BILLY'S CONTRACT comes around again

Don't you just hate 'close seasons'? Well I do, or should I say I did up until recently.

I would readily admit that by February/March time, well if I am brutally honest by Christmas time I could not wait for the football season to end. Pools relegation was by any standards a long slow and drawn out lingering death which in my case was a relief when they went down. Talk about trying to avoid the inevitable.

Having said that, I have to say for my own part that I have thoroughly enjoyed the close season no end. The weather has been exceptional, The British and Irish Lions beat the Aussies, Looks as if the Ashes are heading our way, Chris Froome won the Tour de France and to top everything on the sporting front even Andy Murray broke into a smile of sorts.

I had a cracking three days away at Head Office (Rome) where the temperatures were well into the nineties. Added to that I got to see the Mighty Jethro Tull at The Royal Albert Hall, and in between at no less a venue, The Belle Vue Social Club,  'Sinner Boy' the number one Rory Gallagher tribute band who put on an outstanding performance the Guinness was of an acceptable quality and was reasonably priced to boot.
" Ritchie had his critics towards the end ...but he was one of only four what I would class as proper outfield footballers that we had at the club"
For me 'Pools were well and truly on the back burner on my list of priorities particularly when I saw the retained list. Basically we have kept the same players who performed so poorly and contributed to our relegation. Personally I would have scattered four of the most senior players who have been retained. I would put their names down in writing here but it hurts me to even think of their names let alone write them down.

I have a certain amount of sympathy for Evan Horwood being released, considering the players whom we have kept on at the club. I must admit I would have let him go. Yes he had most assists at the club but when you consider how many goals we scored it is not a great record. Evan's problem was his defending. Chesterfield in the cup springs to mind.

I have to say that I was not only surprised but disgusted in the well documented manner in which Ritchie Humphreys was let go, so much so, it was only a last minute decision that I decided to renew my season ticket. Ritchie had his critics towards the end mainly due to his lack of pace but he was one of only four what I would class as proper outfield footballers that we had at the club (Baldwin, James definitely, and possibly Hartley on a good day).

My mate has been a critic of Ritchie's for the last few seasons and asked why I was applauding him off after he was subbed after a not so good performance against Brentford. I told him that unless he went to the Stevenage match for the final game of the season he would not see Ritchie in a 'Pools shirt again. With that my mate joined in the richly deserved applause for one of the Hartlepool greats as he left the field for the last time at at The Vic in a 'Pools shirt. In fact I know someone who said if Ritchie scores the winning goal for Chesterfield that sends 'Pools down to the Conference he will give him a standing ovation. Whilst I don't agree, I can understand his sentiment.

Then came the appointment of Colin Cooper and Craig Hignett. I wish them every success as I would anyone who is connected with 'Pools.
This apparently is Cooper's second application for the 'Pools manager's job and to say that he is prepared to leave the relative security of the Youth team job at Muddlesborough must say something about the man when one cosiders how many managers have been shown the exit door at 'Pools in the last 36 months.
My main concern about the ex Notts Forest/Sunderland man is his connection with his former Teesside employers Muddlesbrough.

Apart from the two or three years when Bryan Robson was in charge with Ravanelli and the little Brazilian lad in the side, Boro are notorious for playing dull boring football. I would hate to think that we will become a feeder club for the Boro. That is letting our best talent like Baldwin and James go to them for peanuts whilst we pick up their rejects (mostly ex-Hartlepool lads whom our scouting system should have picked up in the first place!)

Hopefully discipline is maintained within the club. M'bro Football Club a few years back had a reputation for having a big drink culture (indeed one of their now ex players was barred from every pub in Stockton). When I lived in Teesside it was common knowledge that a certain pub in Yarm was their second training ground.

Hopefully Colin Cooper has other contacts within the game apart from making Middlesbrough his first port of call for signings/loanees.

As the football season gets closer I still have not got fired up about it. So far no new signings of note, presumably because we have not been able to unload Steve Howard and get him off the wage bill. Talking of whom I thought the reception he received from a section of 'Pools fans when he came on as a sub against Muddlesbrough was shameful. Yes he said a few things in the press which he probably regrets but I think he gave a few home truths as well about promises not being kept. Who knows, big Stevie (hopefully) might turn it around for us.

Normally I give pre season friendlies a miss ...particularly at £13 a pop. However some of my work mates from the Boro persuaded me to go to the Muddlesbrough match. From what I saw of that match we have the same problem as we have for the last couple of seasons - that of creating chances and scoring goals. However in Scotty Flinders we have one of the best custodians outside the Premiership.

It was great to get the season ticket offer once again but obviously the club must be disappointed with the take up otherwise why would they extend the offer until the beginning of the new season. I think considering we are stuck with a lot of the old brigade and have not made any decent signings (we will be probably be relying on loans from the Boro) has not sent the fans' pulses racing I don't think the figure of just over 3200 season ticket sales are too bad.,

Where Russ Green/IOR have shot themselves in the foot is, unless I am mistaken, that any punter who turns up at the turnstile on the day for a match will be charged £20 for the pleasure. Even in the unlikely event that 'Pools are going for promotion, that price will deter a lot of fair weather fans from attending. To me the price on the gate should be £12 max and hopefully this would would encouraged a few more fans to go through the gates.

Hopefully my enjoyable close season will all be a distant memory as 'Pools go on a promotion push. I for one am looking forward to the first away game of the season at Rochdale ...if nothing else, for the suet pudding and chips from the chippy opposite the ground.