Showing posts from December, 2013
Cheltenham - As I Seen It


Cheltenham Town 2, Pools 2   League 2 Saturday December 14th 2013

Match report by BILL THE BIRO at Whaddon Road


I went the 31 miles to my nearest Pools fixture for the first time for a few years and not much had changed.

The old main stand, which looks not dissimilar to the old wooden one at the Vic (apart from not being wooden), still has the weird diving board contraptions on the roof that remain from their Conference days (Did Ashley Young in his youth spend some time there on loan?).

Pools' line-up seemed a bit hard to fathom, with no Poole, no James and no Compton, but they were all on the bench. Holden was on the wing, Sweeney in the middle and Franks up front. Strange.

Pools were second best from the off, and a defensive mix-up gave Cheltenham a goal after only 4 minutes. Cheltenham were more organised without looking like world beaters.

Pools did have the odd foray and Franks was causing the odd problem up front. Holden, especially was doing a good job on the left wing, but there was a general lethargy about Pools.

Towards half time poor defensive work allowed Cheltenham a good header which looped over Flinders for their second.

Pools then pulled one back through Franks but the linesman spotted something that the ref (and all of the Poolies, who were as close as the ref to the incident) didn't see, so it was disallowed.
"Monky was booked for a foul he knew nothing about, even if the bloke he kicked did"
General consensus at half time was that we wouldn't rescue this.

At the restart both teams made changes. Compton came on in place of the Pools player who was making the most impression on the game, Holden. Strange.

However, this, as has been seen recently at the Vic, was a game of two halves, and Compton's enthusiasm seemed to rub off on the rest of the team, and Pools more or less dominated from then on.

After a few minutes a long, wind-assisted punt upfield from Flinders caught out a defender, allowing Franks to score. Game on.

Pools equalised from Franks again and then never looked in danger of losing, but couldn't get the winner. However a lot of us Poolies were very happy with the result.

Some points of note:
Flinders had a bit of an off day, gifting a chance to the opposition that wasn't taken up, and also trying to riskily play football outside the penalty area.
Sweeney was ineffective and anonymous.
Monky was booked for a foul he knew nothing about, even if the bloke he kicked did.
But for the disjointed team selection Pools may have collected all the points.

Let's hope the full team plays on Tuesday against Coventry in the FA Cup replay.

Coventry City - As I Seen It


Pools 1, Coventry City 1   FA Cup  Saturday December 7th 2013

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at the Vic


No Christmas spirit from the Ditchburn Poolie today as he was whining about the entrance fee of £20.00, with the gate being short of 3000 it was a disgrace. Too early to blame Christmas shopping. 

For the people who know me I must say the Ditchburn looks a good ten years older than I, so I see no problem - him getting in for a growler (£5.00), foolish boy. 

The “A” list ref will be all for the visitors, according to his research. A complaint was forthcoming as the official, according to the Ditchburn, cut short the minute's applause for President Mandela, but my guess was that it allowed his pun of a half Nelson. 

The visitors were ready from the off and a long-range effort had to be tipped over the bar by Ned, after a very slick move by the visitors, but we made a good job of clearing the corner. Shortly after, Ned went off his line chasing a ball and he was lucky that the attacker wasted the chance, hitting his ball just wide of the goal. Aussie, turning on a ball in midfield, gave the visitors a free run on goal; Jack managed to get a great block on the close-range shot but the ball was launched in again and a nice overhead shot inside the box gave Ned no chance, as the visitors took the lead. 

No complaints as it was a well worked move, once they won the ball in the middle, and the execution of the kick brought some applause from the Pools fans. Shortly after, they could have been two up but the low diving header at the near post just skimmed the outside of the post. 

A corner from Pools was blocked on the line and cleared. Poole picked up the ball and tried to play Luke in but the ball was just a touch short for Luke and was cleared. Poole himself had a chance from a corner, heading close, only for the keeper to smother the ball. Luke had a thankless task running the front line on his own and got sandwiched or battered every time he received a ball. 
"There was total panic in the Coventry defence as Pools pushed forward, with Duckworth giving a magnificent display of attacking play."
The visitors were strong in defence and did not take any prisoners. Pools were coming into the game more but were getting caught on the break and making hard work for themselves as we either made an awful pass or slipped in the tackle, and a few of the team were guilty. Walker was being made ready to come on with five minutes of the half left and it was difficult to see who was injured. Burgess went close with a header just as the whistle blew for half time.

Second half Poole failed to appear but it was Sweeney that came on. It was a much more threatening Pools team and they went for the visitors in numbers which was good to see. There was total panic in the Coventry defence as Pools pushed forward, with Duckworth giving a magnificent display of attacking play. No one could touch him as time after time he raced down the line and through the middle giving a Man-of-the-Match performance. 

Walton could not clear the first man from a corner but tested the keeper with a low shot from outside the box. Compton took a free kick out wide and Burgess rose well for the header that went over. Compton made a hash of a chip-in and was withdrawn shortly after; apparently the lad is homesick. Franks replaced him and he was brilliant, obviously staking a claim for a place in the next game, and it was his perfect cross that allowed Monky to head in the equalizer as Pools literally hammered the visitors in the second half. 

It was a great cup-tie for the neutral but on balance we gifted them an early start and gave them too much respect in the first half. Second half, the mistakes were gone, the quality of football was great and we thoroughly deserved to be in the bag for the draw tomorrow, and with a little more luck on the day we could have sailed through. 

We have to try and play Monky up with Luke and push Poole out wide as on his own Luke gets battered out of the game as he did in his early games. The lad has talent but we do not seem to be helping him and he can’t do it all on his own. The replay will be tough, as from some reports they were four men down today. Not sure if that includes loan players but if we play like we did the second half we will win at their lodgings.

As I said earlier Man-of-the-Match was Duckworth, and most fans agree this lad is the find of the season; let's hope we can hold onto him. Ned was in fine form again but had little to do second half, and had no chance with the goal. Franks needs to be back in as he deserves a chance on today’s performance. Both Jack and Burgess had a bit of a torrid time early on but got it together second half. Sweeney is looking better, and some on the terrace think that we have a problem playing both Walton and Dolan, so much so that when Dolan lost a ball the bloke behind bawled out “get a grip Walton” I would have lent him my glasses but without them I have the same problem.

The Borer at home in the next round for me, which will play away because of the demand for tickets. 

Portsmouth - As I Seen It


Pools 0, Portsmouth 0   League 2  Saturday November 30th 2013

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at the Vic


Lots of police in attendance today as the EDF decided it was time for booze up in the Clarendon in Tower Street then a march through the town.

Earlier in the week I was handed a flyer with an Anti-EDF group claiming they were coming to disrupt this demonstration. The upshot was that I saw more policemen than protestors, and Pools have to pay for some of the extra policing. 

There was a kind of skirmish going on behind the Mill House stand at half time as the jeers from the crowd alerted the police, who hurried to the scene, but whatever it was we never saw a thing, officer. 

Rumours were that we tried to sign a player from the Toon on loan (either Vuckic or Tavernier) but the seventy percent of the wage could possibly have been out of our reach. Good business on Pools' part, for a player who will possibly be shipped out of the Toon at Christmas had joined Rotherham instead of Pools. As we had supposedly spent £40,000 getting shot of Steve Howard, we were feeling the pinch, if you can believe the terrace chat that is. 

The visitors today were in turmoil, having just parted company with their manager, and Richie Barker said to be standing by, rumoured to have been ousted for talking to Portsmouth. 

Carson in goal for the visitors had a Mackem connection but is reported to have had more clubs than Tony Jacklin. The Ditchburn Oracle was very quiet on the matter of officials. He has turned over a new leaf having discovered a new toy - a website for looking up referees. I thought that was a dirty job that junior doctors had to do, but if it works for the Ditchburn then that is good news. 

" The idea of playing a single striker up front at home was not going down too well with the fans as Luke was getting nowhere."

Actually he was more than quiet on the ref front today other than saying this ref is a good un. He did say the same about the much-maligned Mmmathieson, so you'd think he might have learned his lesson. He did quote a couple of unprintable comments on the man in the middle today from a Smoggie and a Donny fan, but you know the typical Yorkshire type, tight wi' the brass but always plenty to say. Mr Tierney from Lancashire probably never gave a toss about comments. 

Pools started brightly and Duckworth gave Poole an early chance to shoot and test the keeper. Number 18 for the visitors had a good shot blocked in front of Ned. Pools were building down the left and playing some good passing football. Luke raced through and laid on a ball for Monky, whose effort won us a corner. Carson in goal looked very dodgy as the ball came in and he flapped at it as Pools piled in on his area, giving Pools a second corner which was cleared. A good covering tackle was made by Jack as the visitors broke. 

Portsmouth had a great chance as a strong low shot beat Ned, hit his left hand post and ran along the line, just crawling out for a goal kick, a real let off for Pools. Duckworth, doing well out wide, was brought down but the Dolan free kick was hit over the bar. A second shot was blocked and cleared by Duckworth. 

Portsmouth again had hard luck when a shot on the turn was blocked by Ned. It became a bit of an end-to-end game as Portsmouth stepped up their game and Pools, playing a lone striker up front, were struggling to get any clear chances. Monky sent in a low drive that the keeper turned around the post, Walton also made a run across the goal and fired in a shot that Carson turned away. Portsmouth had an appeal for a penalty turned down just before half time.

Pools had a good spell at the start of the second half, but we were still giving the ball away too cheaply. We become too predictable and the hoof out by Flinders was invariably slung straight back at us. 

Luke was getting starved of decent service. The idea of playing a single striker up front at home was not going down too well with the fans as Luke was getting nowhere. Monky was playing too deep to help out. Duckworth was doing well down the wing but Poole just could not break free from his markers. They had done their homework on us, but Poole and Luke never gave up trying as Pools piled on the pressure. 

Ned made a great save from their no. 7 who was possibly the most threatening player on the park, who incidentally they took off shortly after his effort, bringing on a defender as they were holding out for the draw. Poole went off again for Sweeney. Luke, racing in, turned and made a hell of a shot that was straight at the keeper and that was as close as we came all game. 

A Walton dive gave us a free kick and the keeper tipped a Dolan shot over the bar after a second consecutive corner, as Pools went in for the kill, but the last chance fell to Jack who blazed his ball over the net.

I suppose on balance a draw was a good result for us but they were there for the taking if we could have had a little more guile and a bit more luck. I have to praise Mr. Walton, well for his first half display at least, as he hit some great long balls across the park, but he really has to learn how to tackle more consistently. Dolan was named Man-of-the-Match and deserved it after a good performance, but how long can we hang onto him now? 

Portsmouth were a workmanlike side but once again we fail to overcome a team in a lower position who were ripe for the taking. We need a plan “B” for these games but we also need someone that can apply such a plan.

Bring on the challenge Coventry. 

Have Yourself A Merry Little... *

CENTRAL PARK on Pools Christmases Past

Well here we are again, the Christmas edition.  What can I say to cheer up the faithful reader who looks forward to the festive season and has nothing better to do than to go straight to the Monkey Business?

Never mind the shopping for presents or putting up decorations, they can wait – let’s see what the fanzine has to offer. I suppose as a treat we could give consideration to producing a compendium of all my best bits from the previous years but sadly I think that would produce a volume even slimmer than ‘The Wit and Wisdom of Prince Charles’, a publication that the world awaits with a complete lack of interest.
There was a time when all I wanted for Christmas was two points.  I’m going back a bit here you understand.  In the really bad old days you only got two points for a win rather than the three points you get now.  I’d look at the fixture list towards the middle of September and think ‘if we can only pick up maximum points from those three games over Christmas and New Year it will put us within striking distance of the fifth bottom team’.  It rarely happened of course.  However when it did happen it was absolutely wonderful.  On Christmas Day 1954 we won 1-0 at home against Lord Voldemort’s XI.  We followed this up by tracking them down to their lair on 27th December and repeating the dose and finished the holiday period on New Year’s Day with a 1-0 win at home to Carlisle.  Six points, marvellous, I didn’t even mind going back to school when the holidays had finished."Some Christmases were extra special. Those were the times when we had got through to the third round of the FA cup and were drawn at home to a team from a higher division."
Of course at the next Christmas I expected the same, and at one point the lads looked as though they were going to pull it off when we beat Crewe twice in two days with an aggregate score of 9-2 (incidentally Crewe must have been heartily sick of Ken Johnson who scored 5 of the goals).  Unsurprisingly we had to go and spoil it by losing 1-5 at Mansfield on New Year’s Eve; I think the celebrations must have started a bit early that year.

The next time we pulled off the festive hat-trick was in the 1967/1968 season when the Christmas fixtures produced the sort of results that made you want to give all your other presents away to good causes.  Two victories in a period of five days against you know who from along the A66 (whatever happened to them by the way?  Are they still filling stadiums far and wide in the Premiership, which I was led to believe they would be joining about five years after that chap took over as chairman?  You know who I mean, I forget his name but I seem to remember that lots of people mistook him for Noel Coward on account of his command of the language and his fastidious, not to say delicate, manners.  I only ask because since they don’t play in the same division as us I have not been able to bring myself to read the league tables as it would be too much to bear seeing them in a higher division).  That holiday period had started on the 22nd of December with a 2-0 home win against Bradford Park Avenue and the six points we picked up went a long way to helping us to gain our first ever promotion at the end of the season.

We achieved the Christmas hat-trick again in 74/75 and 99/00 when the victims were Rochdale, Rotherham and Northampton; and York, Lincoln and Rochdale respectively.

The most recent maximum points haul was in the 2006/2007 season when we had a great Christmas that was part of a marvellous December, January, February and March (if you don’t count the FA Cup) when it seemed that ‘we were unbeatable’ to quote a well known phrase.  The victims over that Christmas were Grimsby, Peterborough and Mansfield.

Some Christmases were extra special.  Those were the times when we had got through to the third round of the FA cup and were drawn at home to a team from a higher division.  We had about four weeks to look forward to it following the draw on the Monday following the second round matches.  What a dilemma.  Eagerly looking forward to the match but knowing it would mark the end of the school holidays.

The first ‘big’ cup match that I can clearly remember when we were at home was against Forest in January1955.  They were only in the then second division but it was still a huge match for us and we harboured serious hopes of beating them.  Sadly after a creditable draw we lost the replay.  However that game was in the fourth round and was free of the ‘Christmas effect’.

The following year things improved dramatically.  Drawn at home to Chelsea the current First Division champions.  The initial excitement soon gave way to the dread that we might be annihilated by ten goals or more.  That was soon replaced by the wild hope that we just might scrape a win.  Most of the Christmas holiday was spent dreading the worst while hoping for the best.  As things turned out Pools put on a magnificent display falling only to a late goal.

If that was exciting then the following year we really hit the jackpot.  The Busby Babes at home in the third round.  The current First Division champions again coming to Hartlepool.  However this time the excitement was even more intense.  To get an idea of how it caught the area’s attention just imagine if Barcelona were coming to town with Messi leading the way.  Those particular Christmas holidays were the longest I have known, they just dragged on and on.  Everybody knows the outcome of the game itself so I won’t go into that but it certainly matched the build up.
Of course Christmas was not taken up totally with football.  Apart from the games over the Christmas holiday period we also had the presents to look forward to.  Back in the fifties there were no video games or the like and if you had a television then it was the old black and white variety and certainly no video tape.  I don’t think that even the old Dansette record player was widely available so the presents we got had to be attention keepers otherwise Christmas could quickly become boring.  Oh sure you could eat yourself sick so that you could get to the ‘game’ or whatever on the back of the box of sweets, but we soon got tired of trying to cut out the face mask that was always printed on the back of the selection box.  It was difficult to cut properly what with all the twists and turns, and then you had to find some string to put through the holes, and when you had done all that your mother still knew it was you and not Captain Hook. 

Fortunately for me I always got football books for presents, which I’ve still got (along with the Beano Annuals which sadly I gave away) so I was never stuck for something to do.  Just so you don’t get the impression that all those years ago Christmas was an unalloyed joy there was always a down side, usually in the form of the Billy Cotton Band Show or some such coming on the tele.  It was terrible; a fat cockney git waving his arms about, Alan Breeze trying to sing, Russ Conway playing the piano with nine fingers (big ‘ead) and a collection of fat lasses pretending to be a dance troupe.  Still, these days I try not to think about it.

So; what about this Christmas?  Chesterfield, Morecambe and Bury stand between us and the Christmas hat-trick and Coventry City are the obstacle to a possible home draw against Manchester City.  I am writing this on the morning following what (if dear old Ivan is to be believed, and why shouldn’t he be?) was a miserable and uninspiring performance at Bury.  It seems that if things don’t improve it will be a case of decking the halls with boughs of deadly nightshade.

*Fill in the missing word(s) yourself; after all we are all men of the world aren’t we?

Don't Bet on It

BILLY'S CONTRACT did. And regretted it. Twice.

At the beginning of each season my son and I have a 'daft wager' of some sort regarding Pools just to keep the interest going. (Particularly as in the last few seasons the interest has dropped off very quickly!)

Last season on hearing of Stevie Howard's signing he bet me a fiver that said centre forward would not score more than ten goals in all competitions. Make it a tenner I said snapping his hand off at the chance of some easy money. A couple of days later I felt even more confident as it was announced that Howard was going to be Pools penalty taker in chief.
"Make it a tenner I said snapping his hand off at the chance of some easy money."

A few games in Howard had not scored but I was far from worried about losing my bet as he was getting close, having hit the woodwork on several occasions as well as having a goal attempt cleared off the line. I genuinely felt that Big Stevie was just finding his range.

In a home match, I forget against whom, Pools were awarded a penalty. Big Stevie strode up, John Terryish, to take the spot kick. At the same time I looked up several terraces behind me in the Town End, where my son stood with his mates, and we both gave each other a knowing glance. As history records, the penalty was missed. We all groaned except my son who was quietly celebrating Howard's misfortune.

Three quarters into the season I paid up.

So to the beginning of this season. My son offered me the same ten pound bet on Stevie Howard. Once again I snapped his hand off. Surely at this level Howard would get ten goals before Christmas. 

"How about a bet on side on the same player?" he suggested. He bet me a further tenner (where do these students get their money from? ...oh, me. I forgot.) that Ritchie would score more goals for Chesterfield in the league than Howard would in all competitions for 'Pools. 

I asked him, did he want to reconsider his offer, as I said that even I, as one of his biggest fans, realise that Ritchie is only averaging one goal a season (a statistic based on, regrettably, his last season with us when he scored ermmm goal.).

Last week it was announced, to many fans' delight, that Steve Howard had left the club by mutual agreement, which meant an end to his Hartlepool United goal-scoring exploits. As Mr Howard moved on, so did my ten pound note ... into my son's grubby little hands, swiftly followed by a further ten pounds to cover the one goal (the winner against Oxford United) that Ritchie had scored for the Spireites.

Several morals can be taking from this.
1) Betting is a mug's game ...especially with your own street-wise son.
2) You could rely on Stevie Howard to let you down.
3) You can always depend on Ritchie not to let you down.

Funny Old Game

Christmas Cards and Greetings


This is the time of year when we send Christmas cards and extend greetings of the season. Here’s some I’d like to send:

To Pools: A picture of Bradford City.
To remind them of the 5-0 win in the JPT Trophy. The night faith was restored.

To Steve Howard: A view card of the City of Sheffield. 
To remind him that the city of Sheffield gave him something to smile about last season. His two goals against Sheffield United and his successful loan spell with Wednesday.

To Northampton Town and Bury: A picture of a football pitch. 
To remind them that that’s where the ball should spend most of its time instead of in the air. As Cloughie once said: “If God had meant football to be played in the air he would have put grass in the sky”.

To Manchester City’s manager Manuel Pellegrini: A simple message : Sunderland scored one and Manchester City had a blank sheet. 
After the Sunderland game, he was credited with saying “I don’t know how City lost”. 

To Peter Hartley and Gary Liddle: A picture of the League One table.
To remind them that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

To Albion Rovers: A picture of my son.
To let them know that they cost him the sum of £191.45 when they knocked Motherwell out of the Scottish Cup.

To Crawley Town: After sacking Richard Barker, perhaps a good message would be: “Ambition’s ok but keep things in perspective.” - Portsmouth, Coventry and Plymouth will tell you that.

To Ritchie Humphreys: “Good on yer, Ritchie - glad that there’s life after Pools”

To Sepp Blatter: “A peaceful Christmas, you blathering old biddy. Once Christmas is over do something about the construction workers in Qatar”.

To Roy Hodgson: A picture of H’angus the Monkey. One place where monkeys aren’t out of place.


To everybody out there: A happy Christmas!!!!

A Grand Day Out

BILLY'S CONTRACT waxes both lyrical and heretical

A few weeks ago The Bride mentioned that it had been Giddy Yonks since we last took the car out for a spin in the countryside. There was a time when most weekends we would rev up the motor and head off for the Dales or the Yorkshire Moors or even venture as far as the Lakes for the day.

Our preferred day of travel would normally be a Saturday as T3M's ...The Mindless Moronic Millions - would be in the towns, busy doing their shopping, thus leaving the Queen's highways relatively quiet and clutter-free, of them and their traffic.I recall on one particular trip over The Moors to Helmsley many years ago and hearing on the radio the sad news of Cyril Knowles death.

I must admit that I fancied a ride out myself and told the Wifey that the following Sunday (Saturday was out, as 'Pools were at home!) we would head off somewhere nice. The plan was to go to Masham via Thorpe Perrow Arboretum (a place with a lot of trees near Bedale!) to view the trees in their magnificent autumnal colours. That was the plan. However, as it was absolutely tanking it down on the day we changed tack and ended up in of all places ...DDDDDDDD Darlington!
"we eventually ended up in a multi-storey which would not have looked out of place in a Ridley Scott film."
It must be the best part of 30 years ago since I was in Darlington town centre, which was unusual in itself as for 15 years or so I lived in Eaglescliffe, seven or eight miles from the Darlo, preferring, as an exile to do my shopping in Hartlepool, keeping my money in the town and thus keeping fellow Poolies in employment, so they in turn could spend their money at the Vic.

It took some time to find a place to park; we eventually ended up in a multi-storey which would not have looked out of place in a Ridley Scott film. Worse was to follow - no free parking on a Sunday - so I was one English Pound down on the day before I had even set foot in the town centre!

As she who must be obeyed had a House of Fraser voucher from last Christmas she wanted rid of, we wandered down the High Street to Binns, to dispose of it. The first thing that strikes you about their main shopping thoroughfare is that it harks back to a bygone age, with lots of small shops and independent traders. It consists of not one but several shopping areas linked together by side streets, alleyways, or as they say in Yorkshire 'Ginnels'. (what a great word Ginnel is, straight out of an Alan Bennett monologue).

In some ways Darlington would put you in mind of Lynn Street and Musgrave Street in the late sixties, which is much more preferable than walking around the standard fare shopping centres that blight most British towns. I'm not wishing to blow their trumpet, but in Darlington they have a music shop that sells a wide range of musical instruments. They have a proper indoor market, albeit closed on the day, with a lovely Victorian fa├žade. They actually have a proper bookshop, and I am not talking of a W H Smith or even 'The Works' here, in the form of none other than the country's foremost bookshop, Waterstone's.*

I must admit to having a passion for reading. I spent a good hour in here browsing at various book titles and making a note of their names that I could order them on line from Amazon at half the price later on in the day.

Although I did not see one, I bet somewhere in Darlington that they still have a 'Suit's You' style tailors or two that would make quality made-to-measure suits.

I think it says a lot about a town's population if the town they live in does or does not possess a bookshop or a tailors. If it's somewhere like York, which does have such emporia, you think to yourself of a well-read, smartly-turned-out populace. If it doesn't you think of scruffy illiterate rabble.

Far from being a throwback from the past this Quaker town does actually boast its own modern shopping centre, The Cornmill. However you could easily walk past it thinking that the entrance belonged to a small independent store.

It has to be said that once you set foot inside, The Cornmill is a bit like the Tardis: small on the outside, large on the inside. All the usual suspects are there: Boots, Primark, Burger King et al. But the most notable difference between The Cornmill and Middleton Grange is that in the former there are no vacant units, which is refreshing and makes for a more vibrant shopping experience. Middleton Grange take note: Cut your rents. (N.b. Mary Portas asked me to include that.)

Though the toilets were spotlessly clean our visit to Binns proved disappointing. The interior resembled a department store I once visited in East Berlin prior to the wall coming down. This was because all the internal ducting, piping and extraction hoses etc., which are suspended from the ceiling and visible to the naked eye, gave the impression of being in an industrial facility of some description. Furthermore my wife returned home with her House of Fraser Voucher intact. Come to think of it I only spent a pound in the two hours that we were there, and that was for the privilege of parking.

As we headed back down Route A66 in the trusty Skoda, with the Hartlepool United stickers having being reinstated in rear window.(I did not want to upset the locals), my Wife said that we should come back here again to have a good look around the place, as there was a wider choice of stores than in God's Own town by the sea.

I partially agreed with her saying that in its own way Darlo had a lot going for it. They had better shops, more of them, a better all-round layout, and it was relatively clean. "But," I said, "There was one important thing that was obviously missing".

"What was that?" said The Bride.

"A league football team" I replied.

(* I'm sure Foyles in London or Blackwells in Oxford might dispute that, as would anyone who's ever been in Blackwells' Norrington Room, which has 3 MILES of shelving, and is only slightly smaller than Victoria Park. Ed.)

All Rounders

BILL THE BIRO on multi-talented players

CB Fry in his cricket gear (photo: G Beldam, 1906)
Most readers will remember Ian Botham, who captained England at cricket, and thirty years ago was taking wickets and slogging centuries against all comers.

But not so many will remember that he also played League footy (11 matches, for Scunny). He was one of a handful of players who have combined both sports at professional level. Arnold Sidebottom (Man. U./Huddersfield and Yorkshire/England), Jim Cumbes (West Brom/Aston Villa and Lancs/Worcs) were others of that era.

Going a bit further back, Denis Compton achieved more success, in a career interrupted by the Second World War, being a winger for Arsenal who scored 15 goals in 54 matches in the top flight, and, like Botham, was a crowd-pleasing all-rounder for England at cricket.

But a few years earlier, CB Fry eclipsed them all.
Born in 1872, at school he played any sport he could, and at the age of 16 played for Casuals in the FA Cup. He then went to Oxford University where he gained a blue (a discretionary award, only given to outstanding players) with the university's cricket and football teams, and at athletics. And he only missed out on one at rugby too, due to injury.

Big deal, I hear you say.

On leaving Oxford in 1895 he was invited to join the England cricket tour of South Africa, when his career took off.

At cricket he was another all-rounder (he would be, obviously), who twice took 10 wickets in a match, scored 94 centuries (6 consecutively, a still-unbeaten record) and retired with one of the highest batting averages of the time. He played for England for sixteen years (which also encompassed his professional football career), gaining 95 caps. He later became a cricket commentator on the radio.

At football he played 16 times for Southampton as a fast full-back. Ok, so Southampton were only in the Southern League at the time (this was a few years before Pools were even formed, yet alone in the Football League) but he also played once for England, and later played a few games (as an amateur) for Portsmouth as well.

At rugby he made ten appearances for Blackheath, three for the Barbarians and came close to having a trial for England.

At athletics he broke the British long jump record and equalled the world record, which was not bettered for a further ten years.

"A modern-day Ian Botham wouldn't be allowed to play two sports at a high level, and jumping onto mantelpieces would be out of the question." So he was quite sporty then.

He had a party piece which depended on the high ceilinged rooms of the circles in which he moved - he was a gentleman rather than a player, after all, even if financial pressures had been behind his professional football career. He would stand in front of his host's fireplace and jump onto the mantelpiece, twisting in mid-air, to land with his back against the chimney breast.

While his sporting career progressed into journalism, his other interests took him into education and diplomacy, and less successfully into politics, where he lost three parliamentary elections. Amazingly, he is also supposed to have once been offered the throne of Albania. However, nobody now seems to know how true that is - or if true, whether it was the offer of a job, or just the offer of an old chair!

Then there's his books. Mostly about cricket, but also an autobiography, one about the League of Nations, and even a novel.

He did have his down sides though. His sporting achievements at Qxford overshadowed (if not precluded) much in the way of academic ones; his admiration for Adolf Hitler didn't do him any favours, and he was cantankerous and prone to mental illness.

CB Fry died in 1956 aged 84. John Arlott said of him "... he was probably the most variously gifted Englishman of any age."

His achievements were only possible in a less-demanding age. A modern-day Ian Botham wouldn't be allowed to play two sports at a high level, and jumping onto mantelpieces would be out of the question. But wouldn't it be great if another CB Fry came along.

Counting the Cost

WAGGA MOON brings us back down to earth

We are getting back to the Pools we know and love and the inconsistency that we are renowned for. Some good home wins, albeit some slightly fortunate ones, along with two shocking performances at Newport and Bury.

For the game at Rodney Parade I went with a friend who had never seen Pools play before. In the pub before the game I was telling him about how after a poor start to the season we had found a little form and were only 5 points off the play-offs. After the abysmal performance when we were lucky to get nil he looked at me in disbelief and said, "And this is what you call a team on the up!".

I had no answer to that one and it was certainly back to the bad old days with a truly spineless performance.
Still it is nice to see Uncle Ken still looking for ways to save a bob or two. The best move was surely to get Steve Statue off the books, surely the most costly mistake in the IOR reign. And that is not forgetting Micky Barron's part in getting his bessie mate to the club. Cancelling the AGM (for the second year running) is another money-saving wheeze from Kenny although it does little to keep the fans informed about the club's finances and prospects. Oh, I forgot we now have a Fans' Flannel to discuss things although it all seems to have gone quiet on that front lately. Maybe the pies and bottle tops are at a satisfactory level so everything is alright there then.
"I dread to think what we would do for goals if Luke James got an injury and was out of action for any length of time."
It looks like Colin Cooper will be waiting until January to bolster the squad, although with Hartley and Howard moving on we could surely do with another player being brought in sooner rather than later. I dread to think what we would do for goals if Luke James got an injury and was out of action for any length of time. With a second round FA Cup tie against Coventry coming up we have a real chance of earning a third round money-spinning tie with a Premier League club. Cov seem to have hit a bad patch of form recently with a 1-5 home tonking from lowly Tranmere Rovers. It certainly looks a good time to be playing them. Whether any money from a cup run would be handed over to strengthen the team is another thing altogether, and with Ken's reluctance to invest any money recently it may be a forlorn hope.

It was fascinating to see the interest in the auction for the players' shirt in aid of the Poppy appeal and perhaps no surprise that Luke James's went for the top amount of £501, but Michael Duckworth's bringing £500 was a testimony to the success he has been in the short time he has been at the club. If Colin Cooper can find a few more like him in non league the future will be looking a lot brighter.

It was disappointing to see former Poolies Richie Barker and Anthony Williams lose their jobs at Crawley this week. Crawley are punching way above their weight to be mid-table in League One. They are essentially and always will be a non league club who are likely to be heading back that way if they dispense with the services of management who are far better than they deserve.
Barker has the makings of a very good manager and his assistant Taffy Williams divided opinions when he was at Victoria Park. I always thought he was an excellent keeper at our level and far better than Martin Hollund, who was too small to be a decent keeper.

Of course Tubby Turner often preferred Hollund to Taffy, showing his complete lack of football knowledge which he proved time after time during his two spells at Pools. Tim Sperrevik and Denis Behan for strikers anyone?

Now Barker was a real striker and Danny Wilson knew one when he saw one. Barker fired Pools to promotion and some thought Howard was going to be a similar success when signed for his second spell at the club. But the majority of fans who thought he was over the hill, on too much money and unlikely to make any impression and a huge waste of space were to be proved right.


Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

ELMO is tight-lipped

I’m sure that by now there can’t be many out there that haven’t heard of Movember. But if you’re one, it’s just November, when people (mainly men) grow a moustache to raise money for Testicular Cancer Research.

Some of you will have already done it; some of you will have been collared to stump up a few quid in support of someone who’s done it, and some of you will be saying “perhaps next year” …again.

But whatever you think of it, you can’t take anything away from the people who dreamed the idea up - reputedly half a dozen blokes in an Australian pub. - it’s raised millions for what had been a relatively minor research charity." for every Billy Ayre there is a Rob McKinnon whose moustache is barely visible."

Anyway, as Movember finishes and the razors are readied to bring the itching to an end, it’s got me thinking about moustaches I’ve seen at the Vic over the years. I tried to name some moustachioed Pools players of yesteryear. Two stood out in my memory straight away - Billy Ayre with his bushy Saddam Hussein effort, and Phil Brown, who looked better in his tash than he now does in his tan.

So, with my memory failing me on too many other hairy-lipped players, I dipped into a Pools history book, and found one pictured right at the front, none other than Pools’ player and first manager, Fred Priest, who went in for Poirot-style waxed ends sticking out at each side. If you go back even further, to the earliest days of football, you'll find teams photos in which most of the players have moustaches.

However, moustaches seemed to go out of favour after the First World War and no more appear on Pools players until the 1970s, when they became fashionable, although I can't believe there wouldn't have been one or two with the narrow Clark Gable style as worn by Private Walker in Dad's Army.

Now, when things become fashionable  all sorts of people want to follow the fashion, including those who are, how shall we say it, less well endowed. Just as there are girls who wear miniskirts that haven't got the legs for them (or rather have got too much leg for them), so for every Billy Ayre there is a Rob McKinnon whose moustache is barely visible.

My history book (Ed Law’s from 1989) then shows a succession of team photos from the ‘seventies and eighties in which a sizeable proportion of the players have moustaches, such as Graham Richardson, Eddie Edgar, Malcolm Poskett, Tommy Gibb, and Billy Ayre.

The fashion continued into the eighties with John Linacre, Kevin Johnson, Phil Brown, John Brownlie, and the great Barry Wardrobe all saving time on their shaving. And Paul Dobson, John Honour and Rob McKinnon made sure it continued right through the decade.

Since then, while there have been a few beards to take their place, moustaches have rather fallen out of favour, and with Movember now a regular feature of the fundraising calendar, maybe they won’t come back into fashion for a long time.

After all, the fundamental thing about growing a moustache for Movember is that you do it precisely because it's something that’s not a cool (or a comfortable) thing to do. And that’s why the MB editorial team of John Cooper and myself can’t wait to remove ours - extremely early in December!


Slightly Riled

SAM SENGELOW watches Countdown

If there is one thing that Pools fans have in common and connects them across a common ground, it’s that they love to hate a pantomime villain.

I know that Pools fans famously disliked former England international Carlton Palmer after his legendary mythical altercations with Pools legend and cult hero Brian Honour during their playing days in the early 1990s.

But it looks as if Pools fans could have another one of those pantomime villains to moan about – but this time, in one of the areas a Pools fan would maybe least expect - as faraway from the pitch as you can get.

I remember an incident I found out via word of mouth that apparently occurred whilst Jeff Stelling was host of Countdown between 2009 and 2011.

I have never been a regular Countdown viewer. However, when Jeff Stelling became the host of the show, I made a few rare visits on YouTube to see the odd clip from the programme here and there.

"Can I have one from the top, and five from the bottom, please, Rachel?"Meanwhile in The Granada Studios in Manchester, in one episode of Countdown two or three years ago, whilst Pools were avoiding relegation to League Two by the skin of their teeth, Mr. Stelling's co-host and successor to Carol Vorderman, Miss Rachel Riley was about to begin a numbers round. The contestant asked, in true Countdown tradition:

“Can I have one from the top, and five from the bottom, please, Rachel?”

“Certainly” Miss Riley rather chirpily replies.

She took one large number sign and five small number signs, and before she turned around to the numbers board to insert the numbers, she points her head towards Jeff Stelling and the audience and she said:

“Ah, one from the top, and five from the bottom …that’s a Hartlepool, isn’t it?!!!”

Apparantly, at that point, Mr Stelling was rendered speechless by this - he was less than impressed.

However, he did not say a single word himself.

When I heard this, I personally could not believe this.

Now, on television at least, Miss Riley has never been nothing less then a very likeable, seemingly friendly person. However...

Had Miss Riley, an Oxford graduate, intended to make a witty remark which seemed to have flopped, or had she genuinely made this remark thinking the club which she supported was better than Pools?

I’m not sure.

I did not know what Hartlepool United had done to deserve a remark like that at that time. You had to take pity as a whole, on a harmless, good-natured, friendly club with harmless, good-natured, friendly, funny supporters, whose only crime at that time seemed to be the fact that we had been struggling for consecutive years to stave off relegation into League Two after promotion in 2007, and were lucky. In my opinion, it only seemed inevitable that one of those years, we would not be as lucky as previous seasons.

So it proved last May, when relegation to League Two proved so obvious. I believe last season was one of the worst seasons in the twenty years or so in which I have followed Pools. And I wish never to see a season like 2012-13 ever again at The Vic. And that’s why John Hughes had to be sacked as Hartlepool United manager in my opinion.

Now, according to a quick bit of research, Miss Riley is originally from Rochford in Essex, but surprisingly, she does not support Southend United or Colchester United ...she is actually a Manchester United fan.

And at the time of writing of this in November 2013, Manchester United, once mighty, 13 times Champions of England in the Alex Ferguson era, are an incredible EIGHTH in the Premier League!!!

Who would have thought it?

That would have looked improbable during the last three consecutive decades, while Manchester United dominated English football.

And at the same time, Miss Riley bowed out of the latest series of Strictly Come Dancing, on the same week as scoring 30 out of 40, finishing below the actor Mark Benton, who is a lifelong Middlesbrough FC fan. But what people may not know about Mark Benton, is that before he famously played THAT banker bloke from the Nationwide Building Society (at a time perhaps before the financial crisis when bankers had a very high approval rating) he also played Ricky, a man from Hartlepool, in a Mike Leigh film called Career Girls, in 1997.

The film tells the story of two female mature students who meet at university in London, one from the North-East and one from Southern England, who meet Ricky and befriend him and eventually travel to Hartlepool to see him. It was only by pure chance that I discovered the film whilst peering over Mark Benton's CV. I had liked his performance when I saw him in BBC sitcom Early Doors, set in a Manchester pub called The Grapes. There are several scenes in the sitcom talking about football in Manchester. The film Career Girls is less well-known across the country, when compared to the more illustrious play adaptation for television Abigail's Party made for the BBC in 1977. And it is now some 16 years since the film was released in the UK.

And indeed, after Miss Riley's exit from the competition, there was one overriding message in the media afterwards:


In hindsight, with Man United struggling and Pools' momentum seemingly unstoppable, she may look back at the remark she made then, and may think it rather foolish.

Now, I can’t help but feel that Miss Riley has had one massive lecture on karma.    

Funny Old Game

As I Seen It - Northampton

RUNNING MONKEY sees another VICtory

 League 2  Pools V Northampton at the Vic, Saturday November 23rd

For once in my lifetime today Pools got the music right for the entrance of the gladiators. 

Smoke on the Water had all the air guitarists strumming wistfully along to the music. A parade of tiny Poolies waving blue 'n white flags formed a guard of honour as the teams took to the field. Some of the flags were bigger than the kids but they were an enthusiastic bunch that took some controlling.

On the way to my station in the Town End there was a meeting of minds at the fence next to the CK stand. The Codgers, who have vacated the Town End for the comfort of the back row in the CK stand this season, were claiming it is just for a different perspective after forty years propping up a section of girder in the Town End, The Ditchburn sage has a different take on the move as he watched the half-time cucumber sandwiches and hot chocolate from a thermos being shared among the people who he thought were his friends.

What kept the codgers amused was this question: "Which ex-Poolie legend had a fifty-seventh birthday this week?" Well, everyone knows it was Big Bad Bob, but we commoners in the Town End just let the codgers think they were educating us.

The Sage informed me that the visitors are the most censured team in the division this season, claiming thirty three cards between them, but not to worry, as the Ditchburn once again showed his superior knowledge and claimed this feller is a great ref. He will look after us. He also told me of his plans to publish his Ditchburn Poolie fans' guide to Football Referees. He claims it will be the official "Wisden" of the Football League and people the world over will be checking out their games and on how much the referee is going to influence their Saturday.
"Once again The Sage was claiming this man is a good ref. He was having a bad start just turning up in a grey kit, How can you chant "who is the bastard in the grey?" "
Well judging by the last three home games and the expert opinion given to the listening Town End, it will be money wasted. Take today for instance. Once again The Sage was claiming this man is a good ref. He was having a bad start just turning up in a grey kit, How can you chant "who is the bastard in the grey?"

Well the game kicked off in reasonable weather, if not a tad cool, but we have played in worse. It could have been a bad start for Pools too as two attacks in the first minute almost drew blood as they stormed through, and a shot hit the post and bounced into the arms of Ned. It was a real let-off. They looked up for the game but overall they flattered to deceive as Pools got themselves sorted and started to play the football we have seen recently.

Poole was doing well through the middle, turning the visitors but getting flattened in the process. Pools had a handball turned down as they pushed into the box. Still the Ditchburn claimed he was right on this one. On their next attack they even took out H'Angus leaving him sprawled, writhing on the ground after a late tackle, and came back to do it again later in the half, this time leaving him limping to the dressing room.

Pools were putting the pressure on the visitors and were paying the penalty; every time we crossed into their half we were bundled, shoved or hacked to the ground, all unnoticed by the official in charge.  Dolan got a great ball off to Luke who raced into the box and hit a great shot past the visitors’ keeper, and Pools thoroughly deserved this lead.

This good ref that comes with a commendation from the Ditchburn Wisden, overruled two offside decisions in a minute as the lino wondered what he was doing here. Another instance was when Jack was taken out right in front of the official, who turned a blind eye. Shame that the ref could not see through the writhing Northampton player after a tackle by Monky ended with the Pools player collecting his full set of yellows, which will rule him out of the next game. Funny how all the fouls go against us and we invariably have the first name in the book.

Statistics prove that this is the dirtiest team to come to the Vic this season. Poole rode three tackles in succession as he dodged his way into the box but nothing was given after he was taken down. This good ref also sent Aussie off for treatment after being up-ended; he was prepared to carry on but the ref would have none of it and called on the Pools' physio, then insisted Aussie went off for treatment. Luke had another chance as a Dolan free kick was flicked on and Luke’s shot hit the bar with the visitors' keeper beat.

The second half Pools started well again and Compton went really close after taking on three and still getting a shot off into the side netting. Poole had an exceptional game and was my man-of-the-match and he won a penalty after racing into the box and got himself sandwiched between two defenders, the ref gave the penalty but after some deliberation with the linesman and some input from the Pools player,s decided a penalty was enough and there was no need to produce a card. I did think, "oh no" as Walton took over the penalty kick, but he did make a good job of sending the keeper the wrong way.

Compton, who was also a candidate for man-of-the-match made some great runs down the flank and cutting in across the box kept the visitors on their toes. He was later named man-of-the-match by Brian Honour, "but he was a winger too" was the murmur on the terrace.

Ned gave a very confident performance today, and looked commanding in his box when needed. Northampton had a good spell around the seventy minutes mark and pushed us back as they searched for an opening. Pools stood firm and towards the end of the game Monky, Compton and Sweeney all went close with chances.

A workman-like performance for Pools, showing some good skills all over the park, but it has to be said this side, who beat Fleetwood last week, looked very poor at times and reminded me of the Pools team early in the season when hoof-ball was the order of the day.

Any Other Business


Anyone who's already read the piece about Movember won't be surprised that the article was prompted by the fact that Lol and John, who between them have continuously edited or co-edited the Bizz for the last dozen years, both decided to have a go at it. 

Both were glad to shave their tashes off pretty sharpish at the end of the month, so if you didn't see them "live", this is the only view you're going to get!

We haven't done yet another Hartlepool Festive Bus for you to print and cut out this year, you'll be pleased to hear. Having already done two, we didn't think there'd be the need for a third. 

However, if anyone wants to see what we're on about, or would like to have their own festive bus, here are links to the relevant pages of the December 2012 and 2011 editions of Monkey Business. features a model of the Hartlepool Corporation Christmas Bus in its earlier, mostly-red livery, with a roof and chimney, and Santa on top.  features a model of the Hartlepool Corporation Christmas Bus in its later, mostly-cream livery, with Santa, sleigh and reindeer on top.

Don't forget that the contributor deadline for the January edition is before New Year's Day.

And finally, from everyone who creates Monkey Business to everyone who reads it, we hope you all have a great Christmas and New Year, and that the latter will be a good one for you and yours, ...and Pools.