Showing posts from April, 2017
Nervous Times – Can We Beat the Drop?

GREAT GRANDAD SHOUTY asks the annual question

A look at the fixture list makes for intriguing reading . Six games to go and Pools face the following teams: Morecambe (A) Barnet (H) Carlisle (H) Leyton Orient (A) Cheltenham (A) Doncaster (H)

Newport’s run in is : home games against three teams who have nothing to play for (Yeovil, Accrington and Notts County) and away games against three teams who have ( Exeter, Plymouth and Carlisle).

Compare this with Pools and it works out pretty much the same: two games against teams who have nothing to play for (Morecambe and Barnet), one game against the team who are on their way down (Leyton Orient) and three games against teams who have something to play for (Carlisle, Cheltenham and Doncaster).

In Doncaster’s case, they could be champions when they come to Pools for the last encounter; even so, they will want to go out on a blaze of glory in front of an away sell-out.

Why have we got into this position yet again? Some would say inept performances but what has been crucial are injuries to key players – Thomas, Paynter, Magnay and Carson to name just four. When you’ve not got the strongest squad, setbacks like that can make a lot of difference. And then there was Rhys Oates. He had a stormer against Exeter City and was then injured in the next game. So the momentum was lost at crucial times.
"Should Pools be relegated out of the Football League then I would be pessimistic for the future"

And then we’ve had inept refereeing. In particular, I watched with disbelief at the Wycombe game as David Webb let obvious infringements go by the board. It left a bitter taste and, with some justification, we could say we were robbed. Don’t blame Wycombe – they tried it on and got away with all the holding and niggling fouls.

Another factor which can’t be ignored is the loan system. In previous years, we’ve done reasonably well in tapping the loan system – Jordan Hugill (remember him – he scored the goal which kept us in the Football League two years ago) and then there was Jack Barmby. Now, of course, we can only use the loan system in the transfer window. The loan system as of late could be used when there was a long term injury, but not any more if it falls outside the window.

Should Pools be relegated out of the Football League then I would be pessimistic for the future. Gates would certainly drop below the two thousand mark and there would be no guarantee of getting straight back. Look at the teams who have dropped out and still struggle – a good example would be York City.

Still, let’s hope it doesn’t come down to having to beat Donny Rovers! Hopefully, we’ll be safe by then and then the reconstruction can commence. Only this time, don’t fanny around!

Lastly, I see the bog standard Premier League are getting their bowels in an uproar over BREXIT. They’re worried that that their clubs will be prevented from signing EU players and will have to obtain work permits for non – British players. Why not? Football cannot be an exception to the rule and law of the land. As far as I know Theresa May is not a footy fan so don’t expect preferential treatment.

Funny Old Game

Trimdon Grange's Finest

BILLY'S CONTRACT tells the story of a Poolie Legend

I recently had a phone call from the former editor of Monkey Business asking me if I would interview Malcolm Dawes on his behalf, as it clashed with another commitment that had been dropped on him. I later discovered that the other commitment was none other than trying to assemble an Ikea wardrobe. Several weeks on, the wardrobe, much like the clothes, are still scattered all over his bedroom floor. I must confess that I would have panicked, nay fled the country, if the favour he was asking was not that of interviewing Malcolm Dawes, but for me to give him a hand in assembling and reassembling the bits of sticks and driftwood that he purchased from Ikea.

I have to admit that I was delighted to get the opportunity to speak with Malcolm Dawes, not only to hear his stories about his time at Pools and beyond, but because, more importantly for me, he was my favourite player at Pools in the early seventies.

I like to think that I do not follow the herd. For instance back in the day when everyone was driving around in Ford Cortinas I was bibbling around on the Queen’s highways - or broke down in her laybys - in an Austin Maxi. Even now I would never consider buying a BMW, Audi or a Golf, mainly because every man and his dog and most prats own one.

It is the same with football. In the late sixties, prior to supporting Pools, I used to follow West Ham United. I think it was the colours of their shirts that got me hooked! Who was my favourite Hammers player back in the day? It might surprise the reader to know that it was none of the Blessed Holy Trinity of Hurst, Moore and Peters, who single handedly won the World Cup for England in 1966, but their swashbuckling full back and later midfield player Billy Bonds. Someone you would like to have beside you in the trenches when the going gets tough.

Similarly I have a pal who is an avid Manchester United fan who has followed them for over forty years and I asked him which of all the superstars and legends he has seen over that period was his favourite. Without hesitation David Irwin was his answer. This lad had seen the likes of Best, Law, Charlton, Keane, Schmeichel, Stam, Van Nistelrooy, Cantona, Scholes and Giggs et al, but in his opinion none of them came close to the former Oldham and Republic of Ireland full back. He had obviously seen something in Dennis Irwin that the other players lacked.

Eventually, when I saw the light and swapped the claret and blue of West Ham for the blue and white of Pools, I too did not latch on to the glory boys up front. Not Ralph Wright, Neil Warnock, Ron Young, Ken Ellis, Mally Moore or even Willie Willie Waddell however, it was Malcolm Dawes who stood out for me.

Why Malcolm Dawes? Unlike many of his contemporaries, his level of consistency never failed. He could read the game without the need for a tackle. He would pass or carry a ball rather than aimlessly hoof it down the pitch as many of his colleagues did, but above all he was a creative player. In some ways his style of play, not forgetting the blond hair, put one in mind of Bobby Moore, who was also a wing back and a consummate professional. Both players even had similar creditable disciplinary records.

In fact the first word that I said to Malcolm Dawes, when I met him at an awards evening, was that he reminded me of a poor man's Bobby Moore! In my naivety I genuinely meant that as a compliment and if I recall rightly he took the comment in good part.

For all I know he might have cried all the way home that night but when I meant 'poor' I was only comparing Pools’ Fourth Division status with that of West Ham's lofty position in the old First Division. You may have noticed that I have been referring to him as Malcolm rather than Mally Dawes. When he returned my first call he said it was Malcolm Dawes speaking. He said Malcolm is his preferred moniker and despite plying his trade in the South, The North West and the Midlands, as well as in the United States, it is only in Hartlepool where he was called Mally.


Malcolm literally made his first appearance in Trimdon Grange in 1944. Although a 'Yakker' the young Dawes was a regular at The Vic and was indeed lucky enough to get a ticket for the F.A. Cup tie when Pools were drawn against the famous Busby Babes. Malcolm remembered the match vividly and gave me the names of both line ups on the day without pause.

After leaving school he spent a year in the Colliery and, in order to get a trade as a mechanic, worked for a local garage. From there he ended up in Winterton Hospital in Sedgefield - but as a nurse not as a patient!

It was about this time, when he was playing for Fishburn, that he had his first encounter with Brian Clough at the club’s awards evening. One 15 year old who stepped up to receive his trophy was roundly admonished by Cloughie, who was horrified by the nicotine stains on the recipient’s fingers!

At the age of 18 Dawes signed for Darlington and despite numerous promises of regular first team football he only made one appearance for them in the two one win in the Durham senior cup final against - who else but Hartlepools United at the Victoria Ground.

Not making any headway with Darlington, Dawes moved to Nuneaton Town and in addition to playing football he supplemented his income and became a removal man. It was here that he befriended goalkeeper Les Green, who was later to become one of Brian Clough's first signings for Pools, and later went on to play for Derby County again under Clough.

Malcolm enjoyed his spell at Nuneaton until they revised the wage structure. The deal was £8.00 per week and £7.00 appearance money. The club decided to reverse this pay structure and as a result despite his protestations Dawes left the club and came back to the North East and enjoyed a short spell with Horden Colliery.


Whilst visiting his brother, who was serving in the army in Aldershot, they got talking to the chairman of Aldershot F.C. and Malcolm’s brother asked if there was any chance of his brother getting a trial for The Shots. The chairman told him to report to the manager Dave Smith on Monday morning. The trial must have gone well as Dawes was to go on and make 176 appearances for Aldershot between 1965 and 1969. Then in his penultimate year Pools came in for his signature but were scared off by the £5,000 asking price.

Although living in the South of England Malcolm was content in Aldershot and settled in well as there were six other players from the North East in the Aldershot squad including Len Walker and Peter Madden, both of whom went on to manage Darlington.

Even though a regular in Aldershot’s first team, Dawes would, at every given opportunity, play regularly for their reserve side and in one season alone he made a total of 66 appearances. Which to my mind puts many of today's so-called superstars to shame when they are claiming that they are 'tired' after three games in a week. Bless.

In one Season Aldershot were top of the league and ten points clear of Darlington. As the season progressed Darlington caught up with Aldershot, in part thanks to a Malcolm Dawes own goal which decided the result when the two teams met. Darlington themselves surged up the league with a huge points advantage only for them to similarly implode like Aldershot. As it turned out neither side gained promotion.


One of Dawes’ team mates was player-coach Jimmy Melia, who later took Brighton to the 1993 F.A. Cup Final. Who will ever forget him wearing his disco suit on the big day? In 1969 Melia became the Shots' manager. Malcolm told me diplomatically that Melia 'could rattle people's cages' and at the end of that season he had given Dawes a free transfer.

Once again Dawes headed back home to the North East and to Hartlepool United and became one of the so called 'Magnificent Seven' signings by the manager John Simpson. With the aid of a £2,000 loan from the chairman, he secured the signatures of Nick Sharkey, George Herd, Peter Barlow, Malcolm Clarke, Les Crooks and Ralph Wright, along with Malcolm Dawes.

Despite the high hopes and the new signings, it proved to be a disastrous season seeing just 5 wins in 34 games and with crowds dropping below 2,000 John Simpson resigned. With the search for a new manager going on behind the scenes, on the pitch Pools managed a creditble two all draw at home with Northampton Town. Dawes not only rescued a point but was given a nine out of ten in the match ratings for his performance and was credited with being the best player on the pitch both in attack as well as in defence. Dawes himself confirmed that it was the best football he had ever played in his career. The following match Dawes was dropped!

After John Simpson’s departure Len Ashurst took over the reins as player manager. Not having seen Dawes play, the former Sunderland full back automatically selected himself for the next match at the expense of Dawes, who played in the same position as Ashurst. Ashurst in turn quickly realised that he had dropped one of his better players and Dawes was soon reinstated to first team duties with both players playing alongside each other. Sadly it was not enough to keep Pools from applying for re-election, having finished in the bottom four once again.

For the record, apart from wearing the number one and number nine shirts, Malcolm has played in every other outfield position during his professional career. He did not mind where he played, as long as he was getting a game, and I am sure if he had been required to have a stint between the sticks, or play up front, he would not have let the side down. Such was his professional attitude.

I asked Malcolm what were the highlights both on and off the pitch of his time at Pools. And there were many. Indeed too many to write about.

He lists the League Cup match against Blackburn Rovers as Pools’ best-ever team performance. Pools had been written off even before a ball had been kicked but ran out two one winners at Ewood Park. This in turn, earned them a home tie against Aston Villa.

The subsequent cup tie against Villa is also a highlight of Malcolm’s memories. Villa had assembled an exciting, entertaining and talented young side, several of whom would play at international level. In the side were The Little brothers, Chris Nichol, Charlie Aitken, Jimmy Cumbes and Ray Graydon. Despite going down to a first half Aitken goal, Pools more than matched the Villa in the second half and pulled back an equaliser through 'Mally' Moore. The noise that greeted the goal nearly took the roof off the Rink End. (You can tell I was there!). Shortly afterwards Moore missed a far easier chance by failing to toe-poke the ball in, for what could have been the winning goal. The replay at Villa Park saw Pools go down six one on the night. This was not exactly a disgrace bearing in mind that at the end of that season Villa gained promotion to the First Division (now the Premiership, children) finishing three points behind champions Manchester United.

Dawes also recalls the night in 1972 when Pools had a must-win game at Darlington (my favoutite ever match) to keep the team from applying for re-election ...yet again. The crowd that night at Feethams was just short of 9,000 and it was estimated that somewhere in the region of six and a half thousand Poolies had made the journey to Darlington, and that was in the days before the modern A66! Dawes said that he had never heard a crowd like it and the noise generated by the visiting fans was phenomenal. It was noted that the Darlington players felt like the away side when they took to the pitch.

Malcolm was keen to inform me that it was his cross and not Neil Warnock's (as many fans believe or as stated in the the official history of HUFC) that allowed Willie Willie Waddell to grab the winner and blast himself into Poolie folklore. Having dug out the press cuttings of the match I can confirm that he is absolutely correct in that statement, but he did omit to say that he was in part, responsible for Darlington's opener!

Just an observation: all three of these games that Malcolm referred to were evening kick-offs, I always felt that there was something special, and an extra buzz from the fans, when big matches like these are played under the lights.


In March 1971 Pools played Crewe Alexandra at the Vic and it was in this game that Dawes literally tangled with and came to blows with wonder kid Stan Bowles (the poor man's Rodney Marsh). As play moved down to the other end of the pitch both players where still flat on the grass tangled up in each others legs, no doubt resulting from a Malcolm Dawes tackle. As Dawes tried to get up Bowles, still sat on the pitch, began kicking out at Dawes.

Malcolm told me that although he abhors violence he just saw red and pulled his fist back in a threatening motion, not intending to hit Bowles. But the crowd saw what he was doing and roared him on so he just followed through and flesh met flesh.

The noise of the crowd alerted the ref who did not see the incident as he was nearly 70 yards away but he saw Bowles laid out prostrate. After consulting the linesman he immediately sent Dawes to the dressing room and awarded Crewe a backdated penalty. Though he smiles when telling the story Dawes is still embarrassed about his action as it resulted in only his second career booking and his one and only dismissal.
"he just saw red and pulled his fist back in a threatening motion, not intending to hit Bowles. But the crowd saw what he was doing and roared him on so he just followed through"

The matter did not end there and worse was to follow. He received notification from the Football League that he was to be fined £20 and banned for three weeks, not as now for three matches, but three weeks, which meant that he would miss five games.

In those days the players were not fully paid by the club if they had been suspended. However they had an agreement with a well known brewing establishment in the town and Dawes served the period of his ban in the employ of Cameron’s Brewery, which is ironic as Malcolm is not a drinker as such. This might be down to the next story that he told me, again involving Crewe.


The night before Pools were due to play Crewe at Gresty Road Malcolm was invited to attend a neighbour’s party. Although he passed on the copious amounts of alcohol on offer during the evening, he did have two or three small glasses of Port/Sherry and left the celebrations at a respectable hour.

Even before he boarded the coach for Crewe the following day, it was clear that Dawes was unwell and was suffering from stomach pains. On one part of the journey the bus was forced to stop to let him off so he could be ill. Len Ashurst was so concerned that he was not going to include Dawes in the side. To quote from Sentinel (Arthur Pickering) in The Mail “After a brief walk and a shower he declared himself match fit. Dawes did his job well without any frills and got rid of the ball as soon as it went to him. It was obvious he did not want to become too involved. The winning result (2-1) did not make Dawes feel any better as he was violently sick in the dressing room afterwards.”

Malcolm never told anyone about having a couple of snifters the previous night, but the Mail's Arthur Pickering, must have had an inkling as the headline in the Mail the following night read: “Dawes shows new-found spirit.” Which I thought was very apt in the circumstances.


In 1974 Malcolm Dawes deservedly won the Player of the Year trophy, beating fellow defender Alan Goad by the closest of margins, a solitary vote. If it was any consolation to Goad he won the trophy the following season.

Malcolm is still extremely proud of winning the honour of being Hartlepool United's Player of the Year but it is a moot point that he, along with Barry Watling and Alan Goad, never received replicas of the trophy once the original was handed back to the club. Neil Warnock (Player of the Year 1972) eventually received his some forty years later when he was guest of honour at the club’s Player of the Year evening. I think it would be right and fitting if Hartlepool United could redress this situation and provide replica trophies, by way of appreciation to those players who did not receive one at the time.


Someone whom Dawes had a lot of respect for was Tony Toms, whom Len Ashurst brought into the club as a fitness coach. Toms, an ex Royal Marine who had served in some of the colonial trouble spots in the last days of the Empire, was a hard man. He also trained members of the Special Boat Service in unarmed combat, which is probably why he was more a rugby man than a football man. Dawes said his training was never boring and no two sessions were ever the same.

Toms made national headlines when he took the Pools squad for a two night stay in North Yorkshire ...camping out on the moors. The idea being a combination of training, team bonding and having a laugh. Malcolm told me that after one particular arduous session, when the players were scrambling up the hills, one player who had been out the night before, suddenly got caught short, and made a mess of himself as well as the moors. As there was no toilet paper 'to hand' he was grateful for the plentiful supply of long grass that was available in copious amounts.

On another occasion Toms made the team carry out a night trek. After sneaking off and hiding he unexpectedly sprang out at them from the bushes and undergrowth (hopefully not the long grass) and scared the b'jasus out of them.

The players then had to find their way back to the campsite. This proved to be more difficult than it first seemed with several players going adrift in the darkness.

Dawes said he spent time with Toms on the moor and was constantly tapping him for tips. When setting up camp most players put their tents up the traditional way. But, having learnt from Toms, Dawes set up his tent in the manner of the British Army whereby the roof was only six inches from his mouth, thereby generating heat and as a result he was one of the few players who got a good night’s sleep on the trip.

On their last day on the moors Toms announced to the players that they had to make their own way back to the Vic. No mobile phones in those days to get someone to come and pick you up. Dawes was first back to the ground by some considerable margin by using his initiative and hitching a lift from a passing lorry.

Looking at photographs of this adventure in Malcolm's scrap book, it would bring a smile to ones face if you saw the 'clip' of some of the Pools players and the kit that they were wearing at the time. No Gore-tex hiking boots, breatheable waterproof jackets or back packs, nor a thermal dut to be seen but a selection of duffel coats, bush hats, jeans and woollen polo neck jumpers. One player, loanee Frank McMahon, is seen holding up an open umbrella with what looks likely to have been his mam's plaid zip up shopping bag over his shoulder along with a clear 'plaggy' bag containing his sleeping bag.

Tony Toms and Pools did a keep-fit session for Tyne Tees Television for which Tony wrote a fitness book, one of several fitness books he wrote, as well as a couple of novels.

Toms later put it on record that he believed Malcolm Dawes to be the fittest player in the Fourth Division. For the record Tony Toms had a spell as Madonna's minder for a time. "Bloody pain in the arse that woman" he has been quoted as saying. Also for the record it is well worth searching Tony’s name on the internet. Some very interesting reading. A legend as far as Sheffield Wednesday fans are concerned.


Off the pitch Pools finances were, as per usual, in a precarious state. However help was at hand from an unexpected source, that of the United Artists record label who had Hartlepool fan Richard Ogden on their payroll. His idea was to have a United Artists “save Hartlepool FC” weekend (You can see were Geldof got his Band Aid idea from), where bands such as Man and the (excellent) Groundhogs would perform live at the Vic. The evening's entertainment was the U.K. premiere of Frank Zappa's 200 Motels, which was screened in one of the town’s cinemas, and which Dawes sat through. He can’t recall much of the performance but no doubt Frank Zappa probably didn't either.

For whatever reason the event did not take place. The only segment of the plan that did go ahead was the idea of Pools recording a record single in the hope of bringing in much needed funds to the club’s coffers.Three hours recording time was booked in a tiny studio above Jonny's Prize bingo in Wallsend. Hardly Abbey Road but a studio none the less. The bus with the team turned up late and despite the Pools squad turning down the chance of some liquid refreshments to oil their tonsils they only had an hour and a half left of studio time to cut the record. As Mike Amos stated in the Northern Echo, Pools are used to losing out in an hour and a half. Fortunately Richawrd Ogden, who jointly wrote the lyrics with Ed Welch, had brought up a pre-recorded backing tape (music composed by Ed Welch) for the lads to sing over. The Pools squad had already been rehearsing their lyrics on the way up in the bus so in that 90 minutes Pools got a result.
During the recording Richard Ogden told Malcolm “the song 'Who put Sugar in my tea?' (celebrating Pools last away win in nearly two years) was really laughing at Pools a little bit, I hope you don't mind?” Dawes replied “Why not? Everyone else does!”

Working with 'Pools did not have a detrimental effect on Ed Welch’s musical career as he went on to write the music for the comedy soft porn films, Confessions of a Driving Instructor and Confessions From a Holiday Camp, as well as for the quiz show Blockbuster.

He also wrote for, and performed with Shirley Bassey at the London Palladium and he is also credited with the incidental music on One Foot in the Grave (see the credits next time it is on the telly).

A little know fact is that he is credited as the co-writer of the 1995 Icelandic entry for the Eurovision song contest - which fared little better in the charts than Pools’ single.

'Off the record' in more senses than one was manager Len Ashurst, who missed the recording as he was trying to sign another player ...preferably one that could sing! Sadly the single failed to make it into the top twenty and the coffers remained empty. Malcolm is unable to find his copy of the single, only the sleeve, so if anybody out there has got one to spare please get in touch with M.B.

Staying with the music theme. Malcolm is a big music fan, mainly of the American crooners. Back in the day, the Club Fiesta in Norton was a haunt for several of the Pools players as many of the big national and international artists played there.

One night Malcolm and some of his team mates were in the Fiesta when Errol Brown, the lead singer of Hot Chocolate, who were performing that night, laid down a challenge to the players to see if they could beat him in a press-up competition. This was carried out on the floor of the manager’s office and, needless to say, Malcolm won. Having heard Malcolm croon on the Karaoke, I am surprised that he in turn did not throw down the gauntlet to challenge Errol Brown to a singing competition!


In the second part of the Malcolm Dawes story entitled 'Coming to America', we see the names of Clint Eastwood, Pele, Frank Sinatra as well as Elvis make possibly their first appearances in Monkey Business.

Charlie Aitken's Rare Goal Against Pools

MERVYN THE MONKEY goes back to1974

Here at MB HQ, in discussing Malcolm Dawes's memoirs we (unsurprisingly) had a memory lapse about one of the scorers in the 1974 League Cup match against Aston Villa, in which Malcolm played.

One of us had been at the replay at Villa Park (which Pools lost 6-1) and still has the match programme, which featured an article about the goal and its scorer, Charlie Aitken. You don't get many in-depth printed articles about individual goals, let alone goals scored in Pools matches, and we reproduce it below:

Former Villa player Bobby Park shook his head disconsolately and remarked: “In all his years in the game Charlie has to go and score his first-ever goal with his right foot against us."

He was, of course, referring to the goal which eventually brought Hartlepool here for tonight's League Cup replay. When Charlie was told of Park's reaction to his ‘off-side-breaker’ at the Victoria Ground he was light-heartedly indignant : “I know I'm not the League's leading scorer or anything like that but l put one in with my right foot last season."

"It was against Nottingham Forest at Villa Park, if you remember, and it was also on TV. Actually, it was virtually a carbon copy of the one I got against Hartlepool, with Chris Nicholl chipping the ball through an advancing defence for me to run clear and beat the goal- keeper”

Goals like this look so easy, especially from the grandstand, where the supporters are looking down on the action and can see the whole theatre of operations. But are they that simple? "Certainly not," says Charlie, "because there are so many ingredients to a goal of this sort and so many people are involved.

"Even though it may look like a two man move, as many as half a team can have contributed to the score. First of all, as the defence streams out of the penalty area the attackers have got to read the move and retreat accordingly. If only one of them is even level with the defensive line then the move is ruined.

"Then the defender in possession- in both my cases it has been Chris Nicholl - has got to see the ball is on and, don't forget, from ground level you are looking for someone breaking forward and there might be ten or a dozen players between you and the man for whom the pass is meant.
"Looking at it critically, as a defender, it was a bad mistake by their defence"

“The pass has also got to be hit bang on right. It has got to be perfectly measured and weighted and just as accurately placed. For my part, l have got to time my own run to the split second and not let it go until the ball has been played.

“There was quite an element of luck about my goal against Hartlepool because the ball bounced high and awkwardly as I moved on to it. I did not get hold of it properly and hit it with the outside of my right foot and it bent well away from the goalkeeper.

"Looking at it critically, as a defender, it was a bad mistake by their defence, for they came out too far too quickly and left far too much space between them and their goalkeeper. You are prone to get caught out by someone running from a deep position if you leave too much room behind you and the edge of the penalty area.

"You will notice that when our defence comes out from a set position in our goalmouth we do not commit ourselves too far upfield which would leave Jimmy Cumbes unguarded if a quick ball is flung back at us for someone running through on a deep run.

"Instead, we come out so far and then check and jockey the opposition. We try to reduce the number of effective passes they can make by moving forward quickly, but we also try to make them think all the time and not leave a huge ‘no man's land’ which they can exploit in our rear."

We do not see Charlie up there in scoring positions as much now as we did a couple of seasons ago when he scored four goals in a season in the Third Division, including the one which gave him most satisfaction of all, the header which took Villa to a 1-O win over Bradford City and clinched promotion into the Second Division. Is there any specific reason?

"When we were in the Third Division, I was told to move upfield for set pieces because then I became another threat to their defence as well as Chris Nicholl.” Charlie says. “By the law of averages, if you find yourself in sufficient scoring positions, you must bag a few.

"We felt we could afford to do this because most Third Division teams did not leave many players upfield when their own goal was threatened by a set situation. But Second Division teams have forwards who are much more adept at breaking quickly from defence and it was thought it would be an added precaution if I stayed back to give cover, leaving Chris to go up to pose additional problems for their defence.

"For, don't forget, defending is my priority. Goals, pleasant as they are to score, are a bonus for me."

The Worst of a Bad Bunch

Some un-minced words from WAGGA MOON

ON and on we go in our battle against the drop. One win to bring a bit of hope followed by a defeat. Or two. It is not a case of Pools beating the drop it will be a case of two out of Orient, Newport, Cheltenham or Morecambe being worse than us for the rest of the season. Orient look to have lost the plot completely but I would wager the only game they will win before the end of the season will be against Pools. 

Dave Jones has a real job on his hands trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear and if the worst does happen the blame can be laid squarely at the chairman's door. Our version of a football Einstein decided in January that the squad did not need strengthening and of course he has been proved horribly wrong.

We are stuck with the dregs of league football to stumble towards the safety line led of course by our Captain Fantastic Sir Nicholarse Featherlite, fresh from taking over from David Clegg in the Worst Ever Pools Players poll. A well deserved award and he celebrated last Saturday against Pompey by giving them the ball on the hallway line and watching their attackers stroll through for the second goal.
"...if the worst does happen the blame can be laid squarely at the chairman's door"

And this happening while he did his best Alan Carr impersonation of running after them. Although the guy cuts a joker figure on the field he actually has some supporters on a failing Pools message board. A few halfwits actually back him while they wouldn't know a footballer if one kicked them in the balls. Perhaps the most vociferous of the group is a guy whose user name rhymes with "knows bugger all" and is old enough to know better. It must be clear to a blind man on a galloping horse that Woods and Featherlite cannot operate functionally in the same midfield.

Now that Carl Magnay is fit again I would get him in at right back and play either Liam Donnelly or Mathew Bates in the defensive midfield role and have a look at Kenton Richardson playing a bit further forward in right midfield.

The current crop have proved game after game they are not up to the job and our only chance of freshening things up a bit is what we have on the bench. Certainly whoever thought it would be a good idea to bring in Louis Rooney on loan needs to take a long look in the mirror. He is no improvement on what we have already have and that says a lot for the scouting system.

With six games to go and for it to be in our own hands I would suggest two wins and a draw would be enough for us. Our best win hopes appear away at Morecambe, home to Barnet and a point at home to Carlisle. With talk of us taking the club shop back in house and having a new badge and strip away from the usual Nike range, it would be a great shame if we had to parade them in the Conference.

If we do land in the Conference I would not expect Dave Jones to be with us next season.

Expected Result

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at the ex-Vic

Pools 0 Portsmouth 2 (League 2) Saturday April 1st 2017

I never really expected anything from this game yet in your fan's mind you always hope that we play better against a better side and just now and again this does happen. Sadly today was not one of those days. 

In fact it was a stinker. We battled from the off but once again, and I am not blaming the ref for the defeat but we do seem to have had a bad run of stinking officials of late. Mr Brown had been here before and the Ditchburn Poolie claimed he had not caused us much trouble.Well, Mr. Brown is a big fan of big teams and just could not do enough to help them along the way today, as they chatted continually throughout the game. Various players, when the game broke down, were ear-boning him about all the discrepancies they had witnessed. It is so sad to see football going down the pan like this as officials who think they are bigger than the game take over and ruin the spectacle.

One incident I do not remember ever seeing before was the ref racing over at the end of the game to grab the match ball, clutching to his chest like a player who had just scored a hat trick.
"Pompey had some decent players backed up by some canny cloggers - what you might call a balanced side."
The biggest villain of the day was the ex-loanee Kal Naismith, who went down in the first tackle there was, with less than three minutes on the clock when he clashed with Alessandra. Naismith flew in the air and screamed like a girl then writhed on the floor as if the Pools man had used an axe on him. To many cat calls and jeers to the official he pulled out a card and booked Alessandra.

You could see from the start the it was going to be a tough afternoon as Pompey had some decent players backed up by some canny cloggers - what you might call a balanced side. Pools were their own worst enemies, being rushed into mistakes with no-one capable of holding onto the ball long enough to take the sting out of the visitors. I went down to the corner flag as Naismith was taking a corner and stuck the camera into his face and I said I need to take a picture of a big tart. He just growled at me and moved the ball outside of the area as everyone started shouting at the ref to attract his attention, but he was not bothered.

Not long afterwards he was in the right spot to strike home a ball that should never have been crossed. Portsmouth looked to take a backward step once they had a lead but Pools just could not break down a resolute defence. We had some good approach work down both flanks with Thomas having a couple of decent runs and Amond down the other side but then it all broke down around their box.

Just before the break Hunt for the visitors went up in a challenge, leading with an elbow against Harrison and as they tangled the ref blew for a foul by Hunt who fell flat on his face and looked to be out of it. He was taken off on a stretcher but it looks pretty bad, possibly concussion but no fault on Harrison's part.

Pools then set about the visitors as we kicked down the slope and we looked a better side, getting into their faces and chasing every ball down, harrying the keeper who looked a little edgy under a challenge. Thomas tested the keeper with a good shot, and was soon back again with a rasping shot that hit the post and bounced back into play but Oates could not get a clean shot on the rebound.

Naismith had a hand in the second goal as he broke free and hit a shot that was blocked and a Portsmouth man reacted far quicker than any Pools man and slid the ball home. It was a sloppy goal to give away, poor defending on our part.

Naismith went close again, this time hitting the post from range as it ended two nil to the visitors, dropping us closer to the drop than we need to be this late in the season. It was difficult to name a Man of the Match but if pushed I would say Featherstone. Despite the odd turn that he cocked up, he held his ground pretty well and Harrison also needs a mention.

Fun at the Seaside

Match report by ALREET at Bloomfield Road

Blackpool 2 Pools 1 (League 2) Saturday March 25th 2017

I cannot remember the last time I ventured up to Bloomfield Road but it was many moons ago when they still had a large terraced bank behind the North End and an old long, low wooden stand running down one side. From memory, there was also talk of rotating the direction of the pitch. 

We had decided to make a weekend of it so on Friday morning, we set off for Euston.

The initial part of the journey north is a bit annoying as it means sailing back past our local station, involving extra time and money. However, having found a couple of inches to store our luggage and before our backsides had a chance to warm our seats, we received a message that due to a fatality in the Watford Junction area, all services had been suspended for at least an hour and passengers were advised to make alternative arrangements.

Having made a quick scuttle across to King’s Cross, I had a word with someone who turned out to be a most helpful individual. Admittedly, I managed to have a chat with him about Pools but, whereas he was directing people to look at the destination boards, he informed us of the platform where our Leeds train was due to arrive so we were in a position to get our case safely stored and, more importantly, occupy seats. Sitting comfortably, we watched what resembled a football crowd trooping past and by the time we departed, the carriage resembled a packed tube train during the rush hour.

Arriving at Leeds, we were met by a similar set of circumstances as we continued our journey to Blackpool via such footballing venues as Bradford, Burnley, Blackburn, Accrington and Halifax. Arriving at the station, we were informed by our taxi driver that there were eight thousand Rangers fans in town who would be attending a testimonial match being held in Fleetwood.

Back in a previous life, I can recall a friend of my mine at the time saying that she didn’t get Blackpool as everyone sat on the beach with their backs to the sea in order to face the sun.

 So, on to the football. Walking through the town looking for the appropriate bus stop, I was offered a sample of a milk shake (ooh er) by a lady wearing a cow costume who pointed me in the right direction. The ground has now been totally transformed and was gleaming in the welcome sunshine. The passageway leading from the turnstile to the seats hosted a series of photographs of their previous players, the gallery providing a nice touch to the stadium. As “new” grounds go, this one is okay and the large, airy stands have a cavernous effect, perfectly suited to the atmosphere created by the magnificent 1,684 travelling Poolies.

Seeing large amounts of standing water behind the near goal line, I wondered about the effect of the subsequent sprinklers but they didn’t appear to have any impact on proceedings.

Prior to the start, a minute’s silence was held in respect of the [terrorist] events in London. Pools were kicking away from our end and soon attacking down our right but the ball pinged off one of their defenders and was collected by their keeper. We won a free kick near the half way line but this came to nothing. The home side had a run down our left and swung in a high cross which Fryer collected.

Blackpool were beginning to apply pressure but Featherstone broke up a promising move and hit the ball upfield which subsequently forced a save from their keeper. At this point, the general play was becoming a bit scrappy from both teams. Blackpool had sensed a weakness down our left and from one dangerous cross, we just managed to head the ball clear.

We mounted a quick counter attack led by Alessandra who moved the ball up to Thomas but his effort was comfortably saved. A long throw-in was deflected out for a home corner which was blocked by Amond but the clearance came straight back, fortunately finding their oncoming No.9 but he was flagged offside.

Walker was having a good game and made a decent run upfield but his misplaced pass meant that we lost advantage. Blackpool won a free kick about twenty five yards out but the effort was fired well wide of our left post.

A long ball from Walker inside our half was met by Amond under heavy pressure. He managed a second stab at it and the ball broke free. While two home defenders dithered, Alessandra took control and with a great turn with his left foot, found space to hit a great right-footed effort low into the corner of the net. It was thoroughly deserved.

Hardly had the dust settled than Blackpool, yet again, worked their way down our left flank and a floated cross was played into our box, landing at the feet of their opposite flank player. He brought it under control and, faced by the seemingly mesmerised Donnelly, sold him the proverbial dummy and moved the ball onto his left foot before burying it into the far corner of the net. Featherstone gave him a right raspberry as they walked upfield for the restart.

We won a free kick but didn’t beat the first man, the ball being cleared to their No.21 who was obstructed by Donnelly, who received a yellow card for his troubles. A cross into our box was headed back where it was just missed by one of their large central defenders lurking at our far post. At the other end, their keeper made a smart stop with his feet from Hawkins at close range.

A goalmouth scramble in the home end saw their keeper keep out a snap shot from Amond. Alessandra, who had posed a threat all afternoon, drilled in a long range shot which their keeper managed to tip over the bar. A good move from Pools saw us win a free kick but it was quickly cleared and Featherstone picked up a yellow card for a cynical hack on his opponent but the ref allowed play to continue before returning to issue the punishment. Thomas attacked on our right but it came to nothing before the ref whistled up for half-time with the score one-all.

We started the second half well and it wasn’t long before Alessandra tried a shot which cleared the bar with Amond pleading for the ball in an unmarked position. This was followed by an effort from Woods who, after a good move, blazed the ball well over the bar from the edge of the box and saw it land high up among the travelling fans. Alessandra then did likewise following a good overlap from Deverdics.

Blackpool hit back with two chances in quick succession; the first going narrowly wide before putting the next past the post when standing unmarked in front of our net. They had a free kick out wide on our right which Fryer punched out from under the bar. A ball into our box bypassed everyone before it was viciously half-volleyed just over our bar.

Amond forced a save with his feet from the home keeper after the ref allowed advantage to us and Walker had a firm header hacked off the line from the resulting corner. The home team took the ball away after being awarded a dicey free kick which ended with an attacker turning sharply before firing into our side netting. Following a scramble in the home box,

Thomas was blocked and hobbled upfield being going down holding what looked like his groin. He received treatment and limped off but managed to return to the fray.
"we can be rather Wengeresque, frequently taking one touch too many when a chance has been created."

Blackpool put a good move together down our right before the ball was put out for a corner. The long ball to our far post saw the ball being hooked just wide.

A long through ball found a Blackpool player advancing on our goal but Fryer saved the ball down at his near post. Another of their attackers moved unchallenged into our box before making a step over and finding one of their late subs. The latter tried his luck and forced a good save from Fryer only for the ball to rebound back to him. Standing on our line, wide to the left of the goal, he lifted the ball up into our box, only to see it drift under our bar and nestle inside our far post. I doubt even the scorer would have the front to claim that he meant it.

Despite this set back, we continued to seek an equalizer right up until the final whistle. Rooney came on for Woods and Thomas beat three men only to see his shot partially blocked and saved by their diving keeper. We played a good ball across their area but no one was in a position to capitalize on it. The ref blew up for time with us still mounting attacks on the home goal.

We were desperately unlucky not to have come away with a point, if not all three, having competed throughout and putting in a commendable performance. In the battle of the Pools, we were definitely not second best in a thoroughly entertaining end to end match.

My one thought is that we can be rather Wengeresque, frequently taking one touch too many when a chance has been created. We certainly didn’t take advantage of our opportunities. Pools played with energy throughout, controlled passing out from the back and plenty of effort up front. On that performance, the future is beginning to look much brighter.

Walker had another impressive performance, closely followed by Harrison, Featherstone, Alessandra and Amond who proved himself a real handful to the home defence. Hawkins was unlucky not to score while Thomas flitted in and out, spending time attacking down the right flank and then appearing in the middle. Woods had a similar effect on the game while Donnelly was generally okay although caught out badly for their first goal.

Deverdics improved as the game wore on but experienced a trepid time early on when his tricky opponent breezed past him to put in dangerous crosses; one of which led to their opener. I’m uncertain why he was asked to play in that position as I understood that he was supposed to be a player who was more effective playing behind the front men.

Fryer is a more commanding figure coming out to collect balls into our box although I’m not sure about a couple of recent shots that have beaten him low down. I had arranged to meet up with my other half for a sherbet in “The Albert and the Lion” situated on the Promenade before moving on for a meal. It was heaving when I arrived but the company was pleasant, well, until one of a group of lads who had travelled across from Blackburn for a birthday weekend asked me if my good lady was my daughter. Grrr.

Needless to say, she was delighted and will almost certainly dine out on that for years to come. The atmosphere took a distinct downturn when a scuffle started with the security guards and a geezer received a nasty wound to his head with blood pouring down his neck. I don’t know how it kicked off but another character then began gobbing off and when he started pushing chairs around, I thought it wise to leave.

While all this was taking place, a very young baby was being passed around at head height to escape the mayhem. An ambulance and several Old Bill eventually turned up to restore order. We had a word with the security guards on our way back but they promptly disappeared back inside as several women came streaming out so not a place to visit on a Saturday evening, it would appear.

Our journey home was uneventful, that is until we made the last leg which involved our local train. We had reached Harlesden when we were held at a red light due to a “railway incident”, and when we eventually got home our forty minute journey had taken nearly three hours. As I have said before, “Reliance on technology, my arse”.

Never Really Got a Look in

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY at the ex-Vic

Pools 0 Wycombe 2 (League 2) Saturday March 18th 2017

After I have read them I often think of late that some of my scribblings for the Bizz lack a little what you might call “something special” So I thought I might follow the line of some of the team who go to away games and give us a nice description of the leafy shires they visit on their wanderings in support of our team. 

When I thought long and hard about it, the only thing we have to compare with the “Leafy Shires" is probably Ward Jackson Park, which would only probably take one sentence, possibly two, if I counted all the wild life.

I knew it was going to be a bad day when I saw the Ditchburn Poolie dancing to the music from the Tannoy before the game, when he is normally prowling along the front of the terrace dragging his ball and chain and chanting an inaudible dirge. As you can probably tell I am struggling to make the word quota up to scratch on today's game - scrappy, patchy, even bloody awful at times, “YET” we did not play too badly in a game where we never really got a look in but I would even say defensively we did ok-ISH.

Walker was again Man of the Match in my opinion, The keeper, Fryer, made some very good saves. Harrison had a good game game and a good right hook which brought him a yellow card late in the game after he tangled with a Cowan-Hall who had been booked earlier for a deliberate handball. Anyone with a double-barrelled name deserves a red card in my opinion.

He was given his marching orders. It was too late to benefit us in the game but it gave both benches the excuse to stretch their legs and pile on, to either have a go or break it all up. Mr Webb was probably the worst official we have seen this season. This is not sour grapes because we were beaten by a side that took their chances and we made very few, if any, what you might call clean cut chances.
"Anyone with a double-barrelled name deserves a red card in my opinion."

But it has to be said a more biased official I have yet to see at a game of football anywhere. We were manhandled throughout the game and literally taken and thrown to one side in challenges and Mr Webb turned a blind eye time after time - it became monotonous. They were at him in numbers every time there was a fifty-fifty and the number of times he blew for a foul against Pools (at almost every challenge) was a disgrace to the profession.

With a re-jigged side we looked a little light in the middle of the park and the reliable men you expect to lift us were missing today. Thomas looked unfit and clattered into the hoardings twice in the second half and needed treatment.

Amond was exposed up front and Featherstone had little to show, consequently we hoofed the ball up and lost nearly every header we went for. Richardson had a tough task against a fast winger but give the lad his due he did very well and is emerging as a decent player, but lets hope they do not burn him out.

We all know Adebayo Akinfenwa because he regularly scores against Pools, no matter who he is playing for, and a softer goal he will never score. It was a simple ball down the middle that he just touched past Fryer for an early lead.

How the hell this man plays football at his weight is beyond me. He is so heavy yet he gets into the right space and holds any four players off at the same time just by moving his bulk. He did get injured in his celebration wobble after the goal and had treatment before the restart, so he went off early in the second half to great cheers from the Poolies.

Pools did lift their game a little after the break but it was not good enough to really threaten this side who looked comfortable on the ball and broke in numbers and with speed once they stopped our progress.

You could count on one hand the number of real chances we made, which is a shame after the progress we have made in the last few games. Getting back to the Leafy Shire angle we do have a new NEXT Store with a coffee shop upstairs but the best must-see on your next Hartlepool visit has got to be our new Headland Promenade reservation that is going ahead, but I do hope they complete the job before the money from the European Union dries up.

Funny Old Game

Cambridge Winners

Match report by ALAN ESSEX at the Abbey Stadium

Cambridge 0 Pools 1 (League 2) Tuesday March 14th 2016

So, an evening trip to Cambridge and for me a ‘local’ match, only living 15 miles away. Cambridge is the fastest growing city in the UK and from the evidence I’ve seen it could be a victim of its own success. 

The average house price is over £500k, new-fangled high rise blocks dominate large areas and the infrastructure has little changed for a century. The result being overcrowded roads, expensive parking and high levels of pollution. However, like most successful cities it has a thriving economy much of which is built around the university and its support functions.

Development has crept outwards from the city centre with new hotels, student accommodation and apartments (blocks of flats to you and me) filling all available spaces. These developments are creeping ever closer along the Newmarket Road towards the Abbey Stadium, home of Cambridge United since 1932. How long this remains the case is much debated, with the land now worth a huge amount.

There are plans to redevelop the stadium and bring in other facilities with it but as football supporters we’ve all heard this many times before and fear for the heart of our clubs. The new proposals are planned to be phased in and the only part of the ground that will remain is the South Stand, the newest stand and the one given over to away supporters.

And so it was to the South Stand we (Wallace & Gromit and myself) made our way, walking the mile from the Park and Ride car park. A surprisingly pleasant evening being dry and not too chilly. One side of the road is almost completely taken with Marshall’s, alas not the renowned amplifier manufacturer but a car showroom or rather showrooms as they have the dealership for most of the current car and van manufacturers. “The Chrome Mile” as W & G christened it. For me, a long time ‘petrolhead’, nearly as drool-worthy as their amplification namesake. The other side of the road is also Marshall’s, but this time their aerospace division along with Cambridge airport.

Once in the ground we were cheered to hear a segue of rock numbers played over the PA: Breaking the Law by Judas Priest, Run to the Hills by Iron Maiden and Ace of Spades by Motorhead. It was just like being back in the early 1980’s!

Our away form was ‘not very good’ (being an understatement), having not won since October 1st. In fact we’d lost 13 and drawn 2 since then. Against this Cambridge’s home form was not that bright either: 1 win in their last 7 home games. I suppose the form book may have predicted a draw if we were lucky.

Brad Walker returned from missing a game through injury to his new role at the centre of defence and that was the only change from the defeat at Notts County, Lewis Hawkins dropping to the bench, a bench that had the full complement of 7! Cambridge had strikers Barry Corr, Adam McGurk and Uche Ikpeazu all missing but they did include ex Pools players Jake Carroll and Brad Halliday.

Pools had an early free kick, taken by Thomas, and although from a fair way out he went for goal, his effort landed on the roof of the net. The game had little rhythm with Pools playing with a back 4 and a 5 man midfield who were all sitting very deep. This meant that Amond had to plough a lone furrow (not sure what that means but the term is used a lot by the many farming communities around this part of the Fens!) I guess the idea was that midfielders were supposed to support Amond when we attacked but they were so deep that by the time they got near him the attack had broken up. As a result, Pools were regularly turning their attacks into defence.
"...after this bang on the head he started to play really well – maybe a tactic to be used more often!"

There were many niggly fouls and it seemed a Pools player was on the ground for most of the match. Donnelly seemed to be badly fouled and required lengthy treatment. For the next few minutes he was restricted to just taking throw ins – fortunately there were several in a short space of time and this gave him time to recover.

After half an hour there was quite a lengthy delay as Oates required attention, the referee stopping the game despite Oates not being on the pitch at the time. Oates tried to continue but couldn’t and was replaced by Deverdics. In the meantime, Richardson was booked for a bad / cynical / naïve / had to make* (*delete as appropriate) foul.

In a rare foray up-field Alessandra had a shot easily held by Norris, the Cambridge keeper. With the frequent stoppages, there was 5 minutes of additional time. At the break Cambridge brought on Elito who had scored a hat trick at Carlisle at the weekend, also as a 2nd half sub. After 10 minutes of the 2nd half Deverdics received a head injury and continued with his head bandaged – I don’t know why but after this bang on the head he started to play really well – maybe a tactic to be used more often!

Thomas attempted to curl a ball into the top right hand corner of the Cambridge net from just outside of the penalty area, the shot going wide. On the hour Cambridge made a double substitution, Lewis and Maris replacing Dunne and Dunk. This change did little for Cambridge but a couple of minutes later a good ball from Deverdics found Amond and a passing movement involving him and Alessandra found Woods who finished well, shooting past Norris into the bottom right corner.

The game then reverted to type with most of the play limited to the middle third of the pitch. Carroll had a couple of shots in quick succession, trying to get one over his old team but both were off target. In all honesty this was a pretty poor game against the worst Cambridge side I’ve seen. They usually have a striker or two that can cause trouble and capable wingers / wing backs but most of their game consisted of playing the ball across the pitch with no final forward push. Even their central defender Leon Legge, who at this level is consistently good, was not that impressive and nearly gave away an own goal just before Woods scored. Not that I’m complaining like.

Our defence coped well and I was impressed with Walker at the back combining good defensive work with good distribution. Harrison was also good in the heart of the defence. In fact I couldn’t criticise any of the team. They set out to keep a clean sheet and score on the break and succeeded in this. The fact that Leyton Orient were losing 5-0 at Accrington made it all the sweeter, not that I dislike Orient or their supporters, who I hope to meet on Easter Monday, but it makes survival much more of a reality now.

Surplus Long Balls

Match report by BILLY'S CONTRACT at Meadow Lane

Notts Co 2 Pools 1 (League 2) Saturday March 11th 2017

Apart from previous football trips to Forest and County in the distant past I had never actually set foot in the the City of Nottingham itself. In truth apart from The Football, Cricket, Maid Marian, Nottingham Lace, The Sheriff, John Players, the Castle and a chap called Robin, I knew very little about the place.

With that in mind I did some prior research ahead of my trip, and decided that on the day of the match I would set off early and take in some of the wonders of that City. My intention was to park up at the Phoenix Park park and ride, and tram it in to the city centre. However due to a technical malfunction, that of keying in the incorrect post code, as well as taking the first right instead of a second right I ended up doing a circular around Nottingham Castle on what looked like a private road. Previously I have seen double yellow lines and double red lines but never blue. (Poolie in Nottingham might be able to enlighten us all on that one). It could have possibly meant no Poolie parking.

With that, even though I was not far from County's ground (It was their post code that I had inadvertently keyed in to my satnav instead of the park and ride's), I turned the car around and headed back through the congestion I had previously sought to avoid and ended up in 'Forest' park and ride car park which was a bit misleading as the City ground was near enough a mile away.

 After enjoying a mug of tea and a corned beef sarnie of the highest order (no one can put together corn dog between two slices of bread like my housekeeper - I would have it for my Christmas day dinner!), I boarded a tram and was whisked into the impressive market square in no time at all.

A Council House - Nottingham style!   photo © Neil Turner / Flickr / CC
Bang slap right at one end of the square, fronted by numerous fountains is the 200 foot high Neo Baroque* multi colonnaded, domed, grade 2 listed building made from Portland stone which is a cross between the presidential White House in Washington and the Co-op building in Hartlepool (The one on Park Road and not the one in Northgate), which I discovered is called The Council House. I have seen some impressive council houses in my time (although it is probably an ex-council house - the one with all the beer cans on its external brickwork in Raby Road springs to mind) but this one was the daddy of them all. If that was the Council House I would love to see what the private housing stock looked like.

The Market square had a European feel to it - trams running around, people sitting outside eating (though they might have been evicted), quality street ('scuse pun) entertainers and generally clean with very little litter strewn about. The only things that let the area down were the odd 1960's style office blocks dotted about here and there.

As my tea had run its course I decided on a visit to McDonalds. as their toilets, bar the ones in New York, are generally clean. I did not have to look far as I saw a directional sign which read "toilets 200M". I could not believe that McDonalds had 200 outlets in the City. [ And I can't believe you left that joke in - Ed]

I am unable to recall the last time I had a meal in McDonalds, certainly not since 2006 when I was fined £40 for having parked for more than an hour in their car park at Wolviston, so I don't feel guilty about using their loos. Call it pay back time. I call them McToilets.

Unsure of the whereabouts of the ground I asked a fellow Poolie who was sat down in one of attractive pedestrian areas just off the square.The directions he gave were so precise I asked if he lived in Nottingham. No, it was his first time here but he had gleaned the information beforehand from his I-Pad thingy.

Having reached Meadow Lane quite quickly I had plenty of time to kill so I wandered around the old cattle market area next to the ground and I stumbled across the most amazing Army and Navy Stores I have ever seen. Elmo had previously told me about it but seeing was believing. It was more like a munitions dump than an Army and Navy stores and would have kept a small army in provision for several months.

 As I walked into the yard there was a small jet engine (Possibly from a V1 rocket or De Havilland Vampire mark two) and sited next to it was a white barrack room metal bunk bed and various items of camouflage netting.  I was very tempted to purchase a thermo-nuclear device that was on display but I had been warned beforehand that the stewards at Notts County were normally pretty thorough and carried out searches prior to admission into the ground, so I gave that one a miss(ile).

It was shortly after that I met up with Elmo and 'H', who pulled up a few yards from me in their dashing blue car, gaining the last parking space in the cattle market. Had they parked another ten feet further forward their car bonnet would have been wedged in the home end turnstile.

In search of alcoholic stimulation we made our way to a pub which we saw in the distance. Only snag was it meant negotiating a mega-busy dual carriageway. Whilst we were waiting for a break in the traffic we met up with a couple of other Poolies who had had the same idea but had all but given up as they had spent the previous twenty five minutes trying to cross the road. (Why did the Poolie cross the road?) With no break in the traffic looking likely we agreed that there was safety in numbers and it was now time to deploy our cunning plan. As a group we all closed our eyes and made a dash for it.

Luckily, no casualties, but little did we know at the time that that was to be the only excitement that we were going to enjoy for the rest of the afternoon. Unfortunately when we got to the other side and reached the watering hole, the extremely nice but apologetic bouncer would not let us gain entry due to a no-away-fans policy. I am sure if he witnessed our efforts crossing that dual carriageway he would have brought us all into the pub for a drink.

To his credit he gave us directions to another pub on the 'Forest' side of the Trent, the downside being that we would have to cross the road again.  Prior to writing out our last wills and testaments one of our group spotted this box which was attached to a post and if you pressed a button a green man would appear on a light and the traffic would suddenly stop, allowing one to cross the road. I still can't understand how we missed that the first time round. We must have been too focussed on our pursuit of alcoholic gratification.

Sat outside the pub almost on Trent Bridge itself, enjoying a very acceptable pint of Ghost blonde, one could view how close together or 'near' apart both Forest's and County's grounds are sited. It is only the river that separates them and if ever there was a case for ground sharing this is it.

Perhaps they could merge and be renamed Nottingham City. Just playing devil's advocate there! I for one would not want this to to happen for so many reasons. For instance, which club would be able to have 'The Town's Club' on their badge. (This was just to wind any Forest/County fans who might be reading it).

We then went to the match and afterwards said our goodbyes and I jumped aboard the mega-efficient (delayed by 5 minutes due to an incident!) tram service back to the park and ride. Due to my disappointment on the footballing front, firstly with the performance and then secondly the result, I actually skipped calling in at Wetherby for the first time ever for fish and chips and made do with a fish finger bun when I got home. Mind, on the plus side they were Waitrose fish fingers - double the size and double the price of the German-produced Birdseye nonsense. Mind I did wash it down with some German weisse bier.

For those who are interested, here is a detailed match report:
Notts County are a poor team lacking in confidence whom Pools did not push with any conviction. County were there for the taking big time as many other teams hopefully will do in the future on Pools' behalf.
"Both teams were playing long balls to their front men - Pools as usual not winning any."

Thanks to a penalty save by Fryer we went in at half time nils apiece, hoping for better things in the second half. County had sussed out rookie full back Kenton Richardson and most of their attacking play came down his side of the pitch.

Both teams were playing long balls to their front men - Pools as usual not winning any. One of County's fell to Ameobi who brushed off ad hoc centre half Featherstone for strength and pace and put the ball beyond Fryer whom I thought could have done better.
County's second goal was a stunner. From a Pools clearance after a corner Grant, who was not closed down, rifled in from 25 yards, giving Fyrer no chance.

In the last 15 minutes Pools got a scrappy equaliser thanks to a Thomas shot which created an own goal. This should have inspired Pools and put County on the rack but much like the first half, anytime that they got into an attacking position they either did not know what to do with the ball (Alessandra being the worst culprit), or they continually passed the ball backwards allowing County to get back into a defensive position. On one occasion a promising attack ended up with the ball back in Fryers hands instead of the back of Notts County's net.  

Dave Jones's tactics must also be questioned, with too many long balls and no one in midfield. The service to Thomas in the first half was non-existent and he was more of a wing back rather than a winger. Rangers, Leeds and Birmingham City are supposed to have Nathan Thomas on their radars and are prepared to pay three quarter of a million pounds for him. Technically Pools have a player on the pitch worth £750,000 so why on earth did he not see the ball for long periods of the match.

Of all the current relegation candidates that we have to play away from home, Notts County would have been the team that I'd have expected to gain points from. I sincerely hope that I am wrong but unless things improve dramatically on the away front I cannot see Pools picking up points at Cheltenham, Morecambe or Orient, nor indeed from any other away ground this season for that matter.

Pools' survival will be down to home form or rivals losing form, or having points deducted (Orient), or other teams beating our rivals. League survival might only be partially in Pools' hands. GET IT SORTED NOW.

*  Don't worry folks, I am not an architectural guru, I Googled that bit of info.

Security notice: My main concern at the match was not so much the result but the fact that the editor and former editor of Monkey Business, along with a current contributor of this magazine were all sat in the same stand together.  To quote Alan Partridge they were all "a soft target for a terrorist hit squad".

Thankfully they all took the precaution of taking different routes home and did not travel together in the same blue vehicle.

Any Other Business


So here we are, yet again, with another nail-biter of a run-in.

OK, Orient are doomed but the one team that can catch us is the one in the danger area with the best form, so they could quite easily make up the five or six points needed to overtake us, given similar run-ins. These annual Great Escape attempts are starting to get a bit tedious.

Here's a picture of Trimdon Grange's Finest once again, as a reminder that next month we'll be continuing Malcolm Dawes's story. 

This will tell us about his career after leaving Pools, and especially his time with New York Cosmos, hobnobbing with famous footy names, and about life in the city that never sleeps, in the days when it was the only one.

Hopefully it won't dwell too much on why he was dressed up like this. Was it for a bet, was he modelling for a mail-order catalogue, or did he just have terrible dress sense?

Adam Bartlett was allowed to leave Pools for a career in coaching with the Boro ...and then promptly signed for Darlo. 

He may have been out of favour during Trevor Carson's second long absence but he did well during the first one and I'm sure all Poolies will wish him well at the Boro. It was unfortunate that he was at fault for all three goals in his first match for Darlo, and we hope it won't be repeated too often - but not too infrequently either!

And finally, congratulations to the Hartlepool United girls' team which won the Futsal Cup recently. 

At least it's nice to know that some teams at the club can actually win things, even it's things that we never even knew existed.