Showing posts from January, 2014
As I Seen It - Rochdale (h)


Pools 0, Rochdale 3   League 2  Saturday January 11th 2013

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at the Vic


OK, I was not that surprised by today’s result, as we never beat Rochdale. Ever since time began, home or away, I do not remember us beating them.

I suppose statistically we probably have beaten them at sometime but for my fragile psyche, today was only going to be another defeat. After all they beat the once mighty L***s by five last week and beat us 3-0 at the start of the season; why should I feel any different as we have struggled of late and look to be on the slide.

It was actually a decent start to the game as, after a brief spell from them I would say we more then held our own. Young Walker made a good run and managed a shot on goal. Luke was dragged down on the edge of the box for the seventh time in six minutes. Ok a little exaggeration but I bet the foul count against him in the first twenty minutes was in more than double figures. They were physical but how many teams in this league are not? I can only think of one.

Richards was taking the dead ball kicks and one made it into the box where Luke was bundled over trying to shoot but as we know early fouls against Pools do not count. OK, I am not going to blame the ref again, this defeat was our own making but he certainly set the tone for the game, turning a blind eye to a huge defender rolling over Luke every time Luke turned him. It was well into the second half before the ref even warned the defender.

There were chances at both ends: Burgess for Pools headed over; a good move between Poole and Luke as he tested the keeper, who made a good block that was cleared. Richards scraped a shot off the bar and Burgess had a shot blocked. Late in the half Pools were seeing more of the ball. A great chance by Poole came from a ball in by Monky, Poole hit the shot on the volley but the keeper was equal to it just before the break.

Speaking of which. The half time Ditchburn lecture was all about the problems with today’s football rules. He would like to see a change. When you see a player consistently being barged to the ground or fouled over and over again, as in the case of Luke throughout a game, which is being totally ignored by officials, then the Ditchburn would like to see a team penalized by the foul count on that player. As it stands eleven individual players could take turns knocking seven bells out of Luke, and getting off scot-free. So if three players took out Luke that third player would be booked. The only flaw I see in this is that Luke could take thirty-three fouls in the first half and all the opposition stay on the field with one booking each. Ah well it made interesting hat at the time.

The second half was predictable: we were muscled out of the game and they hit us with a sucker early in the half. After a Dale corner, what looked like a rebound found itself in the net.
"OK, I was not that surprised by today’s result, as we never beat Rochdale. Ever since time began home or away I do not remember us beating them."
Monky was playing more upfront now and did get a chance but it was blocked, Luke sent in a cross that Franks picked up, side stepped his man and instinctively took another touch and his shot was blocked. Why oh why does he have to have that extra touch in front of goal?

A handball appeal from a corner was ignored by the official; Monky raced into to shoot from close range but Luke was ruled offside before he laid the ball off.

Dale went two up when a rebound ball was picked up outside the box and a great strike hit the top corner making it two nil. Walton, who was drafted in for Duckworth, once again performed his party piece: got caught on the ball, turned and made a back pass to Ned from the half way line, and guess what - he never spotted the Dale player between him and Ned as he almost caught up with the ball.

The only real chance late in the half for Pools was a header by Jack from a free kick but he hit the keeper in the chest with the ball. It was all over bar the shouting by now and Dale did score another and still had two good chances before the end.

Call it what you like, Lack of quality, lack of a striker, lack of a holding midfield magician, someone said it was going to be a long season, to which I replied it has already been a long one and I do not hold out any hope for a jubilant fighting finish at the end of it if that is what it comes to. We are still a long way from fifty points.

The Day After Christmas

BILLY'S CONTRACT on Boxing Days, then and now

When I looked at the fixture list it at the start of the season it came as no surprise that once again we had yet another away game on Boxing Day (Saint Stephen's day for our Irish readers.) I cannot remember the last time that we had a Boxing Day game at home but I recall a certain Kevin Betsy was playing for our opponents.

Back in the day it was pretty much mandatory that Pools were allocated a home match on Boxing Day. Barring the Darlow games the Boxing day fixture was the one game that I looked forward to more than any other.

The day for me began with a late lie in; needless to say recovering after the the 'Christmas stuffing' the day before ...not to mention the Christmas 'Quaffing' the night before!

After breakfast which consisted of - would you believe - a turkey sandwich, I would tune into Ceefax/Teletex to catch the first football result of the day which was always strangely West Ham's. They always kicked off at 12 noon. Like Pools they were always at home on Boxing Day and not unlike Pools they never seemed to lose a Boxing Day fixture no matter how lowly or dire their league position was.

Before kick off a few pints would be 'seen off' on the Headland before grabbing a cab over to West (sadly the blue Hartlepool Corporation buses had long since been scrapped),  and straight into the Rink End. The festive crowd was always good humoured, win, lose or draw. Most of whom would be breaking in their new Christmas jumpers or sampling the contents of their new new hip flasks, whilst the air was permeated with the smell of Hamlet cigars.

The crowd was generally the biggest of the season, with many lads making their one and only trip of the year to the Vic, to get out from under the feet of her indoors. Others attended the Boxing Day match just to take the air and clear their heads after all the alcohol abuse on Christmas Day.

Needless to say that when I saw the fixture list I was disappointed to find that we were once again away from home on the 26th. However I thought, weather permitting, I would definitely make the journey down to Chesterfield, if for nothing else but to witness Ritchie playing for someone other than Hartlepool United.
"The festive crowd was always good humoured, win, lose or draw. Most of whom would be breaking in their new Christmas jumpers or sampling the contents of their new hip flasks"
The plan was that four of us would make the trip to Derbyshire. However for one reason or another all three of my fellow passengers had to cry off. On Christmas Day I tried texting a mate offering him a lift but I did not get a reply.

On the day of the match I woke up at around 9am wondering if I should even bother going down to Chesterfield by myself and I then remembered another of my mates, who was spending Christmas in South Yorkshire, had said that if I was going to the match he would meet me at the ground. Prior to revving up the trusty old Skoda I left him a voice message on his phone to say that I was on my way, but as I would be driving I would not be able to answer any return call that he made until I got to Chesterfield, as I do not have a hands free facility for my mobile in the car.

Two hours later I parked Czechoslovakia's finest just off the unusually named Occupation Road, What a name for a road! Was I in the French Quarter of Chesterfield? I then picked up a missed text message from my pal informing me that he was unable to get to the match. Was it something I said to all my mates!

After a lone pint of excellent quality Guinness in The Tap, I made my way to the 'Prozac' Stadium. I have to say that many of the newer stadiums that have being constructed in recent years are very bland and are basically tribute to breeze blocks, I am thinking along the lines of the likes of Scunny, Chester and Northampton. This is not the case at Chesterfield, as, although breeze blocks figure prominently in its construction, this stadium does stand out. If Pools ever decided to relocate or redevelop the Vic, I for one would be happy if they replicated Chesterfield's ground ...obviously with the words "Hartlepool United" displayed externally on the building rather than "Chesterfield F.C."

The match itself was a cracker. Just short of 600 Poolies made the trip and the noise they made was incredible. The rest of the ground was like a library in comparison. I won't go into the details of the match as I am sure it will be recorded elsewhere but I have to say it was the best away performance I have seen in a long time. In fact after Monkey got his marching orders we got even better and at times it looked as if we had 12 players on the pitch to match Chesterfield's 12 players (I have included the ref in their starting eleven.) I keep saying that all we want is a a Richie Barker style forward up front for us to hold things up and  take some of the heat off James and Poole, as well as a nippy midfielder, and I still believe that we could nick promotion or certainly make the play-offs.

I was delighted with the reception that the Poolie faithful gave Sir Ritchie. It was very similar to when he scored the winning goal in the penalty shoot out at Tranmere. The Poolies chanted his name numerous times during the game, so much it must have been off-putting at times as well as embarrassing for Humps. As for the round of applause he got when taking his first corner, the Chesterfield fans must have been scratching their heads, such was the esteem he was held in by the travelling hordes from the North. Indeed all the Chesterfield fans with whom I spoke to could not believe that we let Ritchie go. I am guessing even at this early stage he is already in pole position to be their player of the century!

Goodness knows what the reaction would have been had Ritchie scored. I remember when Westy made his first return to the Vic after moving to Walsall the Pools fans were chanting his name throughout the match and gave a massive roar of approval when scored from a corner. I also recall how Danny Wilson was not altogether too pleased about the adulation Westy was afforded on the day by the Hartlepool Supporters. If nothing else it just shows how much us 'Poolies respect 'Ones that are ours': Westy, Ritchie, Joel, Tinks Dimi, Jackie Honour, Joe Allon and Neale Cooper to name a but few. Contrast these icons to the likes of Micky Nelson, Andy Toman, Chris Llewellyn. Lee Bullock, Chris Shuker, Nobby Solano, Robbie Elliot and a cast of a thousands.

I was told that on some of the Hartlepool message boards some of the keyboard warriors, many who where not even at the game, vented their disgust at the reception Ritchie received. However many of these fans are the same people who were wanting the likes of Richie Jones and even Nathan Luscombe to be in the Pools side ahead of Sir Ritchie. Nuf said.

As for Ritchie's performance against his former employers. Basically he was directing operations and all set plays came through him. We were all anticipating that Franks would give him a roasting but that did not happen due to Ritchie's positional skills. On the one occasion Franks did get past him Ritchie still managed to get a foot to the ball preventing the cross from going in to their box.

On the down side for Ritchie, but on the up side for Pools well as for Poole, was that he was involved in Pools being awarded their penalty. A long ball dropped between him and another defender and they allowed Poole to nip in between them. Poole, instead of shooting hesitated, and thus his scoring chance had gone, but the Chesterfield defender, instead of shadowing him and forcing Poole wide, clipped him and down he went. Penalty Hartlepool. And as they say the rest is history.

Some may blame Ritchie for his part in the penalty but if you saw the mess that Neil Austin made for the Chesterfield goal ...people in glass houses!

As I revved up the Trusty Old Skoda, having to make the solitary journey home by myself, I reflected on a thoroughly enjoyable day. Who was the best player on the pitch on the day? Only one call in my opinion. None other than ...Matty Dolan. His best game ever for the club, and that is coming from someone who has criticized him in the past. I also reflected on the generous reception Ritchie got from the 600 appreciative away fans on the day.

Goodness knows what his homecoming will be like when he returns to the Vic next April with Chesterfield.

Funny Old Game

Striking Out at Last

a mid-season assessment by WAGGA MOON

New Year transfer window open and more players required. That is surely the message for Colin Cooper and Craig Hignett after a run of two wins out of the last ten matches.
The annoying thing about this is that there is not a good team in this division. No outstanding team to run away with the title and everyone much of a muchness. Not blaming Cooper for this but the fact is that we have needed a decent striker for three years and the world and its wife knew this. 

Steve Howard was clearly not the answer and to give him a two-year contract at 36 years old was absolute folly. It would be nice if whoever was responsible for this were to hold their hand up so the fans knew exactly who to vent their frustration at. 

Now we have Dan Jones, Jordan Richards and Jack Compton on the injured list and Andy Monkhouse suspended we are really down on numbers. 

If Nialle Rodney was worth a contract then surely now is the time to give him a run in the side. He had a promising debut against Morecambe. But we had 21 shots and only two goals, stressing how much we need some genuine firepower. What Cooper has been doing in the barren run is continually play two holding midfielders in Matty Dolan and Simon Walton in a bid not to lose a game rather than trying to win it.
Funny how when he replaces one with young Brad Walker the youngster scores a candidate for goal of the season within five minutes of coming on. 
"against Morecambe ...we had 21 shots and only two goals, stressing how much we need some genuine firepower."
We had to endure the "don't lose the game" defensive tactics of John Hughes for the second half of last season. I had to laugh when one "expert" on one of the Pools messageboards was congratulating Hughes for steering Inverness Callies to second place in the SPL. Not that this had anything to do with Terry Butcher who put the side together and put them into this postion after 15 games. Make no mistake about it, Cooper is a far better proposition than Hughes would ever be. Let Hughes ply his trade in the goalposts for jumpers league, which is about his true level. 

It looks like we are getting to keep Christian Burgess and Matty Dolan for the rest of the season, which is good news. I would like to see two strikers brought in, one experienced and one youngster from a Premier club using the salaries of Howard and Hartley. And sending Antony Sweeney and Sam Collins out on loan would free up money to bring in a left back, as Neil Austin is way off the pace at the moment, giving wingers far too much space and not trying hard enough to prevent them getting a cross in. This is the Fourth Division in case he has forgotten and the players in this league are not as good as they were last season. 

Letting the opposition get their noses in front has been a major problem in the last six weeks and means we are continually chasing the game. The need to start on the front foot is vitally important. We are not a million miles away from a play-off place and cerrtainly have nothing to fear from the teams above us.

A pity we went out of the FA Cup to Coventry as a few lucrative matches would have brought in some much needed income. What is puzzling is how Coventry, in and out of administration, can pay strikers like Leon Clarke, Callum Wilson and Carl Baker, and still bring in high earning strikers like Chris Dagnall on loan. 

Surely it is not that Pools are one of the few clubs abiding by the FFP rules while most other clubs are openly flouting them? That may be a question to bring up at the next Fans' Flannel meeting, or have they all been cancelled due to lack of interest?

Goon away

Howard's End


Well, it had to end and after a torrid second spell at Hartlepool. Big Steve Howard has departed. A mutual agreement is the official line – all rather sad really considering the high expectations when he returned in July 2012. 3 goals in 42 league appearances was not what then manager Neale Cooper was after and ultimately cost them both their jobs. 

I remember Steve Howard when he first arrived at Hartlepool United from Tow Law Town in 1995. He stayed 3½ years scoring 32 goals from 164 appearances, nearly a goal every 5 games, not bad considering he often was played in midfield and even at centre half on some occasions. Pools then struggling in the 4th tier of English football finished 20th, 20th and 17th in his 3 full seasons – he was very consistent scoring 7 league goals in each of those seasons.

I know many people were surprised when he moved on to Northampton then in the 3rd tier for £120,000, a tidy sum back then. Northampton made the play offs (1998) but lost in the final to Grimsby Town. The following season Northampton were relegated back to the 4th tier – relegation following a play off – who would have believed that!
"...this time the fee being a massive one and a half million pounds! Yes, one and a half million, it’s a lot – count it. "
Steve was then on his travels again, his destination Luton Town. This was in March 2001 with Luton doing badly in the 3rd tier, eventually being relegated to the 4th tier. Interestingly, Joe Kinnear was their manager. Steve stayed at Luton for over 5 years scoring 103 goals in 228 appearances, a goal in just over every 2 games – a great return. In his first full season at Luton they came 2nd and were automatically promoted back to the 3rd tier. One game that stays in my memory is the 3-2 defeat at Kenilworth Road on a glorious summer's afternoon at the end of August. After 23 minutes Pools were 3 down. Steve Howard had scored 2 and had a hand in the other. In the 2004 / 5 season Luton finished top of the division on 98 points, 12 clear of nearest rivals Hull City and therefore gaining a place in the Championship. In retrospect it’s interesting to see the different paths these two clubs have taken.

During the close season of 2006 Steve moved to Derby County for a million pounds. This was probably the peak of Steve’s career, Derby finishing 3rd in the Championship and promoted via the playoffs to the Premiership. The following season however was to be dire for Derby, winning just one Premiership game and being mathematically relegated in March. Steve did have the pleasure of scoring at Old Trafford in the 4-1 defeat to Manchester United, Steve’s only goal of the season. Mind, they only scored a total of 19 and one of those was an own goal! In all he scored 20 goals from 73 appearances.

In January 2008 following one loan appearance as a substitute Steve was transferred to Leicester City, this time the fee being a massive one and a half million pounds! Yes, one and a half million, it’s a lot – count it.

Leicester city were then in the Championship but had won just 5 games by the time Steve arrived. They managed another 7 victories that season finishing 22nd and were relegated to the 3rd tier for the first time in their history. This was to be a brief stay at this level, being promoted as champions, Steve netting twice at the Vic in a 2-2 draw. They made the play offs as well, losing on penalties to Cardiff City in the semi final stage.

After a poor start to the 2010 / 11 season Sven Goran-Eriksson was appointed manager and he was quoted as saying “Steve reminds me of Vieri. Strong, but clever at the same time.” Eriksson had managed Christian Vieri at Lazio 12 years previously, before his then world-record £32  million move to Inter Milan. Leicester finished 10th. The following season they finished 9th but Steve had only made 4 starts, scoring once.

Which brings Steve back to Hartlepool – the big name forward from whom so much was expected, and for a club with limited resources so much was invested. In his time away he had scored 10 goals in 10 matches against Pools. If only he could be convinced he was playing against us we would have been invincible. A brief loan spell at Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship (where he scored one goal in 8 appearances) failed to result in a permanent transfer. His contract meant he returned to Pools for the current campaign but it didn’t work out.

I for one wish him well for the future and thank him for his contribution to Pools history – it’s good to see an ex roofer and road worker do well in the football world and give others the hope to the dream of what can be achieved.

His leaving has been said to release some funds for future loan signings should they be required. Now where can we get an experienced, proven target man with a decent goal scoring reputation?

Satisfactory - But Could Have Been Better


As 2014 dawns, its maybe a good time to take stock. After the depressing start to the season, most Poolies would have settled for a mid table spot at the turn of the year. Yes, it could have been better. Some games we’ve had to chase to get a point (Cheltenham and Burton spring to mind) and other games we’ve not turned superiority into goals.

Take the away game against Morecambe - although we took the three points, the BBC website neatly summed up the state of play:
On Target

There was only one area where Morecambe matched Pools and that was in the number of fouls - seven apiece. All this happened three days after a good performance against Ritchie’s All Star Eleven and even Chesterfield’s boss, Paul Cook, had complimentary things to say about Pools.

Certainly, a play - off spot isn’t beyond us but it does seem that after advancing one foot forward we tend to take one back. Still, a young team can only get better but there is obviously a question mark over the futures of Jack Baldwin and Luke James. According to a recent report in the Daily Telegraph, Sunderland are interested in Jack Baldwin and a fee of £500,000 was quoted with additional money based on appearances.

Sunderland have also been mentioned regarding Luke James and I suppose it’s a matter of time before he departs for pastures new. These two transfers will obviously blunt any push towards the play-offs if they leave in the coming transfer window, and the playing of Jonathan Franks in a strikers’ position would indicate Colin Cooper’s thinking in the event of a James departure. The news before Christmas that Middlesbrough will allow Christian Burgess and Matty Dolan to remain with us till the end of the season is good news. Mind you, Matty went on loan to Yeovil last season and finished up in a play off final. Could lightning strike twice in the same place?

"Sheffield Wednesday’s decision not to have a pay day loan firm as their shirt sponsors shows there’s some good decision making in the game"
One thing which Pools will have to look at is: who will Scott Flinders aim for when Andy Monkhouse is suspended? As it is, most of Scott’s goal kicks and set pieces are aimed for Andy Monkhouse out on the left and whilst this tactic doesn’t always come off there are times when attacks can get started. Unfortunately, Monkhouse has a tendency to collect yellow cards - he’s already had one suspension and his two at Chesterfield will mean another one.

The late goal against Morecambe brought back memories of the FA Cup replay when we were undone by Coventry in the last minute. One thing that struck me about that game was the attendance - just over 1,000. Take away the two hundred plus Poolies who were there and you have a gate of less than 1,000. Even Pools have never gone below 1,000 for League and FA Cup games. How Coventry are surviving is beyond belief and its evidence that a fans’ boycott is holding. Still, your fault Coventry - don’t blame anyone else.

A tragic event at Hibernian brought back unhappy memories for Michael Nelson. Just before Christmas, Hibernian’s 18 year old highly rated trainee, David Paul, passed away in his sleep and Michael Nelson told the Sunday Post: “I’ve experienced it before at Hartlepool when Michael Maidens, a 20 year old who had just broken into the first team squad, was killed in a car crash”. Michael Maidens’ memory lives on and Poolies will still remember him each year at Victoria Park. These tragic events bring everything into perspective.

Recent events in the bog-standard Premier League confirm that the world is a crazy place. The main story leading up to Christmas was, of course, the sacking of Malky Mackay by the Cardiff City owner, Vincent Tan. It mattered not that Cardiff were playing in the top tier of English football for the first time since Adam was a lad - it was just that he’d leaked personal correspondence. Which proves something I was once told: always be careful what you put in writing - you can’t deny anything!

Tan, of course, did away with tradition when he changed the colour of Cardiff’s strip - the reason given was that red was more identifiable with Malaya. I may stand corrected but the only other occasion when I recall a club changing its colours was Leeds United under Don Revie. His first action was to ditch the blue and old gold shirts and replace them with all white because he wanted Leeds to look like Real Madrid. At first, it looked like Leeds would end up in the third tier of English football and the change was greeted with some amusement as Real Madrid were winning everything before them.

Then, of course, we have the dick head at Hull City who wants to change the name of the club to Hull Tigers. Fortunately, he needs the approval of the FA to effect a change so let’s hope the guys running our beautiful game kick the idea into touch. Still, there are still some good things happening in the game; Sheffield Wednesday’s decision not to have a pay day loan firm as their shirt sponsors shows there’s some good decision making in the game.

Anyway, hope you’ve all recovered from Christmas. A Happy New Year to you all.

An Un-commercial Decision

BILLY'S CONTRACT on ticket prices

A couple of seasons ago some of the lads from work decided that they fancied popping over to see the Pools v Borer pre-season friendly. Turns out four of them made the trip over from smoggiest Teesside where in addition to enjoying healthful fresh air of the town of Hartlepool they, and myself included, also enjoyed a few pints before, during and after the game.

The exercise was repeated this season when once again Borer came to town. A good time was had by all and many hostelries in the town as well as the club itself benefited from the money spent by these foreign tourists.

A few weeks back they said the would love to experience the atmosphere of a league game at the 'Vic as opposed to the subdued relaxed ambience of a pre season kick about.
"additional bums on seats would have helped generate a better atmosphere and may well have helped us to propel the team to the next round"
I informed them that we would shortly be playing Coventry in the Cup and that likelihood being that the normal ticket prices would be reduced. All four of my work mates were up for it and really looking forward to the day out and asked me to order the tickets ...that was until it was announced that due to policing costs, ticket prices would remain at the normal £20. As a result the Teesside Four decided to give the game a miss and instead they had a day on the pop nearer to home in Norton.

When I heard how much 'Pools were charging for this game I correctly predicted, and I recall that I mentioned it to the girl in the ticket office, that even allowing for Coventry fans filling the Rink End, which they did not, that we would struggle to get a gate of 3,000 which indeed was the case.

My son for example, said there was no way he could afford the cost of the ticket as well as the train fare from Newcastle, as that was half a week's dole money gone in one fell swoop.

Another, a mate who is a season ticket holder, could not afford to take himself and his daughter to the match as it was too near to Christmas.

On the day a crowd of 2908 turned up. I think that the club got it horribly wrong and as such must have lost out financially by not not reducing ticket prices for this game. Including missing Coventry fans my guess is that we were around 1,000 bodies down for this match.

Since officially becoming an Old Codger in March I an now entitled to concessionary tickets. I could not believe that I was only charged £5 for the Coventry game. I never thought that I would say this, but that price was far toooooooo cheap.

Basically a fair price on the day would have been £14 for adults and £8 for a concession*. The club would have made more money all round particularly with additional beer/food/programme sales. More importantly the additional bums on seats would have helped generate a better atmosphere and may well have helped us to propel the team to the next round.

On the field there were no winners on the day. Off the field the only other result was:
Hartlepool Commercial Department 0. P.C Plods 1

Here endeth the lesson to the The Hartlepool Commercial Department.

*The equivalent prices charged by Coventry at the replay were £9 and £6 [Ed.]

Funny Old Game

Coventry (a) - As I Seen It

Coventry City 2, Pools 1   FA Cup Round 2 (replay)  Tuesday December 17th 2013

Match report by BILL THE BIRO at Sixfields (Northampton)

Northampton and Coventry are both towns I know well. In fact my daily commute takes me around the outskirts of both of them.  

The Sixfields stadium is a place I know well, too. Not only have I frequently seen Pools play (and usually lose) there, it's the only other league ground besides the Vic where I've had a conducted tour. 

So it was that I dawdled home from work, stopping to take in the match on the way. In fact, despite not leaving work until 6, and then driving the 15 miles to Northampton, I still had time to go to KFC and look round the enormous B & Q (their fitted kitchens are amazing, by the way), before heading off to Sixfields

With me being a senior, I only paid £6 to get in (full price was only £9), which made the £4 car parking charge seem a bit steep. The age limit for seniors at football matches seems to be variable, with many, like Pools, using 60, while others use 65. This was pointed out to me by a fellow senior who realised after reading the small print on his ticket that he had unwittingly defrauded Coventry City of £3. Obviously he will now be putting a cheque in the post.

Most people already know of the farce that is the Coventry City saga. It involves a big-league club building a big-league stadium at the same time as they lose their big-league status. Add in wheeler-dealer business practices and the result is that Coventry City can't pay their big-league rent and go bust. As ever, a brand-new club emerges, which seems to be the old one except that they now play 31 miles away at Sixfields, while their big-league stadium languishes doing nothing but the odd rock concert. The fans are unsurprisingly not amused, and vote with their feet, with most of them refusing to watch home matches played outside Coventry.

"Sixfields is by no means a big ground, but the Coventry fans in the main stand looked a sorry lot, surrounded by empty seats.
So it was that, while Pools had a turnout of more than 250, decent for a midweek game in December, Coventry couldn't even entice a thousand people to go a few miles up the road. The result was a bizarre atmosphere. Sixfields is by no means a big ground, but the Coventry fans in the main stand looked a sorry lot, surrounded by empty seats. And one side stand and one end stand weren't even being used. So we at times had the atmosphere of a Sunday league match. When the play was near the empty stands, sometimes all that could be heard was the players on the pitch shouting to each other. It gave some idea of what matches must have been like at the Reynolds Arena, although they must have been even worse.

After the strange lineup at Cheltenham, which Colin Cooper admitted had not been right, he returned to more familiar territory with Compton and Walker replacing Holden and Sweeney, and with Franks continuing up front, after his impressive showing at Whaddon Road.

From the off, Coventry looked the better side, with big, bustling Leon Clarke always being a danger, so it came as no surprise when he scored. Pools were not really posing much of a threat.

After half time Pools improved a bit. Poole and James came on and Pools then came more into the action. In one impressive 2 or 3 minute spell they ran rings round Coventry, but failed to score.

Pools' final substitution was Collins for Franks. Sensible, we thought. Move Monkhouse up front, Baldwin to midfield and Sam can replace him at the back. Not so. Sam went up top. And the move worked, with Baldwin getting a late headed equaliser.

Pools were now up for it, but with extra time looming, that man Clarke was again given a chance, which he took, leaving Pools with no time to rescue the situation.

So Pools are left to concentrate on the league. Let's hope they do a better job of that than they did last season.

Poolie Mishaps

ALREET shares some of his

London Poolie Alreet was telling us that odd things are always happening to him. We asked him what, and he told us. Here are just some of them.

My dad was a founder member of the local cricket club and as a kid, I did the scoring for a couple of bob, a free tea and trips out into the country for away matches which really appealed to me.

Our last away match every year was against Thomas Cook whose private ground was at Ravensbourne which is near Bromley in Kent. It took place in early September and coincided with the Battle of Britain fly-past. On this particular occasion, the Spitfire leading the formation suffered an engine failure and it disappeared from view with engine spluttering, before silently reappearing above the trees behind me and pancaking right across the table of the adjoining wicket leaving about three inches of stumps in situ. I still have a chunk of its wooden prop.

On the subject of cricket, I eventually started to play (although I had no interest in the game and was a complete rabbit) batting No.11 for the seconds and hardly knowing one end of the bat from the other. Although I knew the function of a box, I had no idea how to keep it in position. Having completed our first run, I disgraced myself by removing it and handing it to the umpire for safekeeping because it was now sitting at the top of my knee! Somehow I progressed to opening the batting for the First Eleven and on one occasion, I was bowled out on 99 having just run two while the other batsman hadn't bothered to run any as he thought I'd hit a four!

"Unfortunately, I could only stand and watch as the ball flew over his head and into our net for one of the best goals I ever scored!"
One morning while walking to work through the back streets by Bankside Power Station (now Tate Modern), I noticed a white security van being reversed across the road ahead of me. I also noticed a couple of Old Bill vehicles in the vicinity but this wasn't unusual and I carried on walking to my office in Southwark Street.

I then spotted that my road had been closed off with people standing behind the blue and white tape but nobody said anything to me so I just carried on, High Noon style, along the deserted street and finally reached my office. Once inside, I told the others what I had just experienced and wondered if there had been some sort of security alert. I was somewhat taken aback to be told that they had received a tannoy announcement warning them not to stand near the windows as there had been a hold up on a security van and the perpetrators were still thought to be nearby and had guns!

I've twice been locked in at work, once on a Saturday morning when I was the only one in the building, and almost managed to repeat this feat in W H Smugs in Hartlepool after a match a couple of years ago.

One bitter February day several years ago, I had a day off work to drive out to Cambridgeshire to twitch a (bird) rarity, a Rustic Bunting. It was on some farmland which was flooded as a result of recent rain and having seen it well and then walking back to my car, I skirted a pond which had formed in the bottom of a field but found myself trapped up to my knees in mud and unable to move.

I saw another birder in the 'car park' and called out to him. He gallantly came back and managed to haul me out but not before both his pristine white socks had slipped out of his wellies and sampled the mud. I'm ashamed to say that I nearly pee'd myself laughing and was desperately trying to hide my silly smirk from his gaze as I feared he would have told me to **** myself for my lack of respect.

I didn't escape scot free however because, before he reached me, I had managed to sit down in my struggles to get free and ended up with half the farmer's field stuck to my 'bottle'. Having reached the safety of my car, I decided that it wasn't a great idea to drive home in my jeans so I took them off and drove home in my underpants (but that's another story!). On a serious note, that episode made me vow never to be the last one away from a twitch again.

Once when playing left midfield in a local league match, our left back was injured so I dropped back to cover his position while he was off receiving treatment. Standing out wide by the halfway line, a long ball was heading in my direction and, having noted that their wide man was, er, quick, I decided to play it safe and hooked the ball on the bounce back to our keeper. Unfortunately, I could only stand and watch as the ball flew over his head and into our net for one of the best goals I ever scored!

And finally, I disproved the theory about lightning not striking twice by travelling on the District line of the Underground and being unable to get out of my seat when attempting to leave the train. I thought that some bugger had put some chewing gum on the seat but was then amazed to discover that a spring had worked its way through the seat cover and into my jacksie.

Not being a contortionist, I wasn't in a position to see if I had done myself a mischief so I thought I would report it to an LU type otherwise they would have said that I could have done it anywhere. With my luck, the only Underground person in sight was a woman so she looked quite startled when I said to her, "Excuse me but would you mind having a look at my arse?" before explaining my predicament. Fortunately when I reached home, I could see that my trousers hadn't been damaged.

Then, a few years later, I was travelling home with Edith on the Victoria line to catch our Overground train from Euston. When we reached our station, I again had difficulty getting out of my seat and with a loud "Boing ", I left the carriage while the other passengers changed their undies at my expense.

This time, I was convinced that my trousers hadn't survived so when we reached the top of the escalator, I saw a large window by a door and went in to state my case while Edith dutifully waited outside. A bloke inside provided me with a form to complete and had a look at the damage. When I returned outside, there was no sign of Edith so I carried on and eventually found her waiting for me by the ticket machines.

When I asked her why she had moved, she told me that she had never seen me before as the hundreds of commuters streaming home were looking in the window and all they could see was me leaning over a counter while a bloke was looking right up my arse"!!! This time, however, my trousers were ripped and I received a new pair, courtesy of London Underground.

Bury (h)- As I Seen It

Pools 0, Bury 3   League 2  Wednesday January 1st 2014

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at The Vic

All the talk in the papers this week and on the radio on the way to the game seemed to be of the opinion that Pools had turned the corner. The trouble with corners is you never know what is round the next one.

Today we found out just what kind of trouble you can blindly run into when over confidence sets you up for a fall. Even before the game the Ditchburn referee reference was wary of today’s visitors as the official from Tyne and Wear was too local. He will be too accommodating to the visitors. How right he was as the man from Bolton could have been the Bury twelfth man. No matter, as history tells us we never beat Bury, and this season they have now done the double over us.

Tommy Miller was leading the visitors today and promptly won the toss and turned us round. Always a bad sign to be kicking down hill the first half. Pools started bright enough and Walker could have given us a lead within five minutes when he met a ball from a corner and tried to stab it home only for his effort to be blocked on the line and cleared.

Bury were quick to break and a speculative long range shot was helped into the net by Flinders. The shot dipped in front of him and as he scooped it up he looked as if he threw it into his own net. Some good work out wide from Duckworth was wasted as his cross was hit wide from in the box. A chip into the box from Dolan just evaded Aussie at the back post as Pools pushed for an equalizer.

In almost their next attack the visitors were two up after Nardiello, running into the box, teased Ned off his line. Ned went down for the ball and the striker hit the ball past him to give them a two goal lead. Pools were rattled and it showed in their play. Passing was awful right across the board and we were making a lot of mistakes and never looked a real threat to the visitors.

On twenty minutes the goalkeeper was wasting tim,e taking an age to retrieve the ball and placing it two or three times with not a word from the official. Any time we did get close they defended in numbers. One opportunity was when Jack hit a rebound ball point blank but it was cleared for a corner, which we wasted with a poor ball in. We had four shots at goal blocked in one attack and as we closed the first half we were lucky to be only two down.

The half time chat was pretty much: we had been our own worst enemies, giving the ball away, wasting all the dead ball situations and despite the possession we had, we were no real threat. The Ditchburn and I decided that the problem lies in the two previous games, and as the visitors came today we expected to win and the manager’s own words 'I did not see that coming' speak volumes. Over confidence maybe but still a good hiding from another lower team.

The second half was no better, plenty of impotent effort from Pools and plenty of threat from Bury. Poole did have a couple of shots but both were blocked and Bury hit a shot just wide with Ned beat. Luke battled through out the game but once again getting no help from the officials as two sometimes three defenders piled in on him the first chance they got. Poole was out of sorts and despite his efforts made little headway.
"we expected to win and the manager’s own words 'I did not see that coming' speak volumes"
Franks was busy but again no real clear chances made by the home side. Pools were attacking and a blatant foul on Luke as he was wrestled to the ground was unobserved by the officials and they broke and scored a third goal that set off an exodus of Poolies from the Vic. Cooper was shocked into action and brought on all three subs but to no avail as Bury were home and dry.

We had plenty of possession but did not use it to our advantage; a poor attacking display apart from Duckworth, who once again was the only player with any real credit, and a very poor passing game from the home side, and a very frustrating afternoon for the home fans.

Looking back at the stats from today’s match and in terms of possession, attacking play and corners Pools came out well on top.

But there was not even a consolation for Pools who had seen much more of the ball this afternoon but failed to find target in a disappointing start to 2014 at The Vic.

We need the forthcoming week's break to get the lads back into a more positive mode, instead of talking about play offs. You only have to look at today’s game to see how far away we are from that position.

Any Other Business


Why do we do it? On New Year's Day Pools went down 0-3 to Bury at the Vic, in a match everyone said Pools were certain to win. The manager never saw it coming. On the messageboards, all the predictions were for Bury to score nil and Pools to get a few more. 

Now why should that be? Massive complacency and over-confidence would seem to be the answer, with both players and fans alike. Bury had been putting some results together, and Pools had been on a lengthy run of draws and defeats prior to their win at Morecambe. Yet that one game seemed to fool everyone into thinking Pools were world-beaters. They had apparently played well, yet gave away their lead with only a few minutes left. Luckily, they were able to rescue the situation, yet they so nearly threw away a match they had dominated.

A much more cautious prediction would have been reasonable in the circumstances, but we don't seem to do them. Just as we predicted automatic promotion for the season after our Cardiff final - but were relegated instead, Poolies seem to have a collective propensity for self delusion.

And talking of the Bury match on New Year's Day, Phil McGhee, mein host at the Mill House, was showing us his new onesie. After which Pools showed us their nilsie-threesie.

Anyone who missed the Pools Christmas video can find it here:

And finally, best wishes for the New Year from all at Monkey Business.