Showing posts from January, 2012

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KT POOLIE with apologies to Mr. Charles Dickens

Pool’s season was dead to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The table was perused by the club secretary, both cup draws had passed without consequence, even old Johnstone’s Trophy was beyond reach. The campaign was as dead as the Echo Arena.

Old Scrote knew it was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? He had been a season ticket holder for I don't know how many years, so there is no doubt that the season was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. If, a few years earlier, we were not perfectly convinced that the afternoon at Peterborough was over at 3-1, there would be nothing remarkable in Nelson’s pile-driver five minutes from the end.

But he was a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old supporter, Scrote. Hard and sharp as flint, secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold northerly wind froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice."In life I was a great man. I wouldn’t say I was the best, but I was in the top one." ...observed the Ghost.

External heat and cold had little influence on Scrote. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew from the cold sea over the empty docks was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn't know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could not have made Scrote more miserable. In short, a Millhouse man.

Lately, no man or woman inquired of the score. Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, "My dear Scrote, how is the team doing? Are the newcomers doing well?" No programme sellers implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was o'clock. Even the blind men's dogs appeared to know him, and then they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into the doorways of the bookies.

Once upon a time - of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve - old Scrote sat in his Millhouse seat. It was cold, bleak, biting weather, foggy withal, and he could hear the people at the turnstiles go wheezing up and down, beating their hands upon their breasts, and stamping their feet upon the terrace steps to warm them. The city clocks had only just gone three, but it was quite dark already - it had not been light all day - and floodlights were flaring in the windows of the press box like ruddy smears upon the palpable brown air.

“Come on Pools!" cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrote's nephew, who cheered the team through thick and thin.

"Bah!" said Scrote, "Humbug!"

He had so heated himself with fanatical chanting in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrote's, that he was all in a glow, his face was ruddy and handsome, his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again.

"Pools a humbug, uncle!" said Scrote's nephew. "You don't mean that, I am sure?"

"I do," said Scrote. "What right have you to be merry? We’ve seen defeat eight times here this winter."

"Come, then," returned the nephew gaily. "What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? We’re not in the Blue Square. Look at your colleague Bob Scratchit, he has more to be miserable about than most, being father to the unfortunate Tiny Tim Sperrevik, yet he always carries a cheery countenance.”

Scrote having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said, "Bah!" again, and followed it up with "Humbug."

"Don't be cross, uncle!" said the nephew.

"What else can I be," returned the uncle, "when I live in such a world of fools as this? Merry Christmas! Out upon Merry Christmas! What's Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money, a time for finding the season a game older, but we’re not a point richer. If I could work my will," said Scrote indignantly, "every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips, should be boiled with his own foot-long hotdog, and buried with his season ticket. He should! Support the team in your own way, nephew, and let me support it in mine."

"Support it!" repeated Scrote's nephew. "But you don't support it."

"Let me leave it alone, then," said Scrote. "Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!"

"There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say," returned the nephew. "Following Pools among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Saturday at The Vic as a good place, a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant venue, the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people around them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave. Poolies till they die, if you like, and not another race of creatures bound to other clubs. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good, and I say, God bless it!"

A fan on the terrace involuntarily applauded. Becoming immediately sensible of the impropriety, he tightened his scarf to the wind and cheered a wayward pass.

"Let me hear another sound from you, Scratchit" said Scrote, "and you'll be going home in an ambulance! You're quite a powerful speaker, sir," he added, turning to his nephew. "I wonder you don't go into the Town End."

"Don't be angry, uncle. Come with us to Exeter."

"Never" said Scrote.

His nephew left for his pie and Bovril without an angry word. He stopped at the pitch-side to bestow the greetings of the season on the steward, who, cold as he was, was warmer than Scrote, for he returned them cordially.

As he raised his eyes to events on the field, Scrote beheld two ticket sellers. They were portly gentlemen, pleasant to behold, who now stood, with their hats on, in front of Scrote.

"A few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the disadvantaged some food and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?"

"Nothing! I wish to be left alone," said Scrote. "I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the first team - they cost enough, and those who are badly off must go to the workhouse in Darlington."

"Many can't go there, and many would rather die."

"If they would rather die," said Scrote, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

Foggier yet, and colder. piercing, searching, biting cold. Pools were struggling. Scratchit’s elder son, the owner of a scant young nose, gnawed and mumbled by the hungry cold as bones are gnawed by dogs, stood and raised his arms in front of Scrote:

"Well played Hartley, good tackle, sir. Howay the lads!"

Scrote scowled with such energy of action that the boy was silenced in terror. The game petered to as miserable an ending as the weather.

Scrote took his melancholy dinner in the Engineers, his usual melancholy tavern, and having read all the newspapers, went home to bed. He lived in a gloomy suite of rooms. Nobody lived in it but Scrote, the other rooms being all empty.

He closed his door, and locked himself in, double-locked himself in, which was his custom. Thus secured against surprise, he took off his hat and scarf; put on his dressing-gown and slippers, and his nightcap, and sat down before the fire to take his gruel.

As he threw his head back in the chair, his glance happened to rest upon a rattle, a used 70’s Christmas present, that hung in the room. It was with great astonishment, and with a strange, inexplicable dread, that as he looked, he saw this rattle begin to turn. It swung so softly in the outset that it scarcely made a sound, but soon it clattered out loudly, and so did a bell – the one in the outside privvy he used to call out for toilet paper when he had run out.

This might have lasted half a minute, or a minute, but it seemed an hour. The bell and rattle ceased as they had begun, together. They were succeeded by a clanking noise, deep down below, as if some person were dragging a heavy chain.

The cellar-door flew open with a booming sound, and then he heard the noise much louder, on the floors below; then coming up the stairs, then coming straight towards his door.

His colour changed though, when, without a pause, it came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes. Upon its coming in, the dying flame leaped up, as though it cried, "I know him, Cloughie's Ghost!" and fell again.

The same face. The very same. Cloughie in his usual green training top, tight shorts and boots. The chain he drew was clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound about him like a tail, and it was made (for Scrote observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel. His body was transparent, Scrote had often heard it said that Cloughie had no bowels, but he had never believed it until now.

"How now!" said Scrote, caustic and cold as ever. "What do you want with me?"

"Much, young man!" - Cloughie’s voice, no doubt about it.

"In life I was a great man. I wouldn’t say I was the best, but I was in the top one. Now, I see you don't believe in my legacy or the team," observed the Ghost.

"I don't," said Scrote.

"Why do you doubt your senses? Are we not better placed than we ever dreamed in those dark days? "

"I doubt my senses, because," said Scrote, "a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!"

Scrote was not much in the habit of cracking jokes, nor did he feel, in his heart, by any means waggish then. The truth is that he tried to be smart, as a means of distracting his own attention, and keeping down his terror, for the spectre's voice disturbed the very marrow in his bones. There was something very awful, too, in the spectre's aura.

"Why are you here?" asked Scrote.

"Hear me!" cried the Ghost. "My time is nearly gone. Stand up straight, get your shoulders back and get your hair cut. I have sat invisible beside you many and many a day. I am here tonight to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping your misery. A chance and hope of my procuring, young man."

"You were always a good manager to me," said Scrote. "Thank'ee!"

"You will be haunted," resumed the Ghost, "by Three Spirits."

Scrote's countenance fell almost as low as the Ghost's had done.

"I - I think I'd rather not," said Scrote.

"Without their visits," said the Ghost, "you cannot hope to shun the wretched path I tread. Expect the first tomorrow, when the bell tolls One."

"Couldn't I take 'em all at once, and have it over, Mr Clough?" hinted Scrote.

"Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third upon the next night when the last stroke of Twelve has ceased to vibrate. Look to see me no more, and look that, for your own sake, you remember what has passed between us!"

When it had said these words, the apparition walked backward from him, and at every step it took, the window raised itself a little, so that when the spectre reached it, it was wide open.

It beckoned Scrote to approach, which he did. When they were within two paces of each other, Cloughie's Ghost held up its hand, warning him to come no nearer. Scrote stopped. He looked out.

The air was filled with 60’s and 70’s phantom fans, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore blue and white and the misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to support their team, for good, but had lost the power for ever.

Whether these creatures faded into mist, or mist enshrouded them, he could not tell. But they and their spirit chanting something about Willie Waddell and Billy Ayre faded, and the night became still.

Scrote closed the window, and examined the door by which the Ghost had entered. It was double-locked, and the bolts were undisturbed. He tried to say "Humbug!" but stopped at the first syllable. Much in need of repose, went straight to bed, without undressing, and fell asleep upon the instant.

(story continues further down)

CENTRAL PARK gives his appreciation

Along with all other ‘Pools supporters I was greatly saddened to learn of the death of Ken Johnson shortly after Christmas. He was part of my introduction to Hartlepools United, as we were when he played for us, and he was part of a wonderful team that almost achieved promotion to the old second division.

When I was a kid living on the central, I often used to see Ken striding by on his way to call on his girl-friend (later wife). I was awe struck. Here was one of the gods who played in blue and white walking down the same street as me. I couldn’t think of a reason to speak to him or summon the nerve to approach him for an autograph (but from what I’ve heard of the man I’m sure he would have obliged) so I just stared at him until he went out of sight. I never did get to meet him and that will now always be a cause of regret.

I’m not going to regurgitate all the statistics about his time with ‘Pools as they are all freely available in various publications and web sites and truth be told I would have to look them up to be sure of the facts and figures. There is just one statistic that always sticks out for me and that is that in the calendar month of September 1956 he scored 12 league goals. I don’t remember being overly impressed at the time (after all that’s what Hartlepool centre forwards did, didn’t they) but in retrospect it was obviously a magnificent achievement. "I never did get to meet him and that will now always be a cause of regret."

When you look at his goal scoring record it always seems surprising that he did not play in a higher division than the third division (north) and fourth. I don’t know if he had any offers but it would be a major surprise if no interest was shown by higher placed clubs. However when he was in his prime the maximum wage was in operation (some clubs even followed the rule) and why would he have left his home town team to play for someone else just for a £10.00 signing on fee? So he played for his home town club for 15 years and in that time the club got the best of the bargain.

As I remember him Ken was not the ‘old fashioned burst through a brick wall’ kind of centre forward like Bob Newton (why trample over the centre half when you could lose him with a feint and a turn) but he was up for the physical challenge when that was needed. Towards the end of his career with ‘Pools Ken switched to being a wing-half, which probably explains the fall off in his goals output.

I can even remember him finishing one game as goalkeeper when the regular keeper had to go off injured (no substitutes in those days). I can clearly remember as the keeper was being taken away they stripped his jersey off and Watty Moore signalled to Ken, in an unambiguous gesture, that he was to take the goalies place. Uncomplainingly Ken went between the sticks. At this point my memory fails me as I can’t remember the outcome of the match or whether he managed to keep a clean sheet for the rest of the game.

So, record holding goal scorer, a willing wing half when the club needed one, temporary goalkeeper in an emergency; and added to all that, considered to be an all round decent man by all those who came into contact with him. Ken Johnson fully deserves his place in Hartlepool United’s hall of fame.

I’m so glad I had the chance to watch him in action.

Ken is back row, last on the right in the photo of that famous team

BILLY'S CONTRACT considers the return of Neale Cooper

25th December is the time of year we celebrate the coming of our Lord, but in all honesty none of The Poolie worshipping faithful expected the Second Coming of Our Lord Cooper three days later on the 28th of December. Talk about the best Christmas present of all.
They say it is a mistake to come back a second time, but I am convinced that this will be the exception in the case of Neale Cooper.

Yes, some things may have changed since his last tenure at the Vic. The squad might not be as good as the one he first inherited, and the players that remain from that squad might not be as young or as quick as they once were, but they do now have the experience. Cooper, however is a motivator who can seemingly get the best out of average or non-performing players (Boydie springs to mind). He knows how the Club and the Chairman work, and above all no other Hartlepool manager has had the same relationship with the fans as he enjoyed (contrast Turner, Newell and Houchen to name a few).

He recently stated during a talk in he gave at the Belle Vue Social Club a few months back, that given the chance to manage the club once more he would walk down on hot coals from Aberdeen to do so. The thing with Neale Cooper is that he probably would have done so if Ken Hodcroft had asked him to do this!

It will be great to see his passion on the touchline once more. Club tie askew, Shirt soaked in sweat and throwing his trademark towel down (not in) the grass when things are not going to plan."I am convinced that if Neale Cooper's side had gone on a 7 match losing streak at Victoria Park, at least it would have been a pleasure to watch."

A number of other candidates were in the frame for the job - some high profile ex-Premiership managers - but would they have been able to work within IOR'S parameters with little or no budget to work with, and possibly move on at the first opportunity? Immense credit to Ken Hodcroft and the board in burying hatchet and letting bygones be bygones for the benefit of the club.

I said in Monkey Bizz prior to the season kicking off that my dream team would have a Cooper/Wadsworth partnership. Wadsworth was installed as manager, and once that had taken place, despite results not going Mick Wadsworth's way, it would have been wrong to then bring in Neale Cooper to assist Wadsworth in the running of first team affairs. This would be seen to undermine Mick, and I am sure his pride would not have allowed this scenario to take place. Plus the Borer did this with Terry Venables when Bryan Robson was still in charge.

It is a shame in many respects that Mick Wadsworth had to go, but a combination of poor results and seven home defeats on the trot meant that the writing was on the wall. Sadly from a football point of view, the football that we had to endure at the Vic was not entertaining at all. To cap this off we were not creating any worthwhile scoring opportunities against some of the poorer sides in the league.

I think that the final nail in Wadsworth’s coffin was the alarming drop in crowd attendances. What chance of attracting crowds back next season even with £100 season ticket offers if the football on view was appalling to watch? On the consolation side if the boot was on the other foot I am convinced that if Neale Cooper's side had gone on a 7 match losing streak at Victoria Park, at least it would have been a pleasure to watch.

Cooper has brought back the 'wow' factor, and this was in evidence on the terraces at Sheffield United, when an estimated between seven to eight hundred Poolies made the trip to Bramall Lane, probably double that would have normally made the journey in the circumstances. To their credit they chanted non-stop for 90 minutes, out-singing their Yorkshire counterparts.

Yes, undoubtedly, we were well beaten on the day against one of the best teams I have seen in our league for a long time. Truth be known, we did well to keep the score down to three goals as it could well have been double that plus a couple more! To summarise Sheff Utd v Pools was men against boys.

Hopefully Neale Cooper will have seen what the rest of us did at Sheffield in terms of what needs changing on the pitch. He needs to look at the positives, which in fairness where not many excepting Luke James and Jack Baldwin. However the negatives far outweighed these.

He will see a side that is short of pace and without a recognised centre forward. He will no doubt be wondering why the defence does not work as a unit. The number of times they backed off and allowed the Sheffield forwards to run at them and past them was frightening. Although he is not in a position to do so (with the exception of Hartley) I would pretty much drop the rest of the defence, plus Murray, who has been dreadful of late. Collins is off the pace. Austin has lost confidence, and Horwood’s only ploy seems to pass back to his keeper at every given opportunity. One of these culminated in Sheffield's second goal being scored.

Because of his lack of pace, Ritchie is not suited to playing up front by himself nor out wide on the wing, and as such I would drop him in at Murray's position where he could spray balls about all day long as he did at Bramall lane. I would move Liddle into the middle of defence.
The other thing that stood out for me was how much quicker and stronger the Sheffield players were. I honestly do not feel our lads have the same levels of fitness as nor the physical strength as other teams in our league. These are a few of the problems that thankfully Neale Cooper and not I will have to address, but I am sure he is the man who will eventually get it right.

Welcome back Super Cooper.

CHIP FIREBALL looks at the current situation

Well it's all happening again isn't it? There's certainly very rarely a dull month in the life of your average Pools fan. Since I last wrote we have lost a First Team Coach/Caretaker manager in Mick Wadsworth, appointed another Caretaker in Mickey Barron, and then re-appointed Neale Cooper as manager.

We have broken probably every negative club record for consecutive home games (most without a win, most without a goal, most without a shot on target, most where fans have fallen asleep in the second half, most games in a row where the crowd have been too bored to even boo properly etc, etc) and turned a record breaking start to the season into what promises to be another relegation battle.

Indeed every home game seems to be a carbon copy of the last one, a shit footballing equivalent of Groundhog Day, where we start off okay, the opposition suss we are shit, carve out a few openings, score after about half an hour, then sit back and relax safe in the knowledge that the game as a contest is over.

It was actually pleasantly surprising when Scunthorpe went 2-0 up because at least it proved it actually wasn't the same game on endless repeat, but it still felt like being locked in a room for 6 weeks in which there is only one thing, a television, permanently tuned into More 4 showing never ending repeats of Friends. In many respects Scunny’s second goal was the footballing equivalent of Chandler popping his cock out and taking a slash in the living room. Basically, it proved I was still alive and hadn't died and gone to aimless longball Heaven."Indeed every home game seems to be a carbon copy of the last one, a shit footballing equivalent of Groundhog Day"

I say heaven, it would probably be more like Purgatory, or Limbo, or whatever it's called. You know the place where people not good enough to get into heaven, but not bad enough to go to Hell (people like my now dead Aunty Maureen for example who made really great butterfly cakes, but cheated on my Uncle Tommy for 10 years with the man next door) go to wait for an eternity while their fate is decided. While there they are forced to watch a 15 second clip on You Tube of Peter Hartley punting the ball forward 70 yards, while under no pressure whatsoever, and out for a goal kick over, and over, and over again, every single day except Sunday, when it is replaced by another 15 second clip of Evan Horwood chipping a corner straight into the arms of the barely arsed opposition keeper.

I dunno, maybe on Christmas Day, they get an extended clip, possibly Sam Collins forlornly chasing someone with a bit of pace, Anthony Sweeney just generally staring into space while football is played around him, or Nathan Luscombe eating a very, very, big Christmas Dinner.

In short, the home games are still a nightmare, and since Wadsworth went, the away games are too, which seems to be about the only change brought about by his sacking.

Why Hodcroft decided to call time on Wadsworth’s reign remains a mystery. For once I found myself in agreement with the Sunday Sun, who pointed out that at the time of his departure, Pools were only separated from the team in 11th place by goal difference of the smallest proportion, which was actually pretty decent going given how little had been spent on a team described a season before as relegation fodder.

The simple truth is that had you swapped the home form and the away form around, most people would have been really happy with 26 points from 19 games, a far from shabby return, and we were certainly a lot nearer the top 6 than the bottom 4.

As it stands, the poor home form, falling attendances, and the cup exits, were cited as reasons for the sacking. It’s hard to argue with the bare facts, but in Wadsworth’s defence a few things should be pointed out:

1) Attendances were always going to drop away once the novelty wore off for the first time buyers and the cold weather set in.
2) The manager really wasn't helped by a series of injuries and a lack of fitness in his squad, especially among his strikers. Nish may have been much maligned by sections of the crowd, but the simple truth is that we were nearly 3 times more likely to score when he played than when he did not.
3) The cup exits, while naturally upsetting, can't all be blamed on bad management. We were unlucky to draw the toughest opponents possible in the League Cup and gave them a real game. We got a crappy draw, Scunny away, in the JP trophy, and Flinders gets sent off and gives away a penalty in the FA Cup meaning we played almost the entire game with ten men, and a goal to the deficit.

I wasn't Wadsworth's biggest fan, but he was certainly doing a reasonable job, and given the playing budget was doing as well as could be expected with the players at his disposal. I certainly didn't think he would have got us relegated, and he did sign some decent players, some of whom, i.e. Poole and Baldwin, could be huge players for the club further down the line.

At the time of writing we have played 5 games since Wadsworth left, losing 4 of them. Having seen all but one of those games I have to say the team if anything looks to have gone backwards for the sacking.

It is of course far too early to write off Cooper, but the bottom line, in my opinion, is that the problem lies with the players more than with the manager, and unless money is spent, and a bit of quality brought in, even if only on loan, the new manager will have exactly the same issues that the previous one had.

We still don't have anyone who looks remotely like scoring goals from open play regularly, and without Nish, we don’t really even have anyone who has the basic ability to hold the ball up. We are woefully lacking in creative talent in midfield. Murray has started to look his age, Humps should have been retired last season, Liddle looks like a man who wanted to leave in May, and Sweeney has been spectating for most of the season. None of them gives us any real attacking threat, they all look like they are playing in slow motion, and none of them could be remotely described as a playmaker.

So bereft are we of attacking ideas, that when Gareth Ainsworth came up here the other month, despite being at least 56, he looked like Lionel Messi. "Jesus Christ” shouted the bloke who sits behind us, "is the long haired fella trying to play football out there?"

Indeed he was, and doing it a darn sight better than our own ex-Premier League star, Norberto Solano has been doing. Talking of which, I've no idea whether it was Wadsworth’s decision or IOR's to sign Solano, but Lordy, what a waste of money. I heard he was signed to boost season ticket sales, and there is no doubting he did that, but given he turned down a contract extension at Hull City to come here, he must be on decent money. As of course, must the likes of Sir Ritchie, and Adam Boyd, players who really should have been culled in May to free up cash to bring people in. I heard Wadsworth wanted rid of at least one of those players, but was over ruled by the Chairman. I've no idea how much truth there is in that rumour, but it wouldn't be the first time IOR had given a contract to a player the manager didn’t want.

Ultimately though IOR pay the bills, and IOR get to hire and fire. Some of the decisions made this last 6 months (the season ticket deal, the Solano signing, the return of Cooper) look to have been made on the basis of pleasing the headline writers of the local newspaper sports desks, rather than necessarily being in the best interests of the club, but only time will tell whether bringing back one of the most popular managers in the clubs history, but who has done very little since leaving first time around will prove a masterstroke.

Cooper is certainly one of my all time Poolie heroes, and while part of me is excited he took over, and relieved it wasn't David Penney, I'm also very aware of just how lacking in depth and quality the squad is, and just how hard it will be just to match what Wadsworth was getting out of them, never mind bettering it.

The key for me will be how much or how little activity the club involves itself in during the transfer window. We need at least two more good players desperately.

MICK HUTCHINSON on a Poolie great. 

In a modern day game, that sees players that are transferred for millions of pounds, barely hang around long enough for the ink to dry on their expensive contracts, modern day heroes can sometimes be hard to find; harder still to find are legends

So the recent death of ‘Pools hero and legend Kenny Johnson following a short illness at the age of 80, is a very humble and honest reminder of a player who in the very real sense of the word was a true hero for the fans and the town that he played for; and a legendary figure for those not even old enough to see him play.

The deserved and fitting tributes that have followed his death, have neatly chronicled his football career. From those earliest beginnings, when he signed as an amateur from Seaton Holy Trinity Juniors, for his one and only league club Hartlepool[s] United, following a Church League Cup Final in May 1949. His New Year’s Eve debut in that same year against Bradford City at The Vic would first endear him to ‘Pools fans. It resulted in a 3-0 win, in which he scored the first of 98 league goals as part of an overall club total of 106 - both still club records. But it wasn’t all hero worship. His second game for ‘Pools ended in a 6-0 hammering at Lincoln City, quickly followed by the realities of war and National Service in the Army that limited him to only six ‘Pools appearances over the next three seasons.

On his return from military service - having been signed as a professional in the Great North Eastern Hotel at London’s King Cross - he was soon to be ensconced in his favourite number eight shirt, and with a goal on the opening day of the 1953/54 season at Chester, a legend was soon to be born. His would be very much the identifiable name from those halcyon ‘Pools days of the mid 1950’s when such other notables as Guthrie, Newton, Moore, Stamper, McGuigan and Luke, would help to conjure up memories for so many of the club's most famous and memorable days."...converting to a deeper midfield role towards the end of his playing career, he somehow managed to play in every other position for the club, including in goal – twice!"

The most famous of all as we know, Saturday 5th January 1957, when the Busby Babes came to town and together with a Kenny Johnson goal, and against all odds, those notables so very nearly pulled off the unthinkable and impossible.

Of course heroes as we know have to go that extra mile. Quite apart from finishing as the club’s top scorer in 1956/57 and again in 1960/61, and later converting to a deeper midfield role towards the end of his playing career, he somehow managed to play in every other position for the club, including in goal – twice! A rumoured move to Wolves never quite materialised leaving him a one club man when his fifteen year playing career came to an end in 1964 after 413 first team games.

Since his retirement a number of protagonists have chased after and failed to catch his ‘Pools goals total. The club’s most famous 60’s double act Mulvaney and Phythian couldn’t get near to it between them – Mulvaney 33, and Phythian 55. Terry Bell was next up, and, but for an enforced sale to Reading, might have had a fighting chance of catching him. Newton, Houchen, Allon, Baker and Boyd – all needed two bites at the cherry – all never quite made it (Boyd still of course has a chance), leaving Johnson still out in front in the club's leading scorer stakes, a fact he was always immensely proud of.

For many current ‘Pools fans, Kenny Johnson was a hero to their fathers and their grandfathers, and as the years continue his ‘never say die’ commitment to the team, and his passion for the club have passed into folklore, and rightly so, elevating him to legendary status for all fans alike. A family man, he also ran a successful business in the town, and was employed by the club in a match day corporate hospitality role, but it is his achievements on the pitch playing for his one and only club that have rightly placed him at the very top of Hartlepool United’s list of all time greats. - Kenny Johnson - Hero and Legend.

BILLY'S CONTRACT looks at our neighbours

Borer fans are something else. Only beaten at home once, currently (albeit temporarily) riding second in the Championship table, and their crowd attendances are really appalling.

Just before Christmas they had a top of the table clash with The Happy Hammers. I would have expected around 28K in attendance. The crowd was 18K (1.5K from West Ham).

On Boxing Day they played Hull, and got a respectable 27K which was the best crowd they have had at The Cellnet since Manure play there three seasons back. (What? Only 27K to see Man Utd with Rooney/Scholes/Ronaldo etc?) Out of the 27K who attended the Hull game, 3.5 travelled up from nearby Humberside, but all the same 24K Borer fans is not bad by their standards."I hate the Boro with a passion, so much so that if they were playing Darlo in the Champions League final I would be shouting for The Loids."

It turns out that they beat Hull, and had another home game a few days later against lowly Peterboro. If other results went their way on the day, the Borer could be joint top of the league going into the New Year. All the perfect ingredients for a bumper crowd for the Smoggies.

As it turned out, a bumper Crowd of 18,899 turned up, almost 9K down on the previous home game. What is going on there? All I can say is it a good job they are near the top of the table other than anywhere else in that league - can you imagine what their crowds would be? Contrast to West Ham, who despite dropping in to the Championship regularly get crowds of 30k plus.


As many regular readers know, I hate the Boro with a passion, so much so that if they were playing Darlo in the Champions League final I would be shouting for The Loids.

That said, I do like Tony Mowbray, and I take my hat off to him for taking a team of no-hopers to the dizzy heights they currently occupy. However my worst nightmare would have been attending the Middlesbrough v Peterborough fixture on New Year’s Eve. Could you imagine the pain of having to listen to two lots of supporters from opposite ends of the country singing in that neanderthal way “Come on Boro, come on Boro, come on...”

BILLY'S CONTRACT winds up a Darloid

I recently met up with one of my clients whom I had not seen for a while, and we were catching up on how each other's families were getting on, and what we had both been up to since we last met. Although she lives in Darlo, she and none of her family go to The Arena. She surprised me when she told me the highlight of her year so far was going to see Darlo at Wembley. She and all her family went, and a wonderful time was had by all (especially with the result).

In wind up mode I asked her "...and how did they get on and who they had played?"

She looked at me incredulously. “You are joking aren't you?” she asked.

“No, how did they get on?” I asked again.

“You mean you don't know?”

“Well I knew they were playing for some Pee Pot trophy, but obviously being a Poolie I don't take much interest in non-league football.” I replied."he surprised me when she told me the highlight of her year so far was going to see Darlo at Wembley."

“It was 1-0 to Darlington after extra time” she stumbled, still staggered that I was not aware of the result.

“What sort of crowd was there?” I questioned.

“Around 20,000” she said.

Well it is no wonder Darlo won, it must have been like having home advantage for them playing in a Stadium that was a quarter full.

but GRANDAD SHOUTY is keeping his eye on them

Just as I was beginning to contemplate the Christmas holiday – and Pools’ three matches – so FIFA come up with another cracker (and I don’t mean the kind you pull at Christmas). FIFA will now ban emergency loans from the 2014/15 season on the spurious grounds that they breach rules governing transfer windows. If that is the case, wouldn’t it have been better to have amended the transfer window rules?

Despite the best efforts of the Football League, FIFA remained unmoved and so we’re stuck with another cock – up. As Paul Kelso wrote in the Daily Telegraph (21/12/11), “The move will hit the 72 Football League clubs who rely on emergency loans to cover unexpected injuries or weaknesses in their squads outside the two transfer windows”. Kelso also pointed out that Harry Redknapp is a proponent of the loan system, admitting that it helps him keep young players happy who are not in the first team. In other words, it can help develop young players’ careers.

For clubs like Pools, the loan system can be a boon.We don’t have the luxury (or the resources) in having a big squad; consequently, when a crisis arises there’s the option of tapping into the loan market, rather than bringing in players from the youth squad who have yet to play first team footy." There is, of course, the business about bringing the game into disrepute - FIFA by their very existence do just that."

Many of our loan signings are best forgotten about but astute management brought in four players who are still remembered by Poolies. Remember Daryl Duffy who came on loan during our one season in League 2? His goals helped to kick start an unbeaten run which is still remembered to this day; then there was Graeme Lee who came on loan from Doncaster Rovers to plug a weakened defence; then there was Roy O'Donovan whose goals kept us in League One two years ago; and finally, there was Jake Kean who came on loan to solve a goalkeeping problem. Those loans helped Pools but were of benefit to the players who came to help us out.

As I mentioned in last month's MB, I take the view that transfer windows are a restraint of trade and the sooner they are abolished the better. Loans from one club to another are the same as 'secondments' in business and seem to me to be quite natural. There is, of course, the business about bringing the game into disrepute - FIFA by their very existence do just that.

Just before Christmas came the news that the BBC are to axe the Football League Show on Saturday evenings. Although I don't watch it (its on too late for an old 'un) I do catch up on the BBC Website. Already, some of the clubs (one was Crawley) are expressing the view that the decision could affect their revenue streams, particularly sponsorship and advertising. It beggars belief that the BBC can make a decision of this kind when they're paying pundits millions. Everything in football seems to be working against the smaller clubs and what the powers that be should realise is that the strongest part of a tree are its roots.

Its been a depressing time at The Vic since Sheffield Wednesday beat us at the beginning of October, hasn't it? Obviously, in terms of possible crowd reductions, Mick Wadsworth paid the price even though he did some good work at Pools. Its now down to Neale Cooper to motivate the players and get the home record back on track. There's no doubt that he shows enthusiasm for the job in hand.

My abiding memory of Neale Cooper was in 2004 when Hugh Robertson scored his wonder goal against Luton Town. For most of a match, he and Martin Scott would stand at each side of the technical area like predators waiting for the kill. When Robertson's goal hit the net, Cooper and Scott met in the middle of the technical area and did a touchline jig. It certainly wasn't Strictly Come Dancing but their enthusiasm matched those of the fans. Incidentally, the Luton manager in that game was Mike Newell - 'Newell, Newell what's the score?' came from the Town End.

There were, of course, other applicants for the Pools job but I was left wondering if some of them might have been using Pools as a staging post prior to loftier heights. Still, we've got someone who believes in the club and that's the main thing. Best of luck. By the way, if you want to see a picture of him with a full head of hair, get Alex Ferguson's autobiography from the library. There's a great picture of him from his Aberdeen days.

Something else which has probably been occupying Poolies' thoughts is the crisis at Darlo and, at the time of writing, it could be that they may not survive. It seems so long ago that we played each other in the derby matches, particularly the last one at the Thingmy Arena. The carnival atmosphere was even prevalent before the Poolies reached Darlington as the motorcade stretched to around forty five coaches.

In the home derby match, Pools even went to the extent of engaging a mezzo - soprano by the name of Keedy who's main claim to fame is that she recorded Jerusalem in 2005 with the Ashes - winning England cricket team. 'What did they get her for?' asked my grandson. 'Well', I explained, 'its pre - match entertainment'. He came back with 'Well, we've never had anything like that at Pools before'. 'Don't you think its about time we had some culture at Pools?' He had no answer to that one.

The game against Sheffield United on 31 December brought back some memories. In 1992, Pools were due to play Sheffield United in an FA Cup fourth round tie and in the days preceding the game there were fears that Pools may have been forced out of business by the Inland Revenue. Luckily, Pools were saved by a loan from the council and staved off the winding up order. In that tie, Pools put up a very creditable performance, losing 1-0 to an Alan Cork goal. They paid the price of paying too much attention to Brian Deane and leaving Cork as the spare player.

Things come round in strange ways. At the time, there were two divisions between Pools and Sheffield United; in the 2011/12 season we're playing in the same league. Eventually, of course, Harold Hornsey came in to steady the ship and this was continued by IOR. I know we're losing money but the support of IOR is there to the benefit of everyone. At least our players aren't like those at Darlo- they know they'll get their wages at the end of the month.

In my pre - season forecasts, I suggested that Sheffield Wednesday would be up there among the leaders but never gave a mention to The Blades. They now seem to be challenging Wednesday for an automatic promotion spot, along with Huddersfield. I still haven't given up hope of Pools getting to the play - offs. We've always been nearer to the sixth spot than the twenty first. Consistency will be the name of the game and hopefully we can look forward to an interesting few months. Keep the faith!!

POOLIE IN NOTTINGHAM witnessed the defeat in Sheffield

Well before last season had ended, as always, I was thinking of the fixtures for the forthcoming season. We had secured another season in the third tier, and the other 'big' team from Sheffield were destined to join us.
Having been to watch Pools at Hillsborough more times than I care to remember, I eagerly anticipated crossing Bramall Lane off the list of grounds I had seen Pools play at. New Year's Eve was a good date for the game, even better when the kick-off was brought forward to 1pm.

The game took on an extra dimension of excitement when it was announced that Neale Cooper was returning to the managerial hotseat. Never in a million years would I have thought it possible, but hats off to Pools for making it happen. Although not officially back 'in charge', Cooper nonetheless would be there at the game, and the optimistic side of me expected a repeat of that amazing 4-3 victory at Peterborough in his first spell.

I picked up Mark, a fellow Nottingham-based Poolie, then we headed over to Derby to fetch Andy Ramalamadingdong. We had a catch up, with Andy and I impressed to hear of Mark's exploits with his new bewer, who it turns out is more than ten years his junior. Whilst Mark didn't go into too much detail, he left nowt to the imagination with the comment, "I'll tell you what though, me stomach muscles are knacking.""There was a good number of Poolies in attendance - 700 to 800 maybe, and it truly was magic to see that iconic baldy napper in the Pools dugout again."

The trusty sat-nav got us to the ground OK, but the problem was that there was nowhere to park legally. After circling all the terraced streets round and about, we finally ended up a fair distance away on a hill. I remember thinking that if we were to lose then the walk back up would be something of a pisser.

Usually when I go to a new ground, I invariably approach from the direction which is furthest from the away end, and a schlepp round the stadium is required. For once we were in the right place, but we did have to endure the "you have to buy the ticket from the office first" malarkey. The best result of the day was the price - only £20. I was expecting closer to £30, and I made mental note to spend the money saved on extra beer later on.

The turnstiles were operated by barcode reader, the same as at Leeds, MK Dons, and a few other places I can't remember. They are a good idea I suppose, what with not having to pay turnstile operators, but I can't imagine the chew at a big game such as the Sheffield derby if the technology failed. I had a Double Decker in my pocket, and I was tempted to wave that in front of the scanner to see what happened, but the close presence of several South Yorkshire Police folk made me think twice.

The ground itself is very tight and compact, high stands with a steep angle for the seats. We had been allocated the bottom tier of the stand behind one of the goals, which didn't have a bad view. There was a good number of Poolies in attendance - 700 to 800 maybe, and it truly was magic to see that iconic baldy napper in the Pools dugout again.

He certainly has his work cut out, and the game was over before half time. Three well-taken goals knocked the stuffing out of us. We did hit the bar when 2-0 down, but even if that had gone in I'm sure we still wouldn't have got anything from the match. Every time Sheffield advanced they looked likely to score, and thankfully the offside flag saved us on a few occasions. I was disappointed with the Blades fans I have to say, who were quiet throughout. If the boot were on the other foot I'm sure the Pools fans would have been heard half way to Doncaster. Half time came and went in a Bovril haze, and the second half Petered out (literally) with a well-taken Hartley goal in injury time.

Sheffield looked the part for promotion candidates, while we looked nothing like a team who had only lost two away games previously. One bright spot was the introduction of young Luke James, who was a breath of fresh air in a Pools team thick with the stench of under-confidence, apathy and lack of ideas. Jack Baldwin didn't do too badly either, despite being hooked at half time for James Brown. It was good to see Browny back as well, although he was unable to do a great deal.

I always forget what a swine the Sheffield ring road is, and it took a mini-eternity to get back on the motorway south. Mark was fretting a bit - his new bewer was due to turn up at his place expecting to be fed, so I used all my driving skills to ensure we got back home in one piece without getting caught breaking any laws.

So the end of Mickey Barron's reign as Pools' temporary manager saw another defeat, but hey ho, another new year, new manager, new Pools?

KT POOLIE continues to apologise to Mr. Charles Dickens

Scrote woke before the hour bell sounded, which it now did with a deep, dull, hollow, melancholy ONE. A strange figure like a man, viewed through some supernatural medium, stood before him. Its hair was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it. It wore a tunic of the blue and white. 

"Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?" asked Scrote.

"I am!"

"Who, and what are you?" Scrote demanded.

"I am Cyril Knowles, the Manager of Christmas Past."

It put out its strong hand as it spoke, and clasped him gently by the arm. "Rise and walk with me!"

As the words were spoken, they passed through the wall, and stood upon Clarence Road. The darkness and the mist had vanished. It was a clear, cold, winter day, with snow upon the ground.

"Good Heaven!" said Scrote, "It’s The Victoria Ground. I was a boy here!"

The Spirit gazed upon him mildly. Its gentle touch, though it had been light and instantaneous, appeared still present to the old man's sense of feeling. He was conscious of a thousand odours floating in the air, each one connected with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares long, long, forgotten!"Howay and know me better, man! I am, Barron, the Manager of Christmas Present," said the Spirit.

"You recollect the way?" inquired the Spirit.

"Remember it!" cried Scrote with fervour; "I could walk it blindfold."

"Strange to have forgotten the excitement of it for so many years!" observed the Ghost. "Let us go on."

They walked along the road, Scrote recognising every step, until a little rickety wooden stand appeared in the distance, with corrugated iron roof and wooden supports. Boys called to other boys in great spirits, and shouted to each other, until the street was so full of merry music, that the crisp air laughed to hear it!

"These are but shadows of the things that have been," said the Ghost. "They have no consciousness of us."

The jocund supporters came on, and as they came, Scrote knew and named them every one. Why was he rejoiced beyond all bounds to see them! Why did his cold eye glisten, and his heart leap up as they went past? Why was he filled with gladness when he heard them give each other Merry Christmas, as they arrived at the turnstiles? What was merry Christmas to Scrote? What good had it ever done to him?

They went, the Ghost and Scrote, across the Rink End steps, to a corner at the back of the terrace. Before them a lonely boy was standing near a floodlight. Scrote sat down upon a step, and wept to see his poor forgotten self as he used to be.

"What is the matter?" asked the Spirit.

How all this was brought about, Scrote knew no more than you do. He only knew that there he was, alone, when all the other boys were chanting and clapping joyfully behind the blue painted barriers.

"I wish I’d joined in" Scrote muttered, putting his hand in his pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his sleeve, "but it's too late now."

When the man in black blew his watch, the game was up. The team was defeated again and in desperate straits. Nevertheless, fans on either side of the Vic showed no ill-temper towards the players or each other, shaking hands with every person individually as he or she went out, wishing him or her a Merry Christmas.

"A small matter," said the Ghost, "to make these silly folks so full of gratitude, they have spent but a few pounds of your mortal money, three or four perhaps. Is that so much that they shouldn’t applaud a losing team, and try to turn around their ill-fortune?"

"Spirit!" said Scrote, "show me no more! Conduct me home. Why do you delight to torture me?" Remove me from this place."

"I told you these were shadows of the things that have been," said the Ghost. "That they are what they are, do not blame me!"

Scrote was conscious of being exhausted, and overcome by an irresistible drowsiness, and, further, of being in his own bedroom, and had barely time to reel to bed, before he sank into a heavy sleep.

Awaking in the middle of a prodigiously tough snore, and sitting up in bed to get his thoughts together, Scrote had no occasion to be told that the bell was again upon the stroke of One.

"Get up!" exclaimed a Ghost. "Howay and know me better, man! I am, Barron, the Manager of Christmas Present," said the Spirit.

The Spirit bade Scrote hold his robe, and passing through the wall and on above the moor, the Ghost sped on, above the black and heaving sea - on, on, on - until, being far away, as he told Scrote, from any shore, they lighted by an empty stadium.

There the ghost brought two children - dressed in shirts of the black and white hoops they favoured - wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

"What happened to them?" asked Scrote.

“They forgot their background and upbringing. They listened to promises of fame and fortune and sought it too quickly and left behind common sense. This boy is Indifference. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Administration, unless the writing be erased.”

"Have they no refuge or resource?" cried Scrote.

“There’s no workhouse lower than theirs”, replied Barron.

The bell struck twelve.

Scrote looked about him for the Ghost, and saw it not. As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old Cloughie, and lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him.

The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently, approached. When it came near him, Scrote bent down upon his knee, for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.

"I am in the presence of the Manager of Christmas Yet To Come." said Scrote, “Who are you?”

The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its hand.

"You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us," Scrote pursued. "Is that so, Spirit?"

"Manager of the Future!" he exclaimed, "I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?"

It gave him no reply. The hand was pointed straight before them.

"Lead on!" said Scrote. “Lead on, Spirit!"

They went onto Clarence Road, but it was now an obscure part of the town, which Scrote felt he had never penetrated before, although he recognised its situation. The ways were foul and narrow, the club shop and offices wretched. The street like so many cesspools, disgorged its offences of smell, and dirt, and the whole quarter reeked with crime, with filth, and misery.

A man stopped to shut the main door for the last time. “Ah! How it skreeks! There ain't such a rusty bit of metal in the place as its own hinges, I believe; and I'm sure there's no such old bones here, as mine.”

Scrote recoiled in terror, for now he saw a sign: a bare, metal sign, on which words peeped beneath a ragged sheet. Scrote crept towards it, trembling as he went and read upon the sign the words:

A notice of Intention to appoint an administrator has been filed with the court.

"Is this the fate of my club?" he cried, upon his knees. "Spirit!" Scrote cried, tight clutching at its robe, "hear me! I am not the supporter I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope!"

For the first time the hand appeared to shake.

"Good Spirit," he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: "Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!"

The kind hand trembled.

“I will not shut out the lessons that the past, the present and the future teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this sign!"

In his agony, he caught the spectral hand. The Spirit, stronger yet, repulsed him. Holding up his hands in a last prayer to have his fate reversed, he saw an alteration in the Phantom's hood and dress. It shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost.

The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!

"I don't know what to do!" cried Scrote, laughing and crying in the same breath. "I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A Merry Christmas to everybody!

He opened his bedroom window, spying a boy passing in the street.

"What's to-day, my fine fellow?" said Scrote.

"To-day!" replied the boy. "Why, January 2nd."

"Scunthorpe at home!" said Scrote to himself. "I haven't missed it.

He dressed himself "all in his blue and white best," and at last got out into the streets. The people were by this time pouring forth, and walking with his hands behind him, Scrote regarded every one with a delighted smile. Entering the ground he beheld the robust raffle sellers.

"My dear sirs," said Scrote, "How do you do? Have the goodness to give me ten tickets.”

Taking his usual Millhouse seat, Scrote was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more. Buying each the largest pies in the shop, he joined his nephew and Scratchit and sang and cheered and clapped for a full 90 minutes.

Scrote became as good a supporter, and as good a man, as the good old club knew, or any other club, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them. His own heart laughed, and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, and although Tiny Tim had never got any better, ever afterwards it was always said of Scrote, that he knew how to be a fan and keep Christmas well.

May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, God bless Us, Every One!

RUNNING MONKEY on a special occasion with a familiar result

Who was it that said, “A week in politics is a long time?” (*) Well a week in football is even longer especially over a Christmastide. 

A week since the last home defeat seems like a distant memory. A lot can happen in a week. A football club could print its programme in readiness for the game in advance and risk that they would not have any mention of the new incumbent in the manager's chair. One of the club's favourite sons could pass away and the messiah could return. Sounds like a lot of work for a week so I must have lost a few days over the Christmas period. 

I am not a lover of this new minute's clapping before games when ex players who have passed on are shown respect by the home crowd. When I saw Mrs Johnson start to clap I got the impression I should join in. As ever with these things you get one clown who has to have his voice heard above all others. A man who was old enough to know better but probably had a tincture or three decided to ball out at the top of his guttural voice,just as the silence started” nice one Kenny” WHY?
"as he shook hands with us he did say “I could be the hero at Christmas and the villain at Easter."

Once the teams were announced and the officials and the respect were shown the messiah did appear. Looking like he had just walked out of the door and came straight back, a fit looking Neale Cooper made his entrance. Some of the crowd were still in bah humbug mode before the game with the usual comment you should never come back but I think the Neale Cooper will become a winner again and give Pools the obvious lift the club needs. The rapturous applause as he took to the stage and acknowledged the faithful in my book is justified. 

Just before the game I was talking to a friend of mine in the club car park and the Chairman was parking his car. My mate Dave was never a shy lad and took the opportunity to congratulate him on his choice of manager, and as he shook hands with us he did say “I could be the hero at Christmas and the villain at Easter." Lets hope it is not the latter. 

So onto the game, we know the recent history between Scunny and ourselves and it is not pretty. Knocked out of the cup by them and a win down their place and both teams struggling. Last win for them was in October and our last win at home was September, I decided to change all that by taking my new Christmas box to the game, My wonderful daughter had bought me a retro blue 'n white football wooden rattle but I promised I would only use it when we score so it could last a long time. 

Scunny looked a bit apprehensive early doors and three straight clearances went over the Clarence Road stand and onto the railway. We looked up for it for about ten minutes and they started to play football. It looked as if Pools were content to just dump the ball. I swear Luscombe passed back to Ned forty seven times in the first half. Aussie was no better, wonder why Hibs or some other Scottish outfit are watching him, Just maybe that is affecting his game. I just do not like Liddle in the back four, he is suspect. With the injuries we have to Sam and Wright, needs must. One bright star of the afternoon was young Luke James, given a start. Whether it was a Cooperism or not, it was a great choice as for me the lad was man of the match. 

I did hear before the game that Poole was pronouncing himself fit but Micky Barron had ruled it out,. Later I saw Poole struggling to get up the steps of the stand, so maybe the Rochdale game might be too soon for him too. 

We struggled in the first half, Ned pulling off two great saves one of which should have been scored by the full back who slipped past Liddle with ease. A couple of chances from Boyd who turned on the half way line and tried to chip the keeper from long range but was well wide of the mark. The next attack, again aided by slack marking, they cut down the left, a quick cross into the box and the ball was stroked past Ned for the opener. We were even worse after the goal and most praying for half time to come, and that was just the players. 

After the break there was a bit more urgency by Pools. Bodyie had probably the best of the chances but no chance of getting the rattle out as his effort was blocked, but at least he was shooting. The mis-firing Boyd was hooked and Brownie came on and things changed dramatically. Young James, who was again very impressive down the left, made a great run, beat his fullback and sent a lovely ball to the back post, where Brownie connected and tried to adjust as he was running out of space, headed the ball down but it was inches wide of drawing level. 

Solano came on for Luscombe and he was spraying quality balls all over the pitch, and the pressure was mounting on the Scunthorpe goal. But they still looked dangerous on the break, at one spell they had three unchallenged shots that were beaten away more by good fortune than good defending. Again we were undone by poor defending after a Pools throw into the opposition box. It was cleared easily and what was more shocking, Hartley failed to make a tackle and Liddle again was by-passed to give Scunny a two nil lead. 

Monky had a glorious chance six yards out,  the ball dropped for him and he wound it up and laced it over the bar. A few minutes later it was rattle out time and Monky in exactly the same position ended the home drought with a spectacular volley to make it 1-2, and despite some pressure from Pools and a lot of time wasting by them it ended that way. 

So whether it was the Cooper factor as we have made comebacks before under the messiah, or the rattle only time will tell.

* Harold Wilson said it. 
The sale with the drag-on to-do