Drinking in the Last Chance Saloon

GREAT GRANDAD SHOUTY muses on the situation

The appointment of Paul Murray and Willie Donachie is effectively the last throw of the dice in saving our Football League status - at least on the field. Paul Murray comes to the club with the good will of the supporters who recall his sterling performances for Pools after being signed by Mick Wadsworth. 

In some respects, his hands are tied - the transfer window doesn’t open until the New Year and he has to scout around for released players who are without a club. In terms of the loan market he and Willie Donachie will have varying contacts instead of relying on the Middlesbrough connection to shore up our failing team. Some of the Middlesbrough players definitely improved the side - Matty Dolan and Christian Burgess would fall into that category and Charlie Wyke has not disgraced himself. 

Colin Cooper also suffered the handicap of losing two key players - Jack Baldwin and Luke James - and James has certainly proved well nigh impossible to replace. (By the way, James seems to be having trouble finding the net at Peterborough - how about a short term loan!!) Still, allowing Paul Murray to bring in an experienced assistant could bode well for Pools. We will all wish them the best of luck. I know that Paul Murray will show the same commitment as manager that he showed as a player.

Yet, it is events off the field which fill me with a sense of foreboding. The latest war of words between Ken Hodcroft and Hartlepool Borough Council over the sale of Victoria Park and the rent review could be the death knell for Pools. It does seem to me that if Pools do lose their league status and IOR withdraw their support then the Council are going to get the blame - and yet there seems to be no urgency on their part to take the issue seriously. Don’t forget, its going to be May when the crisis could hit us and what you might say is the significance of May 2015? Well, that’s when the local and general elections take place and I’m sure that Iain Wright would prefer to concentrate on real issues rather than defend the council over its relations with Pools. 

Personally, I’ve always thought that the performance of a local football club in relation to a town’s prosperity/standing is always over-estimated. During the 1980s, when Liverpool were the dominant club in England the city had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Some clubs certainly do bring quite a few supporters with them and spend money in the town - recent examples being Portsmouth and Luton - but on the other side of the coin clubs like Newport County and Dagenham and Redbridge hardly fill a couple of rows in the Rink End.

"My nightmare scenario would be for us and Carlisle to fight out the second to last spot in League Two at the end of the season. And who do we play in our last game?"
Hopefully, both parties in the dispute will see sense and let us get back to the basics - and that’s football. IOR have been a force for good and have been at the helm in some of Pools’ finest hours. As I’ve said in a previous MB, getting out of the Conference will not be easy. Just look at Luton: gates of around 8,000 and it took them years to get back into the Football League. Still, by putting a run together we can climb to safety. My nightmare scenario would be for us and Carlisle to fight out the second to last spot in League Two at the end of the season. And who do we play in our last game? Away to Carlisle! Won’t be for the faint-hearted.

Lots has been happening elsewhere. Manuel Pellegrini seems to amaze me with some of his excuses. Last month, after the Champions League game against CSKA Moscow, I caught the following headline in the Daily Telegraph: "Caught Cold:Pellegrini blames freezing conditions as City pay the penalty." Yikes! How on earth would his players cope at Pools if we draw them in the third round of the FA Cup? 

I always remember, some years ago, Dave Bassett discussing Nigerian players who had performed well in the 1998 World Cup. Whilst he admitted they would enhance the quality of any side he’d want to know how they’d perform in Hartlepool in the middle of winter. Good logic!

And then we’ve got the thoughts of the Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho. After the home game against Crystal Palace last week, he complained about the lack of atmosphere at Stamford Bridge. Maybe he was right but the fact is that clubs like Chelsea are more interested in hospitality packages and getting tourists in from far flung places than the ordinary fans. There’s nothing wrong with hospitality packages as such - but a balance must be stuck. Wasn’t it Roy Keane who derided the prawn sandwich brigade at Old Trafford?

Then there was the case of the drone in the Serbia v Albania game which ended up in a pitched battle between the Serbian and Albanian players and the Albanian players having to run for safety from the Serbian fans who invaded the pitch. How on earth UEFA sanctioned these two nations meeting together is beyond me - particularly in view of the Sebia/Kosovo conflict. All this leads me to pose a serious question: what happens when a regulatory body cocks things up? Who calls them to account? It’s the same as the FA when they organise international matches and the Cup Final at Wembley. If there’s a pitch invasion or someone throws something on the pitch, who does the referee complain to? It's worth a thought.