Showing posts from October, 2015

The nerves are getting to us


When the Pools’ stadium announcer told us on Tuesday night that 190 Bristol Rovers’ fans had made the trip to Pools it said a great deal about League Two and its fans. To make that trip on a Tuesday night must have meant two days off work for some of them yet, maybe Bristol Rovers fans are the lucky ones. At least, they have three clubs close at hand (Plymouth, Exeter and Yeovil) whereas Pools fans have some real trips to contend with.

As far as I can work out there are only five League 2 clubs north of Birmingham – Carlisle, Mansfield, York, Morecambe and Notts County and, with the exception of York, they’re not exactly down the road. Come on, Gateshead – do your stuff!!

And so to the Bristol Rovers game. They arrived at Pools below us in the league table and there was optimism that we could overcome them at The Vic. Darrell Clarke must have thought it was his birthday and Christmas rolled into one. Not for the first time have our ex-players come back to haunt us. I had a sense of foreboding after about ten minutes. It was difficult to work out how Bristol Rovers could take us apart so easily. They were up for it and the end result was an indication of their superiority. The midfield was totally non-existent and kept putting the defence under constant pressure – so much so that the nerves were starting to jangle.

The nerves even started to affect Adam Bartlett and we couldn’t get a safer pair of hands in the League. Where we seem to have a problem is that when key players are missing then we struggle. Michael Woods and Carl Magnay have both been out with suspensions and on Tuesday night Brad Walker certainly didn’t put Woods’ place in any danger. I have a feeling that teams have worked us out and apply the pressure from the go. They know that if they can sneak a goal then there’s little chance that we can pull things back. The fans start to get restless and the encouragement ebbs away.

Last Tuesday, when Bristol Rovers scored their second goal some supporters left the ground. They voted with their feet. Despite early promise, we don’t seem to be threatening teams with our strikers. Ronnie Moore seems to have identified the problem – shoot on sight. How often have we seen the ball played across the penalty area when a shot might bring results. After all, on the law of averages some will finish up in the back of the net. I’d like to see Rakish Bingham doing this a lot more. His pace can certainly put defences under pressure.
"there are only five League 2 clubs north of Birmingham... Come on, Gateshead – do your stuff!!"

Talking of Darrell Clarke, its always interesting to see how ex-Poolies are doing. Did anyone see Scott Flinders' howler against Notts County last week? A safe pair of hands but you always wondered if that could have happened at Pools. Jonathan Franks seems to be getting his games at Ross County and Michael Nelson will be up at Pools later this month with Barnet. As for Luke James, its certainly been a case of the mighty fallen. After doing nothing at Peterborough he seems to be permanently on the bench at Bradford. He would have benefited from another season at Pools – yet maybe his head was turned and he must be despondent at the way things have turned out. Such a shame.

On the other hand, Dimi is going great guns at the Boro. All in all, I don’t think we’re at the crisis stage yet. After the traumas of last season a mid-table position would suffice and there aren’t all that many points between Pools and the last play off place – three points isn’t a lot. Nothing much seems to be happening elsewhere. Sunderland and Newcastle at the bottom of the bog-standard Premier League – start winning matches and you’ll put Chelsea in the relegation places. And we have two boring England games coming up – what’s new?

There’s been so much news about FIFA in recent months that the news about Blatter and Platini doesn’t seem to have caused much of a ripple. Maybe too many people are paying attention to the Rugby Union World Cup.
Owton Abbey Secret Script

BILL THE BIRO reveals one that got away

Now that Julian Fellowes’ phenomenally successful TV series is coming to an end, we can reveal one of the scripts that didn’t make it into the final series.

Scene 1. [Lord Hodcroft’s Study. Moore enters, and coughs.]
Lord HodcroftAh, Moore! I have some important news for you. I’m afraid there are going to be changes at Owton. As you know, my oil investments been giving some concern of late, and as a result we are having to sell Owton and move back to the house in Toon. Accordingly we have sold the house to some nouveau-riche businessmen and you will all be working for them from now on.
MooreVery good, my lord, Will that be all, my lord?
Lord HodcroftYes, thank you Moore, but would you be kind enough to pass on that infomation below stairs?
Scene 2 [The Servants’ Hall. Moore enters, and coughs]
Moore Ladies and gentlemen, I have just been informed by his lordship that due to the financial situation, he and his family are unable to remain at Owton and accordingly have sold it, so we are now all employed by the new owners. Obviously, until we know their plans, this will be a worrying time for all of us.
Scene 3[Lord Hodcroft’s Study. The Dowager Lady Hodcroft (mother of Lord H) enters.]
Lady HodcroftSo you’ve broken the news to Moore then, John? How did he take it?
Lord HodcroftOn the chin, as ever, Mama.
Lady Hodcroft I fear for the worst. I know we needed the money, but these get-rich-quick types don’t, unlike us, tend to have the respect for tradition and for doing things properly.
Lord HodcroftNever mind, Owton is not ours to worry about any longer.
Scene 4[The staff are all lined up to welcome the new owner, Mr Gary Coxall, as he arrives in his flash car. He leaves the car and waves to the staff]
Mr. CoxallHi!
MooreOn behalf of the whole staff may I welcome you to Owton Abbey, and offer the hope that your time with us will be a happy one, Mr Coxall. And now , may I introduce the staff?
Mr. CoxallGreat, and please all call me Gary, …er, Ronnie isn’t it?
MooreYes, my …er …Mr. Coxall.
[The staff are introduced, one by one, but at the end of the line Mr Coxall spots H’Angus. Mr. Coxall whispers to Moore.]
Mr. CoxallHe looks odd, what does he do?
MooreHe doesn’t really do much at all, other than walk about a bit, my …er Gary.
Mr. CoxallSo we pay him for doing nothing then?
MooreWell, he entertains the youngsters.
Mr. CoxallSo, does he sing, or dance, or tell jokes?
MooreNo, he has his photo taken with all the younger visitors.
Mr. CoxallWell, why didn’t you say he’s in marketing?
Funny Old Game

A Balanced Team

BILLY'S CONTRACT has been pondering

It has been mentioned in several quarters that Ronnie Moore is playing with an unbalanced team. I am not exactly sure what that means. Obviously if it was referring to a motorcycle display team or even a tight rope walker I could possibly understand what they are talking about. When 'Pools played Spennymoor pre-season I did not see any of our players sliding off Town's notorious sloping pitch at any stage, and based on that premise I would say that the team look pretty well balanced on the day.

I would not disagree that in an effort to incorporate a 4-4-2 system into our repertoire we could do with a couple of wingers. Someone who could get the ball nine inches above ground level, and at the same time could get a decent cross into the box, even whilst unmarked and taking corners.

That same someone would not do a disappearing act during the course of the game and would need to be able to put in the odd tackle now and again and not be scared of putting their head in where it hurts, as well as not spitting their dummy out when being dropped. Jonathan Franks (described in the Scottish press as 'unused sub') or Jack Louis Compton need not apply.

I pondered this 'unbalanced' question for some time. Then it came to me in a blinding flash. No, it was not about having players playing out of position, nor was it too many of the same type of player in the side, but in actual fact it is the TYPES of players that are in the first team squad.

I recall reading an article at the start of last season in the right-wing, jingoistic, celebrity-riddled, Johnny-Foreigner-bashing, southern-biased Daily Mail - but for all that it's a good read (really? Ed.), that Hartlepool United were the only club in the Football League whose entire squad consisted of Englishmen. At the time I thought that this spelled trouble (T R O U B L E trouble) as indeed it did, as the season unfolded.

When I was a lad any team worth its salt had a Scotsman or at least an Irishman in its starting lineup, invariably in a midfield capacity. The successful, but damn awful to watch, Leeds United team of the seventies had both, in the form of Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles. Talented in their own right, but a couple of cheating thugs nonetheless.

At the end of last season Ronnie scattered half a dozen of his English players and cast his net to look for players with the make up to strengthen his squad into a so-called balanced team. It was obvious to the manager that we had no black players, Irish players or Cockneys in the squad and so in one fell swoop he got all three with the signing of Jake Carroll.

Moore then turned his attentions to getting a player whose name would cause confusion among fans and journalists alike, so in comes Olalekan Kudus Oyenuga. He has only made a couple of sub appearances to date but you can bet your bottom dollar when Pools host Orient in the live televised game in November, out of badness Ronnie will give him a place in the starting line-up just to confuse Jeff Stelling and the Sky T.V. pundits. Can you imagine Chris Kamara trying to pronounce his name. Oyenuga not Kamara. I meant!

As it turns out, Ronnie did not have to look far for a ginger-haired player as there was one already in his ranks in the form of Michael Woods, but to my mind what he really needs to 'balance' his squad is not a ball-winning, box-to-box, free-scoring midfielder, but (and tell me if I am wrong), a player with a receding hairline. I understand that behind the scenes Moore was trying desperately to re-sign David Mirfin from Scunthorpe, but this has been put on hold as Mirfin has not been in either Scunny's first or reserve sides due to a head injury. Ronnie wants clarification as to whether this was sustained during a hair transplant session in Harley Street. If so the deal is off, and he will look elsewhere for a follically-challenged (baldy git) player - even one with a comb over ...irrespective of what position he plays in. This would also encourage youngsters with the early stages of male pattern baldnesss, or indeed the first signs of widow's peak, to sign for the club, as very few of the North East and Tees Valley clubs have slap-heads in their first teams. Very few people realize the Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul wears a toupée. This is an area our scouting department needs to get a grip of.

The manager's next problem was that, since the departure of Steve Howard, we were in desperate need of a boo-boy. Moore's dilemma was that he had a choice of two players from his current squad to choose from for this coveted role, both of whom he inherited from Colin Cooper, himself a boo-boy. Was it to be Stuart Parnaby, who had only played five games for 'Pools and had been subbed in most of them, or was it to be Matthew Bates? Both have the perfect credentials to be boo-boys. Ex-Boro for a start (need I say more?), and neither of them, when they have actually played for 'Pools, have set the world alight. It would appear that Ronnie has opted for Bates, (mainly because of his 'members only' section on his Facebook page) as he has now featured regularly in the first team of late. but as yet has not fulfilled his obvious potential in his new role. To quote from Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe 'He did nothing in particular, and did it very well.' On current form Bates is avoiding 'boo-boy status with all of the fans, but it is early days - give him a chance. His second half display against Bristol was a starting point, however.

Ronnie needed to have a 'Sick Note' player in his side. Again this was a straight choice between Bates and Parnaby. Bates, having played a few games, left the path wide open for Parnaby to be the injury prone/ravaged player of the side. Both players were ideal for the role. At their previous club Muddlesbrough they must have fought furiously between themselves to see which one of them would get first dibs (dabs in Yorkshire) to occupy the treatment table. Total career appearances for both players is 342 games. Combined age: sixty-one. Ritchie Humphreys need not worry about these two breaking his club record number of appearances. They don't even come close. In a recent reserve match, after just seven minutes, Parnaby left the field when he pulled a hamstring. As a result he decided to call it a day on his football career and we thank him for this.
"Parnaby ...pulled a hamstring. As a result he decided to call it a day ...and we thank him for this."

From some of his comments last season about Michael Duckworth's defending, and Scott Fenwick being a 'Young Pup', it would appear that Ronnie was not happy with these former non-league signings by his predecessors, Colin Cooper and Paul Murray. Every lower-tier team should have at least one ex-non-league player in their side, and so Ronnie went out and signed Carl Magnay from Grimsby, a defender ...who is now playing in midfield.

Harry Redknapp had a remarkable track record in signing other teams' cast-offs - bad boys and ne'er-do-wells, and turned them into star performers. John Hartson, Julian Dicks and Paulo Di Canio immediately spring to mind. Ronnie Moore, not to be outdone, smartly and surprisingly nipped in, Redknapp-style, and signed the still-under-contract Billy Paynter from Carlisle United. A very shrewd move by the Silver Fox. Mind it did help that Sam Collins was a mate of Billy's, so Ronnie cannot take all the glory for signing the former Swindon Town and Leeds hitman. You only had to see Big Sam's reaction at the end of the York game after Paynter's fabulous winning strike. Sam was the first on the pitch to congratulate him. Here's hoping Ronnie has resurrected Paynter's career.

Some possible other signings the 'Pools management team are considering are:
A free-scoring blond Jehovah's Witness.

French quadruplets who would make an excellent back four.

An ageing drama queen (haven't we already got one of those?)

A Welsh player of the calibre of Eifion Williams. Would not need to pay him much as long as he got a club car such as a 'Rhondda' Civic.

When was the last time 'Pools had a legendary, beer-guzzling, near-alcoholic, free-scoring centre-forward? (Libel laws prevent us from publishing any answers to that. Ed.) I know the game has cleaned itself up in recent years but there must be one out there somewhere. You also have to ask yourself when was the last time Pools had a commanding Poet Laureate orchestrating the midfield. Have no fears, readers, these are the types of players that are on the Pools management's radar, in an effort to propel us up the league.


I know that I have criticised the lad in the past in these columns, but a big well done to Brad Walker, who came on for the final ten minutes against Cambridge and became the first Hartlepool midfield player all season to have a shot at goal. Again, the same scenario, coming on as a sub for the last fifteen minutes against Yeovil, and he had a shot at goal, becoming the first Hartlepool midfielder to score a goal all season. Woods Bates and Featherstone please note: if you don't buy a ticket you have no chance of winning the raffle. 

As previously mentioned, I have been Walker's biggest critic, mainly because his ego got the better of him and he became a legend in his own lunch time. However I think now is the time to give him a second chance and put him in the starting line up to see, if nothing else, that he has 'manned up' and proved himself worthy of the talent he undoubtedly has, to make him a first team regular. (Apologies - this bit on Walker was written before the Bristol Game. Mind, having said that, he was still the pick of the midfielders.)
Funny Old Game

This Was a Shocker

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at the Vic

Pools 0 Bristol Rovers 3  (League 2) Tuesday September 29th 2015

This was a shocker. I lost my notes on the way home, which was probably a good job for some of our players. When I say players I use the term loosely as today none of them came out with anything that you would call a praiseworthy performance. 

Trigger, the old likeable clown of the old Pools side who in his school report of those days was never going to be a manager, was too much of a nice guy to cut the rough in managing circles. Well this nice, affable clown brought a side to the Vic which played the pants off Pools from the first whistle to the last, and looked very comfortable doing it.

If this had been a Pools performance they would have been proclaimed as “brilliant”, magnificent even. They were fast on the break, great in defence and absolutely tortured us in midfield. Men against boys.

There were some dismal performances throughout the Pools side, as the whole team just could not hold onto the ball and invariably, under pressure, just shipped it out, and ninety percent of the time it was shipped to the opposition. All they had to do was sit and watch us break down, pick up the ball and get us on the back foot.

It was monotonous the number of times we gave them possession and then scrambled back in desperation to defend. It was a throw-back to early last season, and it was not pretty to watch. In fact it was criminal. Apart from Bartlett hoofing the ball into their half I do not remember what you might call a run at their defence.

Master Bates was back to his very worst and consistently lost the ball either in a tackle or another misplaced pass. He was so bad we were sure he would be hooked at half time but he lasted about an hour - which was fifty minutes too long.
The first goal took three attempts; after Bartlett had blocked it twice it spun up for an easy header on the line that our defenders stood and admired rather than doing anything about it. The second one came from another Bates mistake and they just ran past him and slotted it home.
"If this had been a Pools performance they would have been proclaimed as “brilliant”, magnificent even."

The third goal was gifted by Oyenuga, who just followed his team mates and made a back pass - this time to Easter. Remember him? The lad who was laughed out of the Vic because he got nervous in front of goal. His performance tonight could have made him Man of the Match as he ripped us to shreds all night.

Oyenuga had replaced Walker who, in the whole match, was the only Pools player to threaten their goal, with a good free kick that was dipping in but which their keeper managed to tip over. You have to question Mr Moore on this substitution, when Bates was so bad in the middle and Walker was at least attempting to carry the ball forward.

We have to hope this was a one-off game and we can recover for Luton on Saturday - but don’t hold your breath.

So Where Will the Goals Come From?

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at the Vic

Pools 0 Cambridge 0 (League 2) Saturday September 19th 2015

After four defeats we were getting desperate for some success, and with the news that Donaldson and Corr were out of the visiting side, our little band of brothers were hoping for something today.

The Ditchburn Poolie had no real info on the ref, other than that he was a little rotund. I asked his accomplice cousin Keith for his thoughts on the game, and with three minutes and thirty-five seconds on the clock he said it would be a draw. He did say we were looking a bit wobbly at the start but I assured him that this was the norm.

The visitors were a competent side and obviously thought we were vulnerable, based on on our recent record. The young fullback Halliday was making his home debut, and after some good reports from last week we were looking forward to seeing the Boro lad.

I was of the opinion that Cambridge just edged the early part of the game and we were on the back foot for a while. Bartlett was the first to be tested but it was a weak header from the visitors. Oates was the first Pools player to have a shot after a good run. His shot was blocked and the subsequent corner was cleared.

The Pools attack looked a little too predictable and the visitors looked more dangerous on the break. Bingham was chopped down on the edge of their box but their keeper was equal to the shot and a punch cleared the danger. Featherstone was having a good game and one run he made with Bingham and Halliday, where they played some neat football, ended with a goal for Pools that was ruled offside.
"we were looking a bit wobbly at the start but I assured him that this was the norm"

It was end-to-end stuff with both teams making mistakes, but at least Pools were competing now. Bartlett made a great save from a close shot just as the ref blew for the attacker handling the ball. Woods had a chance but made a weak shot the keeper could not hold and Bingham had his shot pushed wide. Carroll tested the keeper and Harrison also had a shot blocked as Pools started to get into the game more.

There was an almighty scramble in the Pools box when they were caught out by a long throw but they managed to clear the ball. The highlight of the game was a run by Halliday who set off from our box down the line leaving at least four players in his wake as he danced through their defence but sadly his shot was blocked. This kid looks a good player and was our main threat throughout the game and was named Man of the Match.

Pools, kicking down bank the second half, started to push the visitors back, Halliday again making inroads on the strong Cambridge defence. Bingham wasted the best chance of the game, hitting the keeper when it looked easier to score. Bingham was soon replaced by Fenwick, who went close, just missing the ball at the back post when Oates, who was having some success out wide, lobbed a ball in that all the defenders missed too.

Carroll was taken out on the edge of their box, but the free kick was tipped over and the corner was wasted, although it has to be said our dead ball kicks have really improved. It was sad to see Wood limping off and straight down the tunnel with Buster, so let's hope it is not serious. Walker replaced him and he was unlucky with his first strike, but at least this lad will shoot.

We were glad of a point after recent results and it was probably all we deserved against a decent side who also could have won it. Again our lack of goal chances was glaringly obvious.

Funny Old Game

Any Other Business


September seemed to be one to forget, but things started to improve. First a home draw with Cambridge stopped the rot, then a somewhat fortuitous win at Yeovil signalled that the train was back on the rails. 

And then along comes Darrell Clarke with his Pirates, who carried off the points in swashbuckling style, while Pools could only stand by and watch. And of course Jermaine Easter had to score against his old club, didn't he!

It seems that for Ronnie it's the Great Escape scenario staring him in the face all over again. Ah, well, we Poolies have seen it all before... many, many times.

It's now the silly season for managerial changes, and none sillier than down at Brentford. The Bees were playing us very recently, but then Mark Warburton took them to the upper reaches of the Championship. But since he's a manager and they're owned by a company specialising in statistical analysis software for sports clubs, they didn't need someone who could think for himself. Accordingly Warburton was told he was out long before their playoffs defeat by the Boro. They then brought in a foreign coach to do the computer's bidding. He was sacked after 8 matches, the last two of which they won. It would be nice to know if he won those two matches by ignoring the computer, which might explain his sacking. 

We bet Mark Warburton must be smiling at that, knowing that as manager of Glasgow Rangers, he has a chance to really show Brentford's owners two fingers. 

And finally, if anyone out there fancies doing anything for inclusion in Monkey Business, we'd be pleased to hear from you. Some new blood and different views would be most welcome. Email us at