What We Did on Our Holidays

ALAN ESSEX comes north

With a nod towards Fairport Convention’s second album, the first to feature Sandy Denny, my better half Maureen and I decided to have a long weekend in an exotic location. We had originally booked to stay in Seaton Carew the weekend before the Portsmouth game - madness, I know, with no game on - but it was the only date we could do. 

As luck would have it a gig (‘Enemy of the Lion’ for anyone interested) got cancelled due to the venue closing, our reputation preceding us – they usually close after we’ve played – meaning we were able to re-arrange the visit.

The journey up was slow and gruelling – accidents, roadworks, volume of traffic, speed restrictions, lorries in the fast lane on uphill stretches of the roads, alien abductions, zombie uprisings, road blockades at Peterborough checking for Hartlepool United players, road blockades at Middlesbrough asking if we’d like a fringe player on the cheap – you name it, it was there.

Phil Dunn with a couple of other Passion Killers
We were booked into the Marine Hotel in Sunny Seaton Carew and it was actually sunny and warm the whole time we were there. On arriving we saw that a band was due to play in the bar that evening, the band being ‘The Passion Killers’, yes Phil Dunn’s band. So that was an early and pleasant surprise.

Paul Staff and me
After a meal we wandered through to see where the band would be playing and met Phil lugging in some band equipment. After the initial greetings he said “I’ve got someone for you to meet.” He then introduced me to Paul Staff. Paul was there with his wife and we sat down and had a chat, expecting to leave them in peace after a short while. Anyway after 4 hours we were still chatting about football, music and other miscellany. He and his wife are a really lovely couple and Maureen & I had a great time in their company. He regaled us with anecdotes of his time with Pools in the 80s and also his time at Aldershot, where he was transferred. 

Paul with his lovely wife
He didn’t mention it but I know that at Aldershot his goal ratio was a goal every three games, oh how we could do with the likes of that at the present time, or in fact at any time. Paul is also a natural at story telling with passion and wit that would grace any ‘Sports’ dinners, presentation nights or fund raisers. He speaks with great fondness of his time at Pools and of fellow players, management and owners. This is not something he does but believe you me he is a natural. For those interested Paul now works in a hospital in Durham.

On Saturday morning we walked along the front at Seaton and then went to the Headland and walked around there for a couple of hours. The weather being truly wonderful was an added bonus and the place really looked splendid.

So to the afternoon and I was sure my good weekend so far was going to be ruined by Pools. I’d arranged to meet Running Monkey and watched the game with him and The Ditchburn Poolie. I was also introduced to a whole host of other MB contributors and Pools sympathisers, putting a face to this magazine's aliases. The general consensus was that we were in for a defeat.

I’d not met The Ditchburn before and his dry wit and encyclopaedic knowledge of referees did nothing to add to my fast-fading and misplaced optimism. He informed me that this was the referee that had sent off Flinders early on in the cup tie against Stevenage and that we’d never won in the 5 games he’s officiated, to which Running Monkey rapidly responded "could be said about the majority of referees."

This was my first time in the Town End since 13th May 2000 and it was not as crowded as that day (versus Darlo in the play-offs). Portsmouth had a few players I’d heard of and seen before, Joe Devera, a competent central defender who’d played for Barnet and Swindon, Paul Jones, a goalkeeper who I’ve seen play for Leyton Orient and who had recently been with Crawley Town, Andy Barcham who had been Scunthorpe’s leading goalscorer in the 2012-13 season, Craig Westcarr, who finished last season as Walsall’s leading goalscorer, Patrick Agyemang, who in 2005/6 was Preston North End's second highest scorer. Also they have David Connolly – 187 goals in 485 games, and he wasn’t even in their squad. I was fearing the worst."The journey up was slow and gruelling – accidents, roadworks, ...road blockades at Peterborough checking for Hartlepool United players"

Portsmouth started off quite promisingly (for them that is) stringing together some good passes but a lack of accurate finishing and sound Pools defending kept the game level. Pools too had a few long range efforts and these were blocked by the packed Pompey defence. Harrison and Bates were looking safe in the centre of defence with Austin and Duckworth providing strength defending the wings. Duckworth was having an especially good game defending and supporting the midfield even having a good effort blocked. Just before half time Compton who had been having a quiet game was injured and replaced by Holden who took up Compton’s role on the left side of midfield / left wing.

The second half continued with the balance of play switching between the sides, scrappy at times. Wyke was playing very well but definitely needs someone else to help him in an attacking role. For a while he was back defending which meant our chances of getting the ball into their half, let alone a chance on goal, was minimal. Franks was too easily pushed off the ball and beaten in the tackle. This was not one of his better days. Both sides had half chances but again they were either saved, off target or blocked. Harewood replaced Franks with a quarter of an hour left but by then both teams were settling for the draw.

A fair result with the Pools defence having a good game, the midfield was okay and Wyke good up front and in defence. My man of the match would be Michael Duckworth, closely followed by Charlie Wyke. The official sponsors chose Tommy Miller who did have a good, steady game. I cannot help but think what a difference a player like Roy O’Donovan would make playing alongside Wyke. O’Donovan now plays for DPMM in Brunei and we probably couldn’t afford him (or even his fare back to the UK).

Me with prospective new
Pools manager
I have to mention that at 19 minutes 08 seconds there was a mini revolt when a small number of supporters showing their displeasure with the management and ownership of the club walked out for 10 minutes. Not many people involved but I know some of them and they are true and passionate supporters of the club which shows the level of frustration that many have with our current position.

After the match we went for tea with the wife of an ex-director from the Vince Barker era. More reminiscing and talking over current local news. A great end to a wonderful couple of days. And we avoided defeat.