BILLYS CONTRACT on Pools and other struggling teams

John Hughes? Never heard of him, but then again until he was appointed I had never heard of Neale Cooper either. Cooper will forever be enshrined in the annals of Hartlepool United's history as the man who not only brought an element of fun to the proceedings, but will always be remembered, nay revered for the total football that his teams played. The King is dead long, live the King.

What of Neale Cooper's successor? John Hughes’ name did in fact ring a bell with me and caused me some concern, as in the early seventies there was a John Hughes who starred for Celtic. He moved to Crystal Palace and did not star so much for them. He starred even less at Sunderland. After fifteen minutes into his debut for the Black Cats, he was carried off with an injury that ended his career.

This John Hughes who was the older brother of Sunderland's Bobby Hughes was also nicknamed Yogi. My concern that I mentioned earlier was that Pools had appointed a manager who would be in his mid eighties. Mind you, IOR are full of surprises.

I still reckon he was not IOR's first choice, purely based on the fact that Phil Brown was at the Pools reserve match at Gateshead the day after his interview. I am not sure if Brown would have been right for Pools. Hartlepool United could have just been a platform for the 'Phil Brown show'.

Brown’s "John Hughes ...certainly talks the talk, although the players probably need an interpreter to understand what he is saying."track record at Preston was far from good, bearing in mind that at the time he was there they had similar quality players to which Pools have now. Poor.

My early impression of John Hughes is that he certainly talks the talk, although the players probably need an interpreter to understand what he is saying. Like Neale Cooper, he has a passion for the game and a keen sense of humour. Unlike Cooper, he has the coaching badges and from what I have heard, he will, if the situation demands it can be a right nasty pasty who is not afraid to mince his words and give failing players a rollicking, or if the situation requires a much needed cuddle.

Hughes' problem is that he has inherited the same group of players that Neale Cooper had and as I said in the last issue of Monkey Business you can't polish a turd ...but you can put glitter on it, as my son rightly pointed out.

John Hughes has said that he wants to play one touch passing football. Sadly that is what we have been doing most of this season. As soon as one of our players gets the ball he gets rid of it with his first touch, as he does not want to make a mistake and have the crowd on his back.

Hughes also said that he wants play to build up from the goalkeeper and the back four to get the ball forward. We did this, or should I say we attempted to do this against Oldham. I was having heart attacks by the dozen watching this. I am all for total football but Oldham read the script and closed our defenders down as soon as they got the ball and ushered us in to making numerous mistakes.

The other problem with 'the' passing game, and it may be me being picky here, but we do not have the players particularly at the back who can pass a ball (I am not counting sideways passing here). Our central defenders, Jack Baldwin being the exception, are unable to can carry the ball beyond the half way line. Preferably with the current squad unless they have intensive training with regards one/two touch football I would rather see our defenders hoof the ball as far away from each other as well as our own half away from danger.

We also have a midfield player whom I won't name but for the record I call him BB King. BB King for our younger readers is one of the last American legendary blues guitarists. He is now in his eighties. For all he is one of the world's great guitar players, one of his failings, so he tells his audience, is that he is unable to play the guitar and sing at the same time.

That is why he reminds me of this midfield player who can't run and pass at the same time. Each time he receives the ball he has to stop, look around and then make a pass (invariably a poor pass at that.) The other similarity that this player has to BB King is that when he does move it is no quicker than an eighty year old.

One player who has seemed to have upped his game as if to make an impression on his new manager is Andy Monkhouse. I have been massively disappointed with his contribution over the last 3 seasons, His rating with me fell even further when he grabbed a recent last minute spectacular equaliser which he acknowledged with a show of petulance that a four year old child would have been proud of.

Of late now he seems to be getting his act together he is getting stuck in and making his presence felt, and dare I say showing leadership qualities by setting an example to his team mates. In our last home game against Oldham he actually took a man on and beat him, something that I had not seen for over eighteen months.

If I have do have an initial criticism of John Hughes, it is his use of (or should I say lack of use of) his subs bench. When they have been introduced it is usually too late for them to make an impact on the game. As many older readers are aware, I hate all things to do with Middlesbrough FC, but I for one would like to see the boy Wyke be given a run in the team. I have only seen him play less than a game and a half but I like the cut of his jib, reminds me of a young and very mobile Stevie Howard.

Will they survive relegation? Three weeks back I paid my Man Utd supporting mate the twenty quid I had on with him at the beginning of the season that Pools would make the play offs. He has since offered me double or quits on Pools remaining in League One. To date I have declined his offer.

And now for this weeks schadenfreude moment. Okay, we might be cut adrift at the bottom of League One by a zillion points.

We might have had 6 goals knocked past us in our the FA Cup by a very average Chesterfield team, from the division below us.

We might well have conceded 5 goals at home in a second half collapse to a pedestrian Coventry City.

However, we have never been beaten by a team consisting of sports psychologists, librarians and inebriated members of the Newcastle Student Union:

Team Northumbria 2 Darlington 0

Things could be worse, a lot worse couldn't they?