Showing posts from September, 2011

the online fanzine for Poolies

ELMO on how the online MB is going and changes we've made

Many thanks to you readers for the approving comments we've received since the first online MB went live.

The online MB was being planned long before the last printed edition went to the printers. In fact a decision had been made to fold it completely until John (Poolie in Nottingham) Cooper came up with the idea of continuing to publish it, but online only.

The intention had been to allow all the regular posters to post their own articles whenever they felt like it, so there would be something new every few days, and no editor.

However, we ended up with something much more like an online version of the printed magazine, with an editorial team rather than an editor, and regular publication dates rather than continuous updating." One new feature ...allows readers to comment on articles, thus providing more to read, and an opportunity for those who might lack the confidence to write a whole article to metaphorically dip their toe in the water"

From the beginning, we had decided to incorporate the match reports we had been circulating among ourselves for years, but this was another aspect which fell by the wayside in the change to monthly publication. It was only after the first online edition of MB went live, and the first match report arrived, that we came up with the idea of the MB Football Special, a second website linked to and accessed from the MB site. There you can find reports from matches that some of the MB team have attended.

At the moment, we don't get to all the matches (most of the MB team live miles from Hartlepool), so we haven't covered every match. We'd be interested in hearing from regular attendees of away matches who'd be able to write match reports. They don't have to be too full of on-the-pitch stuff - the Mail and Echo do that, but stuff about pubs and stewards can be just as interesting. Eventually other types of articles will appear in the Football Special.

One new feature included in the Football Special that we've now added to Monkey Business is the comments feature, which allows readers to comment on articles, thus providing more to read, and an opportunity for those who might lack the confidence to write a whole article to metaphorically dip their toe in the water. To access the feature, click on the headline of the appropriate article. That takes you to a copy of the article, with a comments box at the bottom. Initially we're restricting it to users with a Google account (easy to set up and free, if you don't have one). Also, to prevent any abuse, comments will be vetted by the MB team before they appear online.

Eventually we hope to bring in other features that are available, when we can find a fourteen-year-old who can explain them to us!

GRANDAD SHOUTY ranges wide over Gary Lineker's pay, weddings, and the season so far, to name but a few

Funny old game isn’t it? You can be passionate about your team and still manage to get people involved who, on the surface, have no interest in the game. 

Such is the case with a contact of mine in Canada. After arriving home from a Pools home match (or at the finish of an away match if I can’t get there) I immediately send an e mail across the Atlantic giving the result. 

The heading on the e mail falls into one of three - ‘Yippee’, ‘A Bad Day at the Office’ or ‘Didn’t lose, didn’t win’. That way, the recipient knows what to expect. The close season can be very boring in a faraway place not far from Toronto. 

And so to the Antipodes. MB was always sent to Australia and, indeed, was once passed around at an international conference of forensic scientists in Auckland, New Zealand. ’Never mind about solving crime, how can we solve Hartlepool United’s lack of goals?’ would have made for a good workshop session. 

Reports from my contacts speak very favourably of the new style Monkey Business, both the lay out and the content.
"My grand-daughter's partner once went on Facebook to complain that he’d been dragged round Primark - I suggested the only solution possible - ‘Get a hobby - support you local footy team' "

I was interested in Central Park’s encounters with family weddings in last month’s MB. I once found myself in that position and hit the roof when we’d been invited to a wedding reception at Stockton on the same day as a Pools home match. However, my problem was solved by my good lady who said ’Don’t panic. The wedding ceremony is at 11am so the speeches will be over by half past one. Book a taxi for two o’clock and I’ll come back with you’. Bless her - maybe she didn’t want to listen to a crap disco where the main objective was to burst everyone’s ear drums. At two o’clock prompt, the taxi arrived and I duly presented myself at Pools. However, I did have a dilemma. Did I wear my Pools shirt at the reception or did I present myself at Pools wearing a suit and polished shoes and closely resembling a redundant male model? I opted for the latter so maybe someone was looking round and saying ’Where’s that scruffy sod today - must be missing the match’.

In addition to family weddings, shopping can be a pain for some. When Radio 5 asked whether listeners were looking forward to the new season, one guy from the Midlands said he couldn’t wait for the season to start - he wouldn’t get dragged round shops any more on a Saturday afternoon. My grand-daughter's partner once went on Facebook to complain that he’d been dragged round Primark - I suggested the only solution possible - ‘Get a hobby - support you local footy team' (in this case, West Brom).

Which brings me on to this season. The early signs are encouraging, despite losing goals when we should have won. The Walsall game was indeed a tough match to start off proceedings and they seem determined not to get sucked into a relegation battle like last season. The injury plagued side pulled out all the stops against Huddersfield and there was a feeling of pride at the final whistle.

The only blight on the proceedings was that we tended to use the long ball too much and the Huddersfield back four had no difficulty in snuffing out any danger. Some years ago, when working in Sheffield, I trotted off to Bramall Lane to see Sheffield United play Crystal Palace. Palace scored an early goal and for most of the game United pumped high balls into the Palace penalty area and, playing a 5-4-1 formation, Palace made mincemeat of anything that was on offer. Come added time, Sheffield United were awarded a free kick. Playing it along the deck, they equalised. Question: why did it take over ninety minutes for the penny to drop? I always agreed with the Cloughie thesis on this one : If God had meant football to be played in the air, he would have put grass in the sky. We do have the players with the necessary skills - let’s make use of them. Incidentally, the general view was that the referee in the Huddersfield game played a blinder. This was in contrast to last year’s game when, I suspect, the ref blew early to prevent a fifteen player punch up. Still, we’ve held our own against two of last season’s play-off teams - the way MK Dons have started off didn’t make for a bad performance. Of course, we’ve had the injuries - Tony Sweeney in particular - and we’ve not seen the best of Nobby Solano. Incidentally, my grandson, Joe, wrote a school report in July in which Solano picked up an injury - prophetic words, indeed! 

A word on the season tickets. There’s certainly a good atmosphere at The Vic and the increased crowds are certainly getting behind Pools. However, as one punter said to me, it can also work the other way. You could
get 5,000 cheering you on but there’s also 5,000 on your back if things don’t go right.

On to two other things which I’ve mentioned before. The first is the amount of money paid to TV pundits. I’m grateful to the Daily Mirror (13 July 2011) for revealing that Gary Lineker pulls in around £1.5m a year and Alan Hansen earns £1.1 a year. Good grief, what do they do to earn this amount of money; it's obscene when lots of people are struggling to pay the licence fee which supports their, no doubt lavish, lifestyle. Nobody denied the Mirror’s figures so they must be near the mark.

The second is the continuing saga of the Olympic Stadium, which will almost certainly go to West Ham. The stadium apparently holds 60,000, which means that West Ham will have to give a lot of cheap/free tickets away to fill the place. 

However, as I suggested in last month’s MB, the biggest threat is to Leyton Orient and Barry Hearn is still continuing his campaign to protect Orient’s interests. He’s already written to five-holidays Cameron and the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, asking them not to rubber stamp West Ham’s move at this stage. “Give us the respect, the decency and the right to put our case forward," says the Orient chairman. (BBC website, 22/8/11). He goes on to say “…I find it incredible they would even consider making the decision before undergoing due process in regard to the effect on the incumbent football club.” 

As Brisbane Road is located within one mile of the Olympic Stadium, Barry Hearn fears that this could force his club to the wall. Already, there is talk of a judicial review and I fear that it could come to this. If this is avoided, then this will mean that logic and common sense will have been applied. 

A cat in hell’s chance of that happening. Once again, Barry, best of luck in your campaign - don’t let the little creeps get you down. It would be a shame not to be able to journey down to one of London’s smaller clubs - after all, there’s more to London than Arsenal, Spurs et al.

Senior Magazine

ALAN ESSEX tells us about some players ‘shown the door’ at the end of last season.

Fabian Yantorno – Now playing for Institución Atlética Sud América, known as Sud América. A club from the second division of Montevideo in Uruguay. Montevideo is Fabians home town.

Armann Bjornsson – No information available, I assume he is not playing professionally.

Denis Behan – Signed on for Limerick who play in the first division of the League of Ireland. This is the second tier of football in Ireland. At the time of writing (28/8/2011) Limerick are 4th, 9 points behind leaders Shelbourne who have played one game less (21 games). In the 7 games he has played he has scored 5 goals.

Joe Gamble – Also plays for Limerick, he’s played 5 times and only been sent off the once!

Leon McSweeney – Now signed for one of our rivals in league 1, Leyton Orient. Has currently played in 2 games (substituted in both) with Orient pointless at the bottom of the table.

Billy Greulich – Now playing for Durham City who play in the Northern Premier League Division One North and appears to be called Billy Greulich-Smith now. Played 5 scored 3.

Michael Mackay – Returned to Consett of the Northern League, Division 1. This being the club that Hartlepool had signed him from. Currently has scored 5 goals in 3 league games, so his goal scoring ability at this level is consistent.

Billy Blackford – Now playing for Whitby Town in the Evo-Stik Premier Division. They’ve played 5 games and not yet won, drawing 3, Billy has scored once.

Dylan Purvis – Plays for Blyth Spartans in the Blue Square North.

Callum Martin – Like Billy Blackford he now plays for Whitby Town who also have Darren Williams, Matty Tymon, Marc Ellison and Mark Robinson in their squad.

...and (along with his colleagues) found wanting by POOLIE KEV 

Now all football fans regard the man in black as a demon to be exorcised by relentless barracking, except on the rare occasions when he awards your team a dubious penalty, but the growing perception within the game is of a standard of officialdom in freefall. 

The four officials appointed to a game are wrapped in such ever-thickening swathes of cotton wool that even to comment on their performance almost guarantees banishment to the stands for the clubs manager, regardless of the fact that, as Neale Cooper once famously said, after a penalty award against Ben Clarke at Hull, such decisions are career shaping.

What actually caught my eye this season, after many seasons of frustration at the ineptness displayed by referees and their assistants, was the Nathan Luscombe affair. A simple 50/50 ball on the halfway line, two committed players going for it and both despatched for the crime of being competitive. Walsall decided to appeal, won the appeal, Pools decided not to and Luscombe parks his arse for three games.

In the bigger picture, we have this absurd ‘Respect’ campaign which is designed to do what? Some wishy-washy notion of everybody loving each other presumably, demonstrated by a token handshake for everyone where no-one meets each others eye. A façade, closely followed by ninety minutes showing exactly why referees aren’t respected."Now let’s say a player gets caught with a careless nick on the knee in a tackle. It’s painful and sudden. What’s he going to say? ‘Oh mercy me, that’s painful!!’ Hardly."

A look at the statistics last night showed me that in League one, after 5 league matches and a handful of Carling Cup games, there have been 92 bookings and 11 sendings off so far this season. What’s going on on the pitch, full scale shock and awe warfare? Like all echelons of British society, football is no exception to the tsunami of new ways to offend and one can be booked even for removing ones shirt. Quite why this offends enough to get you halfway off the pitch puzzles me in the extreme but the authorities deem it offensive and their puppets in black duly wave the cardboard. I find it incredible that in one game between Notts County and Tranmere this season there was thirteen bookings, two of them second bookings resulting in sendings off. This was in a game which featured thirty seven fouls. Is this League One or the Uruguayan Sunday League??

Now let’s say a player gets caught with a careless nick on the knee in a tackle. It’s painful and sudden. What’s he going to say? ‘Oh mercy me, that’s painful!!’ Hardly. It’s going to be something somewhat more graphic than that. Into the book he goes for foul and abusive language. Two minutes later, he rounds three tackles, chips the keeper in front of his home fans and waves his shirt round his head in celebration or jumps into the crowd and he’s off. How can that engender respect? Reactions to pain and elation are crimes?? Seemingly so.

But the rules aside, sometimes it’s the application of them that has many fans shaking their heads in disbelief. Recently one of Pools' opponents was booked for a foul and the game restarted with a bounce up. Now even occasional observers know that a foul results in a direct or indirect free kick and a bounce up is for an inadvertent stoppage such as an injury. Are these gadgies allowed to re-write the rules?? Seemingly so.

I listen to the apologists, such as Jeff the Ref, who I realise has been to the very zenith of the game and will admit to making his fair share of errors with a wry smile, and I also understand that these decisions have to be made in the split second allowed. I understand that the relentless examination and re-examination by TV and digital media allows for crucifixion of a poor decision. I also allow that the officials are merely human and will not get every decision correct but is 90% too much to ask for?

At full time the ref can simply walk away. I know he has an assessor and a report will be submitted and possibly words exchanged but the result will stand. Much like the judiciary handing out lighter sentences if you plead guilty earlier, if you shut up and sit down your sentence won’t be heavier. This is simply not fair as it precludes the ability to protest one’s innocence in a split second decision that can be expensive and potentially damaging to a career. Don’t hit me with the cliché that these things balance themselves out over a season, they shouldn’t even begin to become an accepted part of the game.

So in a nutshell, players, managers, fans and even casual TV viewers have to put up with the decisions of men who sometimes see themselves as more important than the sport. If we can get to the stage where they believe they are integral to the sport rather than in some ivory tower looking down on it we can all move onwards.

My message to FIFA, EUFA, the FA, the Football League and referees themselves is that, as in life, Respect is not a given, it has to be earned.

ELMO considers the yellow peril

I remember, when I were a lad* going down to see Pools lose every week. 

In those days we were in the middle of the unbeaten record run of applications for re-election to the league for bring crap. Yet despite that, crowds weren't much different from now. And the amazing thing, looking back, is that a crowd of around 5000 was regularly controlled by the grand total of four policemen, one in each corner, and not one steward.

This all came back to me while reading a recent article on the BBC website about high-visibility clothing. Apparently hi-viz came about when an American inventor married his fluorescent paint to his wife's old wedding dress. History doesn't record whether it remained a loud 1930's fashion statement, or was cut up into a jacket first, but ever since, hi-viz has gradually crept over the world like a yellow fog."...the amazing thing, looking back, is that a crowd of around 5000 was regularly controlled by the grand total of four policemen, one in each corner, and not one steward"

A recent study has revealed that people have become conditioned to doing as they're told by anyone wearing a hi-viz jacket, even though the same request would be refused from someone in ordinary clothes. This makes sense if you think about it. Policemen, road works crews and any authority figures we're likely to meet in the street will be wearing hi-viz jackets, and we're so used to that that we've subconsciously transferred the authority from the person to the jacket.

These days most of us have a hi-viz vest in our cars in case we break down (they're compulsory in some countries), and many of us are obliged to use one at work, and safety concerns of all types seem to be leading us towards wearing hi-viz every time we step outside the front door.

Now of course, back at the Vic, a similar crowd to those seen in the early sixties needs dozens of stewards to control it (and rightly so - four policemen couldn't have done much about anything). And part of their authority comes from their jackets. So, if hi-viz were to become the norm for anyone using a public footpath, you could end up with a sea of hi-viz at the Vic. In that case, what would happen to the visibility and the authority of the stewards? Would they all have to wear black suits and funny hats, just to differentiate them from the punters - and stand in the corners so we'd know where to find them?

On a lighter note, I would love to see a Dutch international football crowd all wearing orange hi-viz tops. But probably not for very long.

(*anyone else remember the Hovis ad, directed by Hartlepool College of Art old boy Ridley Scott, and once voted best ad of all time?)

ASHLEY COAL STAITHES on footy at the cinema

I saw ‘The Damned United’ recently which set me thinking about football movies in general. The Damned United, for those of you who haven’t seen it, is a biopic of Brian Clough but concentrates on the few weeks Cloughie spent with the ‘White Shites’. Michael Sheen does a reasonable impression of Old Big ‘Ead, but the film falls down because it never appreciates the need for actors playing footballers to look like they, at least at some moment in their life, had once kicked a football – or in the case of Leeds United players, another footballer.

The disparity between the actors' dearth of ball skills becomes all too obvious whenever the action swings away from sweaty close ups of inept divvies with bad wigs doing headless chicken impersonations to long shots of Lorimer, Giles et al doing – pretty well anybody really. I have never understood this anomaly. Surely it must be more difficult for an actor to play a hoodlum such as Al Capone than a hoodlum such as Norman Hunter.

Billy Bremner in particular is especially badly served in the film. In real life he was short in stature and shorter in temper but could, it breaks my heart to confess, play a bit. He always seemed to me though to be the sort of berk you ran into in Church Street on a Saturday night who, no matter how much you tried to avoid eye contact would accuse you of ‘looking at him’, the punishment for which was a rearrangement of facial features without anaesthetic. Bremner, in short, was not someone you wished to mess with. His counterpart in the film is of a different cut. He looks like the old boy you would sometimes see in the corner of the ‘snug’ at the local, sipping on a half of Jubilee stout. Played by an overweight pensioner in an ill-fitting ginger wig in the film, he could not have put the frighteners on the Telly Tubbies, let alone John O Hare, John Robertson or Dave Mackay as we are led to believe. The footballing action is, however, even more painful to watch. The ball moves around the field with the flash and zip of Crown Green Bowls lethargically ‘pursued’ by a crowd of aged and wheezing deadbeats who can barely achieve a jogging pace."Richard Harris in the leading role, for example, was a dead ringer for Norman Hunter - but with more teeth obviously."

The one actor who I forgive in this respect was the guy playing John McGovern. I saw McGovern play numerous times at Pools and even played against him when he played for Central Park Youth team. I can confirm that his counterpart in the film was every bit as useless as he was.

The DVD of the film contains the accompanying inevitable extras. These include interviews with some of the main characters, including the aforesaid John Mc. Unfortunately they fail to throw any further light on their former manager who it appears was ‘just this guy you know’. Whatever factor Cloughie used to get them motivated they appear to have had no idea what it was. Before quickly moving on it is worth mentioning the amount of coverage that Pools gets in the film – essentially nothing. Cloughie and Peter Taylor, it would seem, moved seamlessly from their playing career to managing the championship side at Derby County with no in-between bit. The only mention we get is the throwaway line Sheen says to Timothy Spall (playing Taylor) about the people at ’Hartlepools’ being ‘our people’.

Enough of ‘The Damned United’. So what other football films have I seen? Well I recall one in which a bunch of POWs in the Second World War use the victory in a football match against a German (Nazi) national team as a cover for an escape. I think it was called, cleverly, ‘Escape to Victory’. This was a fascinating exercise in the old footballer V actor conundrum. As well as having real footballers such as Bobby Moore and Pele in the film, there was also actors such as Michael Caine and, unbelievably, Sylvester Stallone. Stallone played a goalkeeper who in the closing moments saves the crucial penalty in the symbolic confrontation with the Bosch. This is remarkable as Stallone has both the physique and general mobility of a tree trunk. If the film was made today a real footballer would have been used in these action scenes with Stallone’s features superimposed on the goalie's face. This might just have saved the day. However it was not possible with the technology at the time and we are left with the sight of a lumbering ox where we might have hoped for an agile cat. Happily for us the whole team, still wearing faux England football strip, somehow escapes from the stadium under the noses of the German army. One in the eye for the much vaunted S.S. then.

There are a few notable exceptions to the crap football film rule. The best soccer sequence on film, by a measured mile, is the piece in Ken Loach’s comedy drama ‘Kes’, where a fat gym teacher, played by Brian Glover, takes on the persona of Bobby Charlton and blunders about kicking lumps out of an entourage of bored school kids forced to take part in an imagined contest between Man United and Spurs. I also recall a made for TV film about a Fourth Division (i.e. League 2) team drawn against the great Manchester United side of the early seventies. The action here takes place in the dressing room before the match, when a Brian Clough lookalike manager goes from player to player geeing them up before they go out on to the field to face the Red Devils. In this instance the fact that none of the actors look like real footballers is fundamental to the plot. Having supported Hartlepool all my life, I can empathise with the irony in lines such as “You’ll be marking Georgie Best son” spoken by the manager to an old fat bloke in a ginger wig.

It seems strange to me that more use has not been made of footballers who also happen to be actors. I can only think in this respect of Eric Cantona, who was quite presentable in ‘Looking for Eric’ (also Ken Loach) if in an inscrutable Gallic “seagulls following fishing boats” sort of way and, at a push, Vinnie Jones supposedly playing a footballer locked up in jail in some recent ’cockney geezer’ prison escape romp. This movie, I should point out, must not be confused with the film version of ‘Porridge’ where a football match is – surprisingly – used as the cover for a prison escape with hilarious consequences.

It is a pity that no-one as yet attempted to make a football film that has the balls of Lindsay Anderson’s ‘This Sporting Life’. Although ostensibly about rugby league, the film would have worked equally well in respect of league football. Indeed the thuggish actors playing the rugby players in Anderson’s film looked far more like the Leeds United players of the late sixties than anything we saw in ‘The Damned United’. Richard Harris in the leading role, for example, was a dead ringer for Norman Hunter - but with more teeth obviously.

Maybe the best is yet to come. It’s amazing what can now be done with CGI. I look forward with anticipation to ‘Hartlepool United - the Movie’ with the features of Brad Pitt superimposed on the body of Adam Boyd and Angelina Jolie in the role of Sam Collins.

RUNNING MONKEY does his good deed for the day

You know when you drive the same roads every day you tend to get blasé about your surroundings? Well on this particular day I must have had Lucozade in my early morning tea. I drove past the IMO car wash at the balls roundabout contemplating whether to nip in for a quick splash or get the hose out, when I saw the creature hanging there gently swinging in the breeze - a life-size effigy of H’Angus waving his Pools scarf.

At first I thought just maybe the former incumbent of the suit was looking for a new post after reading in the Mail that some new wave Tory boy was trying to oust him from his position as Mayor in order to shoe horn in an unelected person of their choice to the post. I am sure the people of this parish would not let this happen.

The next day I passed and the effigy was gone and it was replaced by another Monkey, this time a replica of that of Hartlepool Rovers RFC - egg chasers to you and me. A rumour that the H’Angus effigy was now hanging in Skerne Park and being worshipped daily by Loids was unfounded, so I decided that the Bizz readers should know the truth.

Being the shy retiring type, I gently knocked on the door of the car wash kiosk. “Excuse me” I said, “could you tell me why your H’Angus has been replaced by another monkey?”

“Tubby’s fault”he barked. “Sorry to hear that” I said “would you like to explain. “ I used to be a die-hard home and away supporter and I had the replica H’Angus made to show my true colours to the entire world. Tubby drained all that from me, now I don’t even go the games, I have lost all interest.”

“That is sad” I told him “as we are now playing some of the best football ever at Pools.” I gave him all the news of the new-style Pools and the signings we have made, the deal on tickets, the atmosphere in the Vic now the crowds are back. As I left him I just got a glimpse of that Poolie madness in his eye and my guess is we just might see the car wash man back at the Vic on his next free Saturday.

RIFT HOUSE RADGIE contemplates old ones and possible new ones

I have to eat a bit of humble pie, as I made a prediction not long ago that Sven wouldn't still be at Leicester City come the start of this season. He's still there, but he's hardly pulling up trees is he? After five games played in the Championship, Leicester sit in tenth place with seven points. And this is after he's been given a bit of cash to splash. Pissed away more like.

I know the Championship is a very competitive league, with the standard getting better year on year, but surely someone like Sven would rise to the challenge? He truly is laughing all the way to the bank, and I think he has just about found his level now - mid-table of the second tier at a decent-sized club with a lot of resources at his disposal.

However, he is not doing as badly as another former England manager, the grinning idiot that is Steve McLaren. I've come to believe that this character is a true English eccentric, what with his strange Dutch accent, and seemingly unending belief in his own (limited) ability. At the time of writing, his Nottingham Forest side were soundly beaten 4-1 at home by West Ham. This leaves Forest with five points after five games, which is relegation form over the course of a full season."When you look back at what Clough achieved, I still can't believe he never got the England job. But when you look at the processes that led to the appointment of Steve McLaren, you can understand why."

I can imagine that proper former Forest manager looking down from the sky (where there is definitely no grass), sneering in disgust at the way McLaren is still making a living from the game at the club which he took to such great heights in the 70s and 80s. I'd like to think he was doing the same when Martin Scott blundered his way through that terrible relegation season at Pools, and I reckon he'd have respect and admiration for the way Mick Wadsworth has transformed Pools in recent times. I'm talking about Brian Clough of course, the best former Pools manager never to manage England.

When you look back at what Clough achieved, I still can't believe he never got the England job. But when you look at the processes that led to the appointment of Steve McLaren, you can understand why. It seems to me that the people responsible for appointing England managers over the years have always favoured the 'safe pair of hands' who would make steady progress, rather than give the job to someone who would give us a chance of actually winning something.

When Sven was appointed, although I was cynical and knew that it was another bad decision, I was actually quite pleased that the selectors had looked beyond national boundaries. For too long we were bogged down with a narrow view of what constituted a good England manager (eg being English for a start). I couldn't give a toss what nationality the manager is, as long as we actually look like we might win a tournament.

I think that Capello has done a fairly good job which has in the main been undone by those egos masquerading as England footballers. I can't imagine what it must be like trying to get these pampered primadonnas playing as a unit, and you can't underestimate the power of the media spotlight and the pressure it brings. I don't think his contract will be renewed, and then the selection circus will begin again.

For me, you need a Cloughie type. Someone who doesn't stand for any nonsense from any of the players or media, is focussed on the job in hand, and is actually any good at managing a team. It pains me to say it as I can't stand the bloke, but I reckon Alex Ferguson would have won a tournament had he been given the England job at any point over the last 15 years. Similarly, Scolari would have had a good go. When you look at who is available currently, who would you choose? Mourinho would be top of my list. Again I don't like the man, but you can't argue with his record and he speaks English better than most of the current squad.

Whoever gets the job needs to have something about them, the X factor or whatever you want to call it, but please, anything but the polite, safe bet, who won't get caught banging TV presenters and embarrassing the FA. If anyone needs embarrassing it's them!

BILLY'S CONTRACT takes a trip across the Pennines

Having messed up on the holiday front which meant that I missed the first three home games and a first-ever visit to Stevenage, I was determined to get to see 'Pools at the earliest opportunity possible. This meant the relatively short hop down the M62 over to Rochdale. 

I like this little Lancashire town, home of Gracie Fields and of the Rochdale Pioneers, who founded the Co-Operative Society. In many ways it reminds me of Hartlepool, but without a sea front or a Marina ...and a lot of other things.

Despite the fact I have been to this ground on seven or eight occasions, I had yet to see 'Pools win here, our best effort being a draw.

Normally when heading home after an away trip, as tradition dictates, we hit Wetherby for fish and chips. This however is given a miss whenever we play Rochdale, as we tend to have suet steak pie and chips from 'the chippy' across the road from Rochdale's ground. As ever the scran was excellent - Gordon Ramsey eat your heart out - and the lasses who served us were good craic. It was then over the road to The Church for some holy water. ...Just to clarify for those who have never been to the Dale, The Church is a pub not a religious building so perhaps I should have said we went in for some unholy water. A blessing in disguise!"I like this little Lancashire town... In many ways it reminds me of Hartlepool, but without a sea front or a Marina ...and a lot of other things."

After our libation we decided we would head for the ground, a mere 40 strides away from the pub. Without paying attention I entered the first turnstile I came to, handed a £20 note over to the turnstile operator, and tried to gain access to the ground by pushing the turnstile but it would not move. I was just about to ask the turnstile operator to let me in when she handed me £6 change back. As I gained access to the ground I was thinking that the entrance price, as last season, should be £20 to get in and not £14. It was then that it occurred to me that I used the O.A.P. entrance. The joy of saving six quid quickly subsided when I realised that the lady on the gate did not query my age, and must have thought I was a right old codger. I know I am 58 and what hair I have is quite grey but my ego was severely dented I can tell you. My mate was incredulous as he thought that I had pulled this stunt to save a few bob. ...Having said that, if it worked once it might be worth another try at our next away game!

Pools took to the field in their new 'must have' Maroon away strip, which absolutely looks the business ...currently 'not available' from the club shop.

I have previously mentioned that I am not a fan of the 4-5-1 formation. Like my women, I prefer 'two up front', particularly as 4-5-1 sends a message to the opposition that we are scared stiff of you and are more interested in not getting beat rather than winning.

I also do not believe that we have the players to use this system on a consistently successful basis as too many individuals in our defence are prone to make elementary mistakes that prove costly. In addition I am not convinced that either Boydie or Brownie are suited to being the lone target man. As it turned out on the day, this system actually worked. Pools put in a superb performance to come away with their first win of the season.

Neil Austin had an excellent game at centre half filling in for the injured Sam Collins. Boydie had one of his best games since he returned to the club. He harried and chased and was deservedly rewarded with a neat headed goal. Poole is looking a far better player than when he was with us on loan last season and looks to be a possible star of the future. His pace is something we have previously lacked and should be utilised. As for Poole's so-called wonder strike what can I say ...well, nothing really as I missed it - I was still supping tea underneath the stand during what I thought was still the half time interval. I did not realise that the team had taken to the pitch, let alone scored a goal, until the massive roar went up that acknowledged Poole's stunner.

However the two stars of the day were the old campaigners Paul Murray and Ritchie Humphreys (if only they were both five years younger) who absolutely dominated and bossed the midfield for the full ninety minutes. Basically they used their football brains and not their lack of pace. Ritchie also had a hand in two of the goals.(He might have had an assist in Poole's first goal for all I know, but as I said earlier, at the time I was quaffing P.G Tips out of the sight of field of play!)

It has to be said that the three hundred or so fans who made the journey to Dale really made themselves heard and got behind the team, cheering every goal and tackle, which I am sure kept the lads going, particularly in the latter stages of the game.

As for Rochdale, they should have played Jake Kean. ...Perhaps not.

All this, followed by a leisurely drive home and a very acceptable curry at the new Indian restaurant next to Hornsey's on Seaton front. One sour note was that they do not do concessions for pensioners. Such is life.

POOLIE IN NOTTINGHAM becomes Poolie in Stevenage for the day

When the fixture list came out, one of the first ones I looked for was Stevenage. Although I love the familiarity of great away days out at places like Orient, Brentford, Crewe, Peterborough etc, you can't beat the first time at a new ground.

Now I don't think I was alone in having a few preconceptions about what the Lamex Stadium would be like. If I was pressed to draw up a stereotypical list of what I expected to encounter at Stevenage, I would fall back onto what little I know about the place. Let's see then, they're a team from a new town built to mop up the London overspill, and this is only their second season in the league. Here goes then:

New town architecture (eg characterless)
Easy to get to if you're driving, but poorly served by public transport
Hardly any pubs within walking distance
Overzealous stewarding/policing
Distinct lack of atmosphere, or one artificially whipped up by a drummer
Rip-off catering
Rip-off bottle-neck parking with no alternative
Functional yet utterly soulless stadium

As it happens, not all the above boxes were ticked. I didn't see any of the town's architecture, as the ground is but a Sam Collins long throw from the A1. Amazingly, there was a huge car park directly opposite the ground which was completely free! I can't believe that whoever owns the land isn't coining it in on matchdays, particularly now that they will be getting larger crowds. Not that it would be a good thing, just that it's unusual for enterprising southerners to miss a trick like this."As for the atmosphere, the regulation percussionist whacked out a thudding beat at regular intervals, but overall the Stevenage fans were pretty loud even without the help of their little drummer boy"

I didn't pass any pubs on the drive in, and I don't expect that there were rows of them just around the corner. The stewards and muskers were quite relaxed, the most laid back I've encountered at a match for some time. The tossers in luminous jackets at Elland Road could learn a thing or two from this approach.

The catering was probably averagely priced, but I always feel that I am being fleeced when being asked for money by a southerner than someone with say, a Lancashire accent.

The stadium was functional, and would have been almost soulless had it not been for the irregular terrace behind one of the goals, which only extended about two thirds the length of the goal-line. As for the atmosphere, the regulation percussionist whacked out a thudding beat at regular intervals, but overall the Stevenage fans were pretty loud even without the help of their little drummer boy.

This is the first game I've been to for a long time without a load of Monkey Businesses to flog, and it took a bit of getting used to. However, I soon settled down without constantly wondering where my bag had gone to.

At half time we were two to the good, thanks to Stevenage spurning a few good chances, a superb thumping header from Peter Hartley, and a cheeky penalty finish from Boydy after Colin Nish was brought down rather naively in the Stevenage box.

Before the start of the game I said I would be happy with a point, given the impresive early season start Stevenage had made. At the final whistle it was a relief to hang on to 2-2. Nish should have put us three up, and after that Stevenage upped their game as we grew more knackered. When they pulled one back it was inevitable that an equaliser would come, and I feared the worst when the board went up signalling 4 minutes of added time shortly after the leveller.

We managed to hold on without any scares, and again it was odd to head straight out of the ground without trying to flog mags to the exiting Poolies. The car-park didn't fail to disappoint however - I was in the car a full 15 minutes before I was able to drive out and head back north up the M1.

By the time I got home I had come to the conclusion that it was two points dropped rather than a point gained, in spite of the injury ravaged squad which featured the veteran central midfield of Humphries and Murray. Still, we continued our unbeaten run, and if we remain difficult to beat then we should comfortably finish in the top half, if not troubling the top 6.
Tinkler: Tailor, Soldier, Spy