January - The No Steps Forward Month!

GREAT GRANDAD SHOUTY on Pools, and more.

Unbeaten in the league in December, Poolies can be forgiven for thinking that, at last, we might launch a challenge towards the play-off places, particularly after two very good results against Chesterfield and Morecambe. 

Yet, it all went pear shaped and three defeats against teams from the historic county of Lancashire saw the wheels well and truly come off. As at 1st February, Pools are twelve points off seventh place but, worryingly, only six points off the 23rd placed club. It seems we can dominate games yet are unable to break down teams when they defend in depth, the Scunthorpe game being a good example. Hopefully, the signing of Marlon Harewoood will bring dividends; certainly against Scunthorpe, he produced some nice touches when coming off the bench and seems prepared to create his own chances. Was there a first against Scunthorpe? I refer to Tony Sweeney having to go off and come back on again to allow the fourth official to put up his trusty board. Obviously, busting a gut to get on!

The last day of the transfer window was the one when we bade farewell to Jack Baldwin. Plucked out of non-league footy by Mick Wadsworth, Baldwin oozed class from the time he came into the team and was also able to clock up important goals from time to time. It was only a matter of time before he went to richer pastures. Maybe it was a bit of a surprise to see him join Peterborough bearing in mind that a number of clubs in the Championship and Sunderland were supposed to be interested in him. However, we know that he can hold his own in League One and the fact that Peterborough have a chance of reaching the play offs may yet give him a chance of playing in the Championship. Had he joined a Premier League club, he would have spent most of his time on the bench - maybe not the best way to develop his undoubted talents. A pity that Pools weren’t able to start an auction and get even more cash!

"It seems we can dominate games yet are unable to break down teams when they defend in depth"A pal of mine once said that if you ever get a good offer for your centre half then take it as you’re better placed to get a replacement. It’s the striker that you’ll have difficulty replacing. Anyway, Jack, all the best for the future. I’m sure you’ll get a good reception when you come back to Pools. Gone but not forgotten. Just like Ritchie Humphreys.

If we have a problem with the centre half spot then Colin Cooper can always tap into the loan market - he hasn’t done too bad so far. I did think we’d miss Matty Dolan when he was recalled by Middlesbrough - in the short term we did but the arrival of Luke Williams looks as though it could more than compensate. Its also great to see Darren Holden doing well on his recall. Since Michael Duckworth’s enforced absence, he’s turned in good performances. So far as this season’s concerned, Michael Duckworth has been a real find. Another one plucked from non - league football - another Jack Baldwin?

On the day that we played Scunthorpe, we saw another worrying feature of Tyne-Wear derbies and that was the idiosyncrasy of Mags’ supporters taunting the police horses. OK, you might have issues against Ashley and Kinnear but its not the fault of the equine animals, is it? Sunderland and Newcastle do have problems with Northumbria Police over kick off times and the latest bout of post-match violence could be counter productive in that the police may decide its not worth it and apply to the courts to have the derbies played behind closed doors. If Liverpool and Everton supporters can act with dignity before, during and after their derbies, why can’t Mags’ supporters do the same?

Then we had the Home Office putting the cat among the pigeons. They’ve ruled that there’ll be no national extension of pub licensing hours for England’s opening fixture against Italy on Saturday, 14th June. The Home Office apparently wrote to the British Beer and Pub Association and gave as their reason that they didn’t consider it an event of national importance. Any extension that pubs want will have to go through the courts on an individual basis and that will cost them. An official of the Football Supporters Federation was quoted as saying, “For many fans the next best thing is the communal vibe of the pub” I’ve got a better suggestion. All England’s games are on terrestrial television so why don’t fans get some cans in and invite their mates round? You don’t have to go to the pub to have a good time and it will be cheaper! On the other hand, maybe the Home Office think there’ll be nothing to celebrate.

Lastly, I have an apology to make. I misjudged the influence that Sir Dave Richards would have on Leicester City where he’s chairman. At the moment, they look as though they’re running away with the Championship - ten points ahead of the second placed club and thirteen ahead of the third. Normally, the Championship is one mad scramble but this season, it looks like the scramble will be for second place.

Finally, back to Pools. I know a lot of Poolies will disagree but I’ve been reasonably impressed with the refereeing this season. OK, you’re not going to agree with everything they do but they’ve controlled things reasonably well. Quite often, dodgy decisions will often even themselves out and refereeing in League Two has never been an issue - unlike, of course, the bog standard Premier League where refereeing is a side show. As I’ve said before, People in the game wittered on about getting full time referees but has it solved any problems? If anything, its created more.