Freebies and Jim-Jams

BILLY'S CONTRACT on this, that and the other

Who said that the price of football is prohibitive for the average working man? 

By chance,eighteen minutes before kick off to be precise, I found out that Pools' second string had a match against Rotherham at Bedford Terrace, Billingham, which is but a ten minute ride away.

Initially I thought that there was a big crowd in attendance as I was unable to gain access to the Billingham car park due to the amount of automobiles crammed in there. It turns out that the cars in question belonged to the players and officials.

I presented my season ticket at the turnstile, which gains the holder free admission, not to mention a gratis team sheet, and I took my place in the main stand, which was in fact the only stand, just as both teams came out. Pools fielded a strong side, eight of whom had first team experience, and collectively they had a fair few league miles on their clocks. Also in the side were three trialists.

I cannot say that I was familiar with any of the Rotherham players but none the less they had some class names in their line up: Fabian Bailey, Bradley Peace- McDonald, Darnelle Bailey- King and a Laurence Bilboe who to my mind with names like these they should have been playing polo and not football don't you know. Also in their ranks they had such Christian/First names as J'Cee, Brandon, Alaster and Trae. Interestingly, there was not one James, John, Tom, Peter, Paul Ian or Joe represented in squad on the day. Where have all the proper boys names gone? The closest we got was that of Billy (Paynter) and Dan (Jones/Smalley). I guess as a certain Mr Dylan once famously said 'The times they are a-changing'.

When you look back at the names of the footballers who played in the fifties they all had names that my football generation of the seventies were not familiar with either, such as Albert, Arthur, Cliff, Dougie Stan, Len, Jackie Ted, Hertbert and the like. I also seem to recollect that most of the players with names such as these always seemed to play for the middling Lancashire clubs ...or should that now read as Greater Manchester!

From the offset Pools dominated the game. Bingham, who had come on as a sub the previous night and scored at Accrington, was very lively as was Paynter, both of whom got first half goals. Paynter despite his long lay off looked fit and it is only a matter of time as to when he will be back on first team duty. Half time, two nil to Pools. Thankfully there was only a ten minute interval as it was bloody cold sat in that stand, plus the ski socks that I had purchased from Aldi the day before had failed miserably, as frost bite had set in after a mere twenty five minutes. (I think these socks were designed for skiing in Dubai).

Second half: a good save from the Millers keeper denied Connor Smith a hat trick. Why he is not involved with the first team is beyond me. Looks lively and has got pace. Adam Bartlett had only one real save to make during the half ...well, the whole game really, and was very vocal throughout. Two things stood out for me during the match: one was the way Pools played which was totally different from their League Two style. They say that in a club whether it be the first/second or youth team that they should all play to the same system so if someone from the reserves progresses to the first team they should slip into the system seamlessly. This did not appear to be the case against Rotherham.

The manner of play was light years away from what we normally witness from the first team. Surprisingly for most of the match the ball was kept on the grass and played to feet instead of being lumped up into the air. There was none of this head tennis from defenders that we see week in week out home and away. It was almost like 'watching football' I was also very surprised at how much space each team had. In some instances it was like, and don't laugh, watching Premiership football. Players carrying the ball and very tappy tappy with nothing like the amount of tackles going in that we see in Division Two.

Secondly, and again please don't laugh, it was well worth the entrance money alone, that I did not have to pay, just to watch Brad Walker's performance. Imperious is not too strong a word to describe his midfield display. Never lost the ball. Totally dominated the midfield, had plenty of time on the ball, superb range of passes, silky skills, made two goals and had one disallowed himself, not to mention making a few decent tackles. To be brutally honest he was a joy to watch. If a visiting manager was casting his eyes over him they would have put in an offer for him before he reached the shower. I think the reason why Walker does not perform as well in the first team is that whilst he can get away with it at reserve level, mainly because of the space that he was allowed, he hardly breaks into a trot let alone a canter at best. Think Ya Ya Toure and Alex Song of Man City and West Ham respectively, both players who are similar in style and are great passers but not the paciest, however they do have other players in their ranks who do their running on their behalf.

Unfortunately at Pools we have no pacy midfielders (ironically Brad Walker might be the quickest of them all) to do Walker's running for him, only passers. I was surprised when Wolves had him on trial recently, perhaps they see something in him that the average Pools fans/management don't. It was noticeable to all when Walker started to warm up in front of the Cyril Knowles against Exeter on Saturday that he was wearing orange boots. Pools want £50k for him. If the deal goes through it will be good business for all parties involved. Would keep the Wolves from the door if nothing else.

Of the trialists Julian Banton (centre half) and Jamie McDonagh (right winger) both of Sheff Utd stood out. Banton did not have much to do but McDonagh was lively and created chances. At the time of writing I have not heard any more of them. In summary, I'm looking forward to attending my next reserve match. Final score Pools 4 Rotherham 0

...and so, up the A19 

A goodly number of Football / Rugby clubs, excluding Pools, provide the armed forces with complimentary tickets for games throughout the season. My son, who is with the RAF, managed to secure tickets for the Sunderland - Bournemouth clash ...on the proviso that the RAF do not drop smart bombs on the Stadium of Light in the near future. No danger of that happening there as they look like imploding in on themselves in any event.

My son was apologetic that it was not a more attractive fixture that we were going to see. "On the contrary" I said "It will be a dog eat dog match with both sides going for a win". Besides, the best three teams that I have seen at the Vic in recent years, in no particular order, have been Bournemouth, Bournemouth and Bournemouth. They always try to play football the right way and what they have achieved both on and off the pitch is nothing short of a remarkable, for which they deserve every credit.

"he was a joy to watch. If a visiting manager was casting his eyes over him they would have put in an offer for him before he reached the shower"
Sunderland's next home game is against Man City which, if it is anything like last season's corresponding fixture, will be like a turkey shoot. I can envisage the Mackems having eleven men behind the ball as is Sam Allardyce's modus operandi. Once City's first goal goes in it will be all one way traffic and and it is not something I want to sit through as a neutral to watch a one sided match. Give me the Bournemouth fixture any day.

We parked up at the industrial estate a couple of miles or so from the ground and boarded the free park and ride service benevolently provided by the football club and within quarter of an hour we were picking our tickets up from a two foot square hole in the wall on the west side of the stadium. (A bit like the one Pools had in the 1980's - back end of the Mill House turnstiles near the Corner
Flag. Difference being that Pools' hole in the wall was a missing brick if memory serves me correctly. There is actually a picture of it at the Football Museum in the Lake District!)

Rather than pay the inflated prices within the stadium we picked up a couple of hot drinks from a burger van outside the ground which we supped on the exact spot (near the Bob Stokoe statue) that the miners' picket line was on during the infamous strike in 1984/5. Funny - all the years in the seventies/eighties that I have crossed the Wearmouth Bridge on my way to Roker Park, or a concert or bowling, I did not know of the existence of a colliery below. Perhaps it was due to the fact I used to walk on the east side of the bridge and look over at the shipyards. Sadly ships and coal are no more.

Despite the fact that we did not have crampons karabiners ice picks and ropes and other various climbing equipment we took our seats at the very top of the stand. Our seats were at the top of the very last row and I swear if I stood on my seat I could have touched the stand roof. We were just behind the goal near the corner flag but despite our lofty position we still had a good view. Prior to the kick-off we clubbed together and had a £1 bet on Defoe grabbing a hat trick. For all he contributed he might as well have gone home.and played tricks with his hat.

First five minutes were cagey with Bournemouth lobbing in a few long balls. Son reminds me that I told him Bournemouth were a footballing side. He had not got the words out of his mouth when Bournemouth turned on the style. One nil up in twelve minutes and kept Sunderland pinned in their own half for pretty much the full 45 minutes and playing some delightful football. How Sunderland got an equaliser on the stroke of half time still remains a mystery to me. It has to be said that even before Bournemouth scored the best part of 41,000 fans were on the home team's backs (and forwards as well as midfielders!). At least at 'Pools we have a bit more patience than the Mackems. It is little wonder their players confidence is shot.

Second half Sunderland upped their game a bit and did stray into the Bournemouth half on the odd occasion. In the last ten minutes John O'Shea pushed up, obviously on his own bat, to assist the forwards. Big Sam went apoplectic, we could hear him eighty yards away screaming at his centre half whilst whirling his arms around like an out of control windmill for him to get back into defence. Big Sam was happy with a point and saw the draw as a point gained rather than two lost.

Seven or eight minutes before the whistle went, we made our exit and made a dash for the park and ride, and were back home at 17.25 GMT. I can't afford Sky TV, either monetary-wise or principle-wise. However Son, who is a whizz with technology, rigged up my laptop and next thing you know we are watching live via the TV,courtesy of some American station,The Happy Hammers playing Man City. Another freebie. All in all total spent, excluding fuel, for these two games tallied up to £3.50 which covered our hot drinks and £1 bet. Who said Football is an expensive game for the fans to watch?

In summary,the Sunderland game was a funny one for me as I have a long-standing bet that big Sam will keep them up. On the other hand I would not like to see Bournemouth get relegated either, as, in a sense they are one of ours. A fourth division side made good. Based on their performance against Bourmemouth, unless Sunderland bring in some decent signings they are certainties for the drop. They are woeful. My hope is that if Borer get to the Premiership, Sunderland and Newcastle drop down to the Championship. On the flip side if Borer fail to achieve promotion I would like to see our North East neighbours avoid the drop. Call me mean spirited or what?

The Pyjama Bunch

I had to laugh out loud about the worldwide coverage and shame that woman from Darlington has heaped on her town by defending her right to bring her children to school whilst wearing her PJ'S. (just record the Jeremy Kyle show or watch it on catch up luv). This got me thinking. It is well documented about how at the end of each season 'Poolies don fancy dress outfits for their last away game of the season. Not only is it an eagerly awaited event not only by those who partake but by the rest of the country/world to see what this year's fancy dress theme will be. The publicity it brings to the town is second to none ...well perhaps second only to John Darwin.

Now that Darlington FC no longer exist the only joy these days when the fixture list first comes out is to see: 1) Are we at home on Boxing day 2) Are we at home at Easter 3) Where will our last away match be for the fancy dress outing.

This year number three was a major disappointment - it could not be any further away. Plymouth. As such I am guessing that there will only be a few dozen Poolies making the journey to the south west. As an alternative I think that Pools fans should take in Darlington 1066's last away game at Rushall Olympic and go in dressed up in our Jim Jams The only problem I can see with this is that the Darlow fans will probably be wearing pyjamas as a matter of course as their normal attire so some of the impact might get lost and we might get mixed up and be classed as Darloids.

Afterthought. I have just found out that Rushall Olympic are based in Walsall which is half way to Plymouth, so we might as well crack on to the south coast in our own nightwear.

On a more serious note, today I was shocked to see a woman in her sixties in Tesco Hartlepool wearing pyjamas at two o clock in the afternoon, not in the store itself but filling up with fuel on the forecourt. Normally I would have something sarcastic to say but I was actually left speechless.

I hope and pray she was on her way back home to Darlington.