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.