How BILLY'S CONTRACT is seeing things

I have to say by nature I am the original eternal optimist. You can't knock me down with a big stick and I am always looking on the bright side. I am definitely in the glass full camp ...preferably the glass full of Guinness camp that is. 

However to my everlasting shame I will be the first to admit that the thought of this season fills me with a dread and pessimism on a level, and on such a scale that I have never previously experienced, apart from when I first heard about the amalagation of West Hartlepool with the Ancient Borough in 1967.

What on earth is going on at Hartlepool United. Firstly step forward the person (or clowns) responsible for the players retained/released list. IOR, Russ Green, Colin Cooper or the girls in the ticket office?

Letting Ritchie go was laughable especially when the nucleus of the team that got us relegated in the first place are still here. I am a little surprised that the directors did not hang on to Nathan Luscombe who made Ali Gibb look like Lionel Messi.

So the club have made a massive dent in their wage bill by letting the likes of Ritchie, Horwood & Hartley leave the club. How much more could they have saved if they had let Sweeney, Walton, Collins, Austin and Poole go as well?

Worryingly, the signing of players to take their places at the club looks as if it has been done on the cheap. Pay peanuts and you get monkeys, and I am not talking about club mascots either!

The players that we have been linked with are predictably Boro reserves or ex-Boro players, carrying injuries or baggage. When we do spread our horizons further to look at new signings where do we look? Non league. Take for instance Michael Rae, someone who could not get on the bench at Spennymoor Town. So what chance has he got with a football league club."...the hierarchy at 'Pools seem to be Hell-bent on resuming derby matches with Darlo."

Chris Turner during his first stint at the club quite rightly stated that in order for a football club to progress they should be signing players from the league or leagues above and not from leagues beneath them. It would seems that the hierarchy at 'Pools seem to be Hell-bent on resuming derby matches with Darlo.

Add to that, that the ticket pricing on the turnstile for anyone who wants to turn up on spec on the day to take in a match is a real deterrent for the casual fan, which in turn equals lost valuable revenue.

For my part the jury is out on Colin Cooper. I wish him or any Hartlepool United manager well but when the team sheet was passed around the social club we were in prior to the match against Rochdale there was a collective groan. A team full of defenders and midfielders with pretty much all the forwards on the bench. After Walker's substitution 60 minutes into the same game, 'Poolie faithful chanted 'you don't know what you're doing' Not a good omen.

Cooper also stated in The Mail that he was looking for his sides to hit the opposition on the break. This was well and truly reflected in today's stats v Torquay. The home side had 4 attempts at goal in the first two minutes against 'Pools as well as having 60% of the overall possession. This to me harks back to Cooper's/Hignett's pedigree of life at the boring Boro. That is dull unentertaining football of the highest order with the odd foraged-out one nil win. Not for the purist. 

One of my ex-Sunderland supporting mates who I have badgered for ages to get himself to the Vic took his son to see the Southend game and later genuinely and 'concernedly' asked me how do I watch that rubbish season after season.

The strangest decision that Cooper has made so far was giving the team captaincy to Tony Sweeney. Sweeney should have left the club a couple of seasons back for both his sake and the club's. He looks low in confidence and he admitted that he does not have a vocal presence on the pitch. Cooper said he can lead by example but as he goes missing for long periods in a match he is not in a position to have a go at any of his team mates if the need arises.

Sweeney needs to concentrate on his own game rather than be given the responsibilty of cajoling his team mates along. Furthermore his confidence must be at rock bottom when as captain he was subbed in his first two games.

Colin Cooper has spoken about his long term plans but has not mentioned what is the game plan for this season. Automatic promotion? Play off ambitions? mid-table mediority? or just hanging on to league status?

IOR have got to take the bull by the horns and give the manager some funds for a pacey midfield player and a centre forward and not wait until the last few matches of the season when we are staring into the abyss as we have done in the past before putting their hands in their pockets.

It goes without saying that a recognised goal scorer is a priority. One would have thought even at this level Stevie Howard would be knocking a few goals in but having said that, if the midfield and wide men are not doing their jobs...

Generally speaking when the forwards are going through a barren spell the midfield players take up the slack and chip in with a few goals (I am thinking of players of the calibre of Darryl Clarke, Mark Tinkler, Brian Honour etc.) but I can't see anyone in the current set up who could rise to the challenge.

So ever the optimist, here are my predictions; 'Pools will beat our previous record of 1227 minutes of not scoring a league goal, and be relegated with the lowest amount of points ever, but we will win the F.A. Cup thanks to a Steve Howard hat trick.

Again, if anyone doubts my optimism, I have a bet on that Stevie Howard will crack in ten goals this season. Now that is what I call optimistic!