Showing posts from February, 2013
Portsmouth - As I seen it!


Pools 1 - 1 Portsmouth   Tuesday February 12th

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at The Vic


There was a spring in my step today as I trundled to the Vic, Having gone three games without defeat we were to entertain Portsmouth, and having beaten them comfortably at their ground only two weeks ago I was excited and expectant that three points would be in the bag, lifting us from the bottom spot. 

After all they were a team who had pretty much taken our mantle as the whipping boys of the division of late, having not won in the last ten. As we all know life is not that simple and they had come for a fight. 

The first flurries went either way for ten minutes till Pools settled and started to pull them to pieces down the flanks, playing some great football. It was obvious that they decided to target Poole and Franks for special treatment that even the criminal injuries board would be shocked to see. 

As you know I only criticise a ref when he needs to be criticised, and all I have to say is this feller let too much go early on and one of Pools players could have been seriously injured from the tactics used. Pools had them pegged back for ninety percent of the first half making chance after chance but it was not to be. 

Poole came close with a free kick that dipped and skimmed the bar with the keeper beat. Hartley made one super tackle on the edge of the box to deny Portsmouth. I like the look of Wyke who fought tirelessly for the ball despite some crunching tackles and tested their keeper a couple of times when he broke through but sadly no goals once again.

Second half the other Hartlepool team turned up - it was amazing to see the transformation. Pools were on the back foot for most of the half and instead of the flowing football we saw in the first half it was back to hoof ball and a get rid of it mentality. Not one player seemed capable of bringing the ball out or even having the nonce to whelly it clear.

"Second half the other Hartlepool team turned up - it was amazing to see the transformation."They tried to back pass their way out of their own half. It looked as if the two teams had swapped shirts in the tunnel as Pompey ran riot for most of the half with Pools relying on last gasp tackles and a cool Flinders to calm the storm. It was ten minutes before the end when we started to play football again after RH went off for Monky and James came on for Franks. It is obvious now the old warhorse RH cannot play two full games in a week and he should not be expected to.

Monkey and James did liven things a bit and young Jack Baldwin was superb, he was our best defender and in the second half our best attacker, creating two good chances for himself. Poole had a stinging shot blocked and the rebound dropped for him but he hit his second shot over the bar in the dying seconds.

Once again the lack of that killer touch in the box left us with one point from three when we really need them.

Swindon - As I seen it!


Swindon Town 1 - 1 Pools   Saturday February 9th

Match report by BILL THE BIRO at The County Ground


Many Poolies I know are aware that I tend to attend most Pools matches within 100 miles of my South Midlands home. Well, this season has broken with tradition. To be honest, suitable matches would come along but I just didn't seem to be able to find any enthusiasm. Even a first look at a new ground (Shrewsbury) couldn't inspire me to shell out more than £50 for the privilege of probably seeing Pools lose.

However, come a bit of relative success (two wins on the trot) and it was back to normal service. So it was that I drove south through the Cotswolds heading for Swindon, for my first match of the season.

I was looking forward to this one, because it had all the hallmarks of being another classic banana-skin match. Swindon were close to a takeover, thus avoiding administration and a 10-point deduction. Their manager had been talking about walking out for a week but still hadn't done so, so was maybe staying on. Add to that their midweek win at Colchester, and they had grounds for optimism, knowing they'd be playing the bottom club at home. All they'd have to do was turn up!

Pools ran out in the old dark blue away strip, which isn't nearly as nice as the dark red one, but obviously both teams playing in red may have caused problems. From the off, Pools were trying to play football, and Swindon were too, although Swindon were having slightly more of the ball.

Early on Flinders had to demonstrate his skills, and then on 15 minutes Pools were a goal down. An obviously well-practised interchange of Swindon passes from the back caused confusion in the middle and Flinders was beaten.

"Obviously Hughes had been told that Monky used to play for Swindon, and that the locals know he always scores for us here."
Franks and Poole were proving a bit ineffectual at this time, both being easily outmuscled. However Wyke, Humphreys and Walton all seemed to be enjoying themselves, and Swindon, while being more dominant, weren't looking to be in complete charge.

After the interval things continued much the same for a while until a spell of Flinders brilliace seemed to both galvanise Pools and deflate Swindon at the same time. In a minute or so he pulled off three really good saves.

Pools' first sub was Monkhouse. Obviously Hughes had been told that Monky used to play for Swindon, and that the locals know he always scores for us here. So, after the expected booing, sure enough Monky scored for the now more fired up Pools.

And that's how it continued,  James and Luscombe came on towards the end to stir things up a bit, and the draw was a fair result in what for Poolies at least was an entertaining match.

Perhaps with a bit more effort, all three points might have come our way, but four away matches unbeaten is a fair record especially considering how things were at Christmas.

Notts County - As I seen it!


Pools 2 - 1 Notts County   Saturday February 2nd

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at The Vic


First of an apology as you all know I have been possibly the biggest critic of Simon Walton this season. Today he fully deserved the mom award and if only he and the team had played anything near the kind of football we have seen today HUFC would not be in the position we are today. It was good to hear the fans chanting today both during the match and at the end of the game as they left the ground after the win.

It was good to hear the fans chanting today both during the match and at the end of the game as they left the ground after the win. We are winning at home, and we scored a home goal was a treat to the ears. A week is a long time in politics and even longer in football when you have not had a home game for two weeks. 

I remember my notes from the last home game against Bournemouth - I think I went home with about six lines on my jotter. It was impossible to make such an abject performance sound good and even worse to try and add some humour to the event; it was so bad I had no qualms about the powers that be at Bizz HQ consigning it to the skip. 

Today how ever was a totally refreshing and new experience for the battle-weary troops on the terraces at the Vic this season. A new line up today enforced by injuries and I must say what a welcome change, as Pools harried, defended and played some great football. We saw the return of Gary Liddle today who I thought had jumped ship at the right time as the Pools team he was playing in started to plummet. Strange to see Liddle playing at right back but to be honest he was anonymous today, which you could never say about him in a Pools shirt. Well apart from a few of his last games were he just wanted to be away. 

A break away by Walton on five minutes was superb when he won a loose ball in a scramble in our box, skipped past a couple of players and laid the ball into midfield where it was slung out wide to Franks who raced down the right and crossed a great ball under pressure for Poole to take the ball down and hit his effort on the volley into the net. 

It is fair to say we had more shots in the first half than I can remember. The absence of Howard could be a blessing in disguise because this line up made us into a team that could create the chances, a skill that has been so lacking in the recent past. Franks was on fire down the flanks shooting on sight which is all we have ever wanted from him, get in there and have a go rather than get in there and look for another option. 

Hartley was very commanding in the heart of the defence; he made one superb block in the box to parry a goal bound shot and Aussie was at the back post to turn a header away from goal. 

Simon Walton made the tackle of the game racing in and winning a ball taking out two Notts players at once - you would have heard the thud on the banks of the Trent. Half time brought a great cheer for Pools who were applauded off the field by the whole crowd after a scintillating performance. The consensus: "what have they done with the old Pools?" One Town-Ender who must have money to burn was trying to flog his Corals betting slip for twenty pounds. He had stopped off on the way to the game and had took Pools to win 2-1 and Poole to be the first scorer. I hope he takes a similar bet on the next home game. 

Second half and Curle had obviously kicked a few backsides in the dressing room as they really stepped up their game and for twenty minutes the old Pools side had returned and we were looking suspect once again. One criticism of Horwood today was he gave the winger Ryce far too much space and just invited trouble as the dangerous winger could leave both him and Franks for dead with his speed and that is just what he did, he raced into the box beat every challenge and scored a screamer to level things up. 

The winger had shot his bolt then and Baldwin started to take an interest and skinned the winger a few times simply with perfect timing of his challenge. Hartley was booked meaning he will miss the next game. Franks almost scored a second goal for Pools as he raced in and hit a shot at the near post that almost beat the Notts keeper, but a combination of post and body kept the shot out.

"Half time brought a great cheer for Pools who were applauded off the field by the whole crowd after a scintillating performance."
Franks again made a superb cross from a free kick that Hartley rose the highest in the bunch to head the ball in over the line. As I started to write my notes the angry voices were raised as a defender claimed to have cleared the ball before it crossed the line but from ten yards I was in no doubt the ball had crossed the line. The lino on the Millhouse side shot his flag up to signal a goal and the ref agreed with my notes - it was 2-1 to pools and one very happy gambling punter behind me was jumping for joy. 

All was not done as Notts tried to salvage their impressive away tally and Ned made another fine save on the line at the Rink End as Pools started to play the Brazilian way as young Holden flicked the ball off one toe then flicked the ball over the head of the defender and raced in to the box but he was thwarted at the death. 

A crowd of 3662 fans cheered their heroes off the pitch chanted the name of Simon Walton as he was made M.o.M., and for once in a very long time got behind their team. Fickle? Maybe but it is surprising what a difference a brace of back to back wins makes to the fans that have suffered for so long this season. Can we do it? It is a tall order but “NEVER SAY DIE” 

To the powers that be at Monkey mansions, don’t dare bin this one! 


BILLY'S CONTRACT does a bit of traitoring

With Pools away at Shrewsbury, and with nothing else to do on the day, I thought I would wander up to Sunderland to catch The Happy 'Ammers.

According to Sunderland's Internettywebby thing, their ticket office closes at one o'clock on match days which meant that I had to set off much earlier than I planned. For old times’ sakes I opted to take the train rather than drive up just for the sheer hell of it...and it was sheer hell.

On the platform at Hartlepool Station there were about eighty people waiting for the Metro Centre/Eldon Square express that would carry them and their unwanted Christmas pressies to said shopping centres. Others on the platform I noted were keenly clutching their HMV, Comet and Jessops gift vouchers perhaps looking for the deal of the century.

The train spluttered into the station ...all two chock a block carriages of it. Standing room only. As we were passing the remains of the Palliser site (Steetley for our younger readers), I engaged in conversation with a lad from the town who was going up to Asda Park (Ashley Sports Direct Arena). Out of curiosity I asked who the Mags were playing, and got the reply of “oh they are away at Norwich, but myself and my son are doing the tour of St James Park.”

I was staggered that not only the someone from Hartlepool was a Plastic Mag, but his knowledge of all things Hartlepool United was nil. He had earlier asked me who Pools new manager is, and where Pools were in the league. At that point I clammed up and took to looking at the caravans as the locomotive, sorry toilet on wheels, passed by Crimdon Dene.

I got into football late in life at around fourteen or fifteen years old, and before getting hooked on Pools, West Ham were my team. As it was not always possible to get to see a team based in London, myself and my mates would arrive at Hartlepool railway station on spec and either blast up to Sunderland or Newcastle just to take a game in, any game (even in those days Middlesbrough was not on the agenda).

"To be fair British Rail or whoever, have spent some money on the place since last I was there if only by putting in 60 watt light bulbs instead of 40 watt." Looking back I have been privileged and honoured even to see the likes of Hurst, Moore and Peters, Best, Law and Charlton, Greaves, Gilzean and Knowles, Bell, Lee and Summerbee, Hunt, Heighway and Tommy Smith. All the greats of the era.

Ironically due to my passion for supporting Pools I will have been lucky to see a couple of dozen Premier league games since its inception, thereby never seeing the modern day greats like Zola, Ronaldo, Van Nistelroy, Torres, Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Gareth Bale, and of course not forgetting Emile Heskey and Darius Vassell.

It must be around thirty years since I set foot in Sunderland Railway station. To me it was foreboding place. I always felt that you would get beaten up there or at the very least that some nutter would push you under an oncoming train. It was and still is an underground station - dark and dank but functional, a bit like the down stairs car park in Middleton Grange without the cars. To be fair British Rail or whoever, have spent some money on the place since last I was there if only by putting in 60 watt light bulbs instead of 40 watt.

Apart from football matches and concerts I have only once ever visited Sunderland and from what I recall I was not impressed, mainly because I spent a considerable amount of my time stuck in a one way system.

First impressions count in any town or city as you leave the railway station. The first thing that greeted me face on was a Greggs, which in fairness I later visited. Neighbouring this well known provider of cholesterol was a parade of shops that made the shops on Northgate on the Headland look like Oxford Street (that’s the one in London, not the one near St Aidan’s church).

Outside one of the Charity Shops was a woman of eastern European origin playing of all things in Sunderland, 'The Blaydon Races' on an accordion. She looked a little surprised that her begging bowl was empty though not as surprised as me.

On the other side of the road there was a chap in his late his thirties well wrapped up against the winter cold holding a placard with an arrow that was pointing to a slot machine arcade. Over his gloved hands to prevent them getting wet he had Tesco carried bags fastened over them with elastic bands. A girl came out of the Arcade and gave him a coffee for which he seemed eternally grateful.

It is only a ten minute walk to The Stadium of Light from the most depressing town centre in the north east, which could have doubled as a film set for a Ridley Scott movie depicting a nuclear conflagration. Match ticket purchased from a humourless Mackem, what was I to do now with a three and a quarter hours to pass in Sunderland? I certainly wasn't going to go back to the town centre!

I had a wander over to view the statue of Bob Stokoe outside the Stadium. Now that is scary. Very scary. For those readers who have not seen it, the statue recaptures the Sunderland manager Bob Stokoe’s celebrations after the final whistle, when he ran on to the Wembley turf after Sunderland's never to be forgotten FA Cup final win over Leeds United. He is wearing a trench coat and a trilby hat which was used to keep his Bobby Charlton combover in place.

The statue as I said earlier can only be described as scary. Unlike say the 'funny' statue of Billy Bremner outside Elland Road, which bears no resemblance at all to the dirty cheating Scottish ankle tapping moaning chewy Leeds captain.

The Bob Stokoe sculpture however is like something from a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. I would best describe the structure as a cross between The Bogeyman and Freddie Kruger pursuing his already doomed victim across some wasteland. The psychotic expression on Stokoe’s cast bronze face is bad enough, but you want to take a look at those long spread out fingers on his hand, something which Edward Scissorhands would have been justly proud of.

Three hours to go before kick-off saw me explore the Railway Museum in Monkwearmouth from top to bottom. This left me with a mere two hours and fifty minutes to kill!

With that I decided to take a stroll to Roker beach which really wasn't worth the effort. Every sea front that I have seen, either home or abroad (excluding The Headland) which faces or backs on to the North Sea is a grey and depressing place, and Roker seafront is no exception.

I resisted the temptation to make a detour to the site of the old Roker Park, as I guessed it would now be a housing estate of some type and I have a rough idea of what they look like.

After around a three and a half mile round trip from Roker I was back at The Stadium of Light. I still had forty five minutes left before the match started. To pass the time I purposely purchased a brew from a burger van outside the ground, which cost £1. I knew I would get ''ripped' inside the ground, which as it turned out charged £2.50 for a cuppa and £3.60 for a pint of John Smiths.

As for the match itself, I had a cracking seat bang on the half way line. The atmosphere I have to say was very good, as Sunderland's Kop has now switched ends so the home fans are now in the old away end. As the stadium roof is lower on that side of the ground it creates a better atmosphere. To be fair to the Sunderland fans they sang for the full ninety minutes...mainly at Kevin Nolan's expense - 'please kick him again' they chanted.

The result. A pedestrian Sunderland team beat, with the exception of Nolan and Joe Cole, a very uninterested West Ham side three nil .It has to be said that Sunderland's first goal was a peach. Their other two goals could be classed as West Ham assists. West Ham's Alou Diarra has to be the slowest player in the whole of the Football League and that is saying something when you see some of the speed merchants we have at The Vic.

One thing for me which put a damper on the match, apart from the result, was that there is little or no physical contact between the players. The referee was blowing for fouls for what we would consider to be run of the mill tackles in League One. The sad thing is that the crowd is now of the same mind. The game is becoming sanitised.

The Sunderland fan sat next to me made a comment about a particular tackle and I told him that would be 'play on in our league.' By the way, guess what I got for Christmas? The 'X' rated video of the Chelsea v Leeds cup final replay. I heard only one player got booked in that match and that was on the production of a death certificate! Former referee Graham Poll recently watched the match, and said that if that match was played today all twenty two players would have been booked and six sent off.

Speaking hypothetically I have wondered, if the good town of Hartlepool did not have a football team which north east team would I follow. Sometimes I lean to the Mags, others the Mackems.

Sunderland always seem to be the better run club, Newcastle have a bigger ground but there is more of an atmosphere at Sunderland, albeit I would say the Mags are more passionate about their team.

Strip wise I have always preferred the black and white stripes of Newcastle to the red and white of Sunderland. One of my all time favourite footballers was Bryan 'Pop' Robson who played for Newcastle ...and Sunderland.

I attended the first leg of The Inter City Fairs Cup final which the Mags won three - one. A great night with a brilliant atmosphere.

When Sunderland played Leeds in the 1972 FA Cup final I shouted myself hoarse for the Mackems. It wasn't so much my love of Sunderland that I cheered them onto victory, but my absolute hatred of Leeds.

Luckily it is a decision I do not have to make as Hartlepool has its own football club even if we are bottom of our league.

After the match I made a mad dash back to Sunderland's salubrious railway station to catch the 17.15 back to civilisation. Got there in time only to see the train pull out. Even the station clock confirmed it had departed two minutes early, obviously the conductor wanted to avoid his carriages full of football supporters.

Whilst waiting for the next train to arrive I got chatting to a West Ham fan from Hartlepool. Rather than discuss the match we got talking about music and uncannily we attended the same three Jethro Tull concerts in the 70's: Sunderland (Aqualung tour) Stockton ABC (Thick as a Brick tour) & Newcastle Odeon (Warchild tour). During our conversation on all things Tull, who should stroll down the Station Platform but David Milliband, after exiting the Grand Central train from London. He would make a great centre half the height of him. It did cross my mind that if 'push came to shove' he probably would push his brother Ed under the next train if he was in the vicinity. I probably would give him a hand!

The train to God's country finally arrived full to the gills with around one hundred people wanting to get on board, and as ever Northern rail only had put two coaches on. Happy days!

CENTRAL PARK thinks he's Private Frazer

It is now beyond a joke. There is something rotten about the state of Hartlepool United, and I’m not talking about the meat pies.

Like the rest of the supporters I am casting around for someone - anyone - to blame for the present predicament and I am spoiled for choice. When there is no glaring reason for the state of things then that usually means that there are a number of circumstances, or misjudgements etc. that when taken together produce a catastrophe; and in footballing terms catastrophe is exactly what we now have.

I have been supporting this club for more than 60 (yes sixty) years, and thought that I had seen all the bad things that it could produce. I am not in any way questioning the personal fiscal honesty of the current playing staff, but bloody hell, even the team that contained players who were taking bribes to lose back in the early 1960s* managed to get more points than this shower are going to get.

At the time of writing (just after the home game against Bournemouth) we have played 27 league games and we have 2 (that’s two) wins and 7 draws producing 13 points. Our previous worst seasons were 1923-24 and 1962-63 when we won 7 and drew 11 giving a points total of 32 (under the current 3 points for a win system). I checked the information above on the excellent ‘POOLstats’ web site, a must for any Hartlepool fan who can dredge up the will to go and have a look.

"What is it about us that we sign players who, to put it kindly, are not ‘naturally fit’?"How did it come to this? This is beyond the normal ups and downs of footballing life. The relegation we suffered in 2006 was a bitter pill to swallow, especially following the play-off final in the previous season, but we were within reach of salvation right up to the end of the season, and we all had a readymade scapegoat.

This time round we had not reached Christmas and we knew that we were going down and all we had left to play for was pride. I don’t know how I managed to type the last word of the last sentence without being struck by a bolt of lightning.

I’ve been looking back over the last couple of seasons to try to see what went wrong. Mick Wadsworth was a reluctant manager but with a huge reputation as a coach and took over when Chris Turner left. I couldn’t find fault with the way Mick was running things, and he seemed to have the knack of producing better results than might have been expected given some of the teams we were playing against. He signed Paul Murray, much to the trepidation of some of us on the terraces but it is fair to say that Paul was a major success (I’d pay a lot to hear his candid opinions as to what has been going on over the last eighteen months).

Of course not every signing was the immediate success that Paul Murray was, and you have to question the judgement of a man who signed a player who has still not achieved his optimum playing weight after something like 18 months on the books.

At the beginning of the 2011-12 season we went 9 league games without defeat and it seems to me that the first league defeat of that season was the start of the decline from which there appears to be no sign of recovery. The nationally televised debacle at Notts County was a clear sign to the rest of the division that if you push only slightly against this team then it will fall down.

Mick Wadsworth was eventually sacked to be replaced by Neale Cooper, who immediately identified the main problem as being a serious lack of pace throughout the team, and I can’t remember anyone I spoke to who disagreed with him.

I do remember however being puzzled as to how such a coach as Mick Wadsworth let this state of affairs develop, and with no great expression of disquiet from the terraces. I suppose that the answer lies in the fact that he was ‘only’ a coach who was used to doing his best to improve players that other people had picked, and was a bit lacking in the quality spotting department.

Neale struggled on to the end of the season and released 6 players without there being riots in the streets and deputations to the board. I think we all expected to get at least 5 players in who would be better than those who had left, and at last make some progress. As it was we only brought in three, and they haven’t exactly taken the division by storm. What is it about us that we sign players who, to put it kindly, are not ‘naturally fit’?

I had the distinct impression (no proof mind, we never seem to get the definitive version of anything these days) that Neale Cooper thought that his re-building work was only half completed, and then found out that higher authority decreed that in fact it was finished.

I’ve always been an admirer of Neale Cooper ever since he first came to Hartlepool in 2003. I’ve never met him, but he always projected the image of being a hard man who would never take a step back in a confrontation. But this lot managed to break him in about a dozen matches. I hope this doesn’t attract the attention of ‘m’learned friends’ but it put me in mind of the way Leeds United played under Brian Clough. I’m pleased for his sake that he left when he did, no doubt realising that there was nothing he could do to stop the rot.

So here we are with a team who seem to be beaten before a ball is kicked and a dwindling crowd with no high expectations of anything good happening. It’s as though I have embarked on the Tardis and gone back 50 odd years. And I don’t bloody like it.

What of the owners in all this? I have been a great supporter of IOR and their approach ever since they took over the club. They didn’t make silly promises such as ‘we will be in the Premiership within four seasons’ and ‘we will all ride to away games on our own personal heskeylators’ and the like. They kept a low profile, (in fact they could teach Lord Lucan a thing or two about that) though not as low as at the present time and conducted themselves in a very discreet and dignified manner.

All the bills were paid on time and bailiffs were a thing of the past. The players were looked after, in addition to wages being paid on time, with things like travel and overnight accommodation being arranged to give them the best chance to produce their best on the field. The idea of sending a ‘bouncing cheque’ to the widow of one of our greatest heroes would not have been countenanced.

Since they have been here IOR have contributed (I don’t like the word ‘invest’ in this context – they are not going to make a profit out of it) something like £14,000,000 towards the running of the club. Their contribution has not been just in respect of the playing side of things, as they have also provided some educational facilities and have been involved in the community.

An independent report (part funded by IOR and the council tax payers) has expressed the opinion that Hartlepool United is worth about £5,000,000 a year to the town’s economy. This is a model I was pleased to recommend to all other clubs, both far and near - especially near. However that was when things were going well (even the relegation in 2005 was attributed by me to IOR having an excess of loyalty to one particular employee).

Things are different now. I know that everybody has their own pet theory as to what is going on, including one friend who has assured me that IOR have no money and are using Pools to keep their business going. I don’t agree with him but this is the sort rumour that is generated when discretion morphs into secrecy.

So, not being privy to IOR’s innermost thinking, those of us who are very concerned about Hartlepool United are left to speculate on motivations and finances.

I can’t help feeling that a lot of our present woes stem from the fact that IOR have not been able to get ownership of Victoria Park. It seems that after saying that if they had ownership of the ground then that would enable them to ‘make further investment’ so that they could ‘take the club further’ they have reacted to the Hartlepool council’s inevitable refusal to sell or give them the ground by withholding money that would otherwise have gone into team strengthening.

If that is the case then it is a complete waste of time on IOR’s behalf, because it is based on a false premise: That is that Hartlepool council gives a damn about Hartlepool United and whatever happens to it.

That is of course the privilege of the council, as they must use their best collective judgement as to what is in the town’s best interests. But you know, I know and most importantly the town council knows that whatever happens to Hartlepool United the same party will be in charge of the council after the next election, the one after that and the one after that. If the town was to be devastated by a Tsunami the most important thing on the collective minds of the council is, would they still be in charge of the rubble.

I can understand IOR’s frustration after all they have spent on the football club and all they contribute to the town, as detailed above, but the council’s response is ‘now all of that is all very well, but what have you done for us lately?’

If ownership of the ground is the sticking point for IOR and their continued efforts to improve the club then they should reconcile themselves to the fact that they will not get it, and decide whether they wish to continue to preside over what will be a slow and painful death of Hartlepool United, or to cut their losses and leave.

If they do decide to leave then I hope that they will give a full and frank account of why they have chosen to go. If they do in fact go then I believe that will be the end of Hartlepool United as I don’t see us having the good fortune of Manchester City or Crawley. I don’t expect many people to agree with me but my preference would be for a quick end to the whole thing, with the club being liquidated, rather than see the kind of undignified scratching around praying for miracles that is going on elsewhere.

IOR have made much of the ‘salary cap’ that applies in the lower two divisions, and which, incidentally, is going to be introduced for clubs wishing to take part in European competitions. As I understand it, no club is allowed to spend more than 65% of its income on players’ wages. There are obviously ways to stay within the rules while at the same time abusing them. If these rules are being followed in letter and spirit at Crawley (with gates around the 2,500 mark), then you have to wonder why Bayern Munich went after Pep Guardiola instead of the genius who brought Crawley into League One so quickly on such meagre income.

My point in mentioning Crawley is not to attack them, but to point out that the salary cap is there for those who want to follow it. IOR keep saying that they must follow the salary cap, but it seems to me that they are hiding behind it in order not to spend money on strengthening the team.

There is no rule that says that IOR must spend their hard earned money on subsidising my hobby of supporting Hartlepool United, but I would much rather them say that they will not spend the money rather than say they are prevented from spending it. I know that IOR have made much of their integrity since taking over and it is something I have admired them for.

However in the real world it is no good being holy if all about are being bloody rogues. If they are not very careful they could end up riding their high horse all the way to the Northern Premier League. Relying on the football authorities to do the decent thing and enforce their own rules in an even handed manner is about as sensible as relying on the town council to sell them Victoria Park, at any price.

Next season in the lower division our income will be reduced, but the salary cap will still be there. High earning players will have been released but that does not automatically mean that better players will replace them as the wages on offer will be lower. This is a downward spiral that I can’t see us getting away from. It seems as if the system has been designed to keep the rich rich and the poor poorer.

As things stand I can see no prospect of things ever improving and we seem destined to follow you know who to you know where.

* Look up the back copies of the ‘The People’ newspaper circa October – December 1963 for the details.


KT POOLIE dishes out some financial advice

The recent multi-million pound, one year contract extension for Cashley Cole suggests there’s no end in sight to eye-watering wages in the country’s Premier League.

Figures show the average Premier League salary has broken the £1m per annum mark during 2012, but such wages are not so certain in the lower leagues and, as the country heads towards a triple-dip recession, a new self-help book aimed at football players is published.

Penned anonymously, the book’s author is rumoured to be ex-Mags stopper Steve (Lumper) Lumley, currently plying his trade in division two of the Northern Premier League. Renowned for his extravagant lifestyle, Lumper was declared bankrupt in 2008 and now offers money management advice to young players.

“Don’t get dragged into gambling cliques at the club”, warns Lumper, “Some of the older pros are pretty switched-on and will take your appearance money, goal and win bonus and put it on a certainty at Wincanton. It inevitably loses.”
Lumper’s tips –
Never hand money over to anyone (even if he is the skipper) without finding out the name of the horse and checking the result later.

"The feeling you get when driving into the ground in the latest supercar is second only to mugging the ref off with a perfectly executed dive to win a penna"Hags
“Long away trips can be miserable, especially if you have to travel the day before. I hated being away from the missus, so often sought comfort elsewhere. But you don’t need to throw lots of cash around”
Lumper’s tips –
Brothels are struggling like everyone else. Two for One deals can be found a little further away from the local stadium. Remember you’re on the clock and those little extras soon mount up.

“The feeling you get when driving into the ground in the latest supercar is second only to mugging the ref off with a perfectly executed dive to win a penna”, boasts Lumper, “Don’t let the running costs run away with you though.”
Lumper’s tips –
Pay your parking fines early or they’ll soon overwhelm you. But, if you’re about to get a transfer just let them mount up – by the time the authorities catch up, you’ll be long gone. [Unless the skipper brings it to the chairman’s attention at the end of season bash - then you’re down two weeks’ wages as well - for bringing the club into disrepute.]
By the way, every club does not have a rule where the newby has to drive the skipper in for every home match. Check first.

“Watch out for those snooping journos.”
Lumper’s tips –
If you get caught say, snorting something you shouldn’t or fighting in the local, don’t bother with expensive gagging notices, it all comes out on Twitter anyway. Just ride it out for a few weeks, get yourself some media training – ‘How to express regret with genuine emotion’ by L Armstrong is good. Then get your agent to find a good TV confession programme – commercial channels pay most!

“It’s in your genes – if your grandad’s bald, you probably will be!”
Lumper’s tips –
Unless you can afford a proper solution like Wazzer, get a hat and accept it. Everything else is a waste of money, believe me.

“I fell head-first into marriage with a pretty seventeen year-old I met in a nightclub in Manchester. Three weeks later it was the close season and we got hitched in Vegas; enjoyed a five star honeymoon in Tobago; bought a new six-bedroom place with ten acres and stables. Eighteen weeks after that the divorce papers landed.”
Lumper’s tips –
Remember to assign a designated gold-digger spotter – and make sure he stays sober, unlike Franky Collier! If you do find yourself in a hotel, waking up next to a blonde beauty, take her down to breakfast, introduce her to all the better-paid players in the team, make an excuse and leave.
If that fails, a good pre-nup is worth its weight.

“Learn from the professionals. After my third drink-driving incident, I wasted my time in Franklin nick instead of continuing my education. Tax avoidance, chipping set-top boxes, fake lotteries, property investment scams, it’s all available if you ask the right people. ”
Lumper’s tips –
A footballer’s career is short. Prepare early for income generation in later life.


Even though he'd been out of the first team picture for a while, I was shocked to hear that last season's Player Of The Year Paul Murray had left the club by mutual consent. Various theories abound as to how mutual the arrangement was and how this had come about, but it was definitely bad news.

When Mick Wadsworth signed Murray in the summer of 2010, he had been released by Shrewsbury, who were then still in League Two. Many Poolies questioned the decision to sign him, but he soon proved to be one of the best signings we've made in recent times. Despite not being the fastest, his reading of the game was second to none, and he provided sterling service in front of the back four in just shy of a hundred appearances for Pools.

He was never the sort of player to bomb forward and beat men for fun, but he did prevent the opposition doing so time and again. He seemed particularly suited to Wadsworth's style of play, especially away from home - keeping it tight, not letting the other side settle on the ball, and competing hard for everything. Despite being in his mid-thirties, he still completed an impressive amount of time on the pitch, and his presence was in many cases immediately missed in many of the games in which he was substituted.

"owway Paul man, we'll get battered unless you play", "but we've got nowt in midfield", "come on Paul, just the first half, eh?"My mate Andy Ramalamadingdong has quite a fertile imagination, and during lulls in games, often comes out with some great observations, particularly when it comes to picturing players in different situations. According to him, there's something about Andy Monkhouse's long limbs and gait which would make him an ideal Dickensian villain - all top hat and long coat tails, mooching about in the fog doing something dastardly like selling stolen goods or pimping.

The best one he's come out with so far is his construction of Murray as one of those blokes who doesn't really want to play footy any more, but is cajoled into it on a regular basis. I know exactly the type of bloke he is on about, having spent many hours on the Rec and Grayfields watching the Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning pub league fixtures. The sort of teams where half the squad are still pissed up from the night before, and the other half haven't made it out of bed.

About five minutes before kick-off you'd observe a bloke purposefully strolling along carrying Asda bags containing shopping for his mam who can't get out to the shops very easily since her operation. Often he'd have a kid or two in tow, who were obedient to his word. One of the players from the side where 9 of them had managed to turn up would spot our hero, and shout him over. "Ow, Paul, get a strip on mate, we're short."

Paul would reply that he'd love to, but he'd promised his brother-in-law that he would swap his Orion's gearbox over. Despite this protest, the rest of the squad would join in: "owway Paul man, we'll get battered unless you play", "but we've got nowt in midfield", "come on Paul, just the first half, eh?"

Paul would then give a long sigh, put the bags of shopping down, tell the kids not to eat any of the Breakaways or Trios, then strip off and put on a spare shirt which would be either far too tight or ridiculously big. Either way, the shorts would always be voluminous, and torn up the seam on one side. Lack of shinpads wouldn't bother him, and chances are he'd have to play in his trainers rather than boots. Once suitably attired, he would spark up a Benson to get his lungs going, quickly sucking the life out of it and flicking the tab-end off the pitch just as the ref blew for kick-off.

After a few minutes it would be obvious why Paul had been persuaded into playing. Everything seemed to flow through him, turning defence into attack with a well-timed tackle followed by a swift pass, he was always on the spot where a loose ball dropped, won every header he challenged for, and kept everything really simple. Rarely venturing into the opposition half, he would offer strong words of encouragement to his hapless team-mates, keep them in the right position, and making sure their heads didn't drop when they inevitably conceded.

Two more Bensons at half time would keep the lungs going, and towards the end of the match he would show no signs of fatigue. A grafter with a proper engine. Invariably he would be on the losing side, but he would be able to hold his head up high, winning the admiration of the other team as well as his own.

He would quickly change into his civvies after the final whistle, pick up the bags of shopping, summon the kids, and he'd be off to deliver the shopping before heading round to his sister's house to sort out the gearbox on her husband's Orion.

I can't think of many Poolies who won't wish him all the best with Oldham, whom he's now signed for until the end of the season, and rest assured he will be remembered for many years as a truly quality player.
Last Stand

GREAT GRANDAD SHOUTY on giving youth its chance

The result at Portsmouth was both unexpected and out of this world. To travel that distance and get a result must have warmed the cockles of the hearts of the two hundred or so Poolies who made the trip down there. The significance of the result for me was that two of the goals came from players under the age of twenty and this surely provides the one lifeline that might be available to us in escaping relegation to League Two.

Can John Hughes get the bit between his teeth and change his selection strategy? We can only hope and wait. In addition to Jack Baldwin and Greg Rutherford, we have of course Luke James who has hardly got a look in this season once he returned to full fitness. The one occasion when he was given a chance - against Stevenage - he caused their defence quite a few problems.

But what happened then? He was relegated to playing a bit part! Its quite probable that we've left it too late but what's the harm in gambling now? A change of strategy is worth the risk - after all, the young 'uns can't do any worse. This season has been all about late goals and, of course, a propensity to give away penalties. (We can't blame referees this season - on the whole they've been a good bunch of whistlers). If you add our inability to score goals then its not surprising that the Poolie faithful get despondent when the opposition score first. You know that the players' heads will go down and there's going to be no way back."A change of strategy is worth the risk - after all, the young 'uns can't do any worse."

Take the Preston game on New Year's Day. Preston were a crap side and could well accompany us into League Two. Yet, the only time Pools looked like scoring was when Scott Flinders made a foray into the Preston penalty area in added time.

I suppose that the one saving grace is that Pools are still a well run club - unlike Portsmouth and Coventry. There's still a possibility that Portsmouth may go into administration again thus getting a ten point deduction and this will mean Pools being no longer bottom of the league. Sounds harsh, but Portsmouth chased the dream and fell flat on their faces.

Another club in League One who are having problems are Coventry. They've been having difficulties in paying their rent and whilst they may have beaten us 5-0 at home at least Pools pay Hartlepool Council the rent on Victoria Park. Normally, my wife and I go down to the West Midlands to see our grand daughter and her partner and this always coincides with an away trip for Pools in this part of the world. This year, I'll be making my first visit to Coventry so let's hope we can get some revenge for the drubbing we received in the home game.
One bit of news in recent times which interested me was the fact that Jake Kean is now number one keeper at Blackburn. Remember him? He came to us on loan as a nineteen year old expecting to be the stand-in for Andy Rafferty. Yet, within days of arriving, a serious hand injury to Scott Flinders meant that he was pitched into the number one spot. And how he took the chance! Well done, Jake, may your career go from strength to strength.

Things, of course, have also been happening elsewhere and I suppose the highlight of the month was Bradford City's winning through to the League Cup Final. They became experts at winning penalty shoot outs as Pools found to their cost in the Johnson's Paint Trophy. Best of luck, Bradford, may you lift the trophy and get a spot in Europe.

Then, of course, there was Ferguson's rant about the non penalty against Spurs. Had Manchester United won 1-0 would we have heard any complaints against the assistant referee? The guy does more twittering than Dave, our grandsons' budgie, so put a sock in it and give us some bloody peace.
In some ways, footy is under some pressures from other sports - success in the Olympics, golfers doing well and Andy Murray proving that he has the bottle in Grand Slam tournaments. Its going to be interesting to see how clubs in the bog standard Premier League react to this challenge. People have to count their pennies these days and the response of clubs like Pools and Bradford City in offering cut price season tickets shows a great deal of reality. That can't be said of those top clubs who seem to think they're immune from all goings on in the wider world. Beware, nothing is set in stone.

Am I still showing some optimism about Pools? Its certainly been tested over the past few months but providing the selection policy is changed, you never know... My nightmare scenario is that we put together a decent run and go down in the last match of the season. Still that will have proved that some effort was made.