag yellow lines outside a school at five minutes to midnight on a Sunday in the middle of the school holidays.

Mind you credit where credit is due. It was an absolutely brilliant ploy of the mayor to cover the town in temporary yellow lines and then leave them there so we would have to guess which were in operation and which were not. That little bit of confusion must have provided easy pickings for the money making machine known as the ‘road safety car’.

Still, as the twerp in charge of the spy wagon remarked in the Mail, ‘that’s the law’. I wonder if that clown ever met Mr Bumble.

Now back to the world the rest of us live in.

I was first introduced to 'Pools back in the early 50s. There was no telly and sweets were still on the ration so a trip to the match was the highlight of my week. I know that I should have grown out of it but I was a slow learner and instead of the interest becoming one of many in a rich and varied life it just developed into an obsession (now that’s what I call luck).

The rot set in in 1953 when, along with half the lads in the town, I was allowed to ‘play the nick’ to watch the cup replay with Northampton. The next step was taken in 1955 when my grandmother died. I was considered to be too young to attend her funeral so I was taken to the match instead to keep me out of the way. This somehow gave me the idea that it was alright to miss family occasions if I was going to watch ‘Pools instead. The practice soon arose that when any forthcoming family event was announced my first reaction was to consult the fixture list to see if it clashed with my favourite pastime.

It got to the point where I became exasperated with anybody who did anything that might affect my chances of getting to the game. I would be furious with people who had made arrangements in their own personal lives and had not taken into account the fact that it might clash with a home fixture.

I was so unreasonable that I even blamed them when they had made arrangements when they could not possibly have known the fixtures because they had not been published. My reaction was ‘why couldn’t they have taken account of the fact that the date they have chosen was a Saturday and ‘Pools might be at home’. I mean, fancy arranging a wedding for the forthcoming winter, and doing it before the fixture list came out.

As a result I’m ashamed to admit that in addition to the funeral I also failed to turn up for a few family weddings and went to the match instead. I knew at the time that what I was doing was wrong and would cause offence to people who I really cared about – but I couldn’t stop myself. Afterwards I had a feeling of guilt and shame and swore I wouldn’t do it again; but, sure enough the next time a fixture clash came up, off I went to the then Victoria Ground.

Happily for me there have been signs that I might be getting over it. A bit of common sense and a healthy regard for the pound in my pocket conspired to keep me away from the ground a couple of years ago. Even for me, paying £30 to watch a competition with Sunderland reserves, Hamilton Academicals and somebody else was a step too far. Nevertheless I was still racked with feelings of guilt during those two days.

Now filled with confidence that I am no longer in thrall to Hartlepool United I await the new season with serenity and confidence; mainly because I don’t know anybody who is likely to get married in the next twelve months.

ALAN ESSEX gives us the lowdown on the new recruits

James Poole: Following a loan spell was purchased solely due to his name, which when added to that of Peter Hartley equals HartleyPoole. It is rumoured that we are now after Everton and England ladies left back Rachel Unitt and Ed the Duck so we can then field HartleyPoole UnittEd. 

Colin Nish: My online dictionary explains Nish as ‘an industrial town in Serbia, in the SE: situated on routes between central Europe and the Aegean’. Mind it also defines Colin as ‘any of several American quails, especially the bobwhite. Anyway, a big welcome to Bob White Serbian Town. 

Nathan Luscombe: Named after Luscombe Castle, Devon due to his substantial and muscular build. 
Better than being named after a brick outhouse I suppose. 

Jack Baldwin: An interesting comparison with Mike Baldwin from Coronation Street. Mike was the token southerner in that northern produced programme. Jack has a similar role at Hartlepool, hailing from Kent which is even more southerly than that there London. 

Nolberto Solano: Has the potential to be a legend at Hartlepool. Being compared to the likes of Ambrose Fogarty and Jan Ove Pedersen. 

Failing this with the addition of Sigmund Freud’s theory of the ‘id, the source of all psychic energy, he could become a midfield Solanoid – a midfield dynamo would have been preferable. 

A place in the top 3 or a play off place? To quote Tommy Cooper, ‘I cut off the bottom of one of my trouser legs and sent it to the library – that will be a turn up for the books’. 


Park Drive on a very pleasant Sunday afternoon is just an ideal place to hold 26/26 cricket. That is the renowned international game of 20/20 cricket, but a Poolie version, for world leaders who like value for their money, and boy did they get it. 

The event of course was the coronation of the king. Sir Ritchie of Humphreys had invited the Red Barron to a testimonial cricket challenge and gave the Poolie faithful the chance to pay their respects and watch the spectacle and imbibe themselves of a few flagons of ale as they did. The chosen arena was a first class venue, easy access plenty of free parking, and the greenery surrounding the ground was just perfect for screening the local gentry that might get a tad upset at watching the footballing oiks of the town enjoy themselves.

The protagonists
To be fair to the West Park set they may have tweaked their curtains a little but in the end they all drew the blinds and retired to watch their favourite team almost win that premiere thingy. I did encounter a gaggle of the female variety who stood around with a Pimms in one hand and a can of John Smiths in the other as back up. I think the John Smiths was probably there to take their mind off the 26/26 game in which they showed no interest whatever. Having woken up that morning with the sound of thunder and pelting rain, I feared, wrongly of course, the day would be a washout. As the God-fearing folk of this parish all know that the sun always shines on the righteous, the sun duly obliged. I made my way to the ground just after lunch and found a comfy bench and waited for the arrival of the protagonists. The problem with this was my comfy bench was right outside of the door to the bar and by the time the preliminaries were done I was swamped with people queuing for the bar which was slower than a Seaton Carew fish shop on a bank holiday Monday. And of course the gaggle of Pimms drinkers, who had no idea they were blocking me and the queue for the bar, were already queuing for seconds.

The game started at two and by that time I estimate there were at least seven to eight hundred of the faithful gathered to enjoy the spectacle of footballers playing cricket. This was later confirmed to be a thousand Poolies watching cricket.

The King's “Royals” won the toss and decide to put the opposition in to bat. The Victoria Park Victors team led by the Red Barron, was a mixture of Poolie legends of old, Tinkler, Nelson, Clarke, Strachan, Brackstone, Miller, Lee, Gabbiadini, Beardsley, Clarke, Marty Brown.

The Red Barron’s Victoria Park Victors team
Ritchie’s Royals of course led by the King looked a strong side, Gofton, Boyd, Sweeney, Brown, Austin, Haslam, Collins, and the Royals ringer Jamie White and Gary Walsh who I suppose was the back up keeper to Ned Flinders.

As the game was about to get underway the comment, “no balls” kept wafting over the arena. At first I thought it was the combatants trading insults but apparently no one had thought to bring a cricket ball. Eventually the man in the white coat that stands in the middle and counts pebbles all day managed to recover the situation. So going for the jugular the Red Barron’s team opened with Super Tom and Marty Brown, the club kit man, not on the official list as a batsman, but no matter. Aussie caught him lbw on eight runs. The initial bowling was just as bad as the batting in the early stages as the footballers warmed up and tried to come to terms with concept of putting the willow in front of the leather and making contact. The fielding was of a similar standard with a few tossers and missed tackles, some of them throwing a ball like women.
The Victors team continue to take refreshments
despite a warning from the umpire
The players leave the field at tea, watched by the sizeable crowd
Miller was the next bat to fall for fourteen, not a bad return off sixteen balls. A quick return ball from Sweeney had Super Tom run out, after what seemed an age for Mr Rhoden to raise the finger, while the King bowled a canny but very wide pace from the Egerton Road end. The Victors were settling in. Lee was the next to fall for six being caught by Brownie as he tried to blast Haslam out of the ground. The Red Barron came on to steady the ship - when he eventually made the crease, after taking an age to get from the pavilion as he did an impromptu dance to his signature tune “Mr Bombastic”, ably played by Mr Dunn on the PA system, a great choice of music throughout the day. He made an old rocker very happy.

Despite his bombastic bravery and his swash-buckling style being more of a hindrance to himself, the Red Barron did manage to score eighteen before being caught and bowled by big Sam. Haslam, who looked as if he could be a star in this game, was shaping up well along with Sam. It must be their Yorkshire roots.

Bracka was up next but by this time I was losing track of the score, once again being pestered by the gaggle of Pimms drinkers. Some of the signals for boundary balls were a little confusing and only one half of the scoreboard was working. I decided to vacate my comfy seat for a better view of the game, just in time to see Bracka walk after Flinders. Gabbas was the first man to go for a duck second ball from Haslam who looked as if he had some pace to match the direction. Nelse came and went for four after swinging like a windmill, falling to the combination of fielder Gofton and bowler Sweeney.
Peter Beardsley comes on

Flower of Scotland burst out over the tannoy as Strachs came to the crease beating his chest to the music like an extra from Braveheart. Sadly he was clean bowled first ball by the treacherous Englishman Sweeney who was playing the game very well for a footballer.

The Beard was next up and like his time at Pools spent a long time in the middle of the park stroking the ball with ease and looked to be in for the day making a very creditable fifty two runs not out at the end of the innings. The happiest guy you will ever see at any Pools event if he is there is Trigger. Whatever this guy is on they should sell it by the boatload, as his enthusiasm for sheer fun is brilliant. He must have spoken to every Poolie in the ground. A comment from Beardsley summed him up when he said I would pay to be in the company of this feller. Trigger took to the field to the tune of duelling banjos ready for the fray, it mattered not one jot to this great little feller that he had two left pads on. Stevie Gofton caught Trigger for four from Boydie bowling - who incidentally did not bat, but it is difficult to do with a can in one hand and a bat in the other.

Some classic fielding around the ground as the Richie Royals tried to oust Beardsley with Ned letting an easy ball through his fingers for four on more than one occasion, and quite a few dropped catches, both Ned and Sweeney dropping easy chances to dismiss the maestro. Tinks took to the field to the music of Steptoe and Son and scored a very good twenty-eight before easing a ball wide to Gofton who revelled in the glory of the catch. A great innings by Tinks who was the only man on the day to hit a six. There was some consternation in the crowd at this point when the announcement was made that 20/20 was now to be 26/26. Not sure whether this was for the players to all get a bat or the fact they were rattling through the wickets and they needed to extend the game a little longer. No complaints from the fans or the Oompa Loompas, or at least a group of those that had found their way back safely from Charlton and decided to pay a visit. The players were enjoying the cricket so much so that the two Victors openers came back for another go with the bat to use up the few overs that were left.
Marty Brown back from casualty.
So where did it hit you then?

Marty Brown probably wishes he hadn’t as he took one right between the eyes. We all remember the Gatting moment when he took one on the nose, so as Simmer interviewed him on his return from casualty I asked him where it had hit him. A wry smile from the injured feller who took it in good heart.

The last man out in the second half of the first innings was Nelson who fell to Boydie, all out for 170 hard-earned runs. All stop for tea and refreshments.
Adam Boyd CAN field
James brown signs off
Steven Gofton and the king opened for the Royals. Sadly the king had his crown knocked off by former Darlo and ex Pools player Gabbas who sent in what must have been an unplayable googly that the King nicked a top edge to wicket keeper Beardsley. Gabbas bowled two overs and took three wickets for eleven runs. That is great bowling at any level. Sadly the celebrations by the fielding team after dismissing the King was an affront to sports and cricket fans the world over. It was a good job the TV missed the occasion just to save the blushes of the Red Barron’s Victoria Victors and even more embarrassment. Who wants to see grown men rolling on the ground kissing and cuddling like girls just because they got the opposition captain out on the cheap. Its just not cricket and twelve runs was a creditable effort from the captain. Gabbas also took out Gofton lbw for thirty-two runs, a fantastic job by Steve for taking the opportunity to bid for the privilege of making the line up.

Steve Gofton, fans' representative
for the day, 
gets a trophy
The Red Barron’s marauders had their tails up now and started to try and intimidate the Royals, Sweeney taking a lot of stick for going to the crease with a helmet on, after what had happened to Marty Brown. Sweeney claimed he was taking good care of his boyish good looks. Aussie did better with the ball than the bat, and was caught with a short ball, and hit his shot straight to the hands of Steptoe. There was a big appeal for Sam to be out first ball, but that was going to happen anyway whether he hit the ball or not. Orchestrated barracking Australian style from the Victors was ignored, so captain Barron led his men into a sit down protest at the crease till the umpire told them to get on with it. Sam went on to score a creditable twenty-six runs, before being caught by Beardsley from a Spike Lee ball - the tykes in the team showing them how it should be done.

Haslam was swiping the ball all over the park and Super Tom is not a super bowler, and was punished by the batsmen. Not for a long long time has anyone seen Peter Beardsley move so far and so fast to take a great catch to dismiss Haslam, who had looked dangerous, for nineteen. It took a great ball from Strachs to shift him out.

The winners
It was about this time Boydie was cracking open his second can since coming on to field. Nelse sneaked up behind him and nicked the can that was standing on the grass. A refill was promptly despatched from the bar. Brownie was given out on a massive appeal from the Red Barron’s team who at this stage were appealing for everything; they sounded like the Aussies screaming howzat before the ball left the bowler. Mickey eventually caught Brownie off a good delivery from Strachs for twelve. Ned came on and set up a good partnership with big Sam, which only rattled the Victors into more aggression and frivolous appeals. The Royals pegged away at the total and in the final two overs they needed twelve to win and Gary Walsh and Ned both hit fours in succession off their last deliveries to give a well deserved victory to the Royals.

This was a great day out for the players and the fans and if the club do this again next year, don't miss it.


Despite the lack of an international tournament this summer, the close (or is it closed?) season seemed to pass pretty quickly this year thanks to the superb season ticket offer. The internet message boards were alive with debate – there were those who thought we would sell them out, and there were those who thought we would struggle to shift 3000. In the end it was the optimists who would triumph, with lines of buyers stretching from the ticket office down the length of Clarence Road during the last week preceding the offer deadline.

Us Poolies have enjoyed the most stable period in our history under the stewardship of IOR, and the season ticket offer has been the cherry on the cake. Despite many Poolies drifting away in the last few seasons, the club stuck their collective cock on the block, and more or less issued a ‘take it or leave it’ call to the good folk of Hartlepool.

At one point it looked as if the magical target of 4000 wouldn’t be reached, but a media masterstroke from the club (capping the price at £150 no matter how many were sold) saw the tipping point, and soon every Tom, Dick, Harry and Sheila took their place in the queue outside the Vic.

Everyone at the club deserves praise for the offer – from those at the top who came up with the idea and pulled the media strings, the ticket office staff who worked their socks off during the rush, and those who did all the running about behind the scenes to make sure nowt went wrong.

Quite rightly, Pools have received praise in the national media for what appears to have been a very successful ‘experiment’. Someone with a calculator and an afternoon off work worked out that around 5,500 tickets sold at a reduced rate would almost equal the sales of around 1500 at full price. And that doesn’t take into account the extra revenue from food/beer/programme/stuff from the club shop which should follow. "I don't think there can be many Poolies over the age of 30 who have never cheated Pools out of the full entry price in some way"

Perhaps most importantly, IOR are sowing the seeds of Pools amongst the young ‘uns, who are force-fed an alternative footballing reality which is televised, money-soaked, artificial, and detached. For the price of a replica shirt of a Premiershit team with some prima-donna’s name ironed onto the back, a whole generation of young Poolies will get to be part of a proper footballing experience, one in which your comments can be heard by the players on the pitch, in which they will watch players who may well have gone to the same school as them, or lived next door to their nana.

The news of the offer broke shortly before my second son Ross was born, and when he dropped onto the maternity bed I immediately thought of getting a season ticket for him, along with me and his older brother Ewan. Although I don’t plan to take him to a match for a couple of years yet, the ticket will be a smart memento for him to look back on when he is an older Poolie.

Plus, I wanted the purchase to generate some publicity for the club. Hats off to the Pools press officer Mark Simpson, who agreed that it was precisely the sort of thing that would fill column inches. His press release did the job, with the story featuring prominently in the Hartlepool Mail, and even getting a mention in the People. Talksport rang me up to interview me, and allowed me to plug the offer in return for a bit of piss-taking banter.

But as well as sentimentality and obtaining media coverage for the club, there was another reason why I forked out 50 bar on a season ticket which isn’t going to get used.

You see, for over 20 years I've been harbouring a guilty secret about ripping Pools off. You need to cast your mind back to when Pools didn’t have a pot to piss in, and the Cyril Knowles stand wasn’t built. Where it now stands was a collection of temporary buildings, one of which was a kind of ‘reception’ where players, officials and other important people would enter the ground.

As a teenager, my mate Scott used to be in the 'Junior Blues', which was a club for young Poolies. As part of the membership, you got given a card which would allow you into matches for half of the regular child's price, provided you went into the ground through the reception area and paid the old gadgie on the door. Laminated onto Scott's card was a small, grainy, black and white passport photo which was pretty unrecognisable. The old gadgie on the door never looked at it - Scott would just say "Junior Blues", flash the card, and hand over the money.

So our matchday ritual was that Scott would go in first, then meet me at the exit gates at the end of the Rink End. He would pass the card under the gate, then I would go and use it. Scott was right - the old gadgie didn't really look at it. After a few times I wouldn't even bother flashing the card, and on one occasion Scott didn't attend so I just walked through, said "Junior Blues", and paid my reduced fare. This went on for a couple of seasons, until I got too tall and old-looking to risk trying to pass myself off as a Junior Blue.

I don't think there can be many Poolies over the age of 30 who have never cheated Pools out of the full entry price in some way - it used to be very easy to jump over/crawl under the fence, some of the gate stewards and turnstile operators were very easy to bribe, and there has always been a large number of complimentary tickets floating around, which some enterprising soul would sell you at a reduced rate. Then there's the simple procedure of paying in via the kids turnstile, even though you are 16 or older. It still doesn't make what I did right though, and hopefully I have restored my karma.

Thankfully for Pools, the ground was much improved under the reign of Harold Hornsey and continued with IOR - hopefully this led to less 'leakage' of gate money. Now that Pools have all the season ticket money up front, there is little room for fans to cheat their way into the ground. Who knows – if the council ever get round to selling the ground to IOR, we might see some of those fancy barcode-reader operated turnstiles as seen at Leeds and MK Dons. There’s absolutely no way you can wave a bit of card at one of those laser scanners and bluff your way in. I should know - I’ve tried it!

CENTRAL PARK on the Vic and season tickets

I can’t let the season start without sincerely congratulating the chairman and all involved in the cut price season ticket offer. I expect that other people will be offering their congratulations as well but I want to put my appreciation on the record. I will admit, and if I don’t then I have a friend who will tell everybody anyway, that I did not expect us to reach the 4,000 target. My forecast was for 3,000 to be sold – if we were lucky. The decision to announce that the maximum price would be £150 was a master stroke and the town has responded magnificently. Well when I say town I mean the people who live here and in the surrounding districts. The bozos that run the place - not so much.

Just what will it take for the issue of the ownership of the ground to be resolved? As a supporter of the club I want the ground to be sold to the club owners. As a council tax payer I want the town to get value for the sale of an asset. Like everybody else I am completely in the dark and am relying on the rumour mill for ‘information’. The only sure thing about the situation is that in the absence of concrete information people will only ‘think the worst’.

For my part I have never been convinced that the council has been negotiating in good faith. Unlike my friend who assured me in April 2010 that the ground would be safely in IOR’s possession by the summer of 2010, I believe that no matter what happens the council will always have a reason for not selling the ground to IOR. I am at the point now where all I want is a definitive statement from the council. If they do not intend to sell at any price then please just let them say so, and say why. You never know they might just have a good reason. With getting on for 6,000 season tickets sold and the town ‘buzzing’ the ownership of the ground is the only cloud on the horizon. I know what the cynics will be saying, but with a ball not yet been kicked in the 2011/12 season if I can’t be mindlessly optimistic now then when can I be?

Not only has the club’s offer and the town’s response filled me with joy, the reduced price has also had the very welcome ‘knock on’ effect of freeing up the winter fuel allowance payment to be actually spent on keeping the house warm next winter instead of being saved to pay for a season ticket. As Oliver Hardy once remarked to Stan Laurel “what could possibly go wrong”?

GRANDAD SHOUTY puts in his four penn'orth

Last season was sheer heaven. We didn’t have to go to some far flung place for the last game of the season not knowing what fate awaited us. Instead, we went down to Charlton with heads held high, knowing that we’d competed with the best in the league - and secured our safety.

All this led to optimism in the close season. It’s certainly been an interesting time. Firstly, there was the season ticket offer. Secondly, there were the signings - only five but at least we blended youth (James Poole, Nathan Luscombe and Jack Baldwin) and experience (Nolberto Solano and Colin Nish).

The signing of Nobby Solano certainly created interest - very rarely have Pools been the lead story on the BBC’s League One website (as far as I can remember, the last occasion was when we were given the 5-2 drubbing against Walsall last March). These signings, together with a fully fit James Brown and a personal hunger from Adam Boyd should see flexibility in terms of team selection.

Then there’s the fixture list and the make-up of League One. Two seasons ago, someone worked out that there were only six teams north of Walsall - this season, the total has risen to thirteen thanks to the various promotions and relegations. Brighton, Southampton and Peterborough have been replaced by Sheffield United, Preston and Scunthorpe, and at the other end, Plymouth, Dagenham and Redbridge, Swindon and Bristol Rovers have been replaced by Chesterfield, Wycombe, Bury and Stevenage. All this adds up to greater opportunities for away travel by supporters as well as reducing Pools’ travel costs.
"The manual compiler of the copyright fixture list went to the Pearly Gates and took his secret with him. Couldn’t he have bequeathed it in his will?"

Then, of course, there’s the prospect of more bums on seats at the Rink End. However, the downside was that Pools are away in the opener (MK Dons) and on the last day of the season it’s a trip down to The Valley again to play Charlton. I know that Russ Green drew attention to this shortly after the fixtures came out, and he had a valid point. I’m no computer expert, but it shouldn’t be beyond the Football League to work out a programme that prevents this happening. When the fixtures were compiled manually, we never had these kind of complaints. Unfortunately, computerisation of fixtures came about because the manual compiler of the copyright fixture list went to the Pearly Gates and took his secret with him. Couldn’t he have bequeathed it in his will?

This optimism leads me on to ask who will be thereabouts at the end of the season. The top two could well be Huddersfield and Charlton with Bournemouth, Sheffield Wednesday, Preston and Pools making up the play - off places. Pools could well have made the top six last season but for tripping up against lower placed teams. Victories against Brighton, Peterborough, Bournemouth and Huddersfield suggested that we have what it takes. At one time, we had more points than Sheffield Wednesday - who would have believed that after the 5-0 drubbing? Still, both Charlton and Wednesday started well but fell away in the middle of the season. I don’t think they’ll make the same mistake this time round.

Pools have now established themselves as a ’natural’ League One club, and the fact that we’ve been able to keep hold of some of our better players underlines that the optimism is well placed. Although we’ve signed a striker in Colin Nish who doesn’t appear to have a high ratio of strikes, the overall scoring record should be better than last season. After all, Shankly’s Liverpool rarely had a player in the lists of leading scorers and they weren’t all that bad were they?

Looking further afield, a number of issues have caught the eye - and this is where the cock - ups emerge. Starting with the Olympic Games, the British Olympic Association certainly got their knickers in a twist over the footy. ’Yes, they have’, ’no we haven’t’ was the conflicting news as to whether the associations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had agreed to support the idea of a Great Britain team.
It was probably no coincidence that after the ballots for tickets had been made, footy - along with volleyball and wrestling - had loadsa tickets left. Not surprising. At least in athletics, you have some idea who will be competing but in football we haven’t a clue. Additionally, all of the teams will, in effect, be second strings so why shell out a fortune for an unknown quantity?

No jamboree would, of course, be complete without the Beckham factor and the latest is that he wants to play in the Olympics. I would have thought he’d be better employed as a househusband looking after his kids while his missus is out at work. Another point is that the games will be played at the same time as the Football League early season fixtures. Let’s hope some bright boy doesn’t come up with the idea of rescheduling.

Related to the Olympics is, of course, the future of the Olympic Stadium after the games have finished. Frankly, I’m not bothered who plays there, and the tug-of-war between Spurs and West Ham is certainly filling the pockets of lawyers. However, what has been portrayed as a side issue is, to me, one of the greatest importance - the effect on our League One colleagues, Leyton Orient.

Barry Hearn, their chairman, certainly deserves support for his stance in resisting West Ham’s move to a ground within the vicinity of Brisbane Road. Some months ago, Barry Hearn said, “The rules of the Premier League are, to my untrained legal eyes, black and white. They say that they will not grant a Premier League club consent to move ground if it would adversely affect clubs in the immediate vicinity”. The problem is, of course, that West Ham aren’t a Premier League club and to fill the new stadium, they’re going to have to dole out cheap tickets by the bucket full. Best of luck, Barry - you deserve to win this one but two bits of advice : keep it simple, and don’t upset Karren Brady. We’ll never hear the end of it.

Lastly, is the BBC’s decision to review local radio coverage. The idea floated by the BBC is that in the future local radio would only transmit breakfast programmes and traffic reports. Everything else, including footy, would be taken over by Radio Five Live. Although the idea was floated last March, we can assume that the ideas are still in someone’s pigeon hole. Local radio does, of course, provide a local footy service, particularly to supporters of clubs outside the bog standard Premier League and the opportunity to hear match reports and interviews will be lost. You probably won’t hear anything about Pools on Radio Five - unless we’re playing Manchester United in the FA Cup. I know that lots of Poolies would like to silence Alistair Brownlee, particularly on a Saturday night, but that’s a bit drastic isn’t it? Another cock - up looming.

BILLY'S CONTRACT looks at this season's prospects

Well not long to go now - all the signings have been made, the pre-seasons matches played, and shortly it will be time for the talking to stop and let 'the real footy season begin'.

This time last year I predicted that Pools would struggle and narrowly avoid relegation. However, thanks to the appointment of Mick Wadsworth, we did (even if at times we flirted with it), indeed avoid the drop.

What about this coming season? On the plus side, we will be playing in front of almost sell-out crowds at the Vic, which should naturally spur the lads on. There is talk, thanks to these prospective full houses, that the players are really 'up for it' this season, and cannot wait to get down to business with talk of making a play-off place. I hope so, but I cannot see it.

Basically it is pretty much the same squad as last season. I cannot see Nobby Solano putting in a full season's shift. Poole and Luscombe are untried, but having said that they have shown promise and have stood out in the pre-season. Nish did well at Kilmarnock, but spent most of last season on the bench at Hibs, and from what I have read and heard it will take some time for him to become fully match fit - the Poolie faithful will have to show a degree of patience here.
"I don't know if it is a mental failing with our players, but once we have conceded a goal it is near enough game over as the second, third and sometimes even the fourth goal quickly follows."
My main concern is the defence. Individually they are all decent enough players, but at times collectively prone to make basic but costly mistakes. It has to be said that they perform much better when Murray is in the side and protecting them, but like Nobby are we going to get a full season out of the midfield supremo?

My other concern is the 4-5-1 system that Mick deploys. Yes, there is a time and place for it like away at Old Trafford, but certainly not at home to lowly Dagenham & Redbridge et al.

I don't know if it is a mental failing with our players, but once we have conceded a goal it is near enough game over as the second, third and sometimes even the fourth goal quickly follows. We do not seem to have the 'comebackability' or perhaps fight that we did when Danny Wilson was in charge.

Whilst we did in fact secure our League One status for an extended period, in my book there were quite a few negatives to report. After our comprehensive trouncing of then promotion contenders Oldham, it was another 6 games before we recorded our next win. It was the same towards the end of the season. From mid-March until the end of the season we only recorded one win, and that was against lowly Yeovil, one of the relegation contenders. On top of this were the abject performances against Sheffield Wednesday, Tranmere, and who will forget the display against Carlisle? They had ten men for most of the match, and even then we only managed one attempt on goal. As for the away match against Walsall, need I say more? Only that my heart bled for Colin Larkin.

I sincerely hope that we have learned from last season’s lessons, and that we cut out the elementary mistakes and show a bit more bottle at times like we did at home to Brighton. At times we were really goal shy last season. The majority of our goals coming from midfield or from our goalkeeper. I think....and I am hoping that the surprise package of this season with Nish as his partner could be Adam Boyd. I have a funny feeling that if he puts in the effort in it is going to be his year. Seeing him at Ritchie's Testimonial dinner (great night by the way), he looked very lean and 5 years younger, and I am hoping that he well and truly proves his detractors wrong. Don't let us down Boydy - I for one am rooting for you.

Whilst I would never expect him to play 30, let alone 40 plus games a season, if Browny can avoid injury I can see him getting a fair amount of goals as well to complement Boydy’s efforts. It is a crying shame that his potential has not been realised due to the injuries he has sustained during his exciting but brief career.

In conclusion, I hope the reader does not think that my initial comments in this article are too negative - as those that know me would confirm, I am ever the optimist, otherwise I would not have had a ten quid bet that Pools would gain promotion this forthcoming season. I would have had £20 on them but the West Ham odds of being promoted were too good to turn down, so I stuck a tenner on them as well!

Talking of daft bets, as all bets are - Leicester and Boro to miss out on promotion and Sunderland to finish above the Mags...The Mags to be relegated (along with Blackburn and Swansea).

Shocking revelations by KT POOLIE

A police enquiry into the world’s most prestigious football tournament, the East Durham Cup, has cleared officials of any wrong-doing. Suspicions were raised when the next two tournaments were awarded to High Hesleden Masonic Lodge despite it having neither a football pitch nor a team.

Chief Inspector White, known as whitewash of the yard, and the investigator in charge of a recent ‘phone hacking' scandal, was appointed by Parliament yesterday afternoon to investigate alleged bribery over the awarding of the tournament locations for the 2018 and 2022 events.

After an extensive, 20 minute scrutiny of the bid process White delivered his verdict, “My team has trawled through mountains of documentary, photographic and video material and discovered no evidence of corruption. One-hundred and seventy-three envelopes stuffed with £5 notes were found to be from a regular lottery ticket syndicate and the supposedly damning video wouldn’t play in our Betamax machine”.
There was incredulity from the bookies’ favourites, Shildon AFC, whose bid was headed by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Sir Elton, Lord Major and David Beckham, “Our tender was widely acknowledged to be the most lavish event seen in Shildon since George Stephenson’s horseless-carriage launch party in 1830. We had two fellas making balloon animals and a woman with some face-paints”.

Expressing relief at the outcome, the Cup committee agreed to prevent future problems by staging the next 50 competitions in a newly-commissioned, purpose-built, permanent stadium located 25 miles off-shore.

Meanwhile, Mr Seb Platter, the current president, has agreed to stand-down from the committee and is closing his newspaper, The News of the World Cup, stating, “My daughter, Michelle Blattini is ready to take the competition to the next level in its new home. Meanwhile I am devoting all my energies to my new business, Floating International Football Arenas, or FIFA, which has recently received a major order”.

as RUNNING MONKEY seen it (before the retained list came out)

As the last season was ending, I had a look back at some of the players who could possibly shape the coming season. Or at least have an impression on how we perform. After the previous two awful seasons, one year ago the doom and gloom merchants were writing us off. That was until Mick Wadsworth took over the situation and at least made us look like a football team at times.

Yes we all remember the string of games when four or five nil was the norm. But MW eventually steadied the ship and I think most Poolies are more than satisfied with a position of sixteenth in the first division and three consecutive years to boot. I decided to have a look at the players you should be able to rely on to get you some goals through out the season. Despite being without what we would call a recognised ‘STRIKER’ I ran the rule over the contenders for that mantle. So looking at the period from 2009 to 2011 I picked out the players I thought you might expect a good return from.

Two players in particular, despite not being recognised strikers, stand out head and shoulders above the rest. Based on league goals only, Andy - the self-styled best player at the club - Monkhouse comes out on top with twenty four goals, followed closely by Anthony Sweeney on sixteen goals. Ritchie Barker is next - after just two season in the period looked at, he claimed thirteen goals. Shame his legs went really.
"He reminded me of a former player from way back, Kenny Ellis, who always seemed to be in a different game to his team mates"
We did have Kevin Kyle and Daniel Nardiello in the squad that season but neither of them could be called Poolies as both wanted to be away, and they only netted eight goals between them.

Despite two awful injuries and limited games as sub, James Brown got into double figures on eleven, for me one of the saddest episodes in recent years at the Vic, to see such a talent struggle to be fit enough for the rigours of league football.

It has taken Adam Boyd two seasons since his return to manage ten goals and for me he has been a huge disappointment. Whether it is down to application or not, who know,  but he has not been a happy chappy since his return.

The next two in line are Gary Liddle and Roy O’Donovan, both on nine goals. Liddle is probably rated as one of our best players, steady away and that has been a great contribution from midfield. Roy of the Rovers was for us a goal machine, again on nine goals in fifteen games and I think every Poolie was hoping that he would become a permanent fixture. But sadly he went off to languish in some higher division reserve team, such a waste.

Next up is the enigma that is Denis Behan, such a promising start but his tally is only seven league goals, which dried up along with his chances to improve on it. An old parish priest warned me at the time about bringing these oirsh lads into our game. He said the problem is they are all brought up on the Gaelic football and just cannot convert; those that do are the exception to the rule. To me one of the strangest characters to pull on a Pools shirt is Richie Jones (seven goals.) This lad tended to believe his own press clippings and always thought he was too good for Pools. Never have I seen a player to be so hot and cold on the same day, he could turn it on but could also be so wasteful with the ball at times. He reminded me of a former player from way back, Kenny Ellis, who always seemed to be in a different game to his team mates, in that he would dummy a ball leaving it for a player that just was not there.

Whatever you make of Colin Larkin, he scored four goals at the tail end of the season and probably won himself a contract. This after most of the season not being good enough to break into the team and when he had his chance he just ran a lot without the ball.

We now enter the realms of fantasy, a smattering of players who are just not up to scratch. They are all probably very nice people but not all nice people make good footballers. I should really re-phrase that last statement in the case of Leon McSweeney, as I consider him to be one of the most improved players this season. Despite having only scored three his contribution far out-weighs his lack of scoring prowess.

A big man and a big disappointment has to be Armann Bjornsson, but I blame Turner for this as the lad could never make his mind up if he was a centre half or a striker, but even from a centre half of his size three goals is not enough.

Michael Mackay, a great lad to talk to, very open and I bet he often wondered what he had to do to get a start. He was banging goals in left right and centre for the reserves but could not translate that to the first team. Two goals from him on limited starts, but it is anyone’s guess if he will be with us next term. Gateshead beckons I reckon.

Ritchie Humphreys has two this season but you could hardly put a “legend “ in the same category, could you?

James Poole, you could hardly call him a Poolie after just six games, scoring one goal, but another one that MW has his eye on. I suppose he is young and could be moulded but who knows? I liked David Foley but I guess he was another player that had to leave Pools to start scoring goals, which he is at his new club, Puerto Rico Islanders - a far cry from the team bus at Pools, as they have to fly every where. I bet the lad wishes he was still in the Football League, and my guess is he will make a return somewhere soon.

Ryan Donaldson, eleven games and no goals - to be honest the lad never really looked like scoring, and my guess is he won't make the grade at the Toon, and could be signing right now, as MW really rates him.

The player that comes to the bottom of my list has probably the worst stats of all the above-mentioned players. Seventy-two appearances and only one goal to show for his efforts, he should be kicked out now. FLINDERS OUT NOW I SAY.