Showing posts from April, 2013
Bury - As I seen it!


Pools 2 - Bury 0   Saturday April 6th

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at The Vic


This was called the make or break game as far as Pools fans were concerned after another slump of eight games without any success whatsoever - even the die hard fans like my mate Ken were planning trips to Accrington and Torquay next season. 

On paper it looked like curtains for Pools for sometime now, after the jubilation of the never-say-die mini revival we had way back in October at the Wendies, when we spoiled their party. Whatever happens, this season was lost a long time ago and if we are granted a miracle then we need to take a long hard look our situation

Everyone and his dog will have a solution and a list of who to dump, who to keep, and what targets we should be looking at. All the plans of fans mean absolutely nothing, and speaking to one or two old faithful today most of them seem to have the impression that the owners have little faith in HUFC and get the impression they are winding down their operation. 

Manager Mr Hughes has reportedly shelved plans to meet the bosses, and concentrate on the last four games of the season, especially today’s game with fellow-strugglers Bury, who at lunchtime were one point above Pools. 

Speaking of bosses, the Town End had a special visitor today. Making his debut home game was none other that the CEO of Monkey Business, Mr Laurence St John Moran, who  decided to pay us an un-announced visit, and take in his first home game of the season. To be fair, he had done Coventry away so we all know who to blame for that one. After the usual pleasantries and introductions and what seemed an age to give the CEO the run down on the side and to tell him names of the unfamiliar Pools players, we settled down to be entertained.
"It was nice to see the team that was suffering today was not Pools"
A fine sunny day at the Vic if not just a tinge of winter left in the wind, but all in all a good day for footy. The game was a little end to end as both teams realised this was the big one and three points could mean so much in a couple of weeks time. Efe Sodje went close with a miss hit that spun the ball onto their bar and as our luck had ran out a long time ago the ball dropped into his keeper's arms.

Talking of Sodje, Ken reckons he must be forty years old but considering all he had to do in the game was clatter the massive Luke James at every opportunity, then he had an easy day. As you know I never criticise officials but Mr Drysdale was very lenient in the case of Sodje, who was losing headers to the mighty Luke and clattered him in the back of the head with his elbow at every opportunity, and he did not always have the ball when he was clattered

Bury looked dangerous down the wings with us having to play against another Manure mercenary,  Ajose, who was quick and did get the better of Sam on one occasion when he bounced the ball off Sam who cleared it round the post, but sorry son you will never make it in the big city.

Wyke was the first Pools player to go close, but as Ken said (and demonstrated), a striker should always head the ball down in that situation not put it over the stand. Monky was lucky to get away with leaving a foot in on a tackle. Ken and I were just finishing our usual game of stone paper scissors and I was just about to win three on the trot when Monky put the ball into the back of the net, A GOAL! Pools had scored a Goal! We did not know whether to laugh or cry as the official ruled it out for a foul, much to the chagrin of the crowd in the corner of the stand who bay at every decision with blinkered vision.

As it happened there were three fouls all committed by Pools players who did the climbing so it made the choice for Mr Drysdale an easy decision. Monky made amends for his misdemeanour as he forced a flick on by Hartley past the keeper with the Bury players claiming they had cleared it. The ref pointed to the centre circle and this time, yes, Pools had scored a GOAL!! It was so long since we celebrated such an occasion that we were not sure what to do. Looking at the clock it was nearly half time so we decided to wait and make sure and celebrate at half time. 

We did have one thing to cheer when Bury were reduced to ten men after Fagan had fouled Holden right in front of the lino, who then spoke to that nice Mr Drysdale, who then sent Fagan off. Looking back on the half we were really battered by Bury throughout as Sodje in particular grounded Luke at every tackle and the wise old fox was getting away with it time after time. My mate Ken explained that it was size that matters, as Luke was only half the size of Sodje then he should expect to get trampled. 

It was a ploy of the opposition to try and unsettle the kids as Holden, James and Baldwin were all singled out for special treatment. Monky was booked, deservedly so, for launching a two-footed tackle in which he left the ground, but my guess was that he was trying to even things out and he is the only one in the Pools side up to that challenge. 

Just before the break both James and Franks were racing each other to get onto a free ball in the box and they got in each other’s way and Franks played it wide. I was shocked as I was already marking it in my notes - Pools two up, as it was a dead-cert that one of them had struck it home. I saw Mr. Drysdale point for a goal kick, which brought the half to an end. But Pools fans were in raptures. Not only were we one nil up (but two nil on my card) we had hit the bar twice, and missed at least three sitters.

The second half, RH came out for Wyke, who had took a knock, and Sodje was finally booked - and not before time - for a foul on Luke. With Bury being a man short they pushed Sodje up front and it was nice to see Sam clatter him in the back of the head with an elbow, and Sodje soon returned to his defensive role. Bury came at us early in the second half but with some stout defending from the Pools defensive line up, we held firm and looked the better side. 

Again Mr Drysdale courted controversy when a Pools player was pulled for a ball-to-hand situation, and within a minute we were penalised for a similar offence, but this time it was just outside of our box, which we cleared up field. Monky then got his second goal as he met a perfect cross from Franks out wide and gave the keeper no chance. TWO GOALS FOR POOLS -  how long is it since we could say that? 

It was nice to see the team that was suffering today was not Pools. There was one moment in this game when you look back on all the ups and downs of being a Pools fan and you witness just one incident that makes it all worthwhile. Not as you might think a goal but a tackle. This tackle was made by young Baldwin when he sprinted forty yards to cut out a player and nicked the ball off the toe of an attacker and even managed to turn on the dead ball line and clear the ball up field. This incident might not sound like much the way I tell it but it, but it was a privilege to witness such pure class from a kid who, if he stays fit, will really make an impact in this game at the top level. 

This was a great team performance despite what some might say about it being too little too late, it still gives us hope, albeit a slim chance, but on that performance I would not bet against us. 

There were some great performances out there today and for the CEO Ned was in goal Austin and Holden were the full backs, Sam and Hartley the centre halves, ably supported by Baldwin, Monky and Walton in midfield, with Franks, James and Wyke being the forwards.


CENTRAL PARK tells it like it is

This season has left me at a complete loss. I’ve run out of things to say, and unlike Alistair Brownlee, who has the gift of being able to talk for hours (or does it just seem that way) long after there is nothing sensible left to say, I am struggling to provide what for me will be my last contribution of the current season. Some of the players seem to have made their last contribution of the season at the end of February – which comment just goes to show the kind of mood I am in.

We all know before a ball is kicked that no matter what happens then at the end of the season four teams will be relegated to the division below; and there is nothing in our history to suggest that the world will be surprised if one of those teams turns out to be Hartlepool United. There is no reason why we should be exempt from the ups and downs of football life, but the manner of our going this year has been more farce than tragedy.

Despite the false dawn of February (and by the way, if this had been in the world of horse racing there would have been a stewards inquiry) I think most of us had accepted before Christmas that there would be no reprieve from what the first half of the season had set in train.

The February madness was very much a mixed blessing. On one hand it made us think that the players were not so bad, but on the other it gave us false hope that the miracle might just happen and that the great escapes of the 1971-2 and 1989 -90 seasons might just be repeated. Most of us (including me) were cheering them on against Leyton Orient and Crewe when in a saner world than that of football we should have been using those performances as evidence for the prosecution, and damning them for not producing such performances much earlier in the season, and much more often.

In my calmer moments I have been trying to work out what went wrong and who is to blame for the fiasco that has been the 2012-3 season, and have come to the conclusion that everybody is at fault to some degree except me, and the other trusting souls who bought season tickets back in May of last year and turned up match after match in the hope that things were going to get better. (Or the motivation could be ‘well I’ve paid for it so I’m going to get my money’s worth’). I assume that those who are turning up are season ticket holders because I daren’t think what would motivate someone to pay full price to stand on the terraces and watch what is going on when they don’t have to.
"Most of us (including me) were cheering them on against Leyton Orient and Crewe when in a saner world than that of football we should have been using those performances as evidence for the prosecution"
So, what of next season? Unfortunately I can’t see things getting any better. I have to admit that I have changed from being an optimist into a very deep pessimist. So long as IOR persist in their policy of supporting the ‘salary cap’ then I can only see a continuing spiral into the depths.

It seems to me that as long as the ‘salary cap’ (or as the authorities like to refer to it ‘the fair play rules’) is in operation then things can only get worse. I don’t think that many people would disagree with me when I say that after relegation there will be a fall-off in income which will leave the club in a weaker position when it comes to offering high enough wages to attract the players that might get us a promotion. So if we don’t get off to a good start then fewer people will be inclined to pay at the gate to watch the team, so income will not improve, so there will be less to spend on the good players who might improve things for us. This pattern will be repeated until we are playing at Grayfields in the Northern League Division One.

Of course there are some people who will say that this scenario is unrealistically pessimistic, as the ‘salary cap’ rules apply to all the other teams in the division and they will observe the rules just as rigidly as IOR – with no exceptions. All those of you who believe this might wish to get in contact with me (via your carer) as I own a bridge in London that you might wish to buy.

There will be some innocent souls who will think that the salary cap will be forced on clubs who don’t really want it and there will be no escape. Well for once I found myself in agreement with Alistair Brownlee who made a throw away remark to his scouse mate Super Brain on the Middlesbrough hour a couple of weeks ago. While discussing the fortunes of Middlesbrough FC when they are subject to the salary cap next season; he remarked, very dismissively “that can be got round”. I believed him, because I understand that he worked in the world of finance before taking to the airwaves, and in that respect he does know what he is talking about.

For those of you who might think that the salary cap is a good idea please bear in mind that it is being strongly supported by Manchester United, and that their support intensified when Manchester City were taken over by someone from the middle-east for who spending money in pursuit of what they want has never been a problem. I think it is a safe bet that whatever Manchester United is in favour of will not be to the advantage of anyone but themselves.

If I have understood the scheme properly then the effect will be to cement the successful clubs in their place, while the less rich clubs get poorer and poorer in the manner described above. All this because some people in Europe, especially that little twerp Platini (as skilful as he was he soon went missing when the blood and snot started flying – no wonder he has ambitions to take over from Blatter), are miffed that English clubs have become too dominant in European competitions over the past ten years or so because of the financial backing of some very rich individuals.

The smoke screen they have put up is that this is a way of reducing the amount of money spent on players’ wages which have somehow become the symbol for all that is wrong in the world.

The whole idea of the salary cap is an abomination. If a club does not wish to pay a player a specific amount of money then it should not sign a contract agreeing to pay that amount of money. If they pay wages they cannot afford and thereby get into financial difficulties, then let them go out of business. I don’t mean that they should lose ten points or some such, but let them cease to exist the way any other bankrupt business would. I think something like that happened to Maidstone twenty or so years ago.

If having arrived at a state of bankruptcy it is considered that the directors of the clubs have taken on financial liabilities in a reckless manner, then let the ordinary law of the land take its course. All the tools needed to deal with profligate football clubs are already in place, without adding this completely unnecessary interference by people with nothing better to do.

Back to Pools. I suspect that at the end of the season all players who are out of contract, and are on other than apprentice wages, will be released and will be replaced, if at all, by much cheaper versions – irrespective of ability. Whether these will be good enough to keep us in the football league will be down to good luck and the judgement of the manager. I have never felt this pessimistic before the start of a new season since July 1989.

Of course I intend to be there, but with a change of vantage point. My friends and I are finally succumbing to the effects of advancing years and have decide to take up residence in the Cyril Knowles stand, where our accumulated knowledge and wit will be freely given to those who are seated near us (as a former chairman of Fulham might have said “you lucky people”). The Town End’s loss will be their gain. We didn’t really want to go in the seats but the one consolation we have is that we will be near enough to the spot where the officials leave the field for us to let them know our opinions of their performance.

In conclusion I would just like to say that whatever happens next season I hope that radio Middlesbrough retain the services of Ivan Ash as the commentator on our away games. If there is one thing positive that you can say about dear old Ivan it is that he is prepared to talk about anything but football to take your mind off things if the team is doing badly – but then again, he does it if they are doing well.

GREAT GRANDAD SHOUTY suffers from a neck affliction

I suppose everyone has a club who they find a pain in the neck.

Some don’t like Leeds on the grounds that they are supposed to have kicked their way to success in the 1960s and 1970s. (Being a Yorkshire pudding, I have to admit having a soft spot for them. And don’t forget that at the end of the 2008/9 season, Leeds beat Northampton Town 3-0 in the final game and thus helped to secure Pools’ place in League One.)

Some don’t like Millwall because of their supporters - “no one likes us and we don’t care” - yet I’ve had a good old natter with some of their supporters both on the message boards and when they’ve come to Pools.

Lots don’t like Man United because of their arrogance and in this they may be on to something. (Why do we always seem to have a national crisis when some referee gets up their nose?)

Having said all that, the club who get up my nose are Coventry City and my animosity is long standing. It starts with the 1976-77 season when Coventry were in the old First Division.
The situation was that on a Thursday night in May, Sunderland were away to Everton and Coventry were at home to Bristol City. The bottom of the table before those games read as follows:

18   Sunderland  34 points Goal Difference -6
19   Bristol City 34 points Goal Difference - 10
20  Coventry      34 points Goal Difference - 11
21  Stoke City   34 points  Goal difference  - 23
22  Spurs           33 points  Goal difference  -24

With Stoke and Spurs already relegated, all that Sunderland needed to do was to get a draw at Goodison Park or hope that either Coventry or Bristol City would win. Yet, it didn’t happen that way. Sunderland were beaten 2-0 and Coventry and Bristol City drew 2-2. Yet it was the circumstances of that 2-2 draw that stuck in the throats of Sunderland supporters and I couldn’t blame them. Coventry got the kick off to their game delayed by about 15 minutes (supposedly because of crowd congestion) and the score at Goodison Park was relayed to the players on the pitch at Highfield Road. The result was that in the closing stages no player at Highfield Road put in a tackle as the players stroked the ball around waiting for the final whistle.
"Do I feel sorry? No chance - it couldn’t have happened to a nicer club"
Naturally, Sunderland fans felt they’d been cheated out of their First Division place and in this they were probably right. . Had the Football League had had any backbone they would have ordered the games to be replayed with a level playing field but that didn’t happen.

Fast forward to the 2005/6 season and Coventry moved to their new ground on the outskirts of  the city. At the end of the previous season, it looked as though Coventry City might be playing on their new ground in League One but they managed to survive in the Championship. The words coming out of Coventry City were that they were pleased to remain in the Championship and wouldn’t want to be welcoming teams like Hartlepool United to their new ground.

Yet, what goes around comes around. This season saw Coventry welcoming Pools and it was a trip I had to make. All I wanted was for Pools to rub their noses in it. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen as Coventry won 1-0 - despite Pools being the better side. It was the same old story of not being able to cash in on our superiority; even then, Coventry’s goal came in rather dubious circumstances, many Poolies at the game believing that Peter Hartley was fouled in the build up to the goal. John Hughes said after the game that he was proud of his players and I wouldn’t disagree with him. Coventry were certainly made to work hard for their victory.

What of the new ground - the Ricoh Arena? For a start its around six miles from the city centre so to be sure of getting there on time my grandson Joe and I got a cab from the rail station - leaving me £11 out of pocket. After the match, I decided it would be a damned sight cheaper to use my bus pass and pay Joe’s half fare. And what a nightmare! To get to the bus stop for the trip to the city centre, we had to cross a main road, walk along a walkway, thorough an underpass and then through the Arena Shopping Centre - along with hundreds of other fans. Having hordes of fans going through a shopping centre would seem to indicate that the planners have had a brainstorm when developing the overall site.

Some years ago, I was having a natter with a sergeant at Hartlepool nick  and he offered the view that you shouldn’t mix footy fans with shoppers and town centres - simply on the grounds that they could be a recipe for trouble and the fact that women, children and old biddies would feel intimidated. Far better, he said, for grounds to be away from city centres and, of course, this is what happened at Middlesbrough where both home and away fans had to ply their way along Linthorpe Road to get to Ayresome Park.  I wouldn’t disagree with that logic but at Coventry they seem to have thrown that out of the window.

Having had to endure a twenty minute walk to the bus stop, we then had to wait another twenty minutes for a bus which duly dropped us in Coventry City Centre. And then there was a thirty minute walk to the railway station. All in all, it took us over two hours to get back to my grand daughter’s in Oldbury and my good lady and grand daughter were thinking of getting up a search party so late were we. (The real truth was that they were hungry and were waiting to go out for a meal). I was not a happy chappy and I said to Joe, “I don’t think I’ll be coming to this infernal bloody place again”. Joe couldn’t disagree - he was as p***** off as I was.

What of the ground inside? The gate for Pools’ game was just over ten thousand and its difficult to see how Coventry could sustain a 32,000 seater stadium in the long term. Their failure to pay the rent on the Ricoh Arena has been well documented and, frankly, the atmosphere inside the ground with all those empty spaces was non - existent. They even had one of those bloody drums to try and spark some atmosphere into the place but after a quarter of an hour the drummer gave up in despair.

As I write these words, Coventry have, of course, been placed into administration and deducted ten points. Prior to being placed into administration, Coventry City moved everything out of their offices and club shop and it seemed that a few of the Poolie faithful might have been present at the last game to have been played at the Ricoh Arena -  that, of course, didn’t happen. Do I feel sorry? No chance - it couldn’t have happened to a nicer club. As I have said earlier-  what goes around comes around.

BILLY'S CONTRACT gets grumpy in his OLD age

Well it took its time coming around, thank goodness, but I have, done something 'Pools have not achieved for a few seasons and that is hitting the big six '0'. However since the big day in early March my wife tells me that over night that I have turned in to a right Victor Meldrew moaning about everything.

For instance after the home game against,can't recall who we were playing at the time but I distinctly recall that we did not score. Did I whinge to my wife about the team's performance, or how baltic it was, stood on the uncentrally heated terracing. I also failed to mention to her that I did not warm up until 2 hours after the match. Nor did I make reference about the fizzy drink that was passed off as a pint of lager which I had on the way home. 

What I did go on and on and on about was however, was the 'Pools fan in his forties on his way down Clarence road who threw his empty sweet wrapper into some ones garden. I spent the rest of the match fuming, not about John Hughes' substitutions, but that I did not say something to this 6 foot high 3 foot wide Ignorant Thicko but later I found solace in the fact I don't speak Neanderthal.

A few days later I attended a funeral. Afterwards I droned on and on gain to my long suffering wife about how ignorant people were on such a solemn occasion. Some of the mourners were chewing gum, surprisingly not 'popping it', during the course of the service. As we were leaving the Church a couple of people were viewing their mobiles for messages for goodness sake.

I consider myself a happy go lucky sort of chap with a decent sense of humour, if that wasn't the case I would have packed in 'Pools 44 and a half years ago.
It is surprising that when you hit three score, even the smallest little thing sets you off on a rant. Don't get me on about Alistair Brownlee, Vandalism, Our Councillors, The E.U, Tees Valley (what's that all about?) Sepp Blatter, Celebrity worship and of course not forgetting litter bugs, and I am only scratching the surface here. (Note from Mrs Contract: Please please don't get him started on about French Cars.)
"I consider myself a happy go lucky sort of chap with a decent sense of humour. If that wasn't the case I would have packed in Pools 44 and a half years ago."
And what of my sixtieth anniversary on this planet - apart from "Pool Power" I noticed that I did not receive any birthday cards or greeting from my fellow M.B contributors. Look there I go again. It is so easy.

I have been employed by the same company for nearly thirty years, great company to work for, I really enjoy my job and have hardly ever had a day off work since I started. Boy did the management get a shock Maundy Thursday when I gave my views of a new system the company are looking to introduce in the near future (Decimalisation....never catch on). My employers were in a state of shock not so much that I pointed out the flaws in their new process but more so that the normally quiet one at the back, me actually, had a moan. I fully expect to be dragged before the H.R team first thing on Monday morning, not to explain my doubts about the new processes, but to give a detailed explanation on why it has taken me three decades of employment to have a good whinge.

Prior to hitting 60 I have always been a member of the 'glass full fraternity' and as such, I have always given the moaning community a very wide berth. Obviously if one has been dealt a duff hand in the card game of life with regards to say health issues or having to live in Middlesbrough, or both, I can understand having a downbeat attitude. I am however, not talking about these unfortunates but of that not so dying breed of the 'professional moaner' who have elevated grumbling to an art form. For my own part I fear that I am about to join their elite ranks as what I previously did not understand about this group of people is they actually enjoy moaning ...and I have, much to my joy, discovered that so do I. It is actually great fun and I would urge fellows readers to embrace this life form. I would have changed my name earlier by deed poll but I am unable to decide on Stadler, Waldorff or Meldrew for my new surname.

The best thing about having a good whinge is that you don't necessarily have to engage with other people. You can, alone or in a group, sit/stand/ and moan on to your heart's content. It is not like having a conversation as such, as no one communicates with each other nor do they listen to each other. It is just a series of random statements; "Have you seen the size of a Rolo these days, more like the size of a Smartie." Occasionally this will elicit a response from a like-minded person such as: ''Yes, but have you seen the size of a Smartie of late?" or "Since Terry's have been making their Chocolate Orange in Poland it doesn't taste as good and they are a lot smaller than they use to be as well as being more expensive". (Actually that is not a moan but a fact!) Three moans in the one sentence there. Are you getting the hang of it now dear reader? 

Next time you are out socialising just mention to the person next to you, preferably someone you are not familiar with, ideally not Gary Lineker, and see what sort of response you get when you say "I see that Walkers are putting 10% less crisps in their packets these days and 20% more fresh air"* The reply you will receive will be along the lines "It would improve Walton's game and fitness if the scruffy Yorkshire git had a shave".

With that in mind, I have decided to up sticks and relocate, and desert my chums in the Town End - too cheerful for my liking, and apply for an over-sixties season ticket in The Mill House paddock, and join as one with like-minded brethren on that side of the ground,  hurling abuse at all who set foot on Victoria Park's lush grass, be they players, officals, management or the kids who take the penalty kicks at half time. 

I can hardly contain my excitement at the prospect of hurling abuse at the great and the good from my new vantage point "get a grip Humphreys, Baldwin, James, Flinders, Messi, Rooney, Ronaldo, Pele and Maradonna - not worth the entrance money even at pensioners' rates." The beauty about being on the Mill House is that unlike other parts of the ground the players are close enough to hear your derogatory comments and you can destroy their confidence within half an hour, and hey ho, another relegation to look forward too. Who says it is always the players' fault? 

Editor's note: Sorry to disappoint but to join the Mill House fraternity of serial Grumblers is by strict invitation only.

* See March's issue of Which Magazine

TRAVELLER almost sees red

The Little Monkey and an even littler
monkey which hangs (sound familiar?)
 inside one of its windows
I'm sure you all know, or at least know of Amsterdam.

It's the capital of Holland,and  it's an old seaport full of canals, trams, bikes, diamonds, legal drugs and legal prostitutes. But besides all that it's full of history: the former homes of Rembrandt and Anne Frank are now both museums.

But the historic part of Amsterdam isn't really that old. Most of it is between 300 and 400 years old, and the reason for that is fire. The city suffered several catastrophic fires until the city fathers banned timber buildings. As a result there are only two timber buildings left, and one of them is the Little Monkey (In 't Aepjen). It's a pub at one end of a road called Zeedijk, which is built on top of the original sea dyke that provided the road's name. Somewhat appropriately, there is a famous lesbian bar in Zeedijk, and the infamous Red Light District is literally a stone's throw away.
" the menagerie may have gone, but the building still celebrates its history and thus there's a Hartlepudlian feel to it"
However, despite having already mentioned several things that may be of interest to Poolie tourists, this article refers specifically to the Little Monkey, which has been welcoming diners and drinkers for centuries. It gets its name from the time several hundred years ago when visiting sailors were allowed to pay their outstanding debts to the landlord in ...monkeys!

As a result, the pub ended up with a monkey menagerie. These days the menagerie may have gone, but the building still celebrates its history and thus there's a Hartlepudlian feel to it. Not only is it filled with all manner of monkey soft toys and paintings, but also it has a black-painted frontage that wouldn't look too out of place on the Headland.

And that's my excuse for having been only a stone's throw from the Red Light District last week!

RUNNING MONKEY at the Baltic Vic

 Pools 0 Walsall 0 at the Vic, March 23rd

 On a cold miserable day, just a couple of days from British Summer Time, at the Vic today it was “Baltic”. This was probably not the only reason that the crowd was a fraction over 3000.
Having lost on Tuesday at Oldham, most of the fans thought that was it and the last-gasp effort to save our position in the division had gone that night, but the truth of it is the dire football played earlier in the season put paid to our season long before the events on Tuesday. We were kidding ourselves and we were down, that despite the late mini revival over the last couple of months. It was never going to happen.

The team have not scored a goal in six matches and it is painful to watch us simply going through the motions and getting nowhere. People in the know seem to think there are eight players up for contract at the end of the season, so if Mr Hughes is still in his job then it sounds like most of those players will be dispatched and we start again.
"It is noticeable the in these dire times of impending relegation Pools have mastered the craft of turning attack into defence"
As my mate Ken remarked back in the seventies, it was the norm for Pools to start every season with a new batch of eight or nine and you simply took pot luck with them till the end of the season. Hardly what you might call building a foundation but it made for exciting times every time a new team sheet was produced.

Now that Ken has joined the retired fans ranks I just hope he becomes a little more laid back as he seems to have matured even this season and as yet has not been warned by senior stewards for his erratic antics along the town end walk way. Yes, regular readers will realise I am waffling more than normal this week as my notes for today’s game do not even fill half a page of the new jotter I purchased on my way to the ground today. I could waffle a bit more and tell you about the lift I got to the game but that would be unprofessional.

Walsall turned up and probably expected to walk away with the points looking at our displays of late, but after a cagey first ten minutes when the only real event was a very bad square ball by Aussie that was nearly picked off by an attacker, and an excellent block by Sam on the edge of the box, we started to take the game to them. Horwood sent Franks down the wing and a great cross from him gave Howard the chance to miss again.

In the next Pools attack there was a ball bouncing around the area and at least three Pools players tried and failed to get a boot on it and a scruffy shot from Howard sent the ball wide. In his next attempt he had all the goal and yet still managed to hit the keeper on the chest with a header which enraged the newly-retired Ken, who went on to tell anyone that would listen that with the experience that the striker has, you would have thought he would at least have the ability to send a ball to the corner of the goal especially when he is unchallenged.

Sweeney probably had the best chance of the game as he rose to a perfect header that looked all the way to be in and the on-loan Manure keeper made a great diving save pushing the ball clear. Although on that one Ken said the header was at a nice comfortable height for the keeper. Westcarr the twenty-nine year old Walsall striker was just a tad petulant as he went into the book for kicking the ball away after the ref had pulled him up for a foul on Aussie.

It is noticeable the in these dire times of impending relegation Pools have mastered the craft of turning attack into defence as we continued to give the ball away to the opposition. Second half looked better as Pools had stepped up their game a touch and both Franks and Howard were caught offside as they raced onto a  Walsall back pass.

RH is once again proving his worth. Both teams tended to even each other out as no one looked as if they could break wind never mind break free and score. I was really disappointed in Walton today who we all thought had turned the corner, but on two occasions today he actually feigned injury in a tackle after losing the ball in midfield. Walton lay prone probably saying his prayers that he had not gifted the opposition the chance to take the game again.

Boos rang out around the ground as Mr Hughes once again took off our most potent threat, which was Franks, who was also M O M, for Luke James. No such boos afforded when the manager took off Howard - in fact there was cheers as the big feller left the field, and when he sat in the dugout he showed his temper as he slammed his pads and ties down in anger after being withdrawn, or possibly it was the reaction of the crowd. As the game came to a close Ken was convinced we were going to lose out again especially as Walton, once again being too elaborate, got caught on the ball and gifted Walsall a great chance that was thwarted by Sam and Hartley, and we escaped with a point, but all to no avail, as others elsewhere gained the points that make our position almost unassailable now.

BILL THE BIRO was at the Ricoh Arena

Pools' team bus is pretty big,
but looks tiny when parked
outside the Ricoh Arena

Saturday, March 16th, Coventry City 1 - Pools 0

It's Friday. I go to my GP surgery, where the doc squirts cold gas onto a wart on my leg. He tells me it should drop off in a day or two (the wart that is!). He also says I could put a plaster over it while the treatment runs its course.
It's Saturday. Pools are playing 20 miles away in Coventry. I drive to the Ricoh Arena with my mate. 
We get to the ground in good time, noting that this could be a historic occasion - Cov have some financial problems*, and those could end up with the club being locked out of the ground, so Pools could prove to be the last-ever visitors to the Ricoh.
We buy some drinks, have a chat with a few old Poolie mates, and then get ready to go up the stairs to the seats.
I feel my leg, where I discover that the wart has fallen off, and it's bleeding. I cover it with some toilet paper, and rejoin my mate in proceeding to our seats. It is now ten to three.
I comment that I should have done as the doc had suggested, or at least brought a plaster with me. My mate then suggests that I ask a steward to point me to a St. John Ambulance person, who's sure to have one.
So I collar a steward, who spots a gaggle of St John people in an adjacent stand. He then walks unhurriedly over to them, and even more unhurriedly they then all amble back. Instead of the requested plaster, I then get a very slow walk to the treatment room followed by the incredibly difficult 3-person task of covering the red patch with a white pad, held down with some sticky tape. An Elastoplast would have been much easier, was all that was needed, and more importantly, wouldn't have caused me to miss the first ten minutes of the match. They even insisted on filling in a long form for St. J.A. and another for the football club.
So if you ever need a sticking plaster at a football match, my advice is to ask yourself if it's worth the bother.
Anyway, all that is to justify why I have nothing to say about the early stages of the match, which, according to those who saw it, Pools totally dominated. During what I did see of the first half, Pools were providing most of the football, but without much threat to Coventry's goal. However, Coventry were playing like a bunch of strangers.
"During what I did see of the first half, Pools were providing most of the football, but without much threat to Coventry's goal" After half an hour Hartley appeared to have been fouled as a Coventry player took the ball past him. Pools players and Pools fans alike expected the whistle that never came until a few seconds later, after Flinders had been beaten.

Pools left the field at half time, being unfairly a goal down, but the uninspiring Coventry were looking decidedly beatable. During the interval I was able to verify with neutral Poolies that the incident had indeed been dodgy, and then to meet for the first time another fellow Monkey Business contributor, before we took our seats again. (Subsequently, on the TV highlights, it appeared that the dodgy goal wasn't, but it certainly was when viewed from the other side.)

The second half was fairly even with Coventry perhaps shading it. Mickey Barron was doing the touchline shouting, with John Hughes nowhere to be seen (subsequent reports suggest that, having seen the Hartley incident exactly as the Pools fans and players had, he shared his opinions of the decision with the officials, and was sent to the stand).

The statue of Coventry City’s iconic
former manager Jimmy Hill
stands outside the stadium which
sent them into administration.
Anyway, with subs not appearing until the last 15 minutes, things didn't change much, and Pools couldn't retrieve the game. On the play alone, a draw would have been a fair result, and, but for a suspect decision, that would have been how it would have finished.

There were some decent performances out there. Franks and Poole especially were doing well against Coventry's lumbering defence, but given that, it might have been interesting to see James on with those two, to see how the aforementioned defence might have coped with all three buzzing around them.

OK, it was another three points dropped, and winning six out of eight is now looking difficult, but let's not forget Exeter** a few years back.

*   Four games on and Coventry have now gone into administration. However, they are appealing their 10 point deduction on the grounds that the company that owns their League One place is separate, even though it's owned by the one that's gone into administration (or vice versa). Common sense doesn't seem to prevail when it comes to multinational companies paying tax, bankers crippling the economy yet carrying on regardless, and football governance. So no doubt they'll get away with it, and possibly still get promoted!

** Four games on and it's now ok to forget Exeter.