Out Like a Lion, In Like a Lamb


As Pools inch their way towards the play offs, speculation is already mounting as to whether we can mange what we thought would be impossible at the start of the season. Certainly, Colin Cooper has done nothing to dampen down expectations.

What put the fear of God into me was the fact that we had to play the two bottom sides in consecutive weeks - Northampton and Torquay. We failed at the first hurdle but fortunately didn’t fall at the second. Even then, the Torquay game wasn’t easy but we took our chances and in the end it was a comfortable win. Chesterfield’s manager, Paul Cook, admitted that Torquay had caused them problems and only two late goals saw The Spireites through.

The defence against Torquay was very solid and for me the star of the show was Christian Burgess. Everything about him was first class - his general defensive play, his recovery when tackles didn’t quite come off and, of course, we’re now getting used to his speedy forays deep into the opponents’ half. Some day he’s going to have no one to pass to and will have to score himself. And then there’s the signing of Marlon Harewood. Unlike Steve Howard, who divided Poolies, Marlon Harewood has won Poolies over very quickly and the reception he received when being substituted towards the end of the Torquay game was evidence that everyone’s recognised his skill and effort. I gained the impression in the Newport game that Harewood was a bit of a target but, of course, he’s a bit long in the tooth to be put off by that. On the other side of the coin, Marlon Harewood seems to be enjoying himself surrounded by all those younger players!

Which brings me to March. After the Torquay game, we have six fixtures: Wycombe (away), Accrington (away), Bristol Rovers (home), Oxford (away), Mansfield (home) and Cheltenham (home). Only one of those sides are above Pools so, in theory, we should accumulate a few points. Well, that’s the theory anyway.
"Marlon Harewood seems to be enjoying himself surrounded by all those younger players!"
A cause for worry is, of course, injuries and suspensions. Neil Austin’s injury has been far more serious than at first realised and then, of course, there’s the injury to Michael Duckworth. Fortunately, we’ve been able to overcome these but with a paper-thin squad we could be in trouble, particularly with the flurry of games in March. Still, Colin Cooper’s already proved that he can tap the loan market successfully for young players, rather than relying on has-beens who can’t get a place at their current clubs.

By the way, the Hartlepool Mail seem to have a thing about Colin Cooper coming from Trimdon and being 46 years old. Seems to get a mention every week! (So Billy's Contract is not the only person besides me to have noticed! - Ed.)

Last month I mentioned the refereeing at Pools this season. One of the things about the Torquay game was that the ref, Fred Graham, was hardly noticed and the only time he was called into action was when there was a six player fracas following a foul on Scott Flinders. Got in amongst the combatants, presumably told them to put their handbags away and kept his yellow cards in his pocket. Well done, ref. A throw back to the good old days.

The weekend of the Torquay game provided plenty of publicity for Sunderland and Newcastle. Sunderland’s achievement in getting to the final of the League Cup has been well documented and if Mags fans were jealous of Sunderland dominating the air waves and newspaper columns then they couldn’t have imagined the publicity that would be generated as a result of the head butt by Alan Pardew at Hull City. As someone said, it must be the only time in years that anyone at Newcastle has used their loaf! They are a club that never cease to amaze me for shooting themselves in the foot. And its not just a modern day thing. In the 1960s, they refused to give George Eastham a transfer and as a result he took them to court and was successful in getting the then retain-and-transfer system declared a “restraint of trade”. One well-known player in his newspaper column at the time said that bad employers soon became well-known and identified Newcastle as one of those kind of employers. You can always trust The Mags to wash their dirty linen in public.

We also got news of the draw for Euro2016 and England were, of course, grouped with Switzerland, San Marino, Estonia, Lithuania and Slovenia. An easy draw which would make the FA happy, you’d think. But wait. Having spent £750 rebuilding Wembley how on earth are they going to fill the place with games like this. Will probably have a full house for Switzerland but for the rest of the games they’ll have to give the tickets away. Another alternative - why not play the games at Pools. I think we might be able to fill Victoria Park on a Tuesday/Wednesday night. I’ve no doubt that the FA will come up with something - ranging from high profile friendlies to changing their replica shirts. We can see now why rebuilding Wembley was a big mistake; the how much better it was for England games to be played at various grounds throughout the country. The venues could then have been tapered to the opposition.

In an earlier issue of MB, I mentioned the fate of clubs who have ex-Poolies in their ranks. Notts County seem to be destined for League Two, and any push towards safety will have to be made without Gary Liddle who, unfortunately, received a serious ankle ligament injury just before Christmas and is out for the season.  Stevenage (with Peter Hartley in their ranks) are still struggling as are Tranmere (with Evan Horwood in their ranks). The only one, it seems, to have come up smelling of eau de cologne is our Ritchie at Chesterfield. Leading the way in League 2, he’s also got a Wembley appearance coming up in the final of the JPT.