Showing posts from January, 2013


it's all getting too much for BILLY'S CONTRACT

I have been following Pools since before colour television was invented. I have seen it all in that time span. Poor teams, bad teams, dreadful teams and unlucky teams. Over the years I have seen my team been beaten, thrashed and humiliated. At times it has been heart breaking and frustrating nailing one colours to Hartlepool United's mast, however today is the day which ranks amongst my low points supporting Pools.

Today we got beaten 1-0 at home against Preston North End. A team who are at best very average. Why are my hackles up? This season I almost came to accept that Pools would be beaten on a week-to-week basis and was preparing for life in league division two. Then a minor miracle occurs, Pools do the unthinkable and beat Sheffield United 3-2 at Bramall Lane. Talk about being on a high. Bring on Preston, take 3 points from them, and then we are within striking distance of the rest of the relegation pack. The lads must be buzzing.

I was convinced that after the Sheffield result Pools would come out of the traps like rabid dogs that had not seen meat for a month, and tear into North End, leaving them reeling and begging for mercy. What I witnessed was a spineless half-hearted effort devoid of any passion whatsoever. We rarely troubled Preston at all until Scotty Flinders went up front and caused havoc in front of our opponents' goal. We have reverted back to playing hoof ball from the back which was bread and butter for the Preston defence, who mopped everything up. We had no width and most balls into the box came straight down the middle from our central defenders. I could not understand the logic of playing Neil Austin in midfield - he looks like a full back playing in midfield. In my opinion Andy Monkhouse should have come on for the injured Walton instead of Austin - he would have posed more of an attacking threat (still, Austin is a better option than Luscombe). "Bring on Preston, take 3 points from them, and then we are within striking distance of the rest of the relegation pack. The lads must be buzzing."

John Hughes’ other two substitutions and their timings of the changes were strange. Poole replaced the tiring and battered Charlie Wyke. Poole is not a match winner, nor does he change the course of a game. Although I am not his biggest fan, Andy Monkhouse who was still on the bench would have been a better option.

Luke James was brought on in place of Jonathan Franks in the 83rd minute, which is hardly time for him to make any impact. Franks should have been subbed twenty minutes earlier as he had totally drifted out of the game. The player who should have been subbed to my mind was Anthony Sweeney as his contribution to this game, and a good many others was negligible. He needs a spell on the bench in order for him to regain his confidence.

I could go on but I am depressed enough writing about today's showing, a match which could have turned our season around if some passion and effort had been applied. One Poolie who was standing behind me summed up today's performance to perfection when Neil Austin took to the pitch - he shouted over to the bench “are we trying to defend our one nil deficit?”

On a sour note it was sad to hear Simon Walton booed off by a small section of the crowd today. Yes he did not have the best of games (5 passes in a row going astray) but booing him will not do his confidence any good. In my case I just did not applaud him as he left the pitch.


POOLIE IN NOTTINGHAM on recruitment 

 The current atrocious form has seen many a Poolie clutching at straws. It is painfully obvious that the majority of the current squad is far from comfortable at this level, and it is easy to look at the tricky opposition winger who has just ripped through the defence for the fourth time in ten minutes and think “that’s exactly the kind of player we need.”

Chances are you will mention this to someone you are watching the match with, and they will quickly bring you down to earth with a comment along the lines of “can you honestly see him signing for us?” The simple and sad truth is that they are almost definitely right.

Over the years we have seen many decent players turning out against us, for ‘small clubs’ like us – Walsall, Orient, Colchester etc, who you hear of signing for another team. It’s always another team. Why is this?

For starters we have never really been a desirable destination for your average lower league footballer. The ‘joke’ team tag we seem to be doing our best to win back isn’t really something to encourage a potential signing with, even if they do have a great sense of humour.

Wages are obviously another factor, although it has to be said that there was a period under Turner’s first spell in charge, when we did sign some quality players on reputedly high wages for the time. However, we will never be able to compete financially on an even footing with a club like Sheffield United or any other of the ‘big’ teams we’ve turned out against over the last few years.  "The ‘joke’ team tag we seem to be doing our best to win back isn’t really something to encourage a potential signing with, even if they do have a great sense of humour."

Then there is the geography thing. A few years ago Roy Keane was famously stated as saying that it was difficult for him to sign top players because of the perceived lack of things for their Wags to do in the north east. Whilst Sunderland are a much bigger club than Pools, the point remains the same. The north eastern conurbation is relatively isolated from the rest of the country, and whilst we all know it has a great deal to offer, folk from other places don’t.

Over the years we’ve had a few players in on loan from Newcastle, Sunderland and Boro, with mixed success. Despite Pools being on their doorstep, there are still plenty of them who head further south to try out their luck lower down the league ladder. What I say is bollocks to them. If they don’t fancy playing at Pools for whatever reason then we don’t want them.

Maybe it’s a colder climate, perhaps it’s because the town isn’t stuffed full of boutiques for their bewers to spend their earnings in, possibly it’s because we don’t have a fancy modern stadium – whatever the reason, if a player doesn’t have his heart in it, then they are not right for the club. I don’t care how far away a player comes from (look at the success we enjoyed with a certain Aussie striker), as long as they can cope with the sea air and everything else that Pools throws at them, then they’re in.

Hopefully John Hughes will be given permission to perform a rather large clearout in the summer, which means the dead wood will need to be replaced. I for one hope he is able to pull in a few gems to get us out of the fourth tier at the first attempt, although I imagine there will be much speculation about plenty of players who “would never come here.”

BILLY'S CONTRACT on football austerity

Middlesbrough, who are challenging for automatic promotion/or via the play-offs to the Premiership, have seen their home crowd average around 15,000 per game, which, to be brutally hones,t is a poor showing. Fearing that their crowd would drop below the 10,000 mark for the televised game on Sky against Sheff Weds, to their credit the Boro management reduced the price of tickets to £12. The result was a bumper crowd of 28,000, their biggest since they played Newcastle in the Premiership some years back. The plus side for the Boro was increased revenue for the club, not forgetting the added numbers creating a better atmosphere within the sanatorium, i.e. more morons chanting ‘Cmon Boro’. Did I say better atmosphere? More atmosphere in a fish tank than there is at the Riverside.

To carry on the momentum of filling their stadium, they then offered their fans a two for one ticket for their forthcoming fixtures against Bristol City and Huddersfield. So instead of paying the normal ticket price of £29 per match (Yes, £29 to watch the Boro!) effectively the punter was paying £14.50, which was £2.50 more than the Sheffield Wednesday game. In light of the 28,000 who turned up to watch Boro v the Owls, the attendance for the Bristol and Huddersfield game were a disappointing 20,500 and 21,800 respectively, which excluding away support means they are 8,000 fans down on the Sheff Weds game though 5,000 up on their normal crowd average."Did I say better atmosphere? More atmosphere in a fish tank than there is at the Riverside."

As we all know, attending football matches is not a cheap past time. Indeed in many fans eyes it is grossly overpriced. But if the Boro or any other club analysed these figures they would see that by reducing ticket prices significantly they will increase numbers through the turnstiles. Yet by increasing the prices by a mere £2.50 as the Boro did, it will also prohibit or even exclude the number of fans prepared to put their hands in their pockets to watch live football.

Boro or any club in this division can see from this piece of market research that £12 is a fair price to watch a Championship game of football. Leeds United is another example. Their crowds when they were in league one were around 26,000. Now that they are in the Championship they have increased ticket prices and they are now averaging 22,000 per home game. Mind, along with Boro who would want to watch them anyway?

Lessons should be learned. Football clubs should be aware that we are now living in Austerity Britain and football fans are not the cash cows they used to be.

RUNNING MONKEY tells it like it was

On a fine sunny New Year's Day, Poolies, full of festive cheer and still celebrating the win in deepest Yorkshire, were out in numbers to see the lads play against recent strugglers Preston, and make a winning run of two games. I think a lot of fans were in the same fame of mind hoping against hope to see a win at home. One rumour was that the powers that be had made this a “Priority” game, the stupid “Plebs”, meaning more expense for the club but again there are mitigating factors like having a full crew to work New Year's Day so you want some kelp for your efforts.

One long term Poolie said to me that he put the game at Bramall lane on a par or even higher on the scale than the games with Chelsea and Manure, citing that we had better teams in both those games than we have now, Hardly progressed since, when you put it like that.

A team that turns up and plays in pink shirts deserves to be beaten, obviously the manager Mr Priestley likes to drop a few and rotate his squad as all the shirt numbers were in double figures too.

Pools set off at a hell of a pace and Sweeney was running down a through ball from Franks but he could only win a corner from the advancing keeper. It was a fast paced game and Pools were playing the better football with some good moves from the forwards stretching Preston and we had the spectacle of goalkeeper and defender almost coming to blows after one Pools attack. Both teams were hard in and were both guilty of daft fouls and seemed to give the ball away as much as each other.

"Consensus was had been a decent half for Pools, ...and all should be well in the second half. "Pools were playing the better football, harrying the visitors, which was pleasant fare to start the New Year. Despite his age and his detractors, RH, who looked as if he had started on the wing was playing a big part in the game and almost gave Pools the lead with a great dummy leaving two defenders stranded as he made his way into the box, where the Preston defence were in a panic but the ball was cleared.

As half time came, Pools once again gifted the opposition a chance when Hartley brought down an attacker and the ref gave the penalty instantly the challenge was made. I think that is about five this season from Hartley. Ned stood tall and blocked the shot and justice was seen to be done as Pools scrambled the ball away.

A momentary lapse in concentration again gave the visitors the edge as Preston scored with a header totally against the run of play. Consensus was, despite the late goal against and the lack of real chances and the waste of free kicks, it had been a decent half for Pools, not letting the visitors dwell on the ball and playing some entertaining football, and all should be well in the second half despite once again kicking the wrong way.

Sadly in the second half the Pools of old came out and we looked very ordinary against a very ordinary team. The super crosses from the wings had almost disappeared The same old flaws started to appear as Preston had their tails up having scored so late in the game against strong pressure from Pools.

Once again we were back to the missed tackles, the ball played with ease to the opposition, some players had stopped chasing and it was negative stuff. It was around this time that Walton was once again subbed to cheers from the crowd and he disappeared down the tunnel. This lad seems to lack confidence when things go wrong and he is the first to show it in his game but booing him off will not help the player or the team. Having said that the lad has had a long time to prove himself and despite a plea from the manager to get off his back the fans pay for the privilege and will boo as they see fit. It is up to the lad himself to change that situation.

This poor form continued till around the eighty-minute mark. Preston had by then started to waste time taking kicks and every time the game stopped their whole team ran to the trough like sheep dying of thirst just to delay the restart of the game. As my mate Ken said, there are four officials out there and unless they do anything about it these shameful tactics will continue to frustrate players and supporters alike.

It was only in the last ten minutes when we made any real attempt to get back into the game and once again Flinders was heading up field to bolster the attack, Some say we had a good appeal for a hand ball turned down in the last minute but it was too far for these tired old eyes to see clearly. We in the Town end thought we had at least won another corner as did the players but realised as the bench was walking onto the pitch the New Year bubble had just been popped by Preston.

BILL THE BIRO on shattered hope

First of all I hope you all had a great Festive Season with just enough presents, mince pies and alcohol.

I'm sure, like many Poolies, one of your highlights will have been the Pools result at Bramall Lane. As one of our occasional contributors remarked "Where did that come from?"

And I bet that like me, many (make that all) Poolies were then thinking "Have we turned the corner? Are we still in a chance of escaping the drop?" So there then followed a few days of excitement. The interest had returned. The next few matches were against mid-table or struggling teams, so we could stack up a few points fairly quickly. Any team that could beat the league leaders away must be much better than the league table showed, right? Even if they were cast adrift at the bottom. Just catch up with the pack, then momentum would take us to safety."Any team that could beat the league leaders away must be much better than the league table showed, right? Even if they were cast adrift at the bottom"

Of course, all that enthusiasm and excitement drained away when an uninspiring Preston took all the points at the Vic on New Year's Day. Same old Pools. Same old odd (and late) substitutions by Hughes, and optimism vanished almost as soon as it had arrived.

The reality, exposed in the glare of hindsight, is the fact that Bramall Lane was one of those things that happens at this time of year. The bottom club were arriving at the league leaders, having just been tonked by struggling Carlisle. Add to that the fact that this match was not only a festive one, but also a historically significant one (150th anniversary to the day of the very first match at Bramall Lane), and this meant that the occasion was going to be a late Christmas present for Blades fans. So, just as we Poolies were expecting a result in double-figures, so too were almost 20,000 people in Bramall Lane. And the Sheffield players.

I'm sure Danny Wilson will have told them that this match was a potential banana skin, but footballers seem to so easily fall into "just turn up to collect the points" mode. A few days later  QPR, the Premiership's equivalent of Pools, won at Chelsea, showing that these things aren't that rare. No doubt some Premiership clubs will go the same way in the third round of the FA Cup, as usual.

So there we have it. Bramall Lane was just a flash in the pan. The league table didn't lie. We really are that bad. And doomed. First day of the year and hope gone already. Not a good start. Ah well, as the song says, "Things Can Only Get Better."

They can, can't they?