Showing posts from February, 2012
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GRANDAD SHOUTY reflects on an interesting month

Well, January came in like a lamb and went out roaring like a lion, didn’t it? Home wins against Rochdale and Carlisle, plus draws against Exeter City and Sheffield Wednesday, see Pools back in the top half of the table.

After the Wednesday game, I checked to see Gary Megson’s reaction and read a Sheffield Star report; both effectively said the same thing: that Wednesday were hard done by and should have won. So what, I mused, we were hard done by when Wednesday brought an end to our unbeaten run at The Vic last October. ‘Don’t worry’, an Owls sympathiser said to me, ‘Wednesday always say that. They think they’re still in the Premier League’. Ouch!!

The victory against Carlisle was a fantastic performance. I’ve always thought Carlisle to be a proverbial pain in the butt – we don’t have the best record against them, home or away, do we? Remember the 4-0 drubbing at home last season? We were awful and on returning home said to my good lady, ‘you think we enjoy ourselves, don’t you?’. For once, there was no reply – not even sympathy. However, after last week’s Carlisle game, it was all about Luke James and no one would begrudge him the plaudits that were heaped on him. We’ve certainly unearthed a little gem there and, at last, we’ve got something to get excited about. Who knows, maybe the play – offs aren’t out of reach? However, what gave me the most satisfaction in the Carlisle game was the performance of James Brown. To come back from one serious injury is an achievement in itself; to come back from two serious injuries shows what a dedicated soul he is. He fought for every ball and caused quite a few problems out on the left. I thought his yellow card was unjustified but you can’t win ‘em all, can you?"it was all about Luke James and no one would begrudge him the plaudits that were heaped on him"

Mention of Luke James brings me on the subject of young players. As far as I’m concerned, clubs like Pools are by far the best breeding ground for young players because they’ll always get a fair crack of the whip. I cannot work out why clubs in the bog standard Premier League bother to have academies – the number of young players who come through the ranks seems to be a diminishing return. Whenever a bog standard Premier League club have a problem they go to the continent to unearth someone and they don’t always deliver the goods. There’s no point in bringing up the Bosman Ruling and free movement within the European Union – you don’t have to sign them. And then there are clubs who complain that African players have to be released for the African Cup of Nations. Quite easy to solve that particular problem – don’t sign them in the first place!

The issue of young players was also prevalent in the ongoing saga of Darlo. Because of a threadbare squad, Craig Liddle was forced to include some players from his youth squad in the game against Hayes and Yeading; not only that, his substitutes bench was composed of youth team players. All because of an embargo imposed by the Blue Square League who forbade other clubs from helping out Darlo. As Craig Liddle told the Northern Echo, “The FA go on about protecting and producing young players, but it’s ludicrous for that many of them to go out there on a Tuesday night at Hayes and Yeading”.

Neale Cooper has, of course, played down expectations that he can put in young players at will and expect them to turn in good performances. They need to be nurtured and brought along slowly. The ideal time to bring in young players is, of course, when there’s nothing at stake and we’ll have to wait two or three months for that – assuming we aren’t near the play – offs.

I sometimes wonder what afflicts some of our administrators – it must be something they put in the tea. At least they didn’t object to Darlo entering the loan market to borrow some grass cutters from Pools. Which brings me on to Pools’ offer to play Darlo in a friendly game to raise money. This is a brilliant idea in theory but I wonder whether it's a practical proposition for the simple reason that Durham Police will want an arm and a leg for extra policing. That would defeat the object of the exercise – after all, it would be to raise money for Darlo not to pay the Police Authority for overtime incurred.

Although Darlo have been the focus of attention over the past few weeks, don’t forget that Portsmouth are in trouble again. What price them going into administration and turning up at Pools next season?

At the time of writing it looks as Darlo will be saved. If they aren’t, then all will not be lost. Remember Accrington Stanley, AFC Wimbledon and Aldershot? They went out of business for one reason or another but all three clubs now sit proudly in League 2 having overcome all the odds and clawing their way back. There is life after death.

For a brief time I worked at Darlington and always got on well with Quakers’ fans. Pools were always referred to as “your lot” and one New Year I decided to give three of them a Pools wall planner. The first one opened up the planner and replied by saying he would give it to his son -along with a set of darts. The second one broke into a smile and said he would put it in the smallest room of the house. The third one scowled and refused to take it away. Again, you can’t win ‘em all, can you?

Finally, its strange that we should get goals in consecutive weeks that will be in the frame as goals of the season. Firstly, of course, there was Luke James’ goal against Rochdale and Antony Sweeney’s cracker at Hillsborough. The latter, of course, will give him his confidence back – and this was much in evidence against Carlisle. Neale Cooper’s certainly got the place buzzing again and some of the things he’s done have definitely come off. When Colin Nish came on against Carlisle there were one or two boos from the Town End. I thought to myself ‘That’s a bit thick, wait till he gets on the field’. Still, he answered the critics by scoring and that’s what we’re hoping to get out of him – lots more goals.

POOLIE IN NOTTINGHAM talks about eras

I reckon I can pinpoint the moment during the history of Pools when an era ended. A tangible sense of something passing which I didn’t fully realise at the time, something which has been restored thanks to the reinstatement of Neale Cooper as manager.

The moment I’m referring to was towards the end of the home game with Bristol Rovers in May 2007. That was the game which could have seen us win our first ever silverware. In the 86th minute Ricky Lambert scored to put Bristol Rovers 2-1 up, meaning that the League Two title would be claimed by Walsall, not us.

The outpouring of disappointment was more like a slowly deflating balloon than a popping one. The outcome almost seemed to be expected. We had led the table with a few games to go, and our destiny was in our own hands. We had blown it, just as we had a few years earlier at Rushden and Diamonds (and where are they now by the way?)

Although the players did a lap of honour, and we had the open top bus thing for getting promoted, finishing second was an awful way to end that rollercoaster season. A crap start was followed with an unbelievable unbeaten run which saw us storm past everyone to the top of the table. We would chant ‘we are unbeatable’ wherever we went and we really believed it. Does anyone else remember going 3-0 down at Stockport after half an hour or so, and knowing in the back of your mind that we had it in us to come back?" Eventually it all caught up with us, and that awful home losing streak resulted in Poolies avoiding the Vic like the plague."

But when it really counted, we really rolled over. Winning only 2 of our last 6 games, coupled with Walsall having a great run, saw us pipped at the post. And that was that. The next season we were back in League One, to see mid-table respectability in a season which started off promisingly but petered out from November onwards.

From an outsider’s point of view, Danny Wilson had done a great job, getting a demoralised side promoted at the first time of asking, then consolidating the following season. However, there just wasn’t the same buzz about Pools, it all seemed a bit too comfortable, there wasn’t the same urgency or passion in our play.

The fast flowing stream of promising youngsters that had stepped up to the first team slowed down to a trickle, with steady old heads being preferred to youthful enthusiasm. It was more of the same the following season, and finally we said goodbye to Danny Wilson who found himself in demand from Swindon.

Chris Turner stepped in as caretaker, and presided over not one but two last-day-of-the-season relegation escapes. The apathy which had now set in by now was pretty clear to see. Turner left shortly after the start of the 2010/11 season, after being seduced by those chancers wanting to take control of Sheffield Wednesday. Step forward Mick Wadsworth, who it has to be said did a bloody good job at steadying the good ship Pools. Especially for someone who had publicly stated many times that he was happy being a coach and didn’t really want to be a manager.

Still, Wadsworth wasn’t exactly packing them in at the Vic, and it took a masterstroke from the club with the season ticket offer in order to spark more interest in the club again. Signing Nobby Solano didn’t do us any harm either, and a great unbeaten start to the season kept the momentum going.

But whilst the results were of the right sort, we weren’t great to watch. Eventually it all caught up with us, and that awful home losing streak resulted in Poolies avoiding the Vic like the plague. Like many Pools fans, I was surprised when Wadsworth got the elbow, and even more surprised at who Uncle Ken appointed as his replacement.

Neale Cooper left Pools just before the end of the 2004/5 season, and I have never heard the definitive reason why. Plenty of Poolies who consider themselves to be ‘in the know’ have given myriad reasons why he went, but none of the stories stack up. All that is water well under the bridge now, and I’m glad to say it looks like Cooper’s picked up right where he left off.

Carlisle came to the Vic on the back of an 8 game unbeaten run, but Pools made them look ordinary. Crap, even. Those same players who had been stumbling blindly round the pitch, hoofing the ball aimlessly in the general direction of the opposition half, devoid of confidence and purpose, had been transformed - chasing, harrying, carrying the ball, beating men, niggling, getting stuck in, making runs, looking to play it early, getting balls to feet. Looking sharp, quick, solid, cunning, creative, and like they were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Flinders didn’t have a save to make, and Pools could easily have scored more than 4.

This new spirit can be summed up by the presence of a young lad who is probably the most exciting prospect to come through the ranks in living memory. It’s still early days, and he’s still got a hell of a lot to learn, but Luke James looks like a real gem. Although the standard is different, he reminds me of a young Michael Owen when he burst through the ranks at Liverpool.

Every time the ball was played anywhere near him there was an air of expectation amongst the faithful. And most of the time he produced. The experienced Carlisle defenders shat themselves every time he got the ball. And with good reason - as well as scoring twice, James brought plenty of others into play and was a general nuisance that they just couldn’t handle.

My 3 year old son had come with me to the match, and spent most of the time not watching it, content to play with his toy cars instead. Every time Pools put a promising move together, I would get his attention with something like, “Look! We’re getting near to the Carlisle goal,” or “Watch! We might score here!”

However, when James chased down their keeper and Browny played him in with only the keeper to beat, I couldn’t help myself shouting, “Look, he’s going to score again!” Sure enough, he never looked like missing, and he didn’t disappoint.

And that is the Cooper Effect in a nutshell. Usually I barely dare hope that Pools convert penalties when they are awarded, but I got properly carried away as I just knew the third goal was imminent.

So, Poolies left the Vic happy again, not just with the result or the scoreline, but the manner in which it had been accomplished. I’ve never been one for misty-eyed nostalgia, but it really was like the good old days were here again.

Welcome back Neale, you have been missed. I’m hoping that another era has just started.

SNOWY keeps an eye on how the neighbours are getting on

CENTRAL PARK ponders on attitudes to others' misfortune

There I was, totally at a loss for something to write about, when like a gift from the gods it came. You know who went into administration, and this time it looked to be terminal.

It has been very interesting to see the various reactions from the regulars who I consort with at the match. I have also been more than a bit surprised at the vituperation with which, in some cases, the reaction was expressed.

There’s one mate of mine, known to most in the Town End as an eternal pessimist, who said to me at the Rochdale match words to the effect of  “they’ve done it again, it’s a disgrace this is, the third time you know. They say that this time they will be liquidated, but just watch, at the last minute someone will come forward and save them again. There’s no justice.” He went on for another five minutes but you get the picture.

That’s right, if I may adapt PG Wodehouse’s remarks about Scotsmen (Neale Cooper excluded of course), “it’s never difficult to distinguish between Kenneth with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.” Still, on this occasion I have to say he was spot on. To come so near and yet miss out on his heart’s desire might be too much for the lad, let’s just hope that the elation of being proved absolutely right will be enough consolation to make him still turn out for the Carlisle match."they’ve done it again, it’s a disgrace this is, the third time you know. They say that this time they will be liquidated, but just watch, at the last minute someone will come forward and save them again. There’s no justice."

Another very good friend of mine, an urbane and erudite chap, at his own estimate, left me speechless when he remarked “I hope the %&£$*s go into liquidation.” Said in private of course, in case somebody heard him and marked him down as a bad sport.

On the other hand I have been surprised by the number of people who have come out with something like, “well I know they have been our greatest rivals and we love to hate them, but I don’t really want them to go out of existence altogether.”

It’s all very well saying that on the radio or for the local paper, but how many people really think it? I think they might be suffering from the same fear I had as a kid. You know, the belief that it was wrong to rejoice in the downfall of others (be they friends or enemies), not only because it was an unpleasant thing to do, but more importantly, because if you did then fate would visit the same, or worse calamity on you. I think that that frame of mind still lingers on in some quarters. I can’t think of any other reason why people are being so sympathetic.

My own reaction was mixed to say the least. It started with, “well it just serves them right, what did they expect by living beyond their means in a stadium like that?” Then I thought “I’ll bet they have a bunch of lads standing behind the goal who are just like the lads I stand with in the Town End, the good, the bad and the downright miserable (you know who you are).”

They’ll want a moderately successful football team that doesn’t get relegated and has the occasional good cup run, not a lot to ask for. (Not a lot to ask for? Thirty years ago that was the impossible dream). Then I remembered their reaction when they were saved from liquidation all those years ago, when the mad hairgrip took over. You know, the chants of, “we’re so rich it’s unbelievable” and the messages of  “mind the gap” and “we won’t play you anymore” (seems they got that bit right eventually), and then my goodwill waned a bit. I also remembered them gloating about the number of times they had played at Wembley as compared to our failure to ever get there (Cardiff doesn’t count), when the thought occurred that in both cases the number of appearances at Wembley is the same as the number of times in administration - them 3 us nil.

What a dilemma. I decided that, on balance, if a higher authority would guarantee that they never ever again finished above us in the league pyramid then I really didn’t want them to go out of existence. With that in mind I switched on Radio Tees (a thing I do only in the very last resort) to listen to history being made as the last few minutes ticked away. Then, just as confirmation of the final demise was coming through, bloody Jewel and Warriss turned up waving an empty bag (now that’s appropriate), and saying they had the money and demanding entrance.

Despite my earlier feeling of not wanting them to go out of existence, I must say that I felt a bit robbed. There I was getting ready with the crocodile tears and my chance of playing the sympathetic old rival with his heart in the right place, only to have it snatched away. The reporters on Radio Tees were making much about the emotions of the people involved outside the Stadium of Blight, but what about me and the rest of the conflicted Poolies not knowing whether to laugh or cry? I’m probably giving more away than is wise here, but perhaps I’m not quite the nice sort of person I thought I was.

While we’re on the subject of the comedic duo – would you buy a bag of sea coal from that man?

So there they were, saved for a fortnight with everybody wishing them well, in public at least, when along came Mr Hodcroft to appear, please note that word appear (yes I know I’m starting to sound like the egregious Motson) to advocate their immediate demise. One television interview in about four years, and he has to use the occasion to cause upset. At least there was a disclaimer broadcast at the end of the programme, apparently he didn’t mean them – just everybody else.

Although I do have to say (in order to save my season ticket from being rescinded), that the“they’ve done it again, it’s a disgrace this is, the third time you know. They say that this time they will be liquidated, but just watch, at the last minute someone will come forward and save them again. There’s no justice.” interview looked to have been badly edited to put him in a poor light. Not surprising really, when you realise that the programme was the television version of Radio Tees.

So, saved for another fortnight, but with no reasonable prospect of salvation thereafter.

But wait, what’s this? Is it? It can’t be. It isn’t. It is. Riding over the hill to stage an improbable rescue, its Spencer Trethewy on a tandem with some bloke called Paul Wildes, who is going to boldly take the stadium where no man has taken it before - into profit. Well that should be worth watching during the close season if England produce their usual level of success at the European Championships and leave us with a few empty weeks to fill. It will certainly be more interesting than the Olympics.

BILLY'S CONTRACT lists a few of his unfavourite things

My Fellow Monkey Business readers, in common with millions of other people across the globe (as well as in Darlington), we all love football. Or do we?

I always look forward to going to a game. Even in the depths of our worst home form ever, under Mick Wadsworth, along with 5,000 odd (and I mean 'odd') would attend every match full of hope and perhaps misplaced optimism. However, during the game itself, allowing for the cold and foul weather and the transvestite standing next to you, when things are not going as planned you end up frustrated, angry, full of vitriol and hate of your fellow man. Things come out of your mouth that you would never normally utter in civilised society (ie a Jane Austen novel).

And following is yet another defeat which results in another weekend ruined and written off for both you and ultimately your family. What makes us go to the match week in and week out?

Even today, when Pools beat Carlisle 4-0, you would think everything would be smelling of roses, but for parts of that game some fans were goading, shouting abuse, swearing and spewing forth criticism on an industrial scale. Basically, the average Dr Jekyll becomes Mr Hyde. This made me think of many of the things I dislike about Football."Assistant referees. What is that all about? They are, and always will be linesmen or linos to the footballing fraternity."

Read on dear reader...

1) FIFA. Makes the EU look totally honest and transparent.

1a) Sepp Blatter. Nuff Said.

2) The FA. Though not tainted by corruption like FIFA, nonetheless, like FIFA they are a largely incompetent organisation (fixture lists spring to mind) who are full of their own importance and bury their heads in the sand when controversial decisions have to be made. Their main role in life seems to be 'kow-towing' to and not upsetting Alex Ferguson in any shape or form.

3) Poor Referees. I have a lot of time for referees as it is a job I would not do. No way Jose. But poor or inconsistent referees should be taken to task. My pet hate with refs is the habit of the pedantic ones who blow for everything no matter how small to the point of ruining the game. I have yet to see a ref good or bad after awarding a free kick makes the defending team's wall retreat the full ten yards. Ten feet if you are lucky, but not ten yards. Never mind goal line/video technology, along with his whistle and red and yellow cards, every referee should be issued a 30 foot Stanley Powerlock retractable measuring tape.

3a) Assistant referees. What is that all about? They are, and always will be linesmen or linos to the footballing fraternity. It is only the BBC that persists in calling them referee's assistants. Mind, the BBC have also taken to using kilometres instead of miles when describing distances, and using centimetres instead of inches when talking about rain/snowfalls in the weather forecasts. We live in Britain not Germany for God's sake (rant over).

4) Teams no longer take to the pitch like Gladiators to the roar of the crowd, and now have to line up with all this stupid handshaking nonsense.

5) The Premiership. Don't mind it in principle. I would love to see Pools there one day. But it is their insatiable greed and arrogance and not giving tuppence for the smaller clubs that most fans do not like.

6) Time wasting.

7) Cost of Food and drink at a match. £2 for a cup of tea! How much profit is in that? Cost including electricity to boil the water, tea bag, milk/sugar and a cardboard cup? 0.011 new pence I reckon! Profit margin increases dramatically with Bovril, as there are no overheads relating to milk or sugar. If The Royal Bank of Scotland operated on these profit margins they would be debt free.

8) Players wages which ultimately drives up the cost of attending matches.

9) Three here for Pools:

a) Defenders playing head tennis with each other when they should be playing ball to feet.

b) Not knowing what to do when we get a throw in, (hopefully this will change under Neale Cooper).

c) Lack of ball boys around the ground to keep the momentum of the game in full flow, particularly when the advantage is with Pools. Also to throw the ball back quickly to the opposing goalkeeper who is intent on timewasting.

10) Fans who shout for handball when an opponent clearly chests the ball down.

10a) Fans who do not appreciate/compliment the opposition. If an opposing team scores a good or spectacular goal against your team would you applaud that skill? I know if I were a Luton fan who had just witnessed Hugh Robertson's 'hammer blow' against my team I would have stood up and applauded that goal, and given the lad a cigar for his effort. A few weeks back I think I was the only person in the Town End clapping an opponent’s move and goal against Pools.

11) Premiership teams who show no respect for the FA/League cup by fielding weakened teams when playing against lower league sides.

12) The England Team and set up (See no. 2 The FA).

13) Stewards at away games. Actually I will revise that to read specifically stewards at Leeds United.

14) Leeds United Fans. Once upon a time I would have said Leeds United and their fans, but nowadays Leeds are like a Leicester or a Birmingham, bibbling along doing nothing in particular (though not as nasty/dirty as in the seventies). They do that very well and are generally nonentities in The Championship. Their fans bar a few exceptions could be used as extras for a series of 'Life on Mars'.

15) The word Soccer. I have just looked this up in the dictionary and it says ‘Association Football.’

16) For Every Scotty Parker there are sadly numerous Joey Bartons/Lee Cattermoles/ El Hadji Dioufs/John Terrys.

17) Boro

All in all, when I look back at all the above, and possibly another 100 reasons which I can't be bothered to list, I wonder why I, or anyone else for that matter, bothers going to football matches at all. It is all 'chew' run by rarf's and chorbers when I think about it! But hey ho, roll on next Saturday, it is Bury away and I, like several hundred Poolies will be travelling down along with my mates to Gigg Lane with Neale Cooper’s blue and white army. Football - I love it!

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