Showing posts from April, 2014
As I Seen It - Burton (a)


Burton Albion 3 - Pools 0   League Two  Saturday April 19th 2014

Match report by BILL THE BIRO at The Pirelli Stadium


In an atmosphere of doom and despondency I set out for what may well turn out to be my last-ever Pools league match. 

Ok I've been here before in previous seasons but this seems worse in the suddenness of it all. One month we're safe and still going for the playoffs and a few weeks later we're possibly relying on others to save us. 

Having driven past Burton many times but never been to the Pirelli Stadium, getting into the town wasn't a problem, but finding the ground was. Another Poolie later told me he'd had the same problem, and he's been there twice before! Perhaps some signposts might have been of use. Obviously either of the two satnavs I had in the car but chose not to use may also have helped. 

I was encouraged to see that Monky was playing and that Marlon wasn't. Pools started brightly as usual with Luke being up front on his own. Sam was commanding at the back and Walton's good-and-awful style was veering towards the good for once. Luke was his usual harrying self. Rafferty (whom I hadn't seen before) looked the part but had an air of uncertainty about him almost from the off. 

Disaster struck quite early on when Luke crashed into an advertising sign and didn't move until the physio had run across the pitch to him, and then took an age to get him on his feet. He did come back on, but not for long, and had to be helped off the pitch. 

As the sub was getting ready a young girl near me shouted out “God, no, not Marlon, Cooper, anyone but Marlon” to which I could only add “Hear, hear!” To be fair to Marlon, he did have a few touches, some even reaching Pools players, but two or three Marlons couldn't replace Luke. 

The first half was fairly even with Marlon having a good chance that could have resulted in a goal if he'd tried to do his job rather than trying the Brazilian stuff. 

Half an hour in, Burton got through our defence for one-nil. Pools were still in it for the remainder of the half, and into the second, but eventually they wilted and a competent but not exceptional Burton cruised to a comfortable victory. 
"In the middle, besides the unusually effective Walton, there was the unusually ineffective Monkhouse and the typically ineffective Poole and Franks"
There were still the odd moments for Pools. One breakaway took Burton by surprise and Poole blasted wide when it would have been as easy to score, but that was only ever going to be a consolation anyway. 

The Pools players applauded the fans at the end without advancing too far from the comfort of the centre circle as the boos rang out. 

As said earlier, Rafferty didn't fill me with confidence and I wouldn't pick him rather that a fit Flinders. 

At the back Holden struggled a bit, Duckworth was quite lively, Sam was a rock and Harrison did quite well. In the middle, besides the unusually effective Walton, there was the unusually ineffective Monkhouse and the typically ineffective Poole and Franks, which didn't help either Luke or Harewood much. Harewood, at one point, when a Pools break was on, started to amble towards the goal like he was on a country walk! 

I asked a couple of Poolies who I see regularly at away matches whether we'll stay up. The one, who sees most Pools away games, said “Quite the reverse, I think we're f****d”. The other, a Manchester United season ticket holder (and so knows about struggling teams), only sees Pools when they play in the Midlands, and thought they would survive. Nevertheless he and I did have a conversation, just in case, about the exact location of Forest Green (Nailsworth, apparently). 

I tend towards the negative view, and that our fate rests with Darrell Clarke and Bristol Rovers. I shall be in Hartlepool for a wedding on the day Pools play Exeter. That could be a very tense occasion, with smartphones much in evidence.

As I Seen It - Morecambe (h)


Pools 2 - Morecambe 1   League 2 Monday April 21st 2014

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at The Vic


As usual Pools always do things the hard way. 

With the loss of our star striker, apparently tripped up at Boston by a raised sprinkler cover, surely there should be a claim made for that crime. 

Poolies were hoping just for a point to stop the visitors moving too far away, and most of us were wondering where were the goals would come from or if we could build a wall around our goal and defend it for ninety-seven minutes. A Little boost was that the early kick off had seen the Dale beat Bristol. 

The Ditchburn was unable to bring his lucky charm cousin who has seen seven wins out of eight games but was otherwise engaged with an extended family bash. One new face at the Vic today was none other than Saltburn Poolie who has not been for two seasons. Another omen for the day was that Flinders was back. Nothing against Raffa as he did well enough but after six defeats on the trot and despite limited choices a change of personnel was due. 

It did not look good for the home fans today, but it was a good turn out of fans with the fiver entrance, I was almost tempted to buy one myself as it was cheaper than the season ticket. I commented to those who would listen this should have been done when we were excited about the play-offs and not as a desperate measure at the end of the season. 

For once we won a toss and kicked up the bank for the first half, as it should be every game. Fingers were being pointed and agitated Morecambe players were berating the ref for not taking more action against a Monky tackle. It turns out this is part of their game and, sad to say, especially in the first half, the Wearside official fell for it hook line and sinker. 

All Wearside officials apparently hate coming to Hartlepool. Well, after this season's bunch of TWITS we do not need you. Most of them have been bloody awful and the Ditchburn does not lie. 

Walton took a free kick that tested the keeper and as Morecambe came straight back at us Ned took a good catch under his bar that looked like it was a goal. Monky set up Marlon whose shot was blocked but the following corner was wasted. 

Morecambe got the measure of us after about fifteen minutes and we were being pushed back and found it difficult to get the ball clear. Pools under pressure conceded a good goal scored by Ellison who just waited at the back post and had a clear header. Which we never got near to defending. 
"A rip-roaring second half delighted the home fans and a visiting Mackem fan on a cheap day trip totally agreed. "

Once again under pressure we were our own worst enemies, playing long balls to space with no one in them. We pumped balls down both flanks but whether players were out of position or that was not the agreed plan we looked awful and wasted a lot of possession. 

Holden made a last gasp challenge to stop a certain goal just on half time, and both the team and the fans were relieved at the half time whistle, as we were under a lot of pressure. 

Shortly into the second half Pools were a man down as Walton was given a straight red. From where I was it looked a dead cert but fans closer to the incident were in uproar down the Millhouse side, but you would expect that. In my mind Walton deserved to walk, and it was not his first offence of the game either. The visitors had been feigning injury and going down at the slightest contact, and the concerted effort of his teammates may have persuaded the official’s decision. So with a straight red and the end of season looming we may not see him again. 

Once again a man down and Pools played the better football and started to get back into the game with the visitors looking decidedly edgy. No slight on Walton then. Poole, who was once again in and out of the game, was replaced by Compton. Those around me who said he should be first on the to go list soon changed their collective minds when he raced through, dismissed any form of tackle on him and hit a brilliant shot past the Morecambe keeper to make it one all, and the Vic was bouncing. Not seen that in a long time. 

Compton was in action again soon after as he raced to cover and block a shot in the box that Flinders was able to clear. Once again the doubters said Barmby was another one for the bin until he raced through and teased the keeper and cool as you like stroked the ball home with the keeper stranded. 

As I said before, these players on loan from big - no, massive clubs are not going to break their necks for a fourth division outfit, but in Barmby’s case he probably won’t be back but he probably has saved our season. So I only hope the fans in the CK who barracked him after he was taken off in front of his father need to look again at themselves, or at least think twice about how they treat loanees. 

Walker has had an up and down spell since his award and the best of his three long range shots today really rattled the visitors' bar and Franks, with THAT extra touch he always seems to need, hit the rebound straight at the keeper. 

The extra five minutes added by the official set the nerves jangling again as Morecambe pressed us at the end but the ten man Pools had pulled off a very unlikely escape from the drop to non-league, and my guess is that the coffee in Darlo will have a bitter taste tonight. For those who do not remember Darlo they are a lower than low former league side that had pretentions of grandeur sometime ago. 

As a Pools fan you never know from one game to the next what to expect from our team. Well today was totally unexpected; maybe we were relying on other teams to save our skin, was one of the comments said to me at half time. To a certain extent I think most of us thought that too. A rip-roaring second half delighted the home fans and a visiting Mackem fan on a cheap day trip totally agreed. 

Chants of ‘Poolie till I die” echoed around the ground; it seemed so long ago since we heard that with such gusto. The visiting Mackem also agreed with my man-of-the-match choice of HOLDEN, who was superb today and really more than battled for the cause. Granted we have some players who will do that, but the consensus is that once again we need a partial clear out.

Sam was supposed to be a back four coach, but without his experience we would have been goosed this season. Harrison the Sunderland lad had a far more comfortable game than last week and to me looks like he is one to keep. 

Rumour was that Chris Riggott had turned down the job of Number Two. Just maybe he thought today was going to be a black Monday in the history of HUFC.

As I Seen It - Chesterfield (h)


Pools 1 - Chesterfield 2   League 2 Saturday April 12th 2014

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at The Vic


Four defeats on the trot and another top team visiting the Vic with the added flavour of Richie Humphreys making his return after leaving the club under a cloud, or smokescreen which has still not cleared. 

The news on the Pools team was a mixed bag. Walton out injured in the warm-up, so not all bad, then Walton recovered and limps onto the pitch at the start. A debut for the centre half Harrison from the Mackems, one of two players who the club are looking at for next season if you believe the rumour. 

After a minute's silence perfectly observed for the Liverpool 96, the game got off to a brisk start and initially I was conned into believing the visitors were a long-ball hoof team, as for the first ten minutes the long balls were lumped into the Pools box with Rafferty, who was keeping Ned from the position, dealing ably with some very good high ball takes that he made look very easy. 

The official report will have you believe that we were competing but the truth is, this has to have been the worst home performance of the season. OK we have Monkhouse Burgess, Austin, and Sweeney all out, either by choice of the manager or injury. Another point is we have only won one game since Hignett left, not excuses but it is odd that a month ago some fans were talking of play-offs and I think the Ditchburn will agree with me that it was never going to happen. 

Now we are in deep ship. The game to come with Morecambe will make or break us and push us down to non-league football, and it will possibly be our fate, especially if we have to rely on other results to save our asses. OK I may not be my happy chirpy self today but watching your season die in such a way is not a happy sight to see. 
"It has been said already this season that there are no real good teams in this division but it also has to be said, and the position proves it, we are certainly one of the poorer sides"
There was very little for us in this game today; after the first fifteen minutes we were back-pedalling throughout the game. It was a good break against the run of play as Luke opened the scoring; he broke free and raced forward, curling a superb left foot shot past the advancing keeper. 

That was it for the day, Barmby had his worst game yet, but can you blame him? When the lad is on the fringe of the Manure side he is not going to break sweat for the Pools cause is he? 

Chesterfield came back at us and piled on the pressure, and from a corner the ball dropped three yards from the line and it was poked home, making it one all. 

It was a struggle to keep the score at one all into the break but there was even worse to come in the second half. As it was at the Rink End and my eyesight is little better than the Ditchburn’s, it looked like a very good goal to me. Lucky some say but the guy attacked the defence, got to the angle of the box, right of the goal, and whether he meant it or not he hit a brilliant shot to the top corner on the left side of the Pools goal. 

It was downhill from there on as the crowd got agitated by some very odd decisions made by the ref, but as I have been told before we cannot blame the ref all the time. It was difficult to watch as the skill gap between the teams made the visitors look a superior side. 

Marlon had a chance when he was clear through and hit a scruffy shot that barely rolled up to their keeper. Oliver, the other Mackem, also made his debut but it was hard to judge him on the time he was on. Harrison looked ok in parts but with Sam and Sideways bellowing at him if he miss-hit a ball it will not help his confidence. 

Just maybe Collins should be bellowing at Sideways as on more than one occasion he did his party piece, losing the ball in midfield causing his defence problems. To be fair I did notice one occasion when he raced back and made a tackle, but that does not outweigh the rest of the mistakes of a so-called senior player. 

Once again Luke worked his socks off but had little support from his teammates, or from the ref, who once again let the child-bashing continue unabated throughout the game. 

Sam had another good game but the standard today looked little better than non-league level, where we could end up. It has been said already this season that there are no real good teams in this division but it also has to be said, and the position proves it, we are certainly one of the poorer sides. 

Whether Ned is on the way we do not know but Rafferty did himself no harm today considering what he had in front of him. 

Please Pools, let's have a rally and not go down with a whimper.

As I Seen It - Pompey (a)


Portsmouth 1 Pools 0,   League 2  Saturday April 5th 2014

Match report by ALREET at Fratton Park


Edith had decided to join me for the trip to Portsmouth where she would visit the shops while I attended the footie. Her presence did nothing to improve my luck on the Underground though as our planned journey was dashed due to the familiar “overrunning engineering work”. Nevertheless, I said that we could change at Embankment and still arrive at Victoria in good time for our train. Not as simple as I thought, however. Sitting on the train thinking to myself that it must be at least twenty years since I last paid a visit to Fratton Park, Edith suddenly observed that Embankment station was closed as an interchange due to yet more works so we had to resort to Plan C; something unheard of by the majority of Pools managers. This occurs frequently and pees me off greatly as they rarely bother to announce such ‘minor’ alterations over the train announcements leaving passengers completely in the dark. 

Anyway, finally arriving in Portsmouth, we had a spot of lunch and I caught the train back to Fratton and walked to the ground. This walk was like turning the clock back as the road took me alongside the railway sidings passing several burger vans en route, down side streets consisting of low terraced houses then along alleyways before arriving at what is still very much a traditional ground despite undergoing a few changes in recent times.

Pools kicked off proceedings attacking the home end with Rafferty taking Flinders’ place between the sticks. A run through the centre of our defence was dealt with by the new boy before we conceded a foul on the right, level with our area. The kick was taken by their No.11 (Holmes) whose ball to the far post was headed back across goal. Rafferty managed to parry the effort only for it to land kindly at the feet of the lurking Webster who was the first to react and simply could not miss as he tapped it home from the centre of an empty net. One nil down and there weren’t even two minutes on the clock. 

Before they had time to draw breath, Burgess dived in on their forward and brought him down in the area. Penalty. This was becoming a nightmare but Rafferty prevented a complete disaster by diving to his right and pushing the ball away before Holmes hit the rebound over. 

Pools won a corner which was taken by Walton but the ball was cleared by the blond, long haired central defender, Whatmough. Barmby flitted into the action with some neat footwork but his shot was off-target. Duckworth made a couple of decent runs, one leading to a chance for Barmby who lost possession. Walker gave the ball away but Duckworth was on hand to clear the danger. 

Holmes, a small, quick and tidy attacker on their left flank, was causing us a few problems as Duckworth was often left exposed by a lack of midfield cover. Both he and their similarly statured No.19 were playing neat triangles and looking dangerous. Poole wriggled his way through near the halfway line but just as he looked to be in a position to have a dig, he decided to pass it to Compton who was flagged offside anyway. 

Holden wasted a long free kick from the left which sailed harmlessly out for a goal kick. Walker played a good ball into James who was upended but no foul was given. At the other end, Holmes beat Duckworth but his cross was put behind for a Pools goal kick.

The second half saw the introduction of Hawkins for the ineffective Compton. James had an early sight of goal but his centre from the right was tipped over by Carson. Their No.20 then picked up a yellow card for flattening Duckworth, which could have been interesting as he had earlier escaped a similar fate for kicking the ball away. The resulting free kick nearly bounced over the keeper’s head. 

Barmby put in a good cross which just evaded the onrushing James before the former was replaced by Franks. A low shot from the right was saved by Rafferty at his near post. Burgess made a good run into the opposition half but curled his low pass into a defender. Poole turned his marker in left midfield and headed goalwards but his hard, low cross just eluded James as he tried desperately to get on the end of it. James then had a shot saved by Carson who parried the ball behind him and Whatmough cleared. 

Burgess took a knock and was eventually replaced by Harrison who looks to be a reasonable addition to the team. Franks had a corner saved by their keeper and another disappointing afternoon was brought to an end after six minutes of injury time.

In summary, Pompey, despite their endeavours, were a limited outfit but Pools weren’t even that good. We always seemed to be second to the ball and had too many inconsistent performances. Rafferty didn’t let the side down and the defence generally held up well. 

James, as always, worked his socks off but he had little support and even less chance of success, being the solitary player trying to do something with the long punts upfield. This ‘tactic’ (???) only highlights the absence of Harewood and that of Monky for his ‘presence’. 

Apart from the obvious lack of goals, our glaring problem is in midfield, who seem to go missing all too often. Pompey got at our back line far too easily at times and when we managed to get the ball forward, our options were limited, apart from anything else, by the lack of bodies occupying threatening positions."Apart from the obvious lack of goals, our glaring problem is in midfield, who seem to go missing all too often."
Barmby, like a flickering flame, flits in and out of games but rarely gets stuck in and unless he produces a special strike, his overall contribution doesn’t amount to much. Walker had an off day and Poole, apart from the occasional clever turn or incisive pass, mirrors Barmby. 

Compton was virtually invisible and I have to admit he is a great disappointment to me. Earlier in the season and prior to picking up his red card, he was producing some sparkling performances with great touches, passes and goals. To say that he is now a shadow of that player is an understatement.

Glancing at the programme, I noticed that No.12 in the Pompey Squad List was “Pompey Fans”. I know that this is an expression that is often trawled out by clubs as being “worth a goal start” but in this case, never a truer word was spoken. They were, simply, magnificent. They did not let up from the first minute right through to the last minute of extra time and then beyond. Irrespective of one’s opinion of Pompey as a club, they were The Full Bifta and no mistake.

Sitting on Fratton station while waiting for the train home, I had a few words with a Pompey fan who told me that the support had been two hundred per cent better than normal. He said that the crowd had been so disillusioned in some games that they couldn’t even be arsed to boo the players off at half-time. He added that their No.36 (Jack Whatmough) who was named Man-of-the-Match was only seventeen and had come into the team from their youth squad. I agree that he was impressive but still think that he was outshone by their No.12.

Stuck in the Middle with You

BILLY'S CONTRACT on a mediocre division

It has got to be said that the Premiership this season is is very similar to Division Two in that it is a pretty poor league. At worst very average and at best very mediocre. At the time of writing this, Pools are stuck bang slap in the middle of it which would be a fair reflection of Pools' standing.

Last week the punters were talking about an away win at managerless Oxford who had not won in 6 games. This would be followed by two home victories against Mansfield and Cheltenham, two decidedly very pedestrian teams and voila! - Pools would be serious play-off contenders. 

Wrong! We lost all three games with consummate ease, with little interest in getting into the top seven and suddenly the same punters are now worried about Pools being drawn into a relegation battle, and instead of looking at the results of the teams around us wanting to get out of this division, we are now looking over our shoulders with some concern about relegation-threatened Northampton and Portsmouth's results.
In truth I have no fears about losing our league status but it shows just how bad this league is. A couple of wins and you are up near the top, then a couple of defeats and you are staring the Conference in the face.
"A couple of wins and you are up near the top, then a couple of defeats and you are staring the Conference in the face."

Earlier in the season when Pools played a goalless draw with York at Bootham Crescent without either team having a shot on target, several commentators said that they were by far and away the worst two sides in the division and looked certain relegation fodder. Last week York briefly flirted with a play-off position, however by the time you read this they could be in the bottom half of the division. 

In short, apart from the top four or five sides and Torquay, all the other teams in League Two including Pools are very inconsistent. Hence the reason why many teams in mid table have a similar points tally.

I have now written off this season and the thought of going to the next three home games with nothing to play for fills me with inertia. Hopefully Colin Cooper will use these games to blood some of the promising youngsters that seem to be coming through the ranks and give them pitch time rather than the players who will be released at the end of the season.

Next season I would also like to see Colin Cooper abandon some of the Middles'Borish' tactics which he employs particularly at home, when Pools sit back like an away team and hit the opposition on the break ...sorry I meant 'lump' the ball to Luke James or Andy Monkhouse. The same applies to having eleven men back when Pools are defending a corner kick. Three-two down at home against Mansfield with only a few minutes remaining and we had everyone back in our half when The Stags had a corner! Myself I would have had two forwards stood on the halfway line so if the ball was cleared there was half a chance of creating something rather than having the unchallenged opponents' centre half pump the ball back into Pools half to put pressure on our defence.

I agree that at times there is a case to defend and hit teams on the break ...that is if we are playing the likes of Chelsea or Arsenal in a cup match, not Bury or Torquay at home though.

The four nil thrashing of Bristol Rovers proved Cooper can put out an attacking side which can win convincingly and entertain at the same time.

Cooper 47 needs an assistant, however knowing IOR, in an effort to save cash they probably won't allow an appointment until the close season. Ideally, in order to have some ying and yang, his number two should not be a fellow defender ...and preferably not from Middlesbrough.

Colin Cooper's priority should be to bring in a target man, preferably mobile and quick. Until the signing of Marlon Harewood, Pools must have been the only side in the division without a recognised centre forward.
The benefit of having Harewood in the side is taking the attention away from Luke James and allowing him and the other attacking players more freedom.

It will be interesting to to see who Cooper releases at the end of the season. I have 6 players in mind that I would like to see leave the club but I won't name them in case their mams are reading this.(after all it is Mother's day as I write this.)

Equally it will be interesting to see which positions Cooper feels he need to fill. In addition to a centre forward and a nippy midfielder we will definitely require a centre half particularly if we are unable to secure the services of Christian Burgess. 

One thing 'Pools are not short of is full backs - we have a surfeit of them. Holden and Duckworth could double up as wingers if our regular wide men got injured or released, and we would still have two full backs in Austin and Richards to fill in for them.

Even though this season has yet to run it's course I have got to say I am already excited about next season.

World Cup 2026

KT POOLIE reveals the latest plans

Yesterday, Mr Weak Bladder, head of the Globe’s football authority, GAFFA, re-iterated his all-inclusive, one football-family message in front of the world’s media, as he announced the latest World Cup hosts.

“I will not be diverted in my goal to make soccer the one truly global sport”, he quipped, pausing for the laughter to start before explaining, “soccer ball is truly international and any nation which pay..., err, which puts together the best plan, especially a nation which hasn’t held the tournament before, will be looked upon favourably by the hosting committee.”

The hardened football hacks in the audience should have taken this as a warning, but even they fell into incredulous silence as the 2026 tournament was announced.

“We at WIFA have never shied away from political conflict and now the opportunity presents itself to bring together, as joint hosts, two of the most diametrically opposed places on Earth”, explained Bladder. It will involve sacrifice, compromise and understanding, but I believe I would be failing in my duty as World President to overlook a unique chance to unite two places of vast potential and with much in common. Two places which jointly control 90% of the world’s most precious natural resource. Two places at the forefront of many scientific discoveries and yet which have rarely connected diplomatically, socially or culturally. It grieves me that they have never played a single soccer match against each other”.
"It grieves me that they have never played a single soccer match against each other"
Mr Bladder admits there will be difficulties but feels none are insurmountable. He assured fans the games offer far more opportunities than problems. During a sixteen-hour question and answer session he announced some necessary changes, including, for tele-visual reasons, every team will wear all-black kits; the usual ban on metal studs will be rescinded; matches will be shortened to two halves of just fifteen minutes; ten brand new stadiums with 1,000 seat capacity will be built along with 6 hotels, two transport hubs and 500 kennels.

Concluding the meeting, Mr Blatter was upbeat, “I call upon the world’s best players to converge on places such as Filchner, McMurdo, Gibbs Point, Dikson, Nutepelmen and Severomorsk and make the 2026 joint World Cup in the Artic and Antarctica the best yet”.

Plucky England was pulled out of the hat in the Group of Death. Allocated the only non-hotel location, the team will stay in Admunsen’s tent, close to the South Pole, before flying 11,000 miles to the Arctic town of Tromso, where they undertake a ten-day dog sled ride to face Spain in the first group match. Two days later they face Argentina in Tierra del Fuego, before turning round immediately for a final match, 12 hours later, against Germany in Rovaniemi in Finland.

“Not too bad”, declared Roy Hodgson.


Funny Old Game

Season's End

CENTRAL PARK looks to the future

I am now going to be very brave and stick my neck out and say that we will not be relegated to the Conference this season.

With eight games to go and a cushion of ten points it seems inconceivable to me that, with the talent we have available, there is any danger of a ‘blow up’ resulting in us plummeting into the bottom two. At the same time I also have to say that we will not qualify for the play-offs for exactly the same reason; i.e. there are only eight games left and the talent we have available isn’t enough to get us there. I’m not at all despondent at this because the way things are going I don’t see that it would be an advantage for us to get into the play-offs and then somehow manage to get into the higher division. We saw what happened last season when we were inadequately equipped for the task at hand.

I was wildly pessimistic at the beginning of this season, more so than at any time since the beginning of the 89/90 season, because of the nature of our relegation and what I saw as very little attempt to recruit enough quality players to prevent us falling straight through to the next level. I must say that I was mightily surprised and pleased with the way things have turned out. Colin Cooper seems to be a very impressive man judging from his post match interviews and he has done a first rate job in putting together a team and then getting it to play as well as it has to produce the results that just about guarantee another season in the Football League.
"If you are a longstanding ‘Pools supporter just ask yourself how many happy Aprils you have had. Not very many were there?"
I think the current league position (give or take a couple of positions up or down) is just about a fair indication of the team’s overall capabilities. Nobody can say for sure of course but it seems to me that Colin Cooper has extracted the maximum from the group of players at his disposal, and I include in this the players he managed to secure on loan. For a first year in management in league football I think his performance has been first class. In the fullness of time I confidently expect that he will end up managing in a higher division with the Championship being well within his capabilities, if not higher.

I’ve always wanted this progression for whoever managed ‘Pools as it means that they have come to the notice of higher teams because they have done such a good job for us.

How much more he can do for us will depend entirely on the resources put at his disposal. It would be a mistake for the owners to assume that what was achieved this season, i.e. survival, can be repeated in the future without a substantial financial input from them. Whether they are in a position to put more money in, even if they want to, is not known to me, and I am not going on another rant about the ‘financial fair play rules’. Suffice it to say that I am very much afraid that we have now come back to the position we were in just before the current owners took over; barely able to compete in the bottom division of the Football League. That is in no way a criticism of the late Harold Hornsey who had gone to the limit of his personal wealth to keep us going, nor is it a criticism of IOR who have ploughed in more money than most people would regard as sensible. Mind you it does seem to me that once IOR accepted that they will never own the ground they lost interest in spending ever more money on a football team in a town that doesn’t seem to appreciate what they have done, and they have decided that enough is enough.

In fact it seems to me that IOR have lost interest in the club more generally. The present state of affairs is starkly illustrated by what can only be described as the humiliation of the Craig Hignett episode. Whether he was good, bad or indifferent as an assistant to Colin Cooper the fact remains that he put his notice in one day and, without the courtesy to inform the club himself, he started work for another football club on the next day. Moreover his new club simply informed Hartlepool of what would be happening without, as far as I can see, any offer to negotiate or to offer any compensation. As an exercise in crude power it is right up there with Mr. Putin in Crimea. Our response seems to have been limited to a terse statement on the official web site saying that Hignett had left. Mind you there was no statement wishing him all the best for the future, I bet that struck home.

Contrast our reaction to this insult to the time when Norwich wanted to take Paul Stephenson to work for them. Much stamping of feet and the demand that he work three months notice and that compensation should be paid; the difference this time? Christian Burgess, Matty Dolan and Luke Williams, plus any hopes of such charity in the future.

All the indications to me are that the Jack Baldwin fee will be our last big one and we will now return to the days when we will gratefully accept a pittance for any of our promising players just to get us through another month or so before the next financial crisis happens.

The amount of money being spent on the team means that we will now revert to what was always our default position, that of struggling to remain members of the lowest division in the Football League.

Every August we will start the countdown to achieving the number of points needed to guaranteeing safety (normally 50) and if that is achieved by the end of March then enjoying a blissful April as the rest of the teams struggle for survival. If you are a longstanding ‘Pools supporter just ask yourself how many happy Aprils you have had. Not very many were there? Well it seems that there are not going to be very many more in the years ahead.

So, on that less than happy note, a happy close season to you all. Oh hell! I’ve just remembered that England are in the World Cup this summer. Not much chance of happiness there then.

This was written before the Mansfield match. 

Out With a Whimper

GREAT GRANDAD SHOUTY sums up the season

So our march towards the play-offs was blunted. Obviously, expectations at the beginning of the month of March were quite high but the three defeats against Oxford, Mansfield and Cheltenham virtually consign us to a mid table place. What cost us in the end were injuries and this was something I warned about in last month’s MB.

Still there have been encouraging aspects this season and I would list them as follows:

The emergence of Michael Duckworth as an attacking full back. Pity he was one of the injuries in March.

Sam Collins’ return to the side after the transfer of Jack Baldwin to Peterborough. And then we thought that he’d be coaching the reserves all season.

The signing of Marlon Harewood. Not only has he still got plenty of ability but he took some of the weight off Luke James.

Luke James’ ability as an out and out striker. Those who said he shouldn’t have been keeping the bench warm last season have been vindicated.

Colin Cooper’s ability to tap the loan market - particularly with local clubs. His signing of Luke Williams, Matty Dolan, Christian Burgess and Jack Barmby were certainly beneficial to Pools. In particular, I was always impressed with Burgess - he formed a good partnerships with Jack Baldwin and Sam Collins. Pity we won’t have him next season.

The emergence of Bradley Walker in midfield. Showing a maturity beyond his years, he should be a pivotal member of the side next season.

Performance of the season:

In the league, it would have to be the 1-0 win against Plymouth. Down to ten men after 25 minutes, Pools have never fought so hard to hang on.

Surprise of the season:

The 5-0 win against Bradford City in the JPT trophy. That game proved we could score goals.

The 1-0 win against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane also in the JPT. This was part of Sheffield United’s bad spell and led to the husband of a work mate of mine pacing round the house uttering the words, “Things are desperate. We can’t even beat Hartlepool now!"

What then of the downsides? I suppose we could mention the following:

Tony Sweeney. More often than not, failed to make an impact when coming off the substitutes bench. And there were his two serious injuries. A case of not being retained? A pity - he had much to offer coming through from midfield in his best years.

Niall Rodney’s failure to make an impact. He certainly tried but it didn’t come as a surprise when he was released at the end of March.

Jack Compton’s failure to live up to his early promise. He seemed to lose a lot of his impact after the sending off against Plymouth.

The thought that somebody might come in and nick Luke James for a paltry sum.

So that’s the 2013/14 season folks - the good outweigh the bad! What can we look forward to? Luton are obviously coming up from the Conference but who will accompany them? Could it be Gateshead who look as though they might reach the play offs? Hope so, it will give us a local derby game. Even nearer than York. So far as League One relegation goes, perm any four from Notts County, Stevenage, Tranmere, Carlisle and Crewe - and as I’ve mentioned four of those clubs have ex-Poolies in their ranks.
"Things are desperate. We can’t even beat Hartlepool now!"
Saturday, 12 April will, of course, be the day when our game against Chesterfield kicks off at 3.7pm so that we can remember the 96 who died at Hillsborough 25 years ago. After all the campaigning , it now looks as though the families will at last get justice. Its been a long, long road and fans everywhere will be watching developments.

This summer, of course, sees the World Cup in Brazil and the FA have, of course, began their rip - off early by flogging World Cup replica shirts for £90. Bloody hell - they will surely have to be stuffed with diamonds for that price. Keep your money - after the World Cup they will be in the summer sales at knockdown prices. Or better still, spend your hard earned money in the Pools shop. It’s a far more deserving cause. Additionally, so far as the World Cup is concerned it didn’t take long for the government to do a u turn on bars and pubs staying open later when England play late night games. Will the drinkers have anything to celebrate? Don’t hold your breath!

Anyway, folks enjoy the summer break. May you have an enjoyable holiday - and don’t get too stressed out going round the usual retail establishments. Text

Going Nowhere

How WAGGA MOON sees it

After some miserable away performances followed by the shambles at home to Mansfield, the play-off hopes finally went down the the toilet. Indeed the second half performance at home to the Stags was as bad as anything that has been seen at The Vic for a number of years.

This was the game that Flapper Flinders, allegedly the highest paid player on Pools books, finally proved to the fans how inept he really is. That performance on Tuesday was the worst from a Pools goalkeeper since the days of Steve Jones.

Even the experts on that well-known message board were calling for his head after that performance. They may be hard of thinking but they get there in the end. Maybe they spend too much time trying to explain the offside rule to the old women on their board.

Chairman Ken's astute decision to sell our star defender at the last minute on transfer deadline day and not bother about signing a replacement was undoubtedly a decisive blow in our play-offs bid and at the time a lot of us said that move might come back to bite him on the bum.

And on March 25 against very average Mansfield side it did precisely that. But what the hell, Ken had pocketed the cash and hadn't bothered to invest any in the team. When you see a poor side like York forcing their way into the play-offs you realise what a weak league this and how easy it should have been to get out of it.
"Some of Cooper’s substitutions recently have beggared belief. Tony Sweeney brought on and played up front as a striker. What is all this about?"
After years of doing not too bad in League One we are now a very ordinary League Two side at best and look like staying down here for a long time if not dropping lower.

The following game at home to a mediocre Cheltenham side gave us the excellent chance to redeem ourselves but again another miserable failure and not being able to score a goal.

Again the opposition can grab a goal from two efforts on target. A bunch of carrot crunchers there for the taking and we are incapable of scoring against them.

Colin Cooper is struggling on his own at the moment without the assistance of Craig Hignett, who, looking at the upsurge of Borer had a lot more input at Victoria Park than he was given credit for.

Some of Cooper’s substitutions recently have beggared belief. Tony Sweeney brought on and played up front as a striker. What is all this about? No wonder he has released Nialle Rodney.

Bringing in two defenders on loan and neither even gets a place on the bench against Cheltenham. He has to recall Greg Rutherford from Ireland to fill his bench up. Two tiny strikers up against giant defenders. Men against boys. It is beginning to look like he does not know his bottom from his elbow. Which makes the need for us to appoint an assistant to him all the more urgent. Because I fear the man appointed No 2 will be in the hot seat before Christmas.

Why is there a delay in this appointment. Surely not another of Ken’s wheezes to save some money for a few weeks.

If we are that hard up maybe we can ask a question at the Fans’ Flannel if we can organize a whip round to get a few bob in. Or has that been forgotten about due to lack of interest.

And Cooper was very unprofessional responding to chants from the Cyril Knowles Stand against Mansfield by shouting to those concerned "Come on then". I don't know whether he was asking the fans to come and do better or was offering to take them all on. Either way he should keep his gob shut and try and get his team selection out on the pitch to try and do what he wants them to. Bizarre, I hope it is not the start of him losing the plot.

Hopefully he will get his finger out and bring in a No 2 and hopefully one with an attacking mindset. The manager appears to have the defensive mentality of his predecessor, both former centre backs incidentally, when the main aim appears to keep things tight and keep the score down . But neither managed to get their teams to produce clean sheets on a regular basis.

Six games to go this season. I can see us losing all three away ones. Of the three at home I reckon we will lose to Chesterfield much to Ritchie’s delight and win against Morecambe and Exeter.So we are looking to next season and a big improvement but I am certainly not holding my breath.

Looking ahead to the retained list for next season, hopefully we have seen the last of Neil Austin and Andy Monkhouse in Pools shirts. Should never have been retained by Ken last summer but he does like to think he could do the manager's job. Here are my ideas on who stays and who goes.

Scott Flinders - bin
Andy Rafferty - keep
Michael Duckworth - keep
Sam Collins - bin
Christian Burgess - sign
Darren Holden - keep
Brad Walker - keep
Simon Walton - keep
James Poole - bin
Andy Monkhouse - bin
Luke James - keep
Marlon Harewood - keep
Jon Franks - bin
Jack Compton - bin
Jordan Richards _ bin
Neil Austin - bin
Dan Jones - keep
Josh Rowbothom - bin
Antony Sweeney - bin
Lewis Hawkins - keep
Greg Rutherford - bin
Zak Boagey - bin


Oxford (a) As I Seen It

Match report by BILL THE BIRO at the Kassam Stadium

Oxford United 1, Pools 0 League 2 Friday March 21st 2014

The Oxford match - another local one for me - had been pencilled into my diary since June when the fixtures came out.
Ok so I don't actually keep a diary, just a little card with the matches I'm likely to go to written on it. So way back in June the common-law son-in-law (it would technically require two weddings for him to become a real son-in-law) humoured me by saying he'd go with me when Pools played at the Kassam stadium. He lives and works in Oxford, and not only is he an avid watcher of The Premiership and that level of football on TV, but he is also French and supports Marseille. He has also watched a match at the Kassam before, but that was rugby (The Kassam is the home ground of London Welsh). Luckily, he was not put off, despite his knowledge of the Poolie French connection.

A reminder about the impending match had resulted in an invitation for my good lady and myself to stay the night in Oxford with her daughter and him, just a mile from the ground, complete with the offer of a lift to and from it so we could both drink. These arrangements worked perfectly and we arrived at the ground 45 minutes early, and went in with plenty of time to have a pint of Brain's beer, as advertised at the bar. This it transpired was only applicable to rugby matches (hence the Welsh beer); footy fans had to make do with plastic bottles of Carlsberg or cider.

So having each consumed a Carlsberg (and having been prevented from taking them to our seats) we went out into the cold and windy stadium. There was one man sat right at the end of the stand, against the end wall, presumably to gain shelter from the wind. So we did a scientific experiment by walking down there and trying it out for ourselves. The conclusion was that it didn't work, so we went and sat more centrally.

The Frenchman decided to wind up an Oxford-supporting friend who has often promised to take him to a U's match, by texting him to say that he had given up waiting and so has gone to his first footy match at the Kassam with the away fans. Straight back came the reply "I think you have a wrong number!"

Pools were doing their warmup. This gave me the chance to point out some of the Pools players and to issue a warning about not expecting Premiership quality. I pointed out that the Ronaldo look-alike was the seventeen-year-old who had won an award as Apprentice-of-the-Year this week, just a day after he had played magnificently and scored in the rout of Bristol Rovers. The Oxford match would thus be an anti-climax for him so I warned about expecting too much from him. Last year's Apprentice-of-the-Year was a bit more difficult to point out since he's quite small and insists on running about all the time, so that identification took a minute or two. Luckily Marlon Harewood doesn't move much so was a bit easier to point out, even without mentioning facial colouring!

For those who don't know, the Kassam is a modern stadium, but it has only three stands, and there's just a wall behind one goal, with a car park immediately behind it. We speculated * on how safe it is to park there on match days.
"It was almost as if the officials had discussed the disallowed penalty, felt that they had got it wrong and ought to redress the balance. Not that such a thing would ever happen, obviously."

For a night match, there was a decent Poolie turnout. The team was unchanged from the one which had carried on after the injury to Monkhouse in the match against the Gas. Pools started quite cautiously but the half settled down with the two sides being quite evenly matched. An early denied penalty appeal didn't go down well with the home fans. Prominent for Pools was Holden, who was doing sterling work up the left wing, and Collins and Burgess were coping with Oxford's lively strikers. Just before half time Pools had five successive corners in a few minutes of pressure that had Oxford struggling. The entertaining half ended goalless, with Pools slightly edging it, and playing most of the football.

A half-time walk-about gave the chance for a chat to some Poolies who live near me and whom I often see at Midlands matches. One of them told me that Harewood is notorious as a home-match player. Which would explain why I've never seen him put in much effort in the three away matches I've seen him play, yet there hasn't been the negative reaction from the home fans that I might have expected if he'd been that useless at home.

The second half continued much as before, with Pools containing Oxford and looking to sneak a goal. However, the referee seemed to be favouring Oxford with his decisions. It was almost as if the officials had discussed the disallowed penalty, felt that they had got it wrong and ought to redress the balance. Not that such a thing would ever happen, obviously.

Walton was his usual schizophrenic self, combining brilliant tackles with awful passes, and eventually he got himself a fairly soft booking, followed not long after by another, non-soft one, which resulted in a long trudge across the pitch for him.

Almost straight away Oxford got a goal which came indirectly from a free kick. The remainder of the match consisted of Pools trying to pull one back, in the end having three strikers and Sweeney all up front and desperately trying to rescue a point. James had a few shots and Sweeney missed a good chance but Pools ended up losing what had been a close match that could easily have been a draw.

Flinders played well, pulling off some decent saves. Richards was quietly effective. Holden was very good early on but was clapped out long before being substituted near the end. Sam and Christian were both solid and reliable, and Pools will miss Burgess when he goes back to Boro as he is a centre-half who gives you an extra midfielder for free. Walton was Walton as usual - you just can't rely on him, and he probably lost us the match. As predicted, the week's excitement proved too much for young Walker and he often looked like a little-boy-lost. Compton was ok in parts but Pools' away policy of not playing wide didn't seem to suit him especially. Barmby again appeared in fits and starts and had a couple of good efforts. James was everywhere for the entire match, harrying the goalkeeper, tracking back, and generally doing the work of two men. Which was just as well, because Harewood was doing the work of no men. He was immobile and disinterested, and apart from one moment near the end when he brought down the ball and successfully passed it to another Pools player, he contributed almost nothing to the proceedings. Several people around me also couldn't understand how Cooper justified giving him the whole ninety minutes, and were wondering what Poole had done to be so out of favour.

The substitutions of Sweeney Franks and Poole for Holden Compton and Barmby were as usual too late.

Following the match, we were taken to a pub where sorrows were drowned until about midnight and then until 3 a.m. back at the billet, so it was a good evening for the Frenchie and the Poolie, if not for Pools.

* You'll be pleased to hear that only one ball went into the car park, but it did hit a car, so if you go there I would advise not parking close to the open end. Or going in an old banger.

Cheltenham (h) As I Seen It

Pools 0, Cheltenham Town 1   

League 2  Saturday March 29th 2014

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at The Vic

The Ditchburn's observations on the officials today were banjaxed by a switch in personnel. His only comment was that he would dish out yellows and send off a Poolie.

To be honest he was a lot better than we have had of late and apart from one or two decisions I thought he was pretty even. He allowed us to kick up bank the first half so with little wind that was a fair advantage.

Chelts came at us early on and Sam was called into action to clear a dangerous ball. Pools did get at them and they looked suspect at the back with a few sliced or hurried clearances. Both Barmby and Walker tried their luck with the latter, bringing a save from the keeper.

A little aggro came from the Town End as a Chelts attacker took exception to the ridicule heaped on him as he went down in the box, presumably pole-axed by one of the circling seagulls brought in by the fog on the coast. Someone should tell him if you react to the Town End taunts you may as well go home unless you can score goals and shut them up.

Pools were playing good stuff but only in patches. Luke and Duckworth were making good progress in a pretty even game. Duckworth raced down the line and cut in, beating three or four players before the ball was dead. Sadly there was no constant threat on the visitors, whose confidence was growing, and by the thirty minute mark we were struggling against a capable side.

One neat move by them saw a flick over our defensive line and Ned had to be up to the mark as he charged and grounded one of their attackers, sending an early ball out to Holden who raced on and set up Barmby, who shot wide.

This game had to get better than this in the second half, and Pools had to up their game as the visitors shaded the first half. Ever-optimistic Pools fans thought we should beat these no-hopers, but the second half was just the opposite, as the visitors took command of the game. They were the ones who stepped up their game. How many times has this happened to us at home? Due to either lack of conviction or poor play we let teams off the hook and they come out for the second half full of confidence and take the game to us.
"The highlight of the game was a little juggling act by Sam who either through skill or good luck managed to juggle a ball off each eyebrow onto his nose then spin it round the top of his head and clear the ball"
The visitors came close when a shot hit the post and Sam scrambled it away as they piled the pressure on Pools and our passes became hurried and wayward, just adding even more pressure on the home side.

Holden, who was one of the pluses in the side today, made a great run into the box, charging through two players, but the angle was difficult and his shot was blocked. It bounced out to the incoming Luke who struggled to get a clean hit on the ball and it skimmed over the bar. Poole came on for Barmby and we did liven up a little and started to push them back a little.

Compton should have scored at the far post after some good work by Franks who made room for himself and sent a ball across the goal to the back post but Compton could only send his header wide of the post. Compton was back again in the next attack, picking up a ball chipped in he set up Franks this time but his shot was blocked.

Shortly after this the visitors took the lead. A high ball caught out Holden who lost his man and the ball was scrambled over the line. It was one of those games where either side could have nicked it and there would be no complaints, as neither had done enough to justify the three points, but is that not our luck?

The highlight of the game was a little juggling act by Sam who either through skill or good luck managed to juggle a ball off each eyebrow onto his nose then spin it round the top of his head and clear the ball.

A desperate ten minutes at the end saw Pools put in a more concerted effort to get an equalizer but efforts from Poole, Luke and the sub Hawkins all failed to grab a point from the game. 

Mansfield (h) As I Seen It

Pools 2, Mansfield Town (aka Mansfield Sky-diving free-falling team) 4   

League 2  Tuesday March 25th 2014

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at The Vic

For the first time in a millennium I was slightly late into the Vic. This was due to an injury to my right knee, an old war wound from the battle of the Rec, circa1972.
Brushing aside my obvious pain I made it to the Vic just after kick off. Last week I would have missed the first goal but to be honest I wished I had missed the lot of these shenanigans. 

Once again we were made to kick down bank presumably after losing the toss. Pools were off to a flyer - both Luke and Compton racing to the byline and launching great crosses at the Town End. Marlon had a quick shot from range that never bothered the keeper or the defenders.

Some excellent football from Luke and Barmby set up a chance but it was cleared. Sadly the sky-divers took advantage of a ball not cleared and what looked like a miss-hit beat Ned to put the divers one up and Pools under pressure for a good spell, some which was of our own making, as Ned just refused to get the ball out early, and invariably had Luke screaming for the ball and it was pumped into no-mans land. 

Dangerous back passes and missed passes were upsetting the home fans and put pressure on ourselves. The Sky-divers then treat us to an exhibition of free-fall sky-diving that was so impressive even the ref allowed replay after replay of the same moves. This kind of tactic from visiting teams gets my dander up, in fact I nearly spit twice. 
"the punters who stayed at home to watch Manure fall to the City probably made the right choice"
A brilliant move between Barmby, Compton and Luke again on the edge of the box set up Marlon to hit a screamer past the keeper to level it up. The Ditchburn, who was obviously in unhappy mode, commented “Thirty three flatulent minutes and one shot equals s^!t£ football" against what looked like an average side. 

The Mansfield divers were not averse to having a good chop at Pools players and their number four cynically took out Compton just outside the box but the free kick was cleared. In the Rink End there was a great uproar as a Skydiver did a triple Salko with pike in the box and the ref this time was unimpressed. 

As Pools made headway across the box at the Town End, again Luke and Barmby set up Duckworth, who was tripped, and the ref pointed to the spot. After some discussion, Marlon took the ball from Compton and set the ball on the spot. Trying to fool the keeper with a stare at one post he struck the ball the other way and the keeper read it and made a good save. Note to Cooper, this needs sorting out, if you have a penalty taker the nominated player should take it. Discipline seems to be a problem with Marlon and it cost us. 

The discussion at half time was whether the Ditchburn with his medical background would massage my damaged right calf but the response was disappointing and not for publication. 

The second half started well enough for Pools as Walker set up Luke who scored a typical Luke goal - receiving the ball in the box, a sharp turn and shot gave the keeper no chance. Marlon was injured in the build up and took some time to recover. It was around this time that the collapse started as Pools again found themselves under pressure, not clearing the ball and once again miss hitting passes. Ned has to take the blame for their second goal as a free kick out wide on the left was hit to the back post and the keeper was more concerned about the runners coming in than taking charge of what should have been an easy ball to collect but left unattended the ball sailed into the net. 

Full of confidence now, the visitors were piling on the pressure and Pools looked shell shocked as they hit the bar and Ned and Sam blocked shots on the line. We had no answer to the pressure and could do little to help us get back into the game. Compton, who had been a threat, was taken off and at the time it was not known if he was injured. Holden went off injured and it was a tough debut for Dan Jones but in a hard game he did ok. 

Walker was penalized for a challenge as the divers charged into our half. The attacker actually had Walker by the throat but both the ref and the linesman appeared to see it the other way and the free kick resulted in a third goal for the visitors. The “you fat bastard”, as he was known to the home fans, that scored the goal, took great delight in coming up to the fence in the Town End and taunted the home fans. 

Flinders did not improve on his bad day at the office as they scored their fourth of the game, simply executed by a run to the line and a slip by a defender, which made it a very unsatisfactory end to the game for the home fans. 

With the crowd being just around three thousand, the punters who stayed at home to watch Manure fall to the City probably made the right choice, as a defeat of Manure any time gladdens the heart a little.

There was one serious incident on the night, when Sweeney chased a ball down to the corner at the Rink End and the defender blasted a ball at him which rebounded and hit one of the three flag poles. The finial on the top wobbled and just missed Mr Reed who was sat underneath. Lucky old finial.

End of Season Pic

Any Other Business


Another season nearly finished

After Pools finished March by blowing any chance they had of finishing in the play-offs, it's almost all over bar the shouting. There's six matches left for Pools to avoid relegation, but in all probability they're already safe, with Northampton needing to get ten points more than Pools (a mere nine if they wipe out a goal difference deficit over Pools of 21), and Torquay being almost relegated already.

Of course Pools will no doubt make it a nerve-wracking April and even May!

The Standing Dutchmen
This is them pretending to be glad they came

Following on from our cover picture from Holland, we have another Dutch picture. This time, the people are Dutch (and male), but they're in Hartlepool. They are a bunch of Pools fans who came to see the famous victory over Cheltenham which should surely have followed the famous victory over Bristol Rovers - but didn't. Luckily, Pools fans of any nationality are used to disappointment.

Running Monkey, with his unerring nose for a story, managed to photograph them and write down their names, some of which may be quite close to what he wrote down, but you shouldn't rely on it!

Below are: Pascal Lenties, Paul Broekema, Nolly Ganpat, Berry Klintmans, Paterick Derdeleg, Tom Kotsknt, Dennis Slaaphomo, Wim Terkoolt and John Titman.

* Is this white-haired old man the famous Frank Reid?

Central Park

Central Park, who has been writing regularly in the Bizz for quite a few years, has told us that he won't be doing any more articles. We'd like to thank him for his insights over the years, and wish him well, and hope he'll still do the odd one whenever he's inspired to do so.

Twenty five seasons of The Bizz

It's hard to believe, but this edition completes the first twenty-five years of Monkey Business. What began as a very enthusiastic, but crudely-printed effort, giving fans a voice that they'd not previously had, progressed into something a bit slicker, before morphing into its current online format, all the time retaining its unique features: humour and (mostly) regular editions.

Now a few words about writing or otherwise contributing stuff to Monkey Business. If anyone fancies writing articles, drawing cartoons or providing photos for next season's editions, we'd be happy to hear from you. Please look at the "Submitting Stuff" page via the link at the top of this page, for more information. We don't care if you can't spell, or can't draw - we can sort that out - but if you've got things to say, jokes or humorous ideas, get in touch. New blood with new ideas would be very welcome to take the Bizz towards its half-century.

Finally it only remains to wish all at Pools and all of our readers a good summer and we'll see you again in August - and not, we hope, in the Conference!