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Showing posts from August, 2016
Charge at the Light Brigade


JANE AUSTEN'S ALLEGRO is scathing about England's performance in France


Am I not alone in thinking that England's performance in France was nothing short of a national disgrace?

Many of the big names did not turn up or stayed at home. Commentators say that England had no game plan and that the tactics were not only outdated but totally inadequate for the quality of opponents that we were up against. England throughout the tournament were out-thought, out-manoeuvred and embarrassingly out-fought, and regularly were out-on-their-feet. Fitness levels, it has to be said, were nothing short of appalling.

Leadership from above was lacking in all areas and it was clear that there was no guidance, no plan of attack or, worse still, no plan B. In fact I don't believe that there was actually a plan A.

Defensively we looked totally disorganised, particularly in the opening stages against Russia, and despite fighting gamely we just could not break them down. Worse was to follow when Russia caught England with an injury-time counter attack and a sucker punch so devastating that it left many of the England squad in a daze and wondering what had hit them.

In my opinion the boys wearing the White/Red of England let us down very badly. In the past we have always put up a decent fight but in France we capitulated and were humiliated for all the world to see.

Now that Sir John Chilcot has got time on his hands I feel that a full scale investigation should take place with immediate effect, not by the impotent FA but by the Government itself to find out why our Football hooligans performed so badly on the international stage, particularly against their Russian rivals, who had obviously taken this tournament far more seriously than their English counterparts.

"In France we capitulated and were humiliated for all the world to see."
Such was the England fans' vulnerability that even the French, yes the French, with their unreliable Renaults and Citroens, and history of surrendering, dared to have a pop at the once most feared football fans in the world.

The Russians, to their credit, invested heavily in their hooligan project. Only the fittest were selected and were subjected to a strict training regime in ex-KGB camps which are not  marked on any map. When they left these camps they were lean, mean and muscular, without a beer belly on display. 

After months of training the Ruskies were well versed, and had black belts in the ancient art of Chaise Longue weaponry, the most favoured of these armaments being the cafe/bar stool and the infamous 'Decking' chair. The name of this feared instrument says it all.

The Government as a matter of urgency wants to redress this situation and are already in protracted discussions with Millwall and Leeds bovver boys as well as the West Ham Intercity crew (although not in the same room at the same time), to see what can be done to restore the country's pride.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Provisional Brus Boot Boys said 'Ummmerrrr like grhhhhgaw ock ock la laa like' which when translated blamed Brexit and a lack of Government and EU funding for our failings in France and have suggested alternative funding should come from the private sector such as Stella and Doc Martens.

Over the decades England has lost its coal mines, shipyards and most of its steel industry. Surely we are not  about to witness the demise of the English soccer hooligan?

Let's hope so.

As Mr Putin allegedly said "Mr Cameron, your boys have taken one hell of a beating."

Funny Old Game



Craig's Confidence


WAGGA MOON has reasons to be cheerful



Things appear to be a lot brighter at Victoria Park with a lot of the dead wood removed from the club and a young manager looking forward to big things.

Craig Hignett still has it all to prove after losing four on the trot at the end of last season, something a good manager would never do but he deserves to be given a chance with his own players. There has been a new twist in recruitment this summer, with no marquee signing being brought in such as Nobby Solano, Steve Howard or Robbie Elliott. Which, on past experience, is probably a good thing.

Hignett has gone down the non-League route for new players, with signings from the National League. This could either be a masterstroke or a passport to play in the National League next year. We will have to back Hignett's judgment and hope he has done his homework on the new men. First reports are they useful players and will greatly improve our team for the season ahead.

After the last few years of neglect and apathy under IOR it is about time we had something to cheer at the Vic. The two additions I most welcome are Tommy Miller Senior and Rob Jones. Our scouting network has never been the same since Tommy left and he will be a big bonus for us. Rob Jones although getting on a bit is just the sort of tough experienced centre back we need - loads of experience and knows the lower divisions like the back of his hand. And he will probably get plenty of games seeing that Sicknote Bates is still around.
"After the last few years of neglect and apathy under IOR it is about time we had something to cheer at the Vic."

The two I am glad to see the back of are Russ Green and Luke James. Green should have been sacked over the John Hughes debacle, the signing, firing and refusal to speak to him when he needed reinforcements. And the unpaid tax bill a few weeks ago was hardly his finest hour. Unfortunately from reports I have heard from within Victoria Park, this might not be the last we have heard of young Russ. And it is not good things that are going to come out.

James, after going on strike to get away from the club, returned on loan last season and was unable to find the net apart from snatching the ball off Brad Walker to score a penalty. Apparently we baulked at his wage demands to join us on loan this season and he moved to Bristol Rovers on loan. The money we would have laid out on him would be far better invested on someone who knows where the net is. Good luck to Darrell Clarke in trying to get some goals out of the perennial non-scorer, allegedly one of the reasons why Darren Ferguson lost his job at Peterborough.

This is a make or break season for Brad Walker, who really needs to push on and get a regular place, hopefully joined by Kieran Green who appears to have come on leaps and bound in pre-season training. The strike force appears to be stronger than for a few years with Billy Paynter, Padraig Amond and Lewis Allessandra, good journeyman pros with experience in League Two, with Rhys Oates and Jake Orrell in reserve.

In Trevor Carson we have probably the best keeper in League Two and it is the back four, as in the last couple of years, that could be our biggest problem. However with Carl Magnay settling in at right back and Rob Jones in the centre we look a lot stronger than usual. Although we are not the finished article, I would like to see a wide right attacker and a Richie Wellens or Jonjo O'Toole type midfielder to give us some more experience.

I see a steady as you go sort of season with us finishing around 11th unless we have a lot more investment in the January transfer window. The money we were supposed to have from the TV games and James transfer fee seems to have evaporated with no likelihood of any cash going on players.



England, my England

The Euros, according to BILLY'S CONTRACT



Was it just me or was there very little interest, if any at all, in the Euros (and I am not talking about the referendum or exchange rates here), or the England football team itself?

In previous build ups to World Cups and Euro tournaments you would see hundreds of fans walking around the streets wearing their England tops but I saw very few. Even at the pre-tournament friendly against Australia at the Stadium of Light many of the home supporters were wearing an assortment of differing England shirts, many from bygone years. Or had the 70,000 pennies finally dropped and the fans finally come to their senses about getting ripped off by the FA, with England bringing out a new shirt on an almost monthly basis at £70 a punt? For the record I went to this game in a Pools top.

Even the build up for the Euros was very low key. Very few England flags draped from bedroom windows or flying from cars and white vans. Apart from the few odd T shirts in Asda and Sainsburys I did not see one souvenir cup/mug flask or car sticker on sale. On the day I even forgot the Euros had kicked off. It was only by chance when channel hopping on the remote I just managed to catch Dimitri Payet's wonder goal against ...whoever it was that they were playing at the time.

Apart from the violence between the England, French and Russian fans, very few people in the street were talking about the actual tournament or the matches, and certainly in my case my mates and I were more interested in whether Pools had signed anyone or if Rakish Bingham was staying with the club.

Interest did momentarily crank up a notch when England played Wales, as it was billed as a derby match rather than an international. with everyone this side of the Brecon Beacons believing that England would wipe the floor with the Boyos. As we all know the best side lost on the day and on the strength of that victory some optimists were even predicting that England could go all the way ...mainly because all the other teams in the tournament were c--p, and logic dictated that the least c--p team, possibly England, could win it.

We all know what happened next when a rudderless, woeful England were knocked out by Iceland. The only people who seemed to be shocked and stunned by this result were Ian Wright, Gary Lineker and possibly Roy Hodgson. Very few people I spoke to seemed surprised or even angry by the defeat - it was almost as if it was a foregone conclusion,  particularly when you look at England's track record against Nordic nations - it was probably expected.

Contrast this outcome to the World Cup in Mexico 1970 when a very good England team were beaten by a very good West German side after extra time (no penalties required). The following day I went into college. Half the lads in our year did not bother to turn up for lessons and those that did were so distraught that they did not speak to each other for nearly three days after the event, such was the impact of the result and the passion we then held for the national side.

 This time around, instead of national mourning, many England supporters, and I include myself in this, moved on, and latched on to the the Wales/Iceland bandwagon ...only to be further disappointed. At least the Welsh lads did not go home with their heads hung in shame. I could not make my mind up who to root for in the final as I'm not a big fan of the French. The Napoleonic wars are still fresh in the memory and landing a spy disguised up as a monkey on the Headland was to mind very underhand (and the French cite the English as being perfidious!)
"Those grey track suit bottoms were something else. They did not even look clean."

Nowadays our Gallic neighbours manufacture unreliable cars (Diesel engine excluded) but I suppose that keeps the breakdown services in business. On the plus side they had Dimitri Payet playing for them and I enjoy watching him. As for Portugal, historical long-term ally of England. Nice country (Lisbon is well worth a visit). On the downside their football team only won one match in normal time to get to the final.

The other downer, for me was that they had Ronaldo, and I have got to say I am not as big as fan of him as he is of himself. He gives the impression 'It's all about me.' (When I say me I mean him.) Prior to kick off I actually said I thought it would be amusing if Ronaldo got himself sent off in the first ten minutes. Okay he did not get sent off but he did go off injured (not that I wanted to see that happen) but once he left the field of play I was well up for Portugal, and to their credit they played better without him and well deserved their win.

Overall it was a poor tournament on so many levels. No one player stood out for me. Bale, Payet, Ronaldo and Griezmann all played well and had their moments but fizzled out when the going got tough. My favourite player of the tournament was the forty year old 'Flapper' Cox look-alike Hungarian goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly. Those grey track suit bottoms were something else. They did not even look clean. He looked like a right Chav. someone you would see pushing a pram round the town on a Tuesday afternoon with his girlfriend two paces behind eating a Greggs pasty. I'm only guessing that the contents of the pockets of Gabor's 'tracky bottom' contained two tins of Stella and half a packet of 'rolley baccy'. He did not look the 'trimmest ' goalkeeper in the world and as someone once commented about Sarah Ferguson's derriere (Viz Magazine to be precise) and I quote: 'Let's face it, a fat arse is a fat arse.' and boy did he have one ...and a half. Having said that, he still performed better than the England goalkeeper.

For the record. Joe Hart's stats were six direct shots on his goal, four conceded. He certainly is not 'Head and Shoulders' better than Jack Butland !(back to rear ends again!) It's easy to be wise after the event but having seen the Australia friendly I was not filled with hope for the Euros. Wilshere was huffing and puffing and clearly not match fit after only playing 3 full games for Arsenal all season. Then there was the selection of Lallana who has yet to score for the national side and seems to get subbed on a regular basis. There was no point at all bringing Jordan Henderson and James Milner, and as for Raheem Sterling, he could not beat a carpet let alone his man. With apologies to David Beckham he has got to be the most overrated footballer of all time.

Alan Shearer was not wrong when he said that Roy Hodgson should not have shown loyalty to the old guard and should have picked players who were both fit and in form. Based on that premise, to my mind, the likes of Andros Townsend, Danny Drinkwater, Mark Noble and dare I even say it, don't laugh - Andy Carroll should have been on the plane to France. Provided England had players who could 'put a cross in the box',  Carroll would possibly have given England a different option, particularly coming on as a late sub when England were chasing the game against Russia and ...er Wales and mmmm Iceland.  Anyway we will never know.

Anyone looking forward to The World cup in Russia comrade?


1966 and All That


BILL THE BIRO found this in the local paper



I was quite surprised last week to see in a local newspaper a full-page spread about an acquaintance of mine. It was in connection with last week's 50th anniversary of England winning the World Cup.  I would never have guessed that Vaughan, whom I've known for years, but not well enough to have ever chatted about football, had much interest in the game. Yet there he was, with his brother, telling the tale of how they went to Wembley and saw the famous victory, with its Hurst hat-trick, Russian linesman and all, even if only those of us watching on telly heard Kenneth Wolstenholme's immortal words 'They think it's all over - It is now!'

So Vaughan and his brother got a full-page spread with then-and-now pictures, and an article about that big day when they were teenagers.

Those of us who were at Cardiff will maybe have some sense of what it must have been like, but without the victory, which is really the important bit!

Here's the article:



As local journalists are usually only about 23 years old, most wouldn't know that the England manager who won the World Cup before their parents were born was actually called Alf, not Al, but we'll let that pass!

Article is from the Stratford Observer of July 29th 2016

Funny Old Game



Dear Vicki


Monkey Business agony aunt VICKI PARK returns with help for troubled souls



Dear Vicki
I am an experienced football manager who recently left his job managing a prominently under-achieving national team, and I’m getting on a bit. Should I find myself another position or take the opportunity to retire.
RH London

Dear RH,
The great thing these days is that the date when you retire is up to you, and nobody can make you go (unless you resign of course.) Some people are winding down to retirement at 50 while others are taking on new challenges at 70.

So I’d say that you should do whatever you want to do for as long as you can, but the time to retire is when you find yourself saying “I don’t know what I’m doing here”.
Vicki

Dear Vicki,
As a top goalscorer with my club and country for a decade, I am now nearing the end of my career. Many of my contemporaries have decided, when reaching my age, to retire from international football to concentrate on what remains of their club careers. Do you think I should follow that path or try to go on and on, and collect as many caps as I can.
WR Manchester

Dear WR
Only you (meaning of course, your agent) can decide what’s best for you.

You may be thinking about injuries and niggles that are getting harder to shake off. Or of flights to far off grim places in the middle of winter. Or perhaps of international managers that want you to play in weird positions or formations. Or even of fellow players who only want to talk about who’s got the most Ferraris. Then again, perhaps you’re just looking to take things easy in the last few years before your retirement. These are all valid reasons why so many of your predecessors have taken this very understandable option.
"Only you (meaning of course, your agent) can decide what’s best for you"

But before you follow their example, bear in mind that with the pound having fallen due to Brexit, international caps may now be a safe haven for discerning investors to buy into. Grabbing a few more while you still can may well be a wise move, so talk to your financial advisor before coming to any decision.
-And if you haven't already done so, keep those caps locked safely away - your next Ferrari may well cost you a fair bit more than the last few!
Vicki

Dear Vicki,
I am am an experienced Premier League manager, recently appointed to run a national side. I’m known for my sports science methods and my long-ball tactics.

Do you think that, with more gifted players at my disposal, I should abandon my tried-and-tested but rarely successful methods in favour of a more adventurous style?
SA Sunderland

Dear SA,
I think you’ve fallen into the trap that so many others have done in the past. You were given the job by people who knew how your teams play, so presumably that’s what they want. So let’s have none of this radical thinking as you probably won’t be any good at tactics that are alien to you anyway.

In this case, sticking to what you and your employers know is the less risky option, so just go for it and lead your team out proudly to bore the pants off everybody. 
Vicki

Dear Vicki
The team I manage unexpectedly won a top football trophy last season, partly because everyone thought we were overachieving and would run out of steam soon. As a result our competitors underestimated us, which probably gave us some of our points.

Having won that trophy, other teams are going to show us more respect this season, so do you think that, having retained most of our players, we realistically can repeat our achievement?
CR Leicester

Dear CR,
Anything’s possible, but that element of surprise is a powerful thing. Look at the results on any FA Cup Saturday and you’ll see minnows beating teams from higher divisions, mostly because the losing players had thought that turning up was enough.

So having lost that part of the battle, this time you’re going to need to actually be better than your big-money competitors. 

Failing that, you may need to resort to underhand methods.

Why not, for example, take a leaf out of cricket’s book and get one of your strikers to wear a box. If he then invites an opposing player to test it for him, he can get the other player sent off. Of course that ploy would only work once, and if the opposing player were a central defender, the contents of the box may never work again.
Vicki

It's Off the Field as Well


GREAT GRANDAD SHOUTY ponders the coming weeks and months



Well, folks, here we go again. Saturday, 6th August sees the start of the new footy season. Its also the first day of competitions in the Olympic Games. I know which is the most important for me. 

Well, we’ve had a good close season for Pools – an early and business-like approach to signings, rather than waiting until the last minute when competing clubs had snapped up the available talent.

Off field matters have been just as important. Firstly, there has been the matter of new-style season tickets and the attempt of Pools to be dragged into the 21st century. There was, of course, a delay to adapting the turnstiles to a new computerised system with the result that Pools had to send out tickets for the first two matches. New computer systems always seem to bugger things up. I always remember when Pools – along with other clubs – installed a new software system for ticket issuing at the start of the 2006-07 season. It was implemented at the last minute and caused mayhem in the ticket office. My motto would always be ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.
"I doubt whether most Poolies refer to Victoria Park when going to a match."

Secondly, there was the news that Victoria Park will be re-named The Northern Gas and Power Stadium. I’ve no doubt that Poolies will be divided on the change but the reality is that other clubs are doing the same and it will bring in much needed cash. We don’t have the luxury of regular Sky and BT Sport. I doubt whether most Poolies refer to Victoria Park when going to a match. I always say ‘I’m going to Pools’ and I suspect there are many more like me. The signposts leading into Hartlepool always refer to Hartlepool United FC so the council are not going to get their bowels in an uproar over the change of name – unlike Newcastle City Council when Mike Ashley changed the name of their ground from St James’ Park to the Sports Direct Stadium.

We’re going to have a change of format for the Football League Trophy. Pools, of course, are grouped with Sunderland Academy, Rochdale and Notts County. I have my doubts as to whether this revamped competition will attract more interest. I always prefer competition to be one-off games, followed by a draw for the next round. Maybe, Sunderland Academy coming to Pools might bring in a few more punters – but Rochdale and Notts County won’t do the same. It will be interesting to see if the proposed fans’ boycott at Portsmouth is effective.

Speaking of Sunderland, it was ironic that Big Sam’s last Sunderland game came at Pools in the friendly game. Opinion is divided as to whether he’s the right choice as England’s manager but in simple terms he can’t do any worse than any of his recent predecessors. England’s performances at Euro 2016 were certainly depressing; fortunately, we had Wales and Northern Ireland to cheer on. Their players seemed proud to wear their national shirts and the enthusiasm of their fans knew no bounds. There is something rotten about the culture of the FA; certainly, they’re not popular within FIFA and UEFA – and the failure to stage World Cups could be something to do with that.

 Anyway, let’s hope we have something to shout about this season. Enjoy yourselves!!

Funny Old Game



Pre-Season


Match reports by RUNNING MONKEY



Pools 0 Scunny 1


A good test for a full side Pools today as Scunny, who look a very good side, settled first and made some good openings against Pools early in the half. 

Carroll and Magnay were having a torrid time against some fast and clever play from the visitors. Jones did well but took a sneaky elbow to the ribs from Bishop early in the second half and was later hauled off. 

Once again the goals just would not come for Pools. Paynter had a chance in the first half, getting to a ball at the far post, but the official claimed he used his arm to control the ball. 

The second half we looked a better side with Thomas causing havoc. Allessandra looks a lively player so too does Deverdic. There was a class move in the second half which looks like Higgy is getting them to try stuff in training. Thomas, Allessandra and Woods lined up to take a free kick on the edge of the box and, as Thomas signalled his team mates to go long, a clever quick ball was played into him and he was very unlucky, hitting the side netting with his shot. 

We did pressure them a bit more in the second half but the closest we came was a great shot from Carroll which hit the bar. Not a lot to write home about. 

Seaham Red Star 1 Pools 1

Rhys Oates hits his penalty high over the bar as Frank Reid waits to provide him with a permanent record of it
As the other Pools team were thrashing Guisborough 6-0, I watched a drab game at Seaham where an inspired Red Star keeper kept a powder puff Hartlepool at bay with a fine display of goalkeeping. Whereas Bartlett at the other end had one low shot to palm into the net. It was a good goal though.


It was a fractious team with a lot of finger pointing and bad language and some mediocre performances but it was only a friendly after all. Connor Smith was probably the biggest threat for Pools, Deverdic and Jones were probably the runners up.Young Blackford looks lively but light weight, Oates hit a penalty high into the trees behind the goal. We managed a late goal scored by Harrison, but it was the kind of game that seems to last for about two hours.
Any Other Business


MERVYN THE MONKEY mops up


Welcome to the first Monkey Business of its 28th season, once again independently offering praise and criticism where it's due, remembering the (rarely) good old days and having a laugh at football generally, and Poolie things in particular.

This season we haven't changed the format, other than revising the cover to reflect the new home shirt, but we hope to occasionally try some new things, so watch this space.

The big news over the summer has been the referendum, which was a monumental own goal by David Cameron, because he'd lost touch with the people. So his legacy is to be forever the joke prime minister, who not only couldn't remember which team he supported, but also took the country off to an uncertain future by mistake. Perhaps he should have realised it wasn't his best year when Aston Villa (if that is indeed his team), were relegated a few weeks earlier.

We received this image (from Wallace and Gromit) of an unnamed Scottish newspaper's reaction to the appointment of Sam Allardyce as England manager and of David Moyes as his successor at Sunderland. So that's an opinion from the one home country that failed even to get to the Euros in France. Still, that meant that they never had to face the Icelandic banana skin, and presumably will have enjoyed our embarrassment at slipping on it.

But, to be fair, the Scots probably know more about going downhill than any other nation, since their football has been doing it for decades.

So Russ Green has now left Pools. There has been much comment about him over the years, with many blaming him for just doing his job, because he happened to be working for someone whose policies they didn't like. Whether he only stayed on with the new owners temporarily to smooth the changeover, or whether the recent tax problem, or even not being able to face any more long-distance walks with Jeff Stelling had any bearing on his departure, we don't know, but we wish him well in his new position of chief executive at Rochdale. Anyone who was involved in getting us our day in Cardiff is ok by us.

I suppose we all knew it would happen one day but nevertheless it's a sad day when it does, and after 130 years of being named after Queen Victoria, Northern Gas and Power have paid for their name to replace that of our dear departed queen. West Hartlepool RFC built the ground in Victoria's jubilee year of 1886, which is why it was named in her honour. Obviously, the new name won't last as long, changing every few years to something equally characterless, but no doubt we Poolies will just completely ignore it, and the Vic will always be the Vic to us, just as the Mill House and Cyril Knowles Stands, and Town and Rink Ends retain their old names among fans, most of whom neither know nor care what their official names are.

We at Monkey Business now have a dilemma. Should Vicki , our agony aunt (whose pseudonym derives from the previous name of the stadium), have to change her name too? Dear Nora perhaps? Perhaps not!

Finance is the driving force behind the change of stadium name, and likewise, finances also dictate that the new pink away strip will be gone before long too. This one rivals last season's hi-vis yellow for dazzling your eyes.

Wouldn't it be better if Pools played away in a slightly less loud strip, possibly even a camouflage strip, so that Nathan Thomas could lurk out wide without being spotted, rather than being glaringly obvious to every defender? On second thoughts, nobody would be able to spot him give him the ball, would they! Other than by accident.