Showing posts from March, 2013
Yeovil - As I seen it!


Pools 0 - 0 Yeovil   Saturday March 9th

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at The Vic


Luscombe for Baldwin was the only change in the line up as Pools took on Yeovil today, and everyone was saying it is do or die, and three points was the order of the day as frayed nerves were showing in the face of the lads running out of games to save the season, as they continue the fight for survival.

It did not help when we lost the toss and had to kick down bank the first half - always an omen and today the vultures were circling in numbers. Well, seagulls, but my mate Ken from up north was easily convinced. Ken was talking about going home early as he was expecting snow but for a fan that has missed 60% of our late goals this season, talking about going home early before the kick off was bad. With twenty minutes left I was asking him to leave to see if it would change our luck and we could score.

We started brightly enough and a goalmouth scramble saw Pools putting a lot of pressure on the visitors. Sadly Poole could not force the ball past the diving keeper. We caught the visitors offside a few times in the first fifteen minutes as Pools pushed up on to their forwards, but the game was becoming bogged down in midfield as both teams gave the ball away and neither could make the telling pass to break out.

Hartley cleared one missed punch by Ned who had to be on top form as two Yeovil strikers pounced on the ball. From the Town End we all though for a second they had scored as the volley hit the bar and bounced down in a 1966 Russian lino moment, but fortunately the ball was hoofed clear as the Yeovil fans and players appealed. It looked like one of those games where we put in all the work and they sneak a winner.

Luscombe, carrying the ball across the box, hit a shot that was blocked and RH hit the rebound back in, but just wide from twenty five yards. We managed to make it to half time but the signs were there that we were in for a tough fight against a form team.

A great chase down to the flag by Franks , who took the ball from a defender and crossed for Poole, but his shot was over the bar. Horwood came down the right after winning a tackle on the half way line and sent in a great cross that was cleared, but from then on we were under the cosh, boosted by our lack of scoring when we had them under quite a bit of pressure. Like a lot of visitors to the Vic this season, they knew they had little to fear from our attack.

"You could almost hear the cries of BANZAI as wave after wave of the yellow peril came at us."Defensively we were getting pulled apart, and some desperate work by Hartley in particular kept us in the game. You could almost hear the cries of BANZAI as wave after wave of the yellow peril came at us. And even clearances were difficult to come by as Pools miss-hit so many passes and clearances, and it was hard to watch the ball coming straight back.

Luscombe was replaced by Monky, who, in the past you might have thought could give you a chance of a goal, but not these days, as he only managed to get himself booked for a stupid foul through frustration, as he had just lost possession down the wing. Within a minute Walton was booked for a similar offence as the pressure on the lads grew.

One criticism of the substitutions was Franks being pulled for Sweeney, as he was probably our only threat during the game. Sweeney did go close with almost his first touch - he tested the keeper but with the changes and the fact that Yeovil stepped up their game we became more disjointed and less effective.

You can argue that it is now six games at home unbeaten but at the end of the day it will come down to others deciding our future in the division and we could look back on these games with regret as they have been winnable, especially today when other games went in our favour.                 

Colchester - As I seen it!


Pools 0 - 0 Colchester   Tuesday March 5th

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at The Vic


Despite the fact that Manure were on telly getting stuffed at home by the Special One I thought we might lose on the gate, but it looked as if the Colchester fans decided to stay at home and watch a Real team. Having said that would there have been more than a bus full down at Western Homes Community Stadium on a bleak Tuesday night? 

We won the toss, which was a good sign, which meant we would be kicking down bank the second half. After a swift run down the flanks, a good cross and a poor shot, we could have been one down on the two-minute mark. We rallied the troops, and shortly after a Franks cross set up Poole whose shot was blocked and Baldwin had a snap shot at the rebound. 
It was a very physical game from the off and Pools, who have always been lacking in the muscle department were getting battered every time we made a challenge. Aussie after taking some stick ran to challenge near the dug out and gave his opponent a shove and he went over the barrier, which was good to see, him taking no nonsense from some big players. The big centre back with an unpronounceable name continually laid over Walton who never won a header against him, but he was warned by the ref, but to little effect. 

My mate Ken thought the ref was weak despite him coming from the same neck of the woods - Durham. One big problem throughout the half was the amount of possession we wasted by poor passing, and quite a few of the Pools players were guilty. This was really annoying the home fans and gifting easy chances for the opposition to break and threaten. 

Poole took a lot of stick from some huge defenders yet stuck to his task and came close to opening the scoring three times in a short spell of magic from the Pool striker. Jack Baldwin went down after jumping for a ball from a corner but I think he twisted his knee rather than it being a foul on him by Morrison in the challenge. Baldwin had to leave the field, which was a shame considering he was playing so well. 

Shortly after, Ibehre was rightly sent off for a foul on Aussie. He sent him base over apex as he slid in with his foot raised. Once again Ken defended his friend from Durham but Ken was in a minority. 
"It was a very physical game from the off and Pools, who have always been lacking in the muscle department were getting battered every time we made a challenge."
Second half we were kicking downhill and the extra man advantage was starting to tell, and it was backs to the wall for the ten-man defence of Colchester. I counted four times they managed to break free and cause any problem in the half as we battered them throughout. Poole chipped a ball up and had a shot reminiscent of his last goal but the big Chelsea keeper kept him at bay. He should have stayed at Chelsea as he thwarted our forwards making some fine saves and he was the difference in the second half especially. 

Luscombe came on and had a decent half as we made more openings but just could not get a clean shot on goal. Luscombe (header), Wyke (shot), and Poole all wasted chances in an almighty goalmouth scramble as the lads hammered the Colchester defence once again. Hartley was bodily dragged to the ground in their box in front of the man from Durham who ignored it. Howard had a man on his back in one attack literally hanging over his shoulders, yet Howard was ruled offside. 

The lively Poole had one chance at the far post he could not turn in, and the best chance of the game when he latched onto a ball and hit a sweet shot to the top corner but the Chelsea man got a hand to it and pushed it onto the bar. Poole again sidestepped his man on the edge of the box and chipped a ball to Howard but the ball was cleared. RH rolled back the years and even attempted an overhead kick that he kept in play, he even had a chuckle at his attempt. 

I cannot find any fault in the application of the Pools players in this performance, which deserved so much more than a point. Colchester defended resolutely and got the rub of the green but the truth was they were in panic all of the second half at the spirit of the Pools attack. 

 Any one of them could have been Man-of-the-Match today.


GREAT GRANDAD SHOUTY thinks the thinkable

As I write these notes, we've just defeated Scunthorpe, making it six on the trot undefeated. All the talk is now about re - making The Great Escape with a possible screening next May. Which misfits will play the roles made famous by Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, James Garner and others is anyone's guess. Something to tax the mind in the dark nights.

The main advantage for Pools came before the game against Notts County - namely, that Lee Hughes wasn't in the side. He had, of course, been transferred to Port Vale in the transfer window and wasn't I relieved. Another Windass, he was always a pain in the proverbial when appearing against Pools. And then there was the sacking of Keith Curle the day after Pools beat them 2-1. This was the second season running that Notts County sacked their manager after getting beat by Pools. Martin Allen was, of course, the unfortunate one last season. Must be something in the sea air that does it.

"Perhaps the most disappointing result in the unbeaten run was the 0-0 draw against Portsmouth. It was pretty dire stuff"Then there was the game against Leyton Orient. I know that Russell Slade felt hard done by losing those two late goals but, in this case, it was deja vu. The number of times that Pools have been victims of late goals shows that what comes around goes around. Having said that, I liked Leyton Orient's style of play - disciplined at the back and a midfield that was prepared to move into the open spaces and adopt the notion that the best way towards the opponent's goal is to advance in a forward direction. Too often, Pools play the ball back thus giving their opponents time to regroup and organise themselves. After Pools got the equalising goal, the fans weren't going to let them sit back and get the draw. With five minutes added time, a victory was the only option. And the Poolies let them know. One up for fan power.

Perhaps the most disappointing result in the unbeaten run was the 0-0 draw against Portsmouth. It was pretty dire stuff - maybe nerves got the better of Pools in that game. Still, Pools are now off the bottom of the table and the only way is surely 'up'. What was heartening about that game was the turn out of Pompey fans - one hell of a trip on a Tuesday night. It now looks as though the fans' buy out of Portsmouth will now go ahead thus avoiding an expulsion from the Football League.

We've got some crucial games coming up - not least home games against Colchester, Bury and MK Dons, who have slipped behind the pace setters just recently. And then there's an away game against Oldham. Other reasons for keeping the faith. I've never known such a long period when Pools have fielded an unchanged side - even the substitutes are predictable. Glad to see Luke James getting his chance - he's one of the players who can take advantage of Steve Howard's superiority in the air - witness the winner against Leyton Orient.

Whatever the outcome for Pools' quest for safety, one thing is for certain - we now need other results to go our way. In previous seasons, we could always say that our destiny was in our own hands - not this season, it isn't. Only last week, when Oldham played at Stevenage I was heartened when Stevenage took a 1-0 lead only for my hopes to be dashed by two Oldham goals. There are going to be more results like these which will test the nerve ends.

Goings-on elsewhere also caught my attention, particularly those at Swindon. They were a club who signed Uncle Tom Cobbley and all at the start of the season, and it now looks as though they overstretched themselves. It all finished up with Tommy Miller helping to run the side. Had they beaten Pools, they would have gone top of League One -hardly a good moment to have turmoil within a club. Then there was Oldham who lost manager Paul Dickov soon after dumping Liverpool out of the FA Cup. Ungrateful lot - beating Liverpool must have put thousands in the coffers.

A lot of discussion has centered around the FA Cup and whether it has been devalued, particularly by the big clubs. For clubs like Pools, the FA Cup can be a good diversion from the league and if you reach the third round there is always a chance of drawing a club from the bog standard Premier League. My ambition would be to draw Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea or Arsenal on one of those special Poolie days - a force 10 wind blowing off the North Sea and lashing it down with rain. The chances of the game being shown live on TV would be good, thus ensuring that the game wouldn't be postponed.

In terms of the League Cup, I've never seen so much interest in the competition, bearing in mind the two clubs' past histories - Swansea when they nearly dropped out of the Football League and Bradford City who are using the final to remember those fifty six supporters who died at Bradford in 1985. In terms of the Champions League, we could see the last eight line-up without an English club. Chelsea and Manchester City are out; Arsenal are just about out; and Manchester United are by no means certain to get through against Real Madrid. Maybe the Premier League isn't as strong as certain vested interests think it is.

BILLY'S CONTRACT on Spenny and Darlo

In the last edition of Monkey Business I wrote about taking in the recent Premiership game between Sunderland and the Happy Hammers. For my troubles our august editor labelled me as 'Traitorous.' So it is therefore with some trepidation that I pen this next piece and fully expect the ire of our editor once more branding me a quisling or at best a ne’er-do-well.

I must admit to of late taking an interest in league division seventy three, keeping an eye on the title race between Spennymoor and our former rivals Darlington village. In short Darlo are top of the league by a substantial margin, but if Spenny win all their two dozen games in hand they will pip Darlo to claim the league title.

"I must admit to of late taking an interest in league division seventy three, keeping an eye on the title race between Spennymoor and our former rivals Darlington village."Many Darlo supporters are under the illusion that all the other teams in this division should roll over and die whenever they play them so that they can gain automatic promotion. Darlo could even have a safety cushion in that if they finished as runners up to The Moors they would still be promoted - in the past couple of years Spenny who have won the league twice on the bounce but have not bothered to take promotion for financial reasons. This allows the runners up to take their promotion place should they wish to do so.

Two flies in the ointment though, One: Darlo have lost 4 games in this league. Spenny unbeaten. Two; Whether they have just done this out of badness, Spenny have applied for promotion should they win the title. Believe me when I tell you that Darlo fans are worried. Very worried.

With that I decided to take in the Spenny v Darlo fixture (’er do well! Editor) mainly in the hope of seeing their recent acquisition, namely one Mr Adam Boyd, cracking home the winner well into time added on. Disappointingly he did not even make the bench on the night.

I met up with my Spenny supporting mate a tad later than expected due to the sat nav taking me to Kirk Merrington, wherever that is. It was just as well that I went with him as on the two other occasions that I have been to The Brewery ground I haven't a clue how I found the place nor how I got home.

Spenny’s ground is a tidy affair and reminds me in part of a smaller version of Scarborough’s now defunct McCain stadium, apart from the fact that Spenny only have two stands and are a good way off the coast.

The one thing that instantly strikes you about the field of play is the extreme slope/incline/ski jump/ramp of the pitch. In fact it was very reminiscent of the same downward slant the ill fated Titanic had two hours after it had struck the iceberg.

We elected to stand in the popular end which was like being back in the Rink End in the seventies. People smoking, plus many of the locals supping pints of beer on the terraces, but best of all was the craic and some of the chants, by far and away a lot more original and funnier that what we hear in league football. 'You stole my caravan' being my favourite along with 'you're just a small town in Bishop' and the sarcastic ‘You can stick your Yorkshire puddings up your arse’, alluding to the fact that Darlington is not really in Durham. Darlo countered with highly original ‘C'mon Darlo, C'mon Darlo’ and some other chant in which Pools got a mention.

The crowd itself numbered 2,600, which was a record for this league. Ironically the 4 lads who were stood adjacent to me were all from Hartlepool, and I recognised another Victoria Park regular further down the terrace. Another first on the night was the debut of Spenny’s new floodlights. A record crowd, new floodlights, fellow Poolies in attendance, I was living the dream!

Spenny, unbeaten in the league all season began the game kicking down the slope in the first half playing some lovely fast attacking football, with their wingers absolutely shredding Darlo’s two static full backs. I’m Unsure how Boydie would cope with the speed at this level being honest. In truth Spenny should have been four or five up after half an hour, but only had a converted penalty to show for their efforts.

Typically as is always the case the team that is under the cosh gets a piece of luck and with their first attempt on goal after thirty minutes or so the Quackers levelled with what has to be said was a stunning 35 yard effort (yes, I did applaud). At last the Darlo fans found their voices to which the Spenny faithful chanted back 'We forgot that you where here'.

In the second half Spenny seemed to struggle kicking uphill, and alarmingly seemed to run out of steam. Darlo's main tactic was to boot the ball down hill wide for their wing men to run onto and put a cross in, which in fairness though not pleasing to the eye proved to be effective as they scored twice more.

Whilst all this was going on some 50 year old Darlo fans in the side paddock made their way over to the Spenny end next to the corner flag and began chanting 'You're going to get you f------ heads kicked in.' to a young cluster of Spenny fans who looked like they had just finished their paper rounds.

There was no way back for Spennymoor, two down was a bridge too far or perhaps a hill too steep for them to conquer and in fairness to their fans in the 90th minute they were chanting 'We'll sing to the end we'll sing to the end.' which is what indeed they did do.

You can laugh at this level of football. Yes, the goals looked like they were constructed of scaffold poles and the incline of the pitch looked like the north side of the Eiger, but I enjoyed every minute of it apart from the result because even though they are several tiers below us in terms of league status it is still good to see Darlo get beat at any level.

I have to say my feelings about Darlo on the night were ambivalent. They looked like a non-league side playing in washed out looking red shirts and a team that the current Pools squad prior to our recent revival would probably give a good thumping to.

Darlo now have a psychological advantage over Spenny having beaten them in their own backyard, but if nothing else to reword the old cliché, Spenny can now concentrate on the two cups they are in. One gets the feeling that a Wembley appearance is more of a priority to them than winning the league at this juncture.

Message to the editor; I know that this is a Hartlepool fanzine but in the next edition of Monkey Business I promise that you can expect a match report from me from The Vic...on Gatesheed.

KT POOLIE reports on racist abuse

The football authorities have launched an inquiry into the management of the growing number of racist incidents at clubs throughout Europe.

A furious Mr Blatterini urged authorities to act swiftly and follow their lead or suffer severe censure: “There is no excuse for such outrageous behaviour at a football match and national organisers must act with the utmost speed and energy to stamp out this cancer from our game”.

His comments follow cases throughout Europe at major clubs where black players are frequently subject to vile invective from a substantial number of supporters. Just last month one player, with the support of his team mates, walked off during a match in Italy following vitriolic abuse from the stands.
"national organisers must act with the utmost speed and energy to stamp out this cancer from our game"
“Failure to take decisive steps causes unnecessary anxiety and cheapens the game in the eyes of the public.”

The international body has now put in place a fast-track blame management structure which can issue fines and three-match bans to the abused players before the game has finished.

“Oh, and to be fair”, continued Blatterini, “we also send a harsh letter to the club asking them if they would mind asking the perpetrators to tone it down a bit next time.”

RUNNING MONKEY sees Pools win - easily

 Pools 3 Crewe 0 at the Vic, February 26th

On the way to the Vic the wireless said an unchanged team once again for Pools, once again the manager Mr. Hughes was sticking the lads who had performed so well at Scunthorpe.

The fans in the Vic were buzzing about that result, none of the weary willies turning up and moaning, it was bouncing once again with belief in the team. Even early doors the fans were flocking in and the final count for the day was 3509 with only a smattering in the Crewe end.

My mate Ken, who I can only describe as an optimistic pessimist, as he has served his time on the terraces of the old and new Hartlepool Excited had a smile on his face. He had never been so happy since he won the wet T shirt competition at a Tow Law fete last summer.
"our attack was more direct - not the slow, sideways build up of old, and it was bringing results."
The first ten minutes dented the ego a little as Crewe set about Pools, stretching us wide and piling down the middle in numbers, and playing some good football. It was obvious from the start that the Crewe side wanted to target the Pools full backs, as both of them were limping early on after coming out of tackles. Why do refs let tackles like that go early in the game? Ken said that he thought Evan should be taken off as he limped through to half time, but Ken forgot Evan is a Poolie and is as hard as nails, and played a fantastic game. The same with Aussie but none of the lads wanted to leave this game.

There was an early shout for a penalty for Pools when a Horwood free kick bounced around the box. The crowd spotted it, as did the players, but the man in black waved play on. It was turning into a cup tie type of game as Pools pressured the Crewe side, getting up in front of them and our attack was more direct - not the slow, sideways build up of old, and it was bringing results.

James Poole and Charlie Wyke are creating a great partnership, and Franks is playing out of his skin. What confidence a goal makes to a player. All the strikers were trying their luck at any opportunity and it was good to see. Baldwin playing in midfield was immense. He lost one ball and got up and chased his man down and made one of the best recovering tackles in the box I have seen at the Vic, he was superb. He was also battering the goal at the other end, firing just wide from distance.

A combination of Franks, Baldwin and Wyke brought the first strike for Pools as the winger made a great run down the left and sent in a lovely cross that Baldwin won and headed into the path of Wyke, who put Pools one up. It was well-deserved lead as the build up play from Pools was superb. Walton went off and you could see the frustration as he punched the sides of the tunnel as he left the field, but Twitter says a couple of days will see if there is a problem. Such a shame as he has become a key player during this run.

Monky came on and Pools were now running the show, Crewe were playing how we used to play and hoofing the ball out aimlessly wereas Pools were creating all over the pitch. Franks is S^(! hot at the moment, chasing and harrying, what a difference a goal has made to his play. Now we understand what Cooper saw in him - a confident, pacy winger with a great shot.

Poole laid on a nice ball for Franks and in this mood he just runs through defenders and he did just that and struck a low shot past the Crewe keeper to make it two nil to Pools just before the break.

The chant of “we are unbeatable” from the fans never sounded so good. There was at least five minutes extra time played, as there must have been a record number of head clashes in the half.
The fans took great pleasure in encouraging Buster Gallagher the Pools physio to win the race to the stricken players.

The second half we all expected Crewe to come at us but it was the Pools side that was dominant throughout. They relied more and more on the long ball and the keeper hoying into our half, but Pools were now playing all the football. Ken noticed at half time that all of the Crewe subs went into the dressing room at half time, which was odd. Maybe a change was on the cards but not at the restart.

Early in the second half Wyke chased a lost cause down to the corner flag, and as the defender tried to usher the ball out, Wyke nicked it from him and set up Poole, who ran into the box and hit a belter, but the keeper got lucky and blocked it. Evan Horwood, who Ken had  thought should have been withdrawn earlier, hit an even stronger drive that was blocked and another hand ball claim was dismissed by the man in black, who angered the home fans as he had just pulled up Richie for a similar offence just a minute earlier as Pools piled on the pressure.

Again Jonathan Franks picked up the ball, skipped past the Crewe defence, and hit a hell of a strike that was just wide, with the keeper scrambling along his goal line. Ned made a great clearing punch as Crewe tried to rally but they were under the cosh from a rampant Pools attack. As they could see the game was lost they became more physical, but Pools broke free again in numbers and Luscombe hit a shot that bounced off the keeper and Wyke had two strikes at it before it dropped for Monky who hit the ball home, sending the home fans into raptures. How different from such a short time ago when we could not even buy a goal.

This was a masterful, outstanding performance from the team and so many could have won the Man of the Match, award but from the keeper to the strikers and subs it was a fantastic team performance.

Well done Mr. Hughes for making them believe again. Lets hope we can do it.

POOLIE IN NOTTINGHAM on big-money transfers

The recent performances by Jack Baldwin have apparently drawn the attention of some 'bigger' teams than Pools. It's not surprising really given his ability and age. What would surprise me though is if he gets snapped up by a Premiership club, even one of the also-rans like Stoke or Sunderland. It just doesn't seem to happen these days.
" what kept us going through the dark and penniless days of the past was the hope that every year or two we could nurture a talent who would go onto better things, bringing in a few bob to keep the bailiffs at bay"
Some of you may remember the transfer of a young Don Hutchison from Pools to Liverpool, at a time when the 'other' Pool were still the biggest team in the country, the equivalent of today's Manure. He walked pretty much into their first team, enjoyed a decent career with Liverpool and other teams in the top flight, even winning plenty of caps (and captaining) Scotland.

Not so long after that, Joe Allon was snapped up by Chelsea, who although in the top flight were nothing like the moneybags pack of rarfs like they are today.

It's really hard to imagine something like this occurring now. Blame the Bosman ruling, TV money, the number of overseas players now prevalent throughout the leagues, or the increasingly sharp tactics of the larger clubs when it comes to hoovering up young talent, but the fact remains the once common practice of lower league players making a dream move to the top tier seems to be a thing of the past.

In recent years it's difficult to think of any players that have gone from Pools to a team in the division above us, let alone the top flight. Tommy Miller, Jon Cullen, Boydy, Dimi, and Tommy Butler are the only ones that spring to mind. We've never really been a production line of talent in the same vein as Crewe (who has?), but what kept us going through the dark and penniless days of the past was the hope that every year or two we could nurture a talent who would go onto better things, bringing in a few bob to keep the bailiffs at bay.

I have long held onto a hope that the financial bubble within football would burst dramatically, but another part of me thinks that it will just grow even more distorted, with wealth becoming increasingly concentrated at the top. If this proves to be the case, even less money will trickle down to the smaller clubs in the form of transfer fees, thus the vicious circle goes round.
Whatever happens in the future, it is just good to see some young lads finally getting their chance to impress. Not since Cooper's first spell at the helm have we seen so many youngsters in the first team. Whilst not all of them are up to scratch, some should make the grade, and if the long-overdue clearout finally does take place this summer, they really will have to step up to the plate.
Who knows, we may even see a star in the making find his way to the 'other' Pool again - although it is much more likely to be Blackpool in all honesty.

CENTRAL PARK on persons with flags

I’m getting absolutely fed up with the antics of linesmen and referees and the way they go about their business. Part of me thinks that it is not necessarily their fault, but they have done precious little to help themselves over the years, and it is about time they started sticking up for themselves as a body, even to the point of starting their own union if they haven’t already got one.

The laws of the game haven’t changed very much since they were formulated all those years ago and one of the most basic is that the referee makes every decision (unless of course the team of a certain purple- nosed Scotsman is involved, in which case all bets are off). In the discharge of his duties the referee has the help of two linesmen who offer their opinion mainly on possible off-side, throw-ins and corner kicks but also on anything else that catches their eye that they think the referee might want to know about.

" it seems to me, from my vantage point in the Town End, that the lads on the Mill House terraces are letting linesmen off pretty lightly these days."When I first went to ‘Pools, more than sixty years ago, all the above was understood by everybody in the ground. Sometimes the linesman would indicate that a throw in should be taken by one team only for the referee to indicate that it should be taken by their opponents. When this happened there would be occasional barracking from the crowd, depending on whose side they were on, and the game would continue as directed by the referee. No problem you might think. Two grown men seeing things, literally from different angles, having a civilised difference of opinion with one accepting the authority of the other as clearly stated in the laws.

All going well then, until some clown, round about the1980s, thought he would improve things by removing any indication that the referee and linesman might not have seen things the same way no matter their different vantage points. Much to the howls of derision from the crowd it became the practice for linesmen (by the way Sepp, you can KMBFA and then sod-off, they will always be linesmen to me – even when they are women) to indicate the throw in for one team and then immediately signal in favour of the other team if the referee disagreed with him. No matter how quickly the flag changed direction the crowd could plainly see that the linesman had formed a different opinion to the referee and had been overruled.

Why they should do this is beyond me. Why doesn’t the linesman simply put his flag down by his side in such circumstances and let the game proceed in the way that the referee has directed instead of being made to look like an old style communist admitting his crimes against the proletariat?

If that wasn’t bad enough the authorities have contrived to make things even worse.

With the exception of ‘off-side’ we now have the situation in many games where the linesman doesn’t give any signal at all until he sees what the referee has decided and then he indicates his agreement with the referee.

This can happen when the linesman might be fifteen yards from the incident and the referee about forty-five yards away.

We see the referee taking his time to make his mind up and then the linesman indicating his agreement which leads the crowd to think that the linesman hasn’t been watching or doesn’t have a clue what is going on, which isn’t always the case.

So where there has been a controversial decision given against the home team the referee sprints off to follow the game leaving the linesman to run the gauntlet of the home fans where he can hear every word of disapproval.

I have even seen incidents when the referee awards a penalty and then the linesman holds his flag across his chest to show that he too now believes a penalty should be awarded, even though he had not signalled to this effect when the incident occurred. It seems that the ref only consults the linesman when he doesn’t know what to give and at that point brings the linesman into it.

For the more unscrupulous referees, and there is no shortage of such, this is a good way to pass the blame to the linesman for any decision likely to incense the home crowd.

One good example of this is the first leg of the play-off final against the ‘legion of the damned’ in 2000. One of our players was through on goal when he was brought down by a tackle by Craig Liddle. The referee could have given a free kick and let play re-start. Or he could have given a free kick and shown a red card to the offender. As it was he made a great display of consulting his linesman on whether or not the offender was the ‘last man’ and ended up giving a free kick and showing a yellow card. After all the palarver it was obvious to the Hartlepool crowd just who was responsible for Craig Liddle staying on the pitch –to then score a goal against us later on. (Just for the record it was my opinion that the correct decision would have been a free kick and no card at all).

Then there was that silly little man with the black moustache; not Charlie, not Adolph, but Kevin – Lynch that is. I remember the match against you know who in 1997 when Joe Allon scored in injury time in front of the tin shed to win the game for us. Kevin had been giving decisions all afternoon but when that one hit the net he spent an age staring at his linesman willing him to indicate that the goal should not be given, before reluctantly pointing to the centre spot. His indecision was probably because the goal was so late in the game and meant so much to the outcome of the season that he wanted to be absolutely right. Either that or he was remembering some of the comments that had been directed his way in the past at Victoria Park and wanted to get his own back. I’m probably going too far here. After all no referee would be so small minded as to deliberately give bad decisions against a team because he had a grudge against them, would he Mr. Stretton?

Why am I going on about this apparent lack of any disagreement between the lineman and the referee? Because it bloody irritates me - that’s why. Moreover it also irritates the rest of the crowd and brings down unwarranted abuse on the linesman: this latter is not a phrase I use very often, or lightly.

While I’m on the topic of abuse of linesmen it seems to me, from my vantage point in the Town End, that the lads on the Mill House terraces are letting linesmen off pretty lightly these days. I seem to remember that when I stood in that area there was a constant stream of criticism directed at the man with the flag (even when he was right) in order to disorientate him so that we might gain some small advantage for the lads on the pitch. Definitely an area for improvement I think.

Well I’ve made my feelings known but will any change for the better come of it? Not a chance. Still I feel a bit better now that I’ve got it off my chest.

RUNNING MONKEY sees some familiar faces

Gateshead F.C. 0 - 1 Wrexham F.C. at the Vic

Due drainage to problems at the Gateshead stadium the team were tired of playing continuous away games, so they came to Hartlepool to play Wrexham. There was a good turnout of fans from both sides that were seated at either end of the CK stand. 

My loyalties were split, as I wanted to support the home team yet the old stager Chris Westwood was turning out for the visitors. Watching Westy warm up, he looked to be in good shape and still has the locks. He had possibly the best chance of the game for them winning a header from a corner that just skimmed the post. 

"Brownie played the full game at centre forward, but at a different pace to what we were used to when he was fit"They are the form team in the division and are getting crowds of three and a half thousand for home games. There were a few names in the side we all should remember: Steven Wright, who did a short spell for Pools is still a hard tackling full back, Brett Ormerod of Blackpool fame, and Glen Little who played at a high level. 
The home team was like a Who's Who of ex-Poolies: Brownie played the full game at centre forward, but at a different pace to what we were used to when he was fit, and he did scuff a sitter wide late in the game that would have given them a point. Phil Turnbull, one of the twins, had a good game in midfield.  We all remember the Toon loanee Ryan Donaldson - well he has not improved his temper, which gets in the way of his football, and he put one over the Town End with only the keeper to beat. 

Ben Clark stamps round his old stamping ground
Ben Clark came on as a late sub for the home team but like some of the old stagers they know how to conserve their energy. One kid I was impressed with was the ex Darlo player Chandler. He was all over the pitch breaking up play and charging forward. What he lacked in height he made up for in grit. The home fans were in great voice, which lasted till the second half when they went a goal down. Some great chants and a few renditions of God Save the Queen belted out to the Welsh visitors. The usual sheep taunts and "You're Welsh and You Know You Are" aimed at the subs as they warmed up. 

"Your Hat's Too Big" even had the sub laughing. "When the ‘HEID’ Go Marching In" was a favourite, but playing away but playing at home was a good shout. By late in the game it was so far out of tune probably due to the local water served at the Vic. 

One luckless Wrexham player called the ref over to say he had been hit on the head by an object only for the ref to laugh it off as it was a piece of chuddy. So six defeats on the trot for the luckless Gateshead who have another seven games to play at the Vic, It depends on the opposition as to whether I return.

Robot and Frank

BILL THE BIRO presents a new Bizzco book

Those with long memories may remember a few years back in the printed Bizz days, we used to do spoof magazines of all sorts. 

Among them we also did a couple of guide books, one to a town called Dalrington and the other to a city called Leades. Well now, with an away match coming up at Coventry, and some of us at MB having connections with the place, we thought it was time to see how another might work online. So, er, just click on the link:

It's a PDF file, so you'll need Adobe Reader (or Foxit Reader or similar) and it will open in a new window.
This one uses the town's real name, and most of the content is actually true, so that's a bit of a departure for us.