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.