New Owners, New Manager but no New Dawn

GREAT GRANDAD SHOUTY on Pools - and Sheffield United players

Week commencing 15th December 2014 was a time when everything was happening for Pools. We’d got new owners, a new manager with bags of experience under his belt and a reasonably satisfactory result against Oxford United. 

After the Oxford game, the Ched Evans story broke - more about that later. The Oxford game was followed up with another reasonable result against Mansfield. Given the new owners’ decision to reduce prices for both the Oxford and Morecambe games and the chance of 4,000 plus gates - dare we hope? Not a bit of it. When the second goal went in against Morecambe I’ve never seen so many fans stream out of the Town End and the Mill House Terrace. They were voting with their feet.

The performance against Morecambe was one of the most insipid I’ve ever seen - we made Morecambe look like world beaters .Yet, if we reflect, Morecambe showed us how it can be done. Playing along the deck and getting into space was in complete contrast Pools’ way of doing things - ball in the air and hoping it landed right. Morecambe’s defence and midfield just gobbled up anything we threw at them. At least Ronnie Moore recognises what the problems are and let’s hope he can recruit players who can do his bidding. Time is getting short and many Poolies are now facing up to the fact that we won’t be in the Football League next season.

And so to Ched Evans. When the story broke, I thought at last that Pools had the bit between their teeth and were determined by hook or by crook to arrest their desperate position. I’ve gone on record as saying that Evans should be given another chance and he would have been an excellent addition to the Pools’ squad. Of course, I’m aware that there were sincerely held views against him coming to Pools but it seemed to me that Pools were subjected to mob rule by politicians - who are the last people to lecture us about morality.

On Radio 5, soon after the news broke, even the biggest skategob east of the Mason/ Dixon Line - former Conservative MP, Edwina Currie - had her say and what a gem she came out with! She said that if Ched Evans came, other players in the club might want to leave. If that’s the case, then bringing in Ched Evans might have been a blessing in disguise, particularly after the Morecambe game. I think the best way for the club to have handled it would have been to conduct a poll amongst Poolies, possibly in conjunction with the Hartlepool Mail. That way, our supporters would have been part of the decision instead of being lectured at (or to) by the good, the bad and the ugly.

"She said that if Ched Evans came, other players in the club might want to leave. If that’s the case, then bringing in Ched Evans might have been a blessing in disguise"
I’m aware the Ched Evans was imprisoned for a very serious offence but the criminal justice system has decided that he‘s a candidate for parole. In other words, the system says he should get his life back on track and as far as I am aware the only thing he knows is football. Those who pontificate on the question should come up with an alternative and, as yet, they’re singularly failed to do that.

Christmas is, of course, the time of year when there is a proliferation of footy books, usually by 20 - something players who have never had a life. Much preferred by me are books by ex - players who have been round the block a few times and seen it all. Such a book caught my attention just before Christmas and it was Between the Sticks: the Beautiful Game Then and Now by former Sheffield United and England goal keeper, Alan Hodgkinson. As the title implies, the book provides a fascinating insight into how the game has changed over a long period of time and was published by Alan Hodgkinson at the ripe old age of 77! After hanging up his gloves - he played 675 games for The Blades - he created a niche for himself by becoming the world’s first ever specialised goal keeping coach and served amongst others, Manchester United, Aston Villa, Everton, and Rangers - as well as England and Scotland.

He provides possible reasons as to why Brian Clough was never flavour of the month with the FA. At one time, on the eve of the Cup Final, the full international side played the under 23s and on the Thursday evening before the match, the FA held a dinner for the officials and players - “a semi - formal affair at which we players had been instructed to wear suit, collar and tie”. Sir Stanley Rous (the FA President) announced grace and shortly before eating began, the doors swung open and in strode Cloughie wearing a blue checked shirt open at the neck, blue jeans and brown winkle picker shoes. After finding an empty chair, Cloughie was then instructed to go back to his room by Sir Stanley Rous. Jim Langley, (a Fulham international full back) offered the view “…he’s finished now. Young as he is, he’s going nowhere in this game.” Hodgkinson, on the other hand, offered an opposing view, “If that’s a sample of Cloughie’s attitude, he’ll go far”. In 1965, of course, Cloughie was appointed manager of Pools and Alan sent him a Good Luck card. Back came the reply. “Dear Alan, thank you for your kind wishes of good luck - having analysed matters here. I’m going to need it. Love Brian.”

The book is not without humour. In 1957, he was selected to play for England for the first time and received an invitation to have coffee with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Sheffield. He reflects, “The Mayor was a small, round, avuncular man with a cheery face and voice to match. He seemed to be of friendly and humorous disposition, but something suggested to me he’d held a lot of noses to the grindstone in his time, The Lady Mayoress was taller, larger, with a rotund face covered in sufficient make - up to keep Max Factor’s profits ticking over nicely and chins that lay on top of one another like slices of processed cheese. She had blue - rinse hair set in a ruthless perm and her eyelashes were twin miracles of mascara. When she welcomed me her voice had a blustering, hard quality to it and sounded as if it would never tolerate any nonsense”

All in all, an excellent read. If you’re nostalgic - like me - or if you want to soak up a history of the game then this is for you. (Published by Harper Collins - paperback 2014 and available from Amazon).