Showing posts from March, 2012

the online fanzine for Poolies

CENTRAL PARK on sportsmanship

When I was a lad and playing football for my junior school, I was always irritated at the end of the game when the teacher insisted that we gave three cheers to the opposition. As far as I could see that was just adding insult to injury, as we always got hammered.

Apparently it was considered to be sporting and character building etc. but as an eleven year old I just didn’t see things that way. I usually turned my head away and slouched off. ‘Play up, play up and play the game’ was a bit lost on me – the sands of the desert could get as red as they sodding well liked - I wasn’t going to give a cheer to people who had done their best to kick me off the pitch.

Even at that age I thought that a cheer for the opposition wasn’t really worth anything if it was only being done because it was expected and was not genuinely meant. I still feel that way today, and I always get extremely irritated by that meaningless charade at the beginning of games when grown men are forced to line up like eleven year old kids and shake hands with every member of the opposition – as if that is going to have an effect on what they are going to do for the next 90 minutes - and make the respective sets of supporters feel any better about each other."I remembered his antics when he played for Brentford and expected no good of him this time round. I was right again."

We have seen over the last couple of years the potential for trouble this nonsense is, and why are they doing it? To satisfy the ego of some twerp in a suit who thought it would be a good idea if we all played nice and really tried to like each other. It seems to be happening all over the world so it probably has the imprimatur (that one’s for you Ken) of that paragon of fair play and openness Sepp Blatter – since when was anything he ever did an example to put before the world?

Now we hear that an international committee chaired by Franz Beckenbauer, after great deliberation and expense, has come up with the brilliant wheeze that the players should line up in the centre circle after the match and all shake hands. Is he mad? There is even greater potential for trouble, with disputed decisions and dubious tackles fresh in the minds of the participants.

Can you imagine the conversations?

John Terry: well played Mario mate, sorry about that tackle that almost broke your thigh.

Mario Balotelli: don’t mention it old chap, that sort of thing can happen in any game, to anybody – but why always to me?

Ashley Cole: come on lads, I’ll buy us an orange juice and treat us all to a night at the ballet.

Well, perhaps in the minds of the Archbishops of Zurich and Munich, but the rest of us aren’t likely to be so optimistic.

On the other hand might they just be on to something? Who’s to say that if we had taken the pre- match handshake a little bit further and had insisted that the players also shake hands with the spectators (alright, not practical at Hartlepool but they could certainly run a pilot scheme at the white elephant stadium down the road without delaying the kick-off) then that diminutive troglodyte Stuart Nelson might not have blasted the ball into the crowd at point blank range the other Saturday?

Well I’ll say it for a start.

As soon as I saw who was playing in goal for Notts County that day I expected to see the less savoury side of the game. I remembered his antics when he played for Brentford and expected no good of him this time round. I was right again.

Mind you, having roundly condemned him for his actions, which I didn’t see even though I was behind that goal, it was inexcusable for people to throw things onto the pitch. Apart from being just plain wrong, as somebody pointed out in the Mail, it could have serious repercussions for the club. I don’t know what was thrown but as expected Mr Nelson made the most of it (not as much as Mr Turley did all those years ago when an empty plastic lemonade bottle landed six yards from him and he went down holding his face as though Henry Cooper had landed a left hook) and now we have a police investigation going on that we could well do without.

Although I strongly condemn Stuart Nelson’s actions I’m not one of those who think that players should take 90 minutes abuse and just put up with it. If someone has been subject to verbal abuse throughout a game then I think it is only human if they make some gesture of triumph or disgust at the end of the game, or even a verbal response during it. I remember Tommy Hutchison (the man who scored for both teams in the 1981 cup final) playing against us for Swansea in front of a very sparse crowd. Some self-appointed wit shouted to him ‘go home Hutchison you’re finished’, at which Tom immediately shot back, ‘when I’m finished I’ll play for you’. A perfectly decent piece of banter which these days would probably have him censured for inciting the crowd.

While a frank exchange of views has always been a part of football I have to draw the line at actual physical assault between spectators and players.

Just a couple of weeks ago some slob ran on to the pitch (somewhere abroad of course) and tried to assault one of the players. Fortunately he was stopped by a goalkeeper, who had evidently undergone training in the night clubs of Hartlepool, who remonstrated with him in the old fashioned way – and then got sent off for his trouble. What the hell goes through the mind of an official in those circumstances? There’s no knowing if the pitch invader was carrying a weapon, or how much damage he might have done, but the immediate reaction was to punish the player for an act of violence, by sending him off. There will be those who think that the goalkeeper over did it a bit, but it must be difficult to judge the right level of restraint in such situations. I suppose if the invader is looking for a silver lining then he is no doubt grateful that he didn’t run into John Gill.

No doubt Mr Nelson has cemented his place in the rogue’s gallery kept by the Hartlepool supporters and we will follow his career with interest from now on. I suppose every set of supporters has their own particular list of opponents that they remember for one reason or another (as an aside, I wonder how many of those lists Bob Newton managed to get himself on), but there are some players who can annoy the life out of you while at the same time engendering a grudging sort of respect.

There is one such chap expected at Victoria Park just as this edition of the fanzine is about to be published. So welcome back to Hartlepool Mr Dean Lewington.
If he plays true to form then he will have infuriated about 4500 people by the time 90 minutes is up on Saturday, and he won’t be the least bit bothered. He will waste time, trip people up, pull their shirts and try every crafty trick ever pulled on a football field. In addition I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he also scored against us and then gives us a wave at the same time just to wind us up a bit further.

I remember leaving the ground a couple of years ago after one of his typical displays against us, and hearing one Hartlepool supporter saying to his friend ‘that Lewington was a disgrace the way he went on, he should be banned from football’. His friend replied ‘you’re dead right’, then after a short pause, ‘mind you, I wish he played for us’ and the first supporter said ‘aye so do I’. Nowhere like a football ground to get a dose of realism, contrived hand shake or no contrived hand shake.

Sorry Sir Henry, it seems your fine words have been wasted on us.



Wycombe is one of my least favourite away days. The ground is stuck at the end of a large industrial estate with no pubs or anything else of interest nearby, unless you happen to be into lorries and forklifts. A bit like Chester City without the glamour.

You can’t get to it very easily by public transport, which leaves you no option but to drive. When you drive there, you find that you can’t park anywhere near it because every road within what seems like miles has double yellows on it. Even quiet little side roads which would benefit from a few parked cars on them to add a bit of colour and excitement are off limits.

It seems to me like the town fathers were a bit embarrassed to have a league football team, and decided that the ground would be best placed at the arse end of it in order to deter people from going and enjoying themselves.  "The only bright spot on the trudge was seeing all the red kites circling and soaring above like a higher class of vulture."

I was looking forward to it nonetheless, as it was going to be my nephew Wilf’s first ever footy match. So me and eldest son Ewan set off for Leamington where he and the rest of my immediate family now live. My mam had decided that she would like to come along as well, and I was surprised to learn that it was her first game.

On the drive down the M40 I was filling Wilf full of Poolie propaganda, telling him how Pools were on the rise, having beaten Notts County 3-0 the week previously. Also that Wycombe should be a pushover as they were bottom of the league. Ewan joined in, backing up my enthusiasm with reference to the 4-0 victory over Carlisle which he had witnessed with me not long back.

We had no choice but to pay 3 quid to a gadgie in a high viz vest for the privilege of parking in a factory car park which was still a good ten minutes walk from the ground. The only bright spot on the trudge was seeing all the red kites circling and soaring above like a higher class of vulture. They are really bonny birds, even from a distance.

My heart sank when I spotted a Wycombe fan lumbering towards the stadium under the weight of something that should be banned at matches – a big sodding drum. I pointed it out with dismay to my mam, but she didn’t really understand how annoying they are. Come the final whistle she was definitely under no illusion.

We got through the turnstiles just in time for kick off. There was a healthy number of Poolies present, probably more than half of them ex-pats like us. We got a good spot right behind the goal, and settled down. It didn’t take long for the day to start turning sour though, Hartley doing a great ‘no, after you’ routine to let a Wycombe striker past him and in to score the first.

I was still explaining to Wilf how Pools would start playing better, when a simple header from a corner bulleted past Flinders for Wycombe’s second.

Pools were offering nowt – not managing to string passes together and struggling to keep up with the bottom-of-the-leaguers. I was looking forward to the end of the first half when Horwood took his turn to be a general big fanny and Wycombe were 3-0 to the good.

Cooper was as mad as a bag of snakes on the touchline, and at half time he appeared to bodily shove at least one Pools player down the tunnel towards the dressing room. I explained to everyone how he would inspire Pools to better things in the second half, which was true in a sense as we only conceded two more after the interval. Austin and Flinders wore the dunce hats for those. It could have been more, but a combination of poor finishing and the woodwork kept the score at 5.

I apologised to Wilf and my mam on behalf of Pools, trying to explain how Pools hadn’t played as badly as that for a long time without making them sound like Jonahs. If there was one good thing to come from the game it was that Wilf seems to have been bitten by the Pools bug. When I asked him if he fancied enduring something similar when we travel to Walsall in a couple of weeks, he nodded vigorously and affirmed his allegiance to the cause.

Some of the most diehard Poolies I know recall their first Pools matches with something like “It was terrible, but I loved it. We were worse than shit, but I was hooked.” Hopefully that will be Wilf in a few years, and hopefully he will never have had to watch a performance as bad as that one again.

BILL THE BIRO on newly unemployed managers

A few weeks ago there were three managers in our division who especially wound up Poolies. Now there are none.

One was Lee Clark at Huddersfield, whose team were expensively assembled, were up in the playoff zone, had recently gone almost a season unbeaten, and were regarded as a bit thuggish.

Then there was Martin "Mad Dog" Allen at Notts County, who had two main faults: being a bit eccentric ...and employing Lee Hughes.

And finally at Sheffield Wednesday, Gary Megson followed his own tradition of never being liked by fans of not only the club he was managing at the time, but also of any other club.

So it came as a pleasant surprise to many Poolies that all three would be removed from their positions, all in little more than a couple of weeks.

"Gary Megson followed his own tradition of never being liked by fans of not only the club he was managing at the time, but also of any other club"
But more than that, all three were sacked while their clubs were doing quite well. Huddersfield and Wednesday were in the playoff places, and County weren't far behind. All three sackings appear to have been a bit unfair, but that seems to be the way things are now, even in League One. And Martin Allen's demise seemed especially unsatisfactory when his successor was given the job only a couple of days later, with Colin West, who had reportedly been watching Allen's final match (at the Vic), as his assistant.

Let's hope we can quickly find some new unfavourite managers to replace them.

ELMO changes his viewpoint on Victoria Park

Recently I was doing some picture research on Google (for this month's 'turnstiles' cartoon, if you were wondering), and I came across a 3-d computer-drawn view of Victoria Park.

Now this is a picture of a computer model, made in a free-to-download program from Google, called SketchUp, which is very good for making such things (as well as kitchen planning!). But the program also allows you to move around the model and view it from any direction, as well as editing any of it to correct any errors and omissions."you're only limited by your time, you patience, and your computer's memory, but it's all pretty good for nowt"

So if anyone is stuck for a few hours for something to do, you could do worse than play with this. Just download the free version of SketchUp at and install it. Then select 'File / 3d Warehouse / Get Models' and Type 'Hartlepool' into the search box, and that will come up with a model of the Vic, and some models of other properties, most of which are in the Owton Manor area. Select one and it will open.

You can learn how to draw new models of almost anything with SketchUp  from the comprehensive support documentation (and it's so good that architects and engineers use it), but to start with, just viewing models from different viewpoints requires only a few controls, the pan, zoom and rotate tools. When you find a view you like, you can then make a picture file of that view.

There are 3-d models available of all sorts, people, vehicles etc., which can be dropped into your model, and you're only limited by your time, you patience, and your computer's memory, but it's all pretty good for nowt.


A change of circumstances now means that I have to change my MB name. On Monday, 20th February our first great grandchild was born; unfortunately, there are no long term possibilities for Pools as the new arrival was a little girl. Her arrival into the world did, of course, bring happiness to the family but five days later everything came crashing down to earth with the 5-0 thumping at Wycombe who, of course, were bottom of the table. 

Wycombe’s supporters must have thought it was Christmas and birthdays rolled into one. Yes, February did have its high points. We held our own against a very good Bournemouth side and, as a few Poolies have pointed out, two months ago this was a game which we would have lost. Then there was the competent performance against Notts County - after which Martin Allen got the sack. One of my students at Sheffield hails from Nottingham and supports Forest. I was quick to remind her that they could be playing at The Vic next season. The wind - up fell a little bit flat - what niggled was the fact that they’d be playing Notts County.

I must be getting a little suspicious in my old age. The last time I cleaned my downstairs windows on a Saturday afternoon, Pools beat Chesterfield 3-0. So, come a fine afternoon for the Wycombe match, it was out with the old wash leather again. That’s the last time I clean windows on a Saturday during the season. It must have been the way I cleaned them.
"I have to pay tax and I don’t see why people on astronomical salaries can’t do the same."

What is it about playing the teams situated below us in the table? Generally, I have no fears about playing teams around the top of the table as witness the fact that we recorded home victories against Brighton, Peterborough and Charlton and put in a good performance to get a home draw against Southampton. No, it’s the bottom placed clubs that put the fear of God into me. Wycombe have done the double against us; last season Dagenham and Redbridge (a relegated club) put one over us at home; even as far back as 2005, who will ever forget the result: Pools 4 Wrexham 6 - and the Welshmen were relegated. 

Then there’s the 5-2 loss at Walsall last season, despite being 2-0 up. As a number of Poolies chanted on the platform at Bescot Stadium station, “Two - nil up and we ------ it up”. Came the reply from the Walsall fans on the other side, “Yes, two -nil up and you ------ it up”. All good harmless fun but it hurt. The West Midlands club, of course, stayed in League One only by courtesy of favourable results elsewhere on the last day of the season. As someone said on Radio 5, they’d never known fans get so ecstatic over a defeat.

Outside all the goings - on at Pools, a few things have been happening elsewhere. The Luis Suarez - Patrice Evra affair certainly produced inches and inches of comment in the printed media and I’ve no intention of adding to the bullshit that’s been written. Suffice to say, don’t you think it strange that Liverpool needed to be pointed in the right direction by their American owners and their shirt sponsors. And who are their shirt sponsors? A bloody bank, no less! Any undertaking that needs to be pointed in the right direction by a bank in the year 2012 must surely have big problems.

Then we come to the Olympics. According to the BBC website “Football (is) the only sport not to sell out at London 2012 Olympics”. According to the organisers, “We are confident that when we know more about the teams and the draw, people will want to be part of the Olympic Games at the football venues across the UK”. Don’t bet on it - most footy fans will be on holiday or lapping up the start of the domestic season and there’ll be plenty of empty seats at the City of Coventry Stadium, Hampden Park. Millennium Stadium, Old Trafford, Sports Direct Arena (ha, ha, ha, ha) and Wembley Stadium.

I suppose the most staggering news was, of course, Glasgow Rangers going into administration. They’ve only got themselves to blame and, frankly, I’ve no sympathy. It now looks as though the taxman - and rightly so - is gunning after footy clubs. I have to pay tax and I don’t see why people on astronomical salaries can’t do the same. These developments in Scotland led one person in the know to reveal that thirty per cent of clubs in The Championship are paying wages over and above what they get in gate receipts. That can only spell trouble and if those so-called business people carry on at the present rate then an almighty crash will occur.

One club who have flirted with financial problems are, of course, Coventry City. Some years ago, when they moved to their new ground, it looked as though they might be playing in League One. That didn’t happen and led one Coventry official to say at the time that they wouldn’t want to be playing cubs like Hartlepool United at their new stadium. The way things are that could happen. Are you ready for us, Coventry?

Lastly, Back to Pools. A few years ago, someone on the BBC message board, bemoaned the fact that we were always flirting with relegation and said that we needed a Willie Boland. Well, I think we’ve had a Willie Boland for the past two seasons in the shape of Paul Murray and he’s one of the reasons there is confidence in the air. How long he can carry on is anyone’s guess but he’s the type of player we need if we’re to inject stability into the side. Another player who has been singled out is Steve Haslam. When Evan Horwood was carried off against Carlisle and Gary Liddle had to go off against Notts County I was naturally concerned about their injuries, but didn’t worry about their replacement as I knew Mr Reliable would be coming on. Last season, of course, he slotted in at right back following a long - term injury to Neil Austin. Steve Haslam is what I call a ‘plodder’ and every side needs a player like Steve Haslam - that is to say, someone who will never do anything spectacular but just turns in consistent performances week after week when called upon.    

Will BILL THE BIRO never learn?

I’ve supported Pools for 49 years, starting during that infamous run of applications for re-election. So I know a bit about managing expectations, about Pools letting you down, and especially about disappointment. Yet despite all that, last weekend I went to Wycombe fully expecting Pools to take all three points from the bottom club. Another 5 - nil disappointment ensued.

I’ve no reason to think that I was the only Poolie there who was expecting a win, or that we are the most frequently disappointed fans in the world. So how come there’s so much self-delusion in being a Poolie?

With hindsight it’s plain to see what happened. Pools had thumped Notts County the week before, avenging an early-season humiliation, and getting their high-profile manager sacked into the bargain. Then the next match was to be against the bottom club. So with Pools on the up, and an easy match coming up, it was going to be a banker away win, wasn’t it! "I’m sure Neale Cooper will have told them beforehand that the “easy” games are always potential banana skins"

So, we Poolies were generally fooled into believing the team only had to turn up and collect the points. Unfortunately players, whether consciously or unconsciously tend to think the same way. I’m sure Neale Cooper will have told them beforehand that the “easy” games are always potential banana skins, so they shouldn’t be complacent or underestimate the opposition.

But from the opposition’s point of view they probably saw that we would be likely to underestimate them, not realising how their four new loan players might both improve the team and fire up the crowd.

Nevertheless Pools went out at Adams Park and were almost to a man hopeless, including two of the subs who were supposed to improve things. So they got tonked, were suitably dealt with by the manager.

But a few days later, the dust had settled, and the message coming out of Pools was "that's all behind us." Pools then duly picked up all the points at mid-table Bury.

And now I'm all hyped up again, thinking of the playoffs.

Will I never learn?

X man