BILLY'S CONTRACT looks on the bright side

What a miserable lot us Poolies are. Moaning about the team, the tactics, the hoofball, having a go at the manager (myself included), as well as the Council to boot. Reading some of the recent comments in Monkey Business and on some of the message boards you would think that Pools had hit rock bottom and were all set to fold.

As bad as things are down at the Vic at present, let's face it, they are not that bad at all. Sitting 'comfortably numb' in mid-tablesville in League One, playing in front of crowds of 5,000 plus. A well-run club backed by the ever generous IOR, and a Council who in the past, when things have gone pear-shaped for Pools, have stood by the football club. So all in all, things aren't really that grim on the coast. "That gap they were referring to is now a bloody big chasm of Grand Canyon proportions"

Meanwhile, down the A66 things could not be worse. Who would have thought that a few short years ago, when their fans were singing to us ' We'll never play you again'. Which at the time, I thought, with George Reynolds' backing might well be the case. How wrong both they and I could be. On message boards we were all warned by their fans 'To mind the gap'. That gap they were referring to is now a bloody big chasm of Grand Canyon proportions in terms of where both clubs are at present.

I can't image what it must be like to be a Darlow fan these days. Pools have known and had some really dark days in the past, but somehow or another they have got off their death bed more times than Lazarus.

We might well have the worst record in English football history for applying for re-election to the Football League; thirteen times to Darlow's five, but unlike Darlow we have never had the distinction of being relegated to non-league football not once but twice. Putting it in perspective, that was the 20th Century - we are now living in the 21st Century and things are now different. In other words the boot is now firmly on the other foot!

I have some empathy with the average Darlow fan, particularly as Pools could have been in the same boat but for the grace of IOR. I was going to say I can't imagine how exciting it must be going to a home game to watch Darlow, but I can, as having nothing better to do the season before last I took in one of their home games against Dagenham & Barnet or some team from the South. The Arena was a combination of a morgue and the moon rolled into one, ie. a few bodies there and devoid of any atmosphere.

They have a section on their message board showing photographs of the fans at such and such a match. Click on it, and you will see that their home end resembles Torquay's away end on a Tuesday night when playing Pools with very few bums on seats. The away photographs on this site are even more depressing. The grim resignation on the faces of their few fans hoping for salvation reminds me of the scenes from the beaches of Dunkirk...let alone the fish sands.

I am not saying that we would fare any better if we were in their situation. I can recall in the 1987 season Pools finishing 16th in the league, and for our penultimate game of the season against Cardiff our attendance was 1,101. Then for our last home game (a 2-1 win over Hereford) a paltry, but loyal 823 fans turned out. I count myself as being one of the few there that day.

I have to say that I thought that their average crowd attendance would be a lot less given their plight. What must be absolutely soul destroying for your average Darloid, apart from seeing Pools flying high, is the not knowing from one day to the next if their club will survive financially, especially as their chairman Raj Singh looks set to throw the towel in.

When I think about it, the reason Darlow's crowds are not too bad at his awful time for them could be purely historical. Many fans might want to tell their grand children that they were there for the last match ever played at the Arena ...the only snag is that no one is quite sure when that will happen, so many of them are hedging their bets and going each week to make sure they are in attendance when they finally do close the turnstiles for good. I noticed that yesterdays crowd against Tamworth was nearly one hundred up on their last home game, so that does not bode well at all. They must have got wind that the end is nigh.

A number of their fans on their message boards have more or less accepted that they will go out of business, and will have to be reborn and come back in some other guise like AFC Darlington and play their games at Bishop Auckland or Darlington RA, and hopefully attempt to do an Aldershot. I might be wrong but I do not think that they own the White Elephant Stadium but pay rent on it. Another drain on resources.

On top of that the local Council receives a substantial percentage of the club's match day gate receipts. I stand to be corrected but I think that the only thing that the Council have done to assist the club over the last few years is allow them to hold a car boot sale every Sunday in the club's car park ...and guess who gets a chunk of the vendors fees? The Council. I get the distinct impression that the Council do not want a football club in the town.

Unless a multi-millionaire or some other lunatic benefactor comes to their rescue, I really cannot see Darlow surviving much longer in their present form, and certainly not at their current location.

For my part here is a prediction: I firmly believe that it will come to pass that Darlow will have to switch George Reynolds' Heskaltors off once and for all (apparently, in any event, they have not been switched on for a number of years now, in order to keep the electricity bill down!) and that one of the newest stadiums in the Football League will be demolished, partially or otherwise, to make way for a supermarket, a housing estate, or a site for travelling people.

It could be renamed The Dale Farm 2 Arena.


Match report on the Stevenage game:
Total utter garbage from beginning to end.

Match report on the Yeovil game:
1% improvement on the Stevenage game.