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.