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.