Showing posts from August, 2014


POOLS 0 - BURY 2   League 2 Saturday 16th August 2014

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at The Vic


The eagerly anticipated first home game for Pools today was a chance to wipe out the shame and horror of the cup game at PortVale. 

I knew there was going to be trouble when they turned us round at the start - probably the only input that James Poole had on the day - although that young lady boxer Savannah Marshall, who was presented to the crowd before the start, must have had an idea what was coming or skipped off to a prior engagement, as these events usually happen at half time.

It was a lack-lustre start by Pools, too many crosses getting through, allowing free headers for Bury and a lot of ball watching by Pools. Luke did manage to shake off his markers and get one header in that was over the bar. As is their wont, another ex-Pools player Nardiello came back to the Vic and opened the scoring with an easy header close in.

Marlon won a ball on the edge of the half and raced in and played a low shot across the box and there was no one at all in the area. It was backs to the wall as Pools continually hacked the ball away in haste only to see it come straight back. The home fans were up cheering a Harewood goal only to see the linesman rule that the ball had gone out of play down the side before it was crossed to the box.

Walker won the ball in midfield and set up Parnaby, whose shot hit the keeper; Marlon pounced on the rebound and hit it into Morrison’s, possibly Marks and Spencer, from close range.

Bury had dominated the half with a mixture of good approach play and some criminal tackles, especially on Luke who, right on half time, could have been put out of the game. Luckily it was about this time that the official realised he had not left his cards at home, albeit a little late, when you had seen some of the tackles we had endured.

“So where is Compton?” One rumour was the player is in dispute with the club, I can think of only one solution to that problem.

The second half started pretty much as the first, as Bury pressed us continually. Pools did get the ball in the net again after some good work by Luke had set up Marlon, but he lost the ball. Franks had a shot that Marlon helped over the line but, as it had been all day, Marlon was offside.

"Despite the fact that the manager claims he has brought in better than we have let go, that statement alone makes not only me but also a lot more fans question his judgement"Bury must have tired a bit after doing all the running, which made it look like Pools were making progress, so it was sad to see some football that you would be shocked to see at Grayfields, never mind from a seasoned player such as Bates, who took a swing at a ball he should have cleared with his eyes closed and totally missed the ball. OK he might have been under pressure from the Bury player close to him who was alive to the miss and raced round the hapless defender and almost messed up as he rounded Ned then Bates, who had recovered, and slotted the ball home, Two nil to Bury.

Again the official tried his hardest to get noticed when he pulled up Marlon for some unseen offence. Again I asked "where is Compton?"

It is times like this that we can fall back on nostalgia, to the days when the likes of Pools could swap a few points over the season with the likes of Bradford, Port Vale, Rotherham and Bury, so where have we gone wrong? Ok, it is early days I hear you say. But this team looks to be worse than last season’s team that almost ducked under the radar. Despite the fact that the manager claims he has brought in better than we have let go, that statement alone makes not only me but also a lot more fans question his judgement. One really old Pools fan was seen walking out of the ground with a screwed up face and holding his nose, but he may have walked into the loo door on one of his frequent visits.

The Ditchburn Poolie was a little controversial, as always, trying to tell me the ref had had a good game. This despite him having spent three quarters of the game expecting to see at least one from each side sent off, as history shows this had been the ref's party piece in the past.

So once again I ask "where was, nay, where IS Compton?" We could have done with his pace today but alas no sign of the lad.

Going back to the nostalgia, we need a Tinkler, a Porter or a Watson, even a Humps, to help lift this team out of the doldrums that, I am afraid, we are headed into. Considering we sold 3500 season tickets, the crowd just about made that, even with the Bury contingent. How many will be there on Tuesday?


STEVENAGE 1 - POOLS 0   League 2 Saturday 9th August 2014

Match report by ALREET at Broadhall Way


The first day of the new season was heralded in with a pleasant afternoon (at least before the match began!), a blue sky being punctuated with light clouds and a gentle breeze that was in sharp contrast to the remnants of Hurricane Bertha which had unleashed a constant downpour in the vicinity throughout the previous night.

The first task of the afternoon was to try and identify all the ‘exciting’ new players we have acquired recently. Having been stumped by the young lad with the topknot, I was even more confused by seeing a new-look Compton wearing No. 11 and then discovering a tall, bearded lad among the subs who also seemed to be sporting a No.11 on the leg of his shorts. Double- checking, the latter still seemed to be wearing No.11 and by a process of elimination, I discovered he was Lewis Hawkins. Was this a clever ploy by Pools to try and convince the opposition that Pools were keeping their most dangerous attacker on the bench?

Stevenage kicked off attacking the away end and an early foray was shepherded out for a Pools goal kick after they failed to control the ball. At the far end, Harewood laid the ball off to Compton who, despite getting his feet in a tangle, still managed to put in a left-footed chip which caught the bar and deflected to safety. Flinders produced a save from a sharp chance which went out for a corner but the resulting header looped harmlessly over the bar. Miller was flattened on the half-way line but the culprit went unpunished.

A spot of head tennis on the edge of our area was cleared long upfield by Austin but ran directly through to their keeper. Duckworth took a free kick on our right but he hit it strongly and it bypassed everyone before harmlessly crossing the opposite sideline.

Their No.14, Adam Marriott, was becoming heavily involved, running strongly and looking lively up front. No.9, Charles, received the ball unmarked outside our area and flashed in a low left-footed shot which only passed Flinders' right post by a whisker. Pools were showing a lack of cohesion with aimless passes to no one in particular and were being overrun in midfield as a result.

Walker lost the ball twenty five yards out after beating three men and their No.7 picked up the loose ball before he whistled it just over the bar. Duckworth then clattered an attacker on the edge of our box; three players lined up to take the kick but, despite making a complete b’lox of their effort, the ball still ran kindly and fell to them but a combined block from Collins and Flinders kept it out from about four yards.

James, escaping his marker for once, went on a run into their box but his resulting shot was blocked. He again picked up the ball and cut in from the left only to see his effort deflected high for a corner on the right. The dangerous Marriott received dogs abuse from the Poolies for going down rather easily under a challenge and then exaggerating the situation by rolling around on the deck. Parnaby was finding space on the right of midfield but frequently wasted possession by firing his passes too long. Flinders and Collins both blocked shots before James won a free kick after being wrestled to the floor. This was just a loosener because he was then crocked and was down for about thirty seconds before limping off and returning to the fray shortly before the half-time whistle blew.

"Which just leaves the ubiquitous Luke James. Having been asked to fill the role of two players in the past, the poor bugger now seems to have doubled his workload."Stevenage started the second half on the front foot and soon had us producing a last-ditch tackle which went out for a corner that Flinders subsequently collected. Compton managed a decent run and centre only for the ball to sail harmlessly out for a throw-in on the other flank. A neat movement involving Miller near the left corner led to Walker firing across goal but the end result was a home goal kick. James was ‘leant on’ twenty five yards out but  the resultant free kick was overhit before Collins, in attempting to chase the ball , ‘had words’ with their No.19 after the latter had run into the back of his legs and brought him down from behind.

At the other end, Flinders made yet another great stop from a powerful shot. Harewood held up the ball from a decent pass and fed Walker who put in a powerful drive which was, unfortunately, blocked. Flinders was then called upon to make another fine save from a shot hit at him from his left. The loose ball rebounded out to the right but we were too casual and failed to clear it (Miller?), allowing their attacker to nip in front of him, win the ball and feed the onrushing Whelpdale who cut inside to the edge of the area and fired in a hard, low drive which the retreating Flinders was unable to keep out.

It has to be said that the home side had amassed a healthy total of shots up until this point and the law of averages decreed that one would find the back of our net sooner or later. Collins got himself laid out and hobbled off the pitch but was able to return and take his place back in the centre of defence. Walker picked up a loose ball and was brought down just outside the area. He took the kick himself but it struck the wall and the danger passed. On seventy five minutes, Parnaby and Walker were replaced by Brobbel and Franks and we suddenly looked as if we meant business, retaining the ball, moving it on the floor and playing further upfield.

Duckworth gained the ball and went on a pacy run but his cross was cleared to safety. Harewood won a corner on our right and the cross was met by Collins who, under great pressure, could only direct his header wide of their right post. The fourth official announced six minutes of added time.

A lofted Stevenage clearance found Compton on the edge of their box but he could only slice the dropping ball well wide. The home team went close at the other end before a neat Pools move found Franks raiding down our left and his ball across their box ran to Brobbel who appeared to be felled as he attempted to retrieve the ball. The ref showed absolutely no interest in the appeals although I felt it would have been given had it occurred in one of the games shown on Saturday night tv.

So, a One Nil defeat to start the season with and a fair reflection of the game.

I suppose that Flinders would win the Man of the Match award for a string of very important saves but Big Sam ran him a close second for his tackling and the blocks he made, plus his forays upfield.  Bates looked classy on the ball although he was beaten for pace on occasions.  Austin produced a trademark gutsy performance and Duckworth made a few decent runs but he was more occupied in a defensive position as the system played doesn’t afford much cover ahead of him. Miller kept things neat and simple while Walker had a mixture of good tackles, runs and passes before he was replaced.

Parnaby was asked to play out wide in right midfield and the game seemed to pass him by. He tried several long crossfield passes which generally were overhit. If it had been a certain Mr.W, well…

Compton managed a shot or two but too often runs into trouble and seems to have lost the ability to beat his man. Harewood held the ball up well and laid it off on occasions but he is pedestrian and generally seems to be loitering without intent. I seriously cannot see him scoring a goal as long as I have a hole in my fundament.

Which just leaves the ubiquitous Luke James. Having been asked to fill the role of two players in the past, the poor bugger now seems to have doubled his workload. Trying manfully to make something of long hopeful balls knocked up to him, he also has to try and make chances for himself while covering every blade of grass in the (supposed) attacking half of the pitch. And what impact does he have for his troubles? Unfortunately, the only impact he has is when he is on the receiving end of the ‘rough treatment’ handed out by the opposition on a regular basis.

In summary, Stevenage are the epitome of everything we aren’t. They have a side filled with rather large gentleman who play a game full of power and pace and aren’t afraid to run at the opposition from deep and have a dig at goal. They move the ball quickly all over the park, not necessarily a great spectacle but very effective at this level. Pools, conversely, look ponderous and seemed content to lump long aimless balls upfield which invariably came straight back and when we did try to play possession football, we moved it so slowly, Stevenage were already back in position and licking their lips at the prospect of hitting us on the break.

I haven’t seen the lad Woods but, from the description of his style of play, some enthusiasm is exactly what is missing from our midfield and the spot is up for grabs. I still think that losing Monky (and, to a lesser extent, Walton) has robbed us of the tiny element of steel we had in the side.

Up front, the strikers aren’t getting a decent service, mainly having to battle for long punts and then trying to produce the goods. It was really noticeable on Saturday that we rarely put a decent ball into their box which would, at least, provide a chance to create something for the attackers. This is a bit of a conundrum for Pools, however, as there is a distinct lack of movement up front for the midfield to exploit. Perhaps Franks (or a new signing?) should be given a run as it can’t get much worse.

Towards the end of the game, I saw their keeper having yet another glug from his bottle and wondered if he was thinking to himself, ”I don’t really need that as this has got to be the easiest game I’ll have all season”.

On my way into the ground, I was handed a freebie Stevenage FC newspaper which included an article by a certain Simon Walton. Among his views were the following:-
...“When I came in and saw the training ground with the set up and how professional it is, it surprised me a little bit in getting out of where I’ve come from. ...Obviously the start of my career I started at the top, the Premier League, and this is a similar set up to that; from how the club is run, the help you get given, the facilities, the little things like supplements, and details on opposition teams which I’ve not had for a couple of years now.”

...Walton’s skills on the ball as well as his quick thinking means his game is more suited at a higher level than League 2, and this gives him the inspiration to help Stevenage aim for promotion at the first attempt.

...“I said when I signed I’m not comfortable in League 2, I don’t want to be in League 2 and I don’t like League 2, so my aim personally and from a team point of view is I want to get out of here as quickly as possible and stay out of here.”


My only compensation from a very disappointing afternoon was a quick run down the A1 and I was home in just under an hour.    

MB131 - August 2014

Back to Normality -Yippee!!

GREAT GRANDAD SHOUTY on both Englands - and Pools

So that’s another Sepp Blatter sideshow over or another four years. Mired in accusations over corruption and the nonsense over Qatar’s staging of the 2022 World Cup, world football is something which makes the eyes glaze over. 

You have the situation where a country can spend millions (nay, possibly billions) staging the event yet neglects many of its population who live in dire poverty. I was once talking to a Tory councillor in Hartlepool who had been all over the world on business and he told me that there was nowhere like Rio for poverty - many just didn’t know where the next meal was coming from. But all that would matter not to Blatter and his FIFA cronies as they lord it over our beautiful game. 

Looking back, I suppose, there were two things of note which emerged from the tournament. First there were popular winners in Germany and the way they took Brazil apart was incredible. One scribe writing after the tournament was over said that never have Germany been so popular in this country. It was richly deserved. Secondly, there was the emergence of the United States as a world footy power. The 2014 World Cup certainly caught the imagination of the Yanks and their achievement in reaching the last 16 was highly creditable. They had a difficult group to contend with - Germany, Portugal and one of the better African nations, Ghana. Even then, they only went out after extra time against one of the fancied sides, Belgium. 

"No shirts were removed on scoring a goal (which would have pleased Sepp Blatter) and the players didn’t wear close fitting shorts (which would have disappointed Sepp Blatter)."
I suppose enough has been written about England - suffice to say, that expectations were not raised. The pubs and bars certainly weren’t able to cash in on England’s performances and the original decision not to have blanket extensions to licensing hours seemed to be vindicated. After all, someone from the Home Office leaked the fact that there’d be nothing to celebrate so far as England were concerned - so why give a blanket extension to bars and pubs. 

One thing which did encourage me about England was the revelation that the FA wouldn’t be bidding to host any FIFA sponsored tournaments - well done, it took a long time for the penny to drop. Next year will be the Women’s World Cup and this is being held in Canada. Canada are ranked 7th in the FIFA rankings - one place above England. What did surprise me was that Sweden are ranked 5th and Sunday, 3rd August gave we Poolies an opportunity to see 5th v 8th.

Realistically, England made heavy weather of it at times but a good second half performance gave England the victory they deserved. What impressed me was the confidence and ability of the back four and they should be in with a shout next year. At least the women seem to be doing better than the men at the moment - something worth shouting about. All in all, it was a carnival atmosphere at The Vic and I’m sure the punters enjoyed getting out of the house for the afternoon. And what of the Mohican hairstyle of Lianne Sanderson? Keep popping them in and no one will notice your hair, Lianne. 

Many years ago, Derek Dougan shaved all his hair off and Joe Mercer, his manager, asked why he’d done it. ‘I want to get noticed‘, Dougan said. To which Mercer replied ’Well, how about scoring a lot more goals - you’ll get noticed then’. No shirts were removed on scoring a goal (which would have pleased Sepp Blatter) and the players didn’t wear close fitting shorts (which would have disappointed Sepp Blatter).

On to more important matters - Pools. The retained list wasn’t really surprising. Andy Monkhouse was no longer the player he was and some of his performances of late showed signs of petulance - maybe a sign that he was no longer standing the pace. At least, he won’t be coming back to Pools next season to haunt us having signed for ‘Trigger’ Clarke at Bristol Rovers. 

One released player who will be coming back is Tony Sweeney who, during the past two seasons, has been a disappointment. I remember one match where the opposing side had two players marking him - such was he seen as the danger man. 

And so to James Poole and Simon Walton. Poole maybe lacked the consistency last season - hence he was never able to win a regular place in the side. Walton was one player I could never make up my mind about. He had a good delivery at set pieces but in some games could a worthy Man of the Match and in others turned in moderate performances. His sending off against Morecambe - a straight red card - completed his season and probably sealed his fate. Fortunately, we still have Luke James but if he continues to score goals on a regular basis can we keep hold of him come the January transfer window. Already, its been mentioned in the Hartlepool Mail that Sheffield Wednesday are interested but my contacts in The Steel City say there’s been nothing in their evening paper. 

Maybe there’s been some frustration at a lack of signings. One of two thoughts spring to mind. Firstly, there could be a lot of jockeying around as available players size up their opportunities or, secondly, promotion isn’t going to be a realistic target.

And we have the suggestion that under 21 Premier League teams join in a new pyramid system. The Football League quite rightly, threw out the proposals but this didn’t stop Danny Mills from saying that Hartlepool supporters would rather see the under 21 teams from the Premier League than Torquay United. You speak for yourself, Danny. Although Torquay are no longer in the Football League, Exeter City are, and I know where I’d rather go, and its not to see aspiring bog standard Premier League teams. So far as the FA are concerned, keep you noses out of the affairs of the smaller clubs and concentrate on getting the England team sorted out.

Funny Old Game

Boro Revisited

BILLY'S CONTRACT on Hartleboro United

I know it was only a friendly match but there was enough on show to worry me. Deeply worry me. What made it worse to stomach was my Boro supporting mates who came to the game with me thought 'Pools were dire and said that we will be in for a hard season.

Where do I start? Firstly a home game with one up front and eleven men behind the ball for the entire game even when we went a goal down. Not one serious attempt at goal. Several players playing out of position and many of them not looking at all fit. A couple of whom in my view should have been given frees at the end of last season but are still with us and performing below par. Brad Walker looked off the pace. Hopefully he is not going to suffer from second season syndrome, which began to take effect back end of last season where he looked plain worn out.

It is universally agreed that we are at least four players short of avoiding relegation.Colin Cooper said that when he let Sweeney, Walton and Monky go he would be bringing in better players. At the time of writing they have not materialised. Cooper has had Jonathan Greening and Tommy Miller on trial. I would expect Miller to sign as rumour has it that Greening is on his way to Blackpool, however I would argue that Simon Walton, apart from having a good ten years on these two trialists, would have been a better option and even a tad quicker than Miller and Greening.

Having seen Greening in the blue and white stripes of 'Pools, I thought that he was very average at best in the game against 'Boro and did nothing to impress, and preferred to play the ball backwards, sidewards and upwards but never forward.

"It was during the friendly against the Teessiders the other night that it suddenly dawned on me that my beloved Hartlepool have become a clone of the Boring Boro."This brings me on to Cooper's other two signings Matthew Bates and Stuart Parnaby. Bates it has to be said was one of the few players who played reasonably well against his former employers, particularly as he was partnered by Neil Austin at centre half. Hopefully when the season kicks off Bates will have either Sam Collins or Christian Burgess alongside him as at five foot ten he is not the tallest.

Also a concern is Bates' long term fitness. At 27 he has only played 148 professional games in his career to date which has been dogged by serious injuries. I would like to think that he is not on a long term deal and that he is on a pay as you play contract. 

The signing of Parnaby is a strange one. Parnaby is 32 years old and has only played 161 competitive games. He is a full back and one of the few areas 'Pools have a surfeit of players is at full back. Even the Boro fans I spoke to on the night said that he is too slow to play in that position. I think Cooper sees him in midfield, but based on what I saw on the night he looked uncomfortable and well out of his depth, and like Greening did not produce anything going forward. Worse still, not one of Coopers signings has any pace. Maybe pacemakers, but not pace.

My other concerns, which I have mentioned many times in Monkey Business, are Cooper's tactics. One man up front, and Luke James, practically our only source of fire power, played out wide on the wing. As ever, whether we are one goal down or five goals down, when the opposition have a corner it is eleven men back to virtually our own penalty box to defend. How many times did the TV pundits at the World Cup comment that teams who deployed this tactic were asking for trouble by putting pressure on themselves?

My other cause for concern is that Cooper does not seem to have a plan B, which is very worrying, and to date we have not progressed under his tenure any better than under Hughes. 

This now is Colin Cooper's side and he should be putting his stamp on it. Is he not aware that there are 90 other clubs in the league other than Middlesbrough that he can pick his signings and back room staff from?&"

He recently stated that it is hard to get players to come to the North East. I disagree. Chris Turner used to sell not only the club, with its excellent training facilities in Durham, but he also sold the town of Hartlepool to any of his prospective new signings and showed them around the place ...well, mainly the Marina. Look at some of the signings we made from further beyond the Transporter bridge: Tinks, Taffy Williams (bet Chris Turner showed him where Chicago Rock was located to encourage him putting pen to paper), Ritchie, Paul Smith, Gordon 'Flash' Watson, Chris Westwood. And probably our best signing ever was as far away as you could get from Hartlepool a Welshman playing for Torquay - Eifion 'hero' Williams, who has now settled in the town. (For obvious reasons I did not include Joel or Dimi in this list).

We also had a trio of players from the Emerald Isle as well. The only ones who do not tend to settle, excluding Neale Cooper, are the Scottish lads such as Jamie McCunnie and Jack Ross
It is probably a sad fact that the reason that 'Pools are unable to attract players to the club nowadays is possibly the wage structure rather than the location of the town. Whilst I think on, don't mention to any prospective signings' wives that Marks and Spencer are closing down their Middleton Grange premises.

Barring the Bryan Robson era at the Boro I pitied anyone who went to The Cellnet to endure the dire football that was served up week in and week out, year after year. (Crowds down from 35,000 to around 14,000 reflect this). It was during the friendly against the Teessiders the other night that it suddenly dawned on me that my beloved Hartlepool have become a clone of the Boring Boro. With that realisation I left the ground ten minutes early. I am hoping that this does not become a habit next season.

Prediction for next season. If things stay the way they currently are I will be delighted if we stay in Division Two.

New Beginnings

WAGGA MOON looks ahead

After all the frenzied summer activity behind the scenes (!!!) we are ready to take on the challenge of getting out of Division Four. Let us hope it is out of the top end and not the bottom. At the time of writing we have three Borer rejects added to the staff and a load of young kids to fill the bench.

The squad is so threadbare we are having to play youngsters like Luke James and Brad Walker in every game when at their age they should be nursed along and played sparingly. This would explain their complete lack of form in the friendlies when how they are playing we would be lucky to get ten bob for them never mind a million.
The club is in the worst position for 15 years and I am sure when Harold Hornsey sold the club to IOR he was not expecting we would land up in this position. What a shambles - less than a week to go to the start of the season and no one knows how the squad will look or what formation we are likely to adopt.

And Ken Hodcroft is the man who tells us the club will always act and be run professionally.
How he has managed to find around 3,000 mugs to invest in season tickets is a mystery. Granted the price is cheap but what about the standard of football on offer. I have not bought a season ticket and expect to watch more away games than at home this season. I certainly won't be shelling out £25 to watch a home Fourth Division game and it will just give the club a bad name with away supporters when they are asked to fork out this amount. Dick Turpin springs to mind.

If one of the names bandied around had been signed i.e Michael Brown, Rob Earnshaw, Francois Zoko or Jonathan Greening I would certainly have joined up but the thoughts of watching Jonathan Franks, Jack Compton and Sam Collins does not enthuse me.
"The squad is so threadbare we are having to play youngsters like Luke James and Brad Walker in every game when at their age they should be nursed along and played sparingly."
I think Colin Cooper will be relying heavily on loan signings and to be fair last season they served us well. But this is not an ideal solution to running a football club. I wish Stephen Pears well in his new role at the club but I would have rather seen a former attacker appointed to remedy the lack of goals we suffer from.
I think Pears' first job will be to try and sort Flapper Flinders out. He has gone from one of the best keepers in League One to one of the worst in League Two. And Andy Rafferty must surely be pushing for a first team place. The defence does not look too bad as long as we remember Collins is here this season to warm the bench and we can bring someone like Scott Harrison or Christian Burgess in to a centre back position alongside Matt Bates. Or if not, Stewart Parnaby who has played most of his career at right back or centre back - and why is he being played out of position in midfield?

Obviously we are woefully short in that area, and with Eugen Bopp being deemed to be not up to it, Tommy Miller looks set to be brought in with some loan signings. I was a big fan of Super Tommy 15 years ago and fondly remember him putting us 2-1 up at Cardiff in the 89th minute. And then seeing the home team score twice in added on time while Tubby stood open mouthed and not sure what to do. While all the Poolies in the ground shouted to him to make a substitution and run the clock down he stood there clueless as another three points went down the toilet.

It is difficult to predict where Pools are going to finish this season without knowing the squad we will be playing with. As things stand I would say bottom four, whereas with players like Luke Williams, Duncan Watmore, Andy Halliday, David Prutton, Burgess, Harrison, Zoko, Earnshaw coming to the club I would say top nine.

Funny Old Game

A Century Ago

BILL THE BIRO on the First World War and Pools

Last night, along with thousands of people all round the country, I went to the candle-lit event at my local war memorial to commemorate the start of the First World War.

One speaker mentioned that the war had affected every family and every part of British life, and football was no exception. So for anyone who didn't already know, here's a potted history of how the war affected Pools.

Surprisingly, given that the declaration of war coincided with the start of the football season, the football authorities decided to go ahead with the 1914-1915 season, a decision that was not universally well-received. However, when you consider that the popular view was that "it would be over by Christmas", perhaps it was more understandable. Nevertheless there was apprehension that the season may possibly have to end early.

"with many footballers having joined up, and many troops not yet demobilised, clubs found difficulty in raising teams"So Pools found themselves, under their first manager, Fred Priest, starting a new season at the Victoria Ground with gates of around 2000. They were playing in the Northern League, along with South Shields, Hull, Darlington and Carlisle, and, the reserve sides of First Division teams Sunderland, Newcastle and Middlesbrough (so perhaps Greg Dyke's B-teams proposal is only history repeating itself!)

The season did continue to its end, but with reality hitting home and many of its target audience going off to war, gates soon halved, and most clubs were struggling to survive. Eventually Pools finished seventh in the 20-team league, but the normal football leagues were then suspended for the duration of the war. The Victoria Ground was then taken over by the military.

1916 saw the main grandstand destroyed by a bomb dropped from a German Zeppelin airship (which was then shot down over Hartlepool Bay by a military plane based at Seaton Carew). With the war ending in November 1918, football started again with a short season of a special Northern Victory League, before normality returned with the 1919-1920 season. I say normality, but with many footballers having joined up, and many troops not yet demobilised, clubs found difficulty in raising teams. Pools were no exception in fielding whatever players they could get, often ones who were still in the military, but billeted locally.

The military were still occupying the Vic, and so Pools had to play their first three home games at an amateur team's ground in Caledonian Road, West Hartlepool, but the club was able to acquire a transportable sectional grandstand which was subsequently relocated to the Vic (where it remained for a further 66 years).

So for Pools the disruption of war finally ended when they played their first match back at the Vic on October 25th 1919. And within two years they had become a Football League club.

Colin Cooper's Transfer Procedure

This flow chart by ALAN ESSEX shows how the complex procedure works.

Pre-Season Games

RUNNING MONKEY looks for clues to the season

The first of the pre-season friendly games was Billingham Town, which last year was tempered by the threat of a court case, but still, as it should be, both teams survived.

As always Billingham gets a good turn out for this game with the Poolies thirsting for a game of football to watch. The one drawback this season was the lack of a team sheet and the fact there were quite a few new faces in the Pools side. On top of that we made a lot of changes throughout the game. It was bad enough trying to identify the players but also keep a tally on the goal scorers. I have no idea who scored any of the nine goals. OK nine sounds like a lot but you have to consider the opposition. One lad was outstanding in the Pools side, a coloured centre half who controlled the game shouting out to the younger players to get in line, move forward drop back. He was very comfortable on the ball. He must have been too good for us as I heard later that he had moved on.

One lad by the name of Connor Smith, I found out later, had scored three and looks to be a bit of a favourite with the manager. It has to be said despite non-league opposition there was some great passing football played by Pools.

The second game was away at Bradford, which I did not see, a one nil win for Pools and Duckworth was made captain for the day going back to his old stomping ground. It was reported that Tommy Miller was the best player on the park, well for the second half at least.

The next game at the Vic was against the Mackems. Their fans almost filled the Mill House stand and even a few in the empty Town End made for a decent crowd and a good atmosphere in the Vic. Ok, once again the big boys visit their lowly neighbours and run riot was the expectation. Some fans I spoke to earlier in the week were staying away for just that reason.
"it looks as if it is going to be a long, hard season unless we get some decent bodies in on loan." A strong Sunderland side made us work very hard defensively. For long periods we were on the back foot, but apart from one ball hitting the post and some very dangerous crosses from Adam Johnson, we held our ground. So much so that after sixty minutes the whole of the Sunderland team were taken off, job done. I like to think we played them off the park.

The Mackems' second string came on and we relaxed, the under-twenty-ones needed to step up to the mark and show their illustrious team mates how it should be done. They set about Pools with fast flowing great-to-watch football and they stuffed us three nil with Pools only managing one decent shot throughout the half.

Miller had a decent game, but Poolies have long memories and they wanted the Miller that used to score from anywhere. Marlon was taken off and replaced by Franks, but the old failings are still apparent. Ok, these games are more about fitness levels than results but we seem to be experimenting with square pegs in round holes through most of the pre-season games I have watched. It is not pretty and it looks as if it is going to be a long, hard season unless we get some decent bodies in on loan.

Whitby Town was our next venue, another annual trek that I enjoy. This game is usually a good test for us and invariably a few ex Poolies are in the side. Mark Robinson is now one of the senior players at Whitby and still playing at a good level. Darren Williams (player manager) and Bullock are two other ex-players, and Chris Lynch, a lad we had on loan from the Mackems, plus one or two more debut players made Whitby look a stronger side than last season.

I knew there would be trouble today as when we pulled up into their car park, our driver told the man on the gate “Frank Reid, Hartlepoo" "Ok, just park up there with the other player" was the response. If he thought Frank Reid was one of our players, I'd better not go there!

It was a beautiful summer's day and a shame the football did not match it. The afore-mentioned Mackem scored two good goals against us and Smith pulled one back for Pools but he looks a bit desperate to prove a point and may need anger management for when he misses a chance. Once again we look a disjointed side with no real threat from the effort we put in. I spoke to Tommy Miller after the game and asked if he was going to sign. "Hope so", he said, "but nothing definite yet." Could be Cooper is deciding between Miller or Greening, who may have other options.

Walker and Austin
One little bright moment on the day was when Brad Walker and Neil Austin were warming down on the touchline near were we stood. A little lad, Ciaran, in his Pools shirt came up and started to chat. He spoke to Brad Walker and he said, “Does Neil Austin still play for Pools?” "Yes, sometimes" was Brad's reply. Aussie, sat on the floor, asked him if Aussie was his favourite player. "Yes" says Ciaran. "Do you play football then?" asks Aussie." I play striker in the mould of Stevie Gerrard for Hartlepool and for Brazil and Liverpool" was the little lad's boast. Full of encouragement from the two Pools players, the little lad wandered back to find his dad. Meeting this little star made up for a disappointing defeat at Whitby Town.

The next opposition for us was a visit by the Smoggies to the Vic., another hard day's work for the once again disjointed Pools side. Greening was in for Miller and looked lively without any real threat. Poolies were asking in their own inimitable way what was the thinking behind Cooper's plan of five four one in a friendly. Marlon up front on his own, Luke out on the wing, Aussie once again centre back.

The return of Dimi in the Smoggie goal brought good cheers from the Town End as he made his way up at the start of the second half, but that was probably one of the easiest games he has ever had at the Vic. The Smoggies ran out two-nil winners and once again we looked to be a weak side.

Lets hope the experiments are just that.

Funny Old Game

England v Sweden

RUNNING MONKEY watches the women at the Vic

An international flavour for this fine sunny afternoon in Hartlepool as England took on Sweden, around five and a half thousand fans in the Vic.

I managed to get a freebie for the CK stand but as we all know football should be viewed from a terrace. So I made my way to my spot on the Town End, that smelt unusually rosy for this time of year. 

The Hartlepool connection was of course THE Jordan Nobbs, daughter of Pools star Keith. In my opinion and those of a few others this kid was the equivalent of Man of the Match, but like a lot of these accolades,they never go to the right person. 

"After the fare we have been watching in the pre-season this was a great game of football."
England, kicking to the Rink End could have been one up in 18 seconds but the ball was scooped over the bar. The next attack they hit the post but the attacker was flagged offside anyway. Twice in a minute the Swedish goalkeeper, who was playing her 100th game, brought off good saves to thwart the England attack.

Shortly afterwards the England keeper made a terrific leap to tip a high cross come shot onto the bar. England again had to defend against some great approach play from Sweden let down only by a poor shot. At the other end England were awarded a penalty which they deserved for their attacking play. The goal was given, but at half time the story was that the Dutch lady officials had let down Sweden by allowing the goal, as the penalty taker scored from the rebound off the post without the keeper touching it. 

The Sage of Ditchburn was very impressed by the way the ladies' teams never once surrounded the ref or showed any anger or indignation at her decisions -just got on with the game. I thought it was odd that the Ditchburn had not visited the Vic since the last home game yet here he was raving over ladies football. ...mmmm. 

We were entertained by the Hartlepool Hawks kids dance group, and the original England band who follow the men’s game, who were perched up in the top corner of the Mill House Stand and they even started a Mexican wave a couple of times, which petered out in the F. A. courtesy seats in the CK stand. 

Second half and the England team went two up with an excellent goal from just wide of the box that arched over the keeper and into the side of the goal. I am allowed to say they now had their tails up and some great attacking football was pleasing to watch, technically and skilfully executed. A young black girl who was great on the ball was tearing Sweden to pieces and set up the third goal with a great lay off. Miss Nobbs set up the fourth on eighty minutes and it was game over for Sweden side that I was actually disappointed with and expected more from, especially in the second half when they brought on their big guns. After the fare we have been watching in the pre-season this was a great game of football from two sides that never stopped attacking.


Any Other Business


This is for those who do not listen to the 'Today' programme on BBC Radio 4.

Right at the end of a programme recently, there was a discussion about the obscene cost of entry into Premiership football matches where the cheapest price of £60 or £100 per game is not uncommon.

An elderly chap being interviewed said he could recall many years ago arriving at the turnstiles when the attendant greeted him with "That will be ten quid, mate".

"What?!" the old chap said "I could get a woman for that!"

Without batting an eyelid, the fellow on the turnstile retorted, "Not for 45 minutes each way with a brass band and a meat pie in the interval, you wouldn't!”

Apparently some Spanish sides are having a bit of fun with their club shirts this season - yes, it is a football shirt! You can read the full article here on the Daily Mail website. 

Thanks to Wallace and Gromit for passing this on.

This is a drinks cabinet in the riverside cafe of a famous theatre. We wondered if it might help to explains a certain person's weight problem.

Stan Laundon sent us the newspaper clipping from which these pictures come. It's dated May 1973 and was Hartlepool Football Club's Big Night Out at the Club Fiesta in Stockton, where Stan (then a presenter on BBC Radio Cleveland) was asked to be the MC for the Pools' Footballer of the Year presentations.

Tony Christie and The Denmen were topping the bill at the Club Fiesta that week, with support from Stockton man and wife team Ken & Billie Ford - for whom Stan Laundon also played lead guitar for the whole week!

As you can see, the Pools-Middlesbrough connection isn't just a recent phenomenon, with Big Jack there to do the presentations.