Showing posts from October, 2013
Mansfield Town - As I Seen It


Mansfield Town 1, Pools 4 (Four)   League 2 Saturday October 5th 2013

Match report by POOLIE IN NOTTINGHAM at Field Mill


The sun was shining on an unseasonably warm October day, as me and son Ewan made the short journey to whatever Field Mill is called nowadays.

It's been a while since we played there (one of those wins during that amazing unbeaten run under Danny Wilson), and the landscape around it seems different to how I remembered it.

After a drive round we found a free parking spot near the bingo, a short walk away from what used to be the away end, near the 'Early Doors' pub. Except the pub is now an Indian restaurant. Like thousands of pubs across the land, it has probably been lost forever, although at least the building is being put to good use rather than standing empty, playing host to rats, pigeons and the odd junkie. Mind you, I've been in plenty of allegedly 'open' pubs which would fit that description.

 If we play Mansfield again next season I'll plan a pre-match visit to the Indian as part of the day out. I did something similar at Orient a few years back, and the only drawback was nobody wanting to sit near me in the second half, thanks to my highly efficient digestive system which results in plenty of rich, spicy flatulence. You know the type - dense and heavy, that takes an age to disperse, even with a breeze.

The away end is now on the opposite side of the ground, which meant a stroll past the Mansfield supporters bar. Thankfully there was no hint of chew in the air, possibly in part due to plenty of plod. This is a fixture which has seen plenty of argy-bargy in the past, apparently dating back to the early 80s, when the Mansfield miners broke the strike and obviously made themselves more than slightly unpopular with fans of teams from mining areas such as Durham.

Now if any wannabee hooligans are reading this, if you want to smuggle anything into a ground then all you need to do is go in with a 5 year old boy. I was carrying Ewan's usual bag of stuff, which included plenty of food and drink plus some toy cars to keep him going through the dull bits. I don't object to it being searched as there's nowt to hide, but it never has been scrutinised by someone in high-vis in visits to about ten different grounds. I could easily have smuggled in a few flares, cudgels, knives, pistols etc, but in reality the worst that would have happened was a player being struck by a bag of Mini Cheddars or a Matchbox Cortina.

Ewan and I sat right at the back row slightly to the right of the goal, and the view was pretty impressive. Apart from the still-empty stand running the length of the pitch. We were joined by Andy Ramalamadingdong and also Grantham John, with whom we enjoyed a very drunken post-match pub crawl in York not long back. He was without his son Tom, who has just started a job which involves working on Saturdays, and therefore rules out attending most Pools games, his main passion in life. Therefore proving the point that all the shite written about apparently feckless, lazy youth is not strictly true.

Whoever won the toss decided to swap ends, so Pools were attacking the goal at our end in the first half. And attack they did. Monky continued his remarkable renaissance with a scorcher from distance that the keeper was still trying to get near as it rolled back out of the net. If we thought that we had been given false hope then we were mistaken.

Wave after wave of Pools sorties had the Mansfield defence and keeper scrambling, and it was a thoroughly deserved 2-0 lead Pools took to half time. Jack Compton provided a superb finish after some magic passing, overlapping and general all-round cushtiness from the lads in red with a white stripe down one side. We should have had a penner too, but the ref inexplicably saw it the other way, choosing to book Little Lukey for diving when he was clean through, in a situation where he probably would have scored and had no reason to go to ground.

Now the main fear during the discussions during the break was that we would repeat the standard Pools format of great first half, crap second. Thankfully Compton soon put the game further out of reach with a beautiful curling pearler free kick, more than answering some of the critics who have questioned his commitment and eye for goal.

Although we were 3-0 up, many in the crowd could not forget that fateful day many years ago when Pools scored to lead 3-1 at Field Mill with about 8 minutes on the clock. Naturally we finally managed to lose the match 4-3, and that nightmare has haunted me and others ever since."Flinders had no chance with the well placed spot-kick, and all of a sudden the fingernails started getting bitten a bit further up."

Things took a turn for the worse when the ref awarded a very harsh penalty against Big Sam for handball. Flinders had no chance with the well placed spot-kick, and all of a sudden the fingernails started getting bitten a bit further up. We needn't have worried though, as James Poole re-inflated the comfort cushion with another superb effort from distance.

I haven't been to loads of games when Pools have scored 4 , and I definitely haven't been to one when all of the strikes were of such high quality. This really knocked the stuffing out of Mansfield, and from then on it was one of those games I didn't want to end. Every single Pools player wanted the ball. They were finding their men, they were making runs, they were trying to score more, they still had bags of energy, and most of all were thoroughly committed to the cause.

The final whistle did come, and it was hard to pick a man of the match. Little Lukey deserved a goal for his utterly tireless workrate, Compton was like a different player, Monky continued to show signs of his vintage brilliance, and James Poole played brilliantly in what I think is his perfect (if slightly rude sounding) position - in the hole. Baldwin was far more composed in the middle, and Walton looked decent in spite of a few wayward passes. Duckworth is a revelation at right back, and Austin was solid on the other side of defence. Burgess was pure class, and Big Sam will be hard to drop on that performance. Flinders was solid despite having a quieter game than usual.

After a lot of jiggling about with starting line-ups, I reckon Cooper has probably hit on the best starting 11 at the moment, with the possible exception of Walton, who in my opinion should be behind Walker or Dolan in the pecking order.

What should have been a quick walk back to the car was prevented by Notts Police, who insisted we had to take the long route round the ground, presumably to avoid us coming face to face with disgruntled Mansfield fans from the home end heading back in the direction of the town centre. Given that Mansfield fans also had to take this long route round, it meant we came face to face with lots of them. Well away from the ground and the wistful gaze of the boys in blue. Thankfully there was no menace, and quite a few gracious Mansfield fans gave us some "well done" and "you deserved it" comments as we passed by.

Lets hope the result will spur on a few more performances of this quality, and see us move up the table away from that terrible, frightening possibility on the bottom 2. It took Mansfield several years to claw their way back to this level, and I really don't fancy a trip to Alfreton, Salisbury, Welling or Forest Green next season.

MB124 - October 2013

Thirty Goals a Season

WALLACE & GROMIT found this

Here's a report on how things are going for Pools' scorer at the Millennium Stadium, Jon Daly, with the famous and famously downfallen Glasgow Rangers.

Points of View

BILL THE BIRO wants evidence

Like many others, I'm a regular user of the internet, and use it especially for following Pools. 

Whenever I'm at home while Pools are playing, I'm likely to have the BBC's live text service on. Make that more-or-less guaranteed. And via the internet message boards I love to see if other people see things the same as I do. The reason for that is partly because I'm an exile living in the Midlands who doesn't see Pools very often, especially at the Vic. And partly because I'm a cheapskate who won't pay to watch Mr. Stelling or to listen to live audio match reports.

Now internet message boards are good for several aspects of being a fan, but one thing they are especially good at (or bad at, depending on your point of view) is creating a kind of communal herd mentality concerning certain people connected with the club. Over the last dozen or so years I've watched quite a few people be attacked on the internet for various reasons, with many of the attackers being egged on by others, until eventually what is an allegation becomes accepted as fact.

A decade ago we had rumours being circulated about the then-manager which were repeated so often as fact that, as I am given to understand, legal action was taken.
"Neale Cooper's second coming was popular but his second going was unavoidable as he'd lost the dressing room, and his team weren't much good"
Then there is the case of Neale Cooper's first departure. Admittedly there wasn't a convincing reason given by the club, allowing all sorts of theories to be propounded.

Then there was Neale Cooper's second departure, which, at the time seemed to have been inevitable. However, some people absolved him from all blame, preferring instead to accuse others at the club for controlling the team from behind the manager - an accusation which was to continue under the brief and disappointing reign of his successor.

The reality as I see it is that all of these have been situations where Poolies have missed out on something they would really have liked, wanted to blame someone, and picked on any convenient scapegoat.

So when Pools fail to win their first-ever trophy, the manager who has just got them promoted is blamed and hearsay reports of a failing are latched onto.

Then when his popular successor is sacked, many Poolies are disappointed, preferring to blame others at the club, despite the fact that Pools are going through a sticky patch at the time, and their hero isn't really doing the business.

Likewise Neale Cooper's second coming was popular but his second going was unavoidable as he'd lost the dressing room, and his team weren't much good. But he was a fans' favourite, so it couldn't be his fault. It must be Barron and Humphreys, and/or Ken Hodcroft. And when Neale's successor struggled to provide the miracle that was needed, it was the aforementioned duo controlling things in the background that was the real problem, rather than the reality of an impossible task: turning relegation form into the necessary promotion form without signing any new players.

Now, as I said, I live 200 miles away, and have no access to the Vic and its grapevine, but I always felt sorry for the likes of Humphreys and Barron.

Ritchie Humphreys got a lot of stick as a player, but it wasn't his fault there was nobody better to replace him. In the handful of matches I saw him play during his last two seasons, he was always one of the better players. And the fact that he's still getting a regular game for the top team in the division above us says something.

Mickey Barron was a back-room person. I wouldn't know how he fitted into the Pools hierarchy. I could probably judge the groundsman or the physiotherapist for a bald pitch or unfit players, but without any evidence you never got me jumping on the anti-Barron bandwagon.

And I never visualised John Hughes leaving a secure job in Scotland, to not only try to rescue a hopeless case of an English club, but also to play second fiddle to Mickey Barron as well.

And now we've started a new season in the same way as the last one, and with Cooper II still in his honeymoon period, Steve Howard seems to be the nominated scapegoat, despite good reports of improved effort compared to last season. No doubt in some minds Steve is already plotting to get Cooper II sacked. I was genuinely disappointed at the booing which greeted Howard's arrival from the bench at the Accrington match. Don't these so-called fans realise that demotivating players as they come onto the pitch only makes things worse.

I understand people's frustrations (especially after the disaster that was last season and its continuation into this one) but perhaps some Poolies could be a bit more objective when things aren't going well, rather than resorting to the finding and vilification of scapegoats.

Funny Old Game

As I Seen It - Pools v Oxford

RUNNING MONKEY on another home defeat

League 2, at the Vic Pools 1 Oxford United 3.

Once again the sun shone on a decent crowd at the Vic for the game against high flyers Oxford United. I knew from entering the ground that the omens were against us. 

Standing at my usual turnstile clutching my season ticket there seemed to be some delay at the stile I used the last time we won, the Accrington Stanley game. There were only a couple of people in front of me but the delay seemed to be caused by some non-ticket-holder who obviously had not took enough money from his wallet to pay his way, but it was testing my patience having to wait. Older readers will know exactly what I mean as the youth of today have no respect for tradition. 

As the other stile, which I had used for the first five home games was not occupied, I decided to go through. As I stepped in it crossed my mind I was doing the wrong thing. Pushed along by a couple of others behind me I made my way in and bought my half time lottery ticket with the shiny new pound coin I had just picked up outside of the ground. 

I met up with the Ditchburn Poolie and inquired about the possibility of getting a pic of the lucky thong. With a splutter and a spit he said ok once it makes a re-appearance. I left it at that and instead took a pic of his lucky sock. 

Enough frivolity I hear you say but the Ditchburn Poolie takes these things very seriously. He was so shocked, even surprised this week at a football result so close to his heart, that he took a deep intake of breath while doubled up in fits of laughter that the magic thong disappeared and has not returned. Oh, the result that made him chortle so much was Ramsbottom United 3- Darlington F.C. nil. 

Oxford had a good following and looked a good side and were at us from the off. Potter, who was conducting their play was a class above and he chased everything down, harried everyone who had the ball, and really made them tick, He was instrumental in undoing the Pools defence and allowing Oxford to go one up in five minutes. Pools only have themselves to blame as they dithered around the box with no one prepared to put a foot in and clear the ball, and an Oxford forward had all the time in the world to hit his shot past Ned to go one up. 
"Pools only have themselves to blame as they dithered around the box with no one prepared to put a foot in and clear the ball"

The next forty minutes was like a football lesson for Pools as the quick, slick Oxford ran rings round us. Once again the frailties in our side were obvious as we had difficulty even getting in their half and holding the ball as it was punted and hoofed away in despair, as Oxford played simple quick passing football. So much for our recent claim that we have sorted the defence out and now it is just the forward play we need to work on. 

Duckworth made possibly the best run of the half; beating at least four men, jinking and stumbling through tackles, he laid the ball off on the edge of their box and watched Walton blaze it over the stand. 

It is something in the genes of southern-based players that they have to wind up the northern folk by dubious tactics. OK they were a goal up, but Rose the Oxford player, or should I say play actor, took an age to make his way to the flag, then claimed there was no ball, then acted like a surprised child when Aussie ran and kicked the ball to him. We should be above all that but I say if you are intimidating the opposition fans continually there should be a case for a card from the ref. 

Duckworth made a great hit on Potter who now was getting a little arrogant on the ball, so a no nonsense tackle from the Pools player was what he deserved. It has to be said they were superior on the ball in the first half but we helped them a great deal by passing the ball to them or in the case of Walton playing balls off to no mans land without even looking. You may think through my scribbling in this column that I am against the player. Well I am as I do not see what he brings to our game and so much he does do is detrimental to our play. 

I do not know what happened with Franks but he was substituted just before half time. It may have been the last cross he played which was bloody awful. So much so the Ditchburn and I revived our game from last season, trying to forecast the outcome of a cross or free kick launched by Pools.

Jack Baldwin is improving all the time and he chased back into our box with Potter from Oxford who looked as if he had a free run in when Jack made a superb tackle to clear the danger with Potter claiming a foul on him. 

I must say on this occasion Poole was making a difference with some good runs on the ball, and at the start of the second half we looked a better side. Like Oxford did in the first half we scored in the fist five minutes when Compton headed a Poole cross back into the box and Luke James hit a sweet shot past the keeper. 

Luke once again, being marshalled by a huge centre back, was getting some rough treatment off the ball that the officials ignored. It was so bad I was angry and wanted to confront the player at the gate. I was talked out of that, but when leaving the ground I asked the three police officers outside to arrest the Oxford number four for assault and battery on young Luke. They said they would look into that so I await their report. What sickened me even more was the fact that he elbowed and slapped Luke around the head and face and pushed him to the ground on numerous occasions then at the end of the game put an arm round his shoulder. 

It was only fair that we should be level but our new-found exuberance was soon extinguished when they hit back with another quick fire goal orchestrated once again by Potter - a ball down the wing, a quick one two and lay off and we were two one down. 

I have to say that the Ditchburn was right. You just cannot expect to win games by playing very short patches of football. Luke did have a chance one on one with the keeper for a crossed ball but only hit the keeper with his shot. Oxford were soon three one up as Ned, diving at the feet of an attacker, took his ankle and dived the wrong way for the penalty kick. 

As the omens predicted, it was not going to be our day, and Howard managed to get a straight red from a fifty-fifty tackle, after just coming on, but I think his lunge won him no favour and the ref showed him the card. It has to be said that the Oxford player was booking an ambulance from his position on the deck till the card was waved and he quietly walked away. 

More trouble was to come as Compton raced down the wing, cut in the box, then was up ended by a defender, then was promptly booked for simulation. I was across the other side of the goal for this debacle and thought instantly a penalty, and was shocked when the ref gave nothing and after a slight pause went back and booked the Pools man. Just maybe the lino had some input but talking to people after the game that were closer than me, to a man they said Penalty. The time it took for the Oxford team to take their free kicks and the substitutions, there should have been ten minutes added but alas not every official plays the game at the Vic.

Lightning Didn't Strike Twice


Those of us who recalled the 2006/7 season with affection might have been encouraged by the 2-1 victory against Accrington Stanley. For it was following a 2-1 victory against Stanley in October 2006 that sent us on the long, long unbeaten run. Further encouragement came with a good 2-2 draw against Bristol Rovers (two points dropped rather than one gained) but any optimism came to a halt against Oxford United. 

I must admit I was impressed with Oxford in the first half. They put Pools under the cosh - creating space for themselves, and their play oozed with confidence as well as the squad being superbly fit. Far better than Fleetwood and Wycombe who should have been swept aside.

However, my favourable impressions of Oxford disappeared with the second half. Pools had fought themselves back into the game but fell behind again after being exposed at the back. No fault of Oxford’s but what really wound me up was the penalty just before added time. No way was that a penalty; from my vantage point in the Niramax seats their gadgie fell over Flinders and I can’t help thinking that the ref was influenced by the good turnout from Oxford fans.

"Normally, I stay till the bitter end of games but on this occasion I was so wound up I stormed out of The Vic disgusted with what I’d seen."That killed it off for Pools. Normally, I stay till the bitter end of games but on this occasion I was so wound up I stormed out of The Vic disgusted with what I’d seen. Its not what I expect at a footy game and I hope that Poolies won’t be too hard on the team. If Pools are beaten fair and square then I’m the first to hold my hands up and say ’Fair enough’ but Saturday, 28th September 2013 left a nasty taste in the mouth. (As I’d left the ground, I didn’t see Steve Howard’s sending off and couldn’t possibly comment.) Suspicions remain, however.

Still, the consolation over the past few weeks is that we can at last score goals. Two days after the Bristol Rovers game, I switched on BBC Look North as I wanted to see Pools goals and where Luke James was positioned when he popped in his brace. Did I get to see both goals? No chance! They showed the first goal (an ideal position for Luke) and then that was it. What seemed to be more important for the BBC was the three goals which Sunderland conceded at West Brom. It makes you not want to pay the licence fee.

Looking further afield, I always make a habit of looking to see how teams are doing that have ex-Poolies in their ranks. Notts County (Gary Liddle) are one off the bottom; Stevenage (Peter Hartley) and Tranmere (Evan Horwood) are both in the nether regions of League One. I suppose it proves that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Michael Nelson, on the other hand, is getting good reports with his performances in the SPL with Hibernian.

However, Poolies will be delighted with at the way Chesterfield are setting the pace in League Two with Ritchie Humphreys in their ranks. His latest elevation, however, comes not on the field but off it with his election as Chairman of the PFA. At least, bearing in mind the problems in the game, particularly in the bog standard Premier League, he’s got his work cut out. Best of luck, Ritchie! I suppose his main job will be to look for a successor to Gordon Taylor who is looking more like an old biddy.

What of other non-Pools matters? I was interested in the news item that a member of the Saudi royal family has bought a 50% stake in Sheffield United and has been appointed co-chairman. Apparently, he’s called Prince Abdullah bin Mosaad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud; so much easier when your chairman’s called Ken. He’s promised “substantial funds” (heard that one before), he’s estimated to be worth £18 billion (heard things like that before); and the other co-chairman has said that money is being made available ...(to) get us back to the upper echolons of English football” (heard that one before). Wasn’t it strange, however, that the Saudi gadgie was appointed as the transfer window closed and so wouldn’t be spending any of his money.

Another interesting development was the intervention of American owners in the Rooney and Suarez affairs. Its always suggested that Americans don’t know any thing about footy but they made their views known on what they thought about players wanting transfers whilst still under contract - that the Americans did understand. Once the American owners got involved, they made everyone toe the line. Good for them! I would never have thought that Yanks could teach us anything about footy but life is full of surprises. And what of the salvage team who raised the Costa Concordia out of the Mediterranean Sea? They did a fantastic job and led one wag to say that the salvage team should be asked to keep Sunderland up. Let’s hope we don’t need them to keep Pools up.

Back to Pools. Despite being relegated, support is holding up and there’s still a good atmosphere at The Vic. A pity there were only just over one thousand hardy souls to see the mauling of Bradford City. This was an occasion when I vacated my seat in the Niramax Stand for the Town End. On entering the ground about fifteen minutes before kick off, I think there were more Bradford city fans than Poolies. Fortunately, the usual late flurry of Poolies gave us a reasonable turn out and, of course, they were treated to a stupendous display. Radio Five even gave us a specific mention in their sports bulletins. Just after MB comes out, we shall, of course, be engaged in the second round of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. No reason why we shouldn’t advance. The JPT can, of course, create momentum, particularly when things aren’t going well in the league. So bring it on.

Gary Rafferty - Proud to be a Poolie

MICK HUTCHINSON on his late Poolie friend

Gary and I were both in complete agreement; Danny Wilson should never have been sacked. Things never really seemed to go right for us from that moment on. It’s true that whilst we were still sitting a respectable 13th in League One in December 2008 and might not have been pulling up too many trees; we were not heading towards a footballing freefall either. Sadly that was to follow, and would of course eventually cost us our hard fought and hard earned League One status. For a couple of lifelong ‘Poolies like Gary and me, who could only look on from the outside, and spectate from The Town End, the coming months and years would begin to look like we were rapidly losing our way, faster than we appeared to be losing our nerve.

Gary’s view – never excitable and never emotive – was that the club had once again, and not for the first time in recent years, triggered its own wonky kneejerk action, which would end up in us getting rid of the right man for the job. He was a shrewd judge Gary; he knew what he was talking about, certainly as far as ‘Pools were concerned. His knowledge and insight came from a lifetime of watching the boys in Blue and White – well, the thicker end of 40 years must surely be considered a lifetime by anybody’s reckoning.

Gary’s last home game before he became ill, was against Sheffield Wednesday in August 2010, the one where we got battered 5-0, and were lucky to get nil. A good old fashioned thumping was not the result that any of us wanted, and couldn’t have been a particularly pleasant game for Gary to attend. It was scant reward we can all agree, for all his club service and a loyalty that had begun many years earlier. Gary bore his illness bravely and in a highly dignified way, though sadly he died in April this year.

Gary had reminded me – only weeks before that Sheffield Wednesday mauling - that it had all begun for him one August night back in 1970, and a defeat (of course!) at home to York City, 3-2; even goals by Ron Young and Nick Sharkey couldn’t save us that night. It was around this time that Gary and I became school friends, and we shared together our love for ‘Pools. After school we attended Sixth Form College; by now we were grown up enough to attend the home games on our own – behind the Rink End – so it was quite natural that towards the end of the 1980’s we took up our more adult spots in the middle of the Mill House, before a combination of cold winds, freezing hands and wet feet led us to the newly covered and newly refurbished Town End at the turn of the 90’s. It became our habitual roost for the next twenty years.
"His knowledge and insight came from a lifetime of watching the boys in Blue and White"
Gary had over the years witnessed more of Pools than me, as a combination of work and study had taken me away from the area for the early part of the 1980’s, Gary however never missed a game. He would also remind me that over his lifetime of watching ‘Pools he had seen every gonnabe, wannabe, maybe could be and might be; he could add to them every free transfer, freeloader, no hoper and ‘loanee’ imaginable, but that necessary ‘suffering’ would every now and then throw up a Malcolm Poskett, or a Bob Newton or a Paul Dalton – some of Gary’s favourite players from days gone by, as well as Tommy Miller, Gordon Watson, and Ritchie Humphreys from the modern era.

With modern ‘Pools it seems in serious if not yet terminal decline, and in the year the club lost one of their most devoted fans, it would be easy to stop there and conclude that things are all very doom and very gloom. But Gary, despite his illness, was a positive guy, and what has happened since he died, would I am sure have made him feel proud to be a ‘Poolie. First of all at the last game of last season (The Sky game against Brentford) I spoke to the club P.A announcer Phil Dunn, about Gary’s recent passing. Phil read out a very fitting and respectful half time tribute to Gary with only limited information about him from me. That was really excellent Phil! Thank you for that; Gary would have appreciated your words. There were also words of condolence on the message boards and some blue and white shirts at his funeral; Gary would have appreciated that as well.

Knowing perhaps that he was seriously ill Gary had mentioned to his mother that he would like to have his ashes scattered at The Vic, not always the easiest thing to arrange, and not always the easiest wish for a club to accommodate. I approached the club on the family’s behalf and spoke to Sarah at the club, who was extremely helpful. So much so, that I left the family in the hands of the club to make arrangements from there. My understanding is that the club were, ‘absolutely marvellous’; which really gladdens the heart doesn’t it.

On a recent warm late August afternoon the club granted Gary’s wishes. A small area just behind the Town End goal line was set aside by Barry – one of the very helpful ground staff - for Gary’s ashes to be interred. Family, friends, and the odd fan gathered for a short, private, moving ceremony, with some poignant readings, that allowed Gary to now keep a permanent watch on proceedings on his beloved Vic, as well as being within a stone’s throw of the spot he used to occupy half way up to the left of the goalpost (eighteen yard box to be precise) in the Town End. Gary would really have liked that.

My older brother Chris was deputed to organise the collection for a brick to go on the ‘wall of fame’ outside the Vic in Gary’s name. A number of Gary’s many friends from The Kings Arms bar in Billingham had already seen to that, with the money already in place. The inscribed brick together with a certificate from the club to support its placement on the wall made for an excellent tribute all in Gary’s honour, and calls for a huge ‘well done’, a big ‘thank you’ and extended appreciation to everyone at Hartlepool United for their help and consideration towards what might appear a simple task, but is in reality an extremely important event. Well done ‘Pools; I knew you wouldn’t let ‘us’ down.

Of course what would make a really good post script to this story would be if the first home game that ‘Pools played following Gary’s ‘arrival’ ended up turning the tables on the opposition for that 5-0 defeat, (say for argument’s sake it was against Bradford City) and we beat them 5-0. Unlikely from the way we have performed in earlier games, impossible given that the opposition came from a higher league. And ...what if four of those goals went into The Town End with Gary overseeing proceedings. I know, I know wouldn’t even be allowed to make it up. Just suppose though, that was what happened; now Gary would really have liked that.

Back to the Drawing Board

BILLY'S CONTRACT isn't impressed

Just back from the game against Oxford United. I am sure there will be match reports and plenty of comment about it in this edition of Monkey Business so I won't dwell on it only to say that the best team won by a country mile.

My summing up of  'Pools based on what I have seen so far this season: decidedly average.
We might, allied to the fact that there are worse teams than us in this division, just have enough about us to avoid dropping into the Conference, which if it turns out that way I would consider as a Success.

Looking at the team overall it is a right old mix. A blend of experience, not all of it good, a lot of inexperience and a squad overall lacking in quality. You only have to look at the subs bench to see that. Not a match changer or match winner to be had.

As of the last three if not four seasons our main problem has been midfield. We have not had a player in there of the calibre of a Mark Tinkler since er... hum, er... the days of ...Mark Tinkler. Which brings me on nicely to our two problem areas, those of midfield and defence.

Firstly Walton and Dolan should not be in the same side in a month of Sundays. They are too similar and greatly lack pace. If money was not so tight I would have neither of them in the team. At times they look like retired footballers who are turning out for a testimonial match.

"At times they look like retired footballers who are turning out for a testimonial match."Baldwin and Burgess, two youngsters who I am sure will have big futures in the game, make too many costly mistakes. Between them in the matches I have seen they have cost us at least 5 goals in the against column that I am aware of. Baldwin, dare I say it, needs resting and, dare I say it again, I would bring in Sam Collins as his or Burgess's replacement, as with the exception of Austin there is no experience along the back four, as Duckworth too is on a learning curve.

Baldwin at some stage could play in midfield but again like Dolan and Walton is not a speed merchant so if he did occupy a midfield spot we would have to bring in someone with pace who could play alongside him.

Jonathan Franks really needs to get his act together. He is totally inconsistent and has the heart the size of a pea when called 'to get stuck in.' The same player very occasionally shows flashes of brilliance that puts real fear into opposing full backs. If I was in Frank's shoes, or rather his boots, I would be asking myself why successive managers don't give me ninety minutes on the pitch ...and in today's match I would be asking myself why I was subbed after a mere 35 minutes against Oxford.

Basically he needs to apply himself more both on and off the pitch. Compton has got pace and the ability to beat his man but again for large periods the game passes him by. Truth be told I cannot recall him ever having a pop at goal. James Poole, who probably had one of the best games for 'Pools today when he replaced Franks, should be comfortable at this level of football and by the same token should establish himself as a regular in the team. He is a bit like Tony Sweeney. What I class as an unlucky player. Things seem to go against him in a match, whether it is not coming out of 50/50 challenges with the ball, the ball bouncing off his backside to roll out for a goal kick,n or falling over the ball when in possession. He is one of these players who needs to make it happen and most importantly to have some belief in his own ability.

Far from being his biggest fan, I must say that the most improved player in the side is Andy Monkhouse, whom I would have let go last season. If I was The Manager, Russ Green, I would be delighted with his performances so far this season.

I still have to make my mind up about Colin Cooper and Craig Hairnet. I will be the first to admit that they have not inherited a great squad of players or that they have the cash to go out to bring new faces in. However some of the substitutions they have made over their short tenure at the Vic have been strange to say the least. Notwithstanding, many of us said the same thing about Chris Turner's Mick Wadsworth's and Danny Wilson's substitutions over the years so what do I know.

I hope IOR wake up soon before the next transfer window and give The Manager the funds to improve the squad and that in turn Colin Cooper looks beyond the Transporter Bridge for his playing staff.


Great comment at The Vic against Accrington Stanley a few weeks back when some one in the Town End shouted. 'Wheres our Midfield?'
At Chesterfield came the response.


I welcomed the news that the Club has initiated a Fans' forum whereby there will be some lines of communication opened between the Fans and Russ Green.
Their views will be confined to the off-field experience of coming to the Vic. This in turn could have a knock-on effect and indirectly benefit the playing side in terms of increased revenue.

Some of the things which were touched on were the matchday programme as well as the catering/disabled facilities, not to mention relocating the home fans back into The Rink End.

I was surprised when I heard that 'Pools sold as many as 300 programmes per match. I stopped buying it when it went up to £2.50 per issue. Plus there was little of interest in it to make me want to buy it in the first place. The trouble with pretty much any matchday programme is, in this day and age of instant communication through the internetty thing, it is out of date before it is even printed.
The chairman's article in the programme was always an interesting read, as was the commercial section of what was going on at the club. Apart from that it was not worth the paper it was written on. This is the same reason why I have stopped buying the Sheffield (aka Hartlepool) Mail.

I may be corrected as I have not purchased a programme for several years, but if not already included they should re-introduce a players profile with some light-hearted/in depth questions. E.g. What is their favourite TV show, last film they watched, favourite cartoon character, favourite music ...or indeed favourite poetry (I could imagine Sir Ritchie saying how he preferred Peruvian poetry over its Bulgarian counterpart.)

The programme should have a lucky number for a slap up feed in the Victoria Lounge/Cyril Knowles. Say a 10% discount voucher for the club shop with expiry dates. Or the club should liaise with local businesses and pubs for money-off vouchers to be printed in the programme. I believe Krimo's used to do this (still do?).

As for the catering facilities they need to be quicker and slicker at pulling a pint.(sell chilled tins!) Today at half time was my first experience of using the catering kiosks behind the Cyril knowles stand. My mate and I queued up for a couple of pints which took an age to get served. Which we then had to gulp them down at break-neck speed before the second half kicked off. Just as well we downed the gassy fizz quickly as we would have missed Luke James' goal! My mate's son wanted a Cola. We were told when we were purchasing our pints at the beer kiosk that we would have to go to the adjacent kiosk for this. Fortunately there was no queue there which in retrospect did not surprise me as the Cola was priced at £2.50 a bottle. Make a mental note: don't go back there again.

If I were a member of the fans' forum I would be asking/suggesting, nay telling Russ Green that the club needs to start to reconnect with the fan base, particularly regarding the players. I recall going to numerous functions and events either at the club or the Corner Flag where players and fans mixed and chatted etc. This brought the fans closer to the club and in my opinion made it harder for the fans to have a dig at the players when they were not performing on the pitch.

A few years back we went to a function at 'The Flag' where Leon McSweeney and deadly Denis Behan did a question and answer session. What a great night it was - they had everyone in stitches. As the Irish say 'the Craic was mighty' and unlike their on-field performances they were a great double act on the night. Subsequently when their form deserted them on the pitch I for one felt unable to criticize them vocally as it felt as if I was slagging off someone I knew.

I have heard that some players would like to mix with the fan base but apparently the club has a no fraternization policy, particularly with regards to their popping over to The Corner flag.
John Hughes stated in the Mail some time back that he would like a fans' "Meet the Manager" question and answer session but that never happened and I am led to understand that the club was not at all too pleased he had suggested it in the first place.

The club, once they saw money could be made out of it, hi-jacked the Player of the Year awards event from the Corner Flag. Admittedly they made a good job of it for a couple of years, hiring the Borough Hall on the Headland. However now things have gone pear-shaped on the field of play it must be at least 3 years since the last event was held. If we managed to hang on to league status this season even a low-key player of the year event at a smaller venue should be held in an effort to bring the club and the fanbase together again.

Funny Old Game

Hartlepool - Rovers

WAGGA MOON was at Bristol Rovers

One defeat in five games prior to the Oxford game shows Colin Cooper is making progress with the squad he has available. Of course the need for a striker, more than two years and counting, and has still to be addressed despite our beloved chairman saying one slipped through our grasp on transfer deadline day.

Although this could be taken with a pinch of salt after some of his recent utterances and his willingness to hide behind the FFP regulations. It baffles me how Bury who were totally potless last season, poor support and going nowhere, can manage to sign 23 players in the summer. Either not all clubs are playing by the rules or some people are using this as an excuse for not bringing any talent in. We sell a player for a "five-figure" fee on a decent contract and can only offer a non-league player a monthly contract. The sums just do not add up.

Back to matters on the pitch and my first away game of the season at the Memorial Stadium, Bristol, along with 112 hardy Poolies. A bright opening, and Pools were on top until Rovers scored with their first shot on target. A decent effort from Matt Harrald, but he was given too much time and space to bring the ball down and get his shot away.

Rovers hardly had time to celebrate when from the kick-off a long ball from Neil Austin was flicked on for Luke James to fire home the equaliser.
"Luke James had a terrific game and never stopped working"

With Jon Franks hitting the post and Simon Walton bringing a good save from their keeper just as the stadium announcer was stating there would be one minute of added time, Christian Burgess caused panic in the Rovers area and the ball fell to James, who promptly fired Pools in front.

However the second half belonged to Rovers and they dominated proceedings, but Pools refused to fold and battled away looking far from a bottom four side. And Pools could have put the game beyond Rovers when James robbed John-Joe O'Toole and was in on goal, one-on-one with the Rovers keeper. As he was about to shoot, O'Toole caught him on the heel, and James's side-footer was brilliantly saved by Steve Mildenhall. From the resulting corner, centre-back Burgess had a free header which he put wide from six yards.

Although the back four were doing a fine job, manager Cooper decided to strengthen the defence, bringing off Franks and sending on Sam Collins. A big mistake according to the Poolies on the away terrace, and with a minute to go Jack Baldwin was easily nudged off the ball for Rovers to get it into the penalty area for O'Toole to sidefoot the equaliser.

There was still time for an unpleasant incident in front of the Pools supporters. Winger Jack Compton had the ball and was being urged to take on his full back and get a cross in. All he managed to do was mis-control the ball and it rolled tamely into a touch. He received a bit of abuse from a few frustrated Poolies and responded, shouting abuse back to the fans. When a few seconds later he received the ball again he immediately crossed the ball to no-one in particular as if to try and make a futile point to the fans, and as he ran back upfield, he appeared to make a sign to the fans behind his back.

Not a good ending to a game where a welcome point was well earned and there was certainly no need for the fans to abuse Compton or for the way he reacted to it. Because to be fair he did very little in the game and should have had the hook before Franks.

On the bright side Luke James had a terrific game and never stopped working, and Burgess, although he missed a sitter is looking a very sound centre back. There is no way Collins can expect to get back in the side unless Burgess or Baldwin are injured.

Steve Howard was ill and did not make the trip. Perhaps the club could be a bit more specific about what was wrong with our star sharp-shooter. Perhaps they are trying to ship him out on loan and don't want him getting injured. He would be a big miss for us!

As I Seen it - Accrington Stanley

RUNNING MONKEY sees Pools win a league match!

League 2 - at the Vic - POOLS 2 Accrington Stanley 1

"In the words of the great legendary striker and pundit Jimmy Greaves "Football is a Fanny owld Game" * but for Hartlepool United it is more serious than that.

Six league games without a win but storming in the cup. It is games like the Bradford win that help some supporters keep the faith when things look bad. So much so that my mate Ken went home after last week's defeat by Wycombe and dumped all his lucky togs in the poss tub and came today wearing their lass's jumper. He did mention that he was possibly wearing his lucky thong but we are still waiting for the pics. The benefit though was he had a slightly better aroma round him today but that could have been from the foot-long full of onions I saw him devour just before he came to his spot on the terrace.
"Whatever brand of tea Pools use at the interval must have a comatose effect on our players - or is it the team talk?"
First I have to make an apology to both Ken and the C E O of Monkey Bizz (who was attending his first Pools game of the season), for misleading them during what can only be called another "senior moment" - I seem to have more and more of them lately. I had claimed that the visitors today had knocked us out of the tin pot cup. How on earth could I have mistaken the famous Accrington Stanley for Nottingham Forest?

Today was crunch day - the make-or-break of our season - as the visitors Stanley were down there with us holding up the Football League, and both with similar results, but with Pools just edging that race courtesy of a couple of away points. Some might say it is early days, but there is nothing better than points in the bag.

Once again we were kicking the correct way for the home team and in the first attack Monky met a great cross from Franks that he managed to put just wide of the post. Luke made a good run in but also shot wide. Franks again made great ground out wide but this time his cross was cut out as none of the Pools forwards managed to make it into the box.

Persistence proves perfect as Monky slid a ball into Franks who took his opportunity to hit a low shot to make it one nil to the Hartlepool.

On the restart a retreating defender floored Dolan and it was obvious from that moment the ref had left his cards at home, if ever a tackle should deserve a booking that one was it, although one later in the game against Aussie was a shocker that also went unpunished. To make amends for the lack of cards the ref gave a drop ball decision. No matter, as Pools were in the ascendancy now, and went two up with a neat goal from Monky after Luke had won the ball and laid it off for Monky to blast a ball home.

Pools did have the ball in the net again but it was ruled offside. Pools had a lively spell in the start of the second half and the fans expected a rout but give them credit Stanley stuck to the task and came back at us, putting pressure on us and our disciplined play went out of the window. We were not playing the football of the first half and looked the weaker side. Whatever brand of tea Pools use at the interval must have a comatose effect on our players - or is it the team talk?

Franks did manage to force a tip over from their keeper but we were losing the plot as they harried us and managed to pull one back. After a stumble by Burgess they broke free and hit from close in giving Ned no chance. From then on we were on the back foot as the visitors pressed us hard for an equaliser.

Cooper must have been drinking the tea too as he set about pulling the team to bits with a series of substitutions which unsettled Pools even more. Howard and Collins (yes, COLLINS) replaced James and Dolan - ok Dolan had taken a big hit earlier - but James was in great attacking form.

Once Monky was taken off for Rodney that was game up for Pools and we were clinging on for the final bell as the visitors stretched us. You have to applaud the three very hard-fought-for points but this game should have been put to bed in the first half. Despite us being two poor sides we had more opportunity than the visitors and wasted it.

With five points from seven games we are hardly progressing but I suppose we can look forward to the return of the thong at the next home game. I suppose Cooper will be pleased with the win and and possibly even see the green shoots, but in all honesty we still have a task on our hands to stay up.