Showing posts from December, 2017

A Seat with a View


Since the last edition of Monkey Business we have seen Pools play five games losing three, drawing one and a solitary win against the very poor part timers of F.C Halifax Town who on the night had five first team regulars missing from their starting eleven.

Included in the debit column was the disastrous (both financially and performance-wise) FA Cup exit against Morecambe, who, prior to Pools turning up at the Globe Stadium, had not won at home in six matches and stood second bottom in the Football League. There to be taken - but not on Pools' watch.

In the National League we picked up a total of four points out of a possible twelve and if we include the Morecambe result, Pools have scored four and conceded eight. All in all not a good November for Craig Harrison.To be brutally honest, it was a bloody awful month for Craig Harrison.

Thanks to a kindly invite from a friend for a spot of lunch in the Michael Maidens hospitality suite for the Aldershot match, I left my usual spot in the  Town End for that of the seats of the Cyril Knowles. Here you see a totally different game altogether to that viewed from the terraces. It is almost like observing the moves on a chessboard. The trouble was that against Aldershot, Scott Loach apart, we had some terrible chess players and chess pieces alike. For several seasons now I have been a major critic of our midfield but seeing it in operation from the stands close up I did not fully appreciate how bad it is, or should I say how absent it is.
"Did I mention that the two centre halfs on the day looked like an accident waiting to happen - if not, they are."

There is a scarcity of creativity. Very little in the way of tackling or winning the first, let alone the second ball. Big gaps in the centre of the pitch, which Aldershot exploited with ease and at will.

Featherstone, whilst looking a tidy player when he has no opponents near to hand, to my mind is an unnecessary luxury. Viewed from the side of the ground, he looks chunky and his lack of pace is evident. During the match I noted that he passed the ball behind him on eight occasions. On another occasion from a Pools corner in an attacking position he received the ball in the Aldershot half and passed it almost 55 yards back to Scott Loach. From the resulting goal kick Aldershot regained possession and were back on the attack.

Twice, when Kenton Richardson was progressing upfield with the ball Featherstone motioned to the full back to pass back to the keeper. I am fairly certain that it was the first time this season that we have lined up at home in an attacking four four two formation. The problem was that the wide men were not providing crosses to the two strikers up front, primarily because the midfield was not supplying the ball to them at pace. Subsequently the forwards had to rely on, and the watching fans had to endure, long aimless balls punted up front from the full backs as in the days of yore of Cooper, Hignett and Jones.

My other concerns, apart from the disjointed performance, lack of shape, heart and effort, was that the players and the coaching staff alike barely communicate (take that as cajole shout and rollick) with each other. Did I mention that the two centre halfs on the day looked like an accident waiting to happen - if not, they are.

Once we went one-nil down the best anyone expected was a possible one-all draw but when Aldershot got their second it was evident,  due to Pools' lack of firepower, that there was not a cat in Middlesbrough's chance of getting any sort of a result.

Prior to kick off, over my salmon and salad starter, (not a prawn sandwich to be seen at the Vic!), I got chatting to a lad on our table and we were both of one mind that Pools had not played well all season, and that if it was not for Scott Loach we would be at the wrong end of the table and it was only a matter of time before we would be on the receiving end of a good thrashing, which Ebbsfleet obliged in providing the following Saturday.

Over a beer Billy's Contract Junior asked me, based on what I have seen so far this season, which of Craig Harrsion's permanent signings would I keep. My shout would be Loach, Cassidy and probably Munns. The rest are either not good enough or have yet to hit some sort of consistent form. He then asked me, if it was at all possible, his University education, or more than likely the Craft beer that he was drinking began to kick in, what would I think the result would be if the Pools team of last season played the Pools of this season. That is one to ponder. I would have said pretty much any side would have turned over the team of 2016/17 season and by a good margin to boot. However if this fantasy football match was indeed to take place it would be the worst goalless draw ever, but a satisfactory result for both sides.

Consistency Needed!!


Those Poolies who attended the game against Aldershot must have had a sense of foreboding before the Halifax game. The scene was set for another banana skin but lo and behold we overcame them without difficulty. 

Indeed, we might have had a couple more goals against Halifax. There was Nicky Deverdics’ free kick which hit the bar and then Scott Loach, aided by the wind, just came short with his clearance.

Then it was back to normal against Ebbsfleet (where the bloody hell’s that? I asked one Poolie). ‘Other side of London in Kent’ he replied and he was going down to the game! And so it came to pass that we got hammered 3-0.

It’s a strange league this one. At various times, Dagenham and Redbridge, Dover, Sutton United and Wrexham have all been league leaders and any number of teams could reach a play-off spot, including Pools. On most weekends, I have a bet on eight matches but wouldn’t touch the National League with a barge pole. A forecaster’s nightmare. It goes to show, therefore, if we can get consistency we could take the league by storm.
"if we can get consistency we could take the league by storm."

One aspect of the National League which I like is the respect between the clubs – and their supporters. On Saturday night after the Ebbsfleet game I saw a tweet from the away end turnstile operator in which he complimented the visiting Poolies for their good nature. Not all ex-Football League teams' supporters showed the same attitude. I don’t know whether other clubs do it or not, but I like the way the Pools give the away attendances of visiting clubs. Some of them have had a right old trek up here – and of course it’s the same for Poolies when we play down in the nether regions.

In our League One days, we were pitted against clubs like Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest and the impression we got was that their fans thought they had a divine right to get promoted into the Championship at the first time of asking. One club where that probably didn’t apply was Leicester City; once the reality of relegation to League One had sunk in then coming to places like Pools was a big adventure.

Another cup competition coming up – this time it’s the FA Trophy – and at the time of writing we’re away to Glossop North End or Workington. The latter club will bring back memories to older Poolies. Voted out of the Football League in 1977, the club almost went out of business in the 1980s but were saved, in part, by a fund-raising game in which George Best and Phil Neale took part. At one time, of course, they were managed by Bill Shankly.

Anyway, have a Happy Christmas – at least we won’t have far to travel on Boxing Day!!

Funny Old Game

Rabble Rousers


ONE step forward and two steps back. Different league but same old Pools. After beating a Halifax team that was one of the worst I have had the misfortune to watch over the past 20 years and boosting our goal difference by four we go to a bunch of part-timers at Ebbsfleet and lose three of those goals within a couple of days. 

Now we are nearly halfway through the season it is time to have a look and see how Craig Harrison is doing. 13th in the league with one of the biggest staffs and budgets in the division does not make good reading. Obviously he needs to shape up or ship out as he ain't going to win six league titles with this club.

Whether he will get us into the play-offs is open to question. And why would he when it seems he still does not know his best team or formation. Take last Saturday when he has Michael Ledger, Luke George and Lewis Hawkins on the bench while preferring last season's perennial losers like Scott Harrison and Xavi Featherfanny. And yet he still doesn't understand why the goals are raining in on us.
"While we may scramble a play-off place, given the standard of the division that should be a given with our set-up "

We have creative players like Jack Munns and Tomi Odeloye who are liable to get twenty minutes game time if we are losing yet his favourites seem immovable. I would like to know what Matthew Bates is contributing to the club. Just because he still has a players' contract and is not up to it that is no reason to give him a job as a coach for which he has no experience. He was the biggest Sick Note at the club last season yet drops in for a cushy number. I would suggest it is someone to coach the forwards and hopefully to get more goals is what we need. I am sure Joe Allon would be more than happy to take this job on.

There isn't a decent team in this league and if we had appointed a manager with experience and knowledge of the league we would have been top three by now and pushing for automatic promotion. While we may scramble a play-off place, given the standard of the division that should be a given with our set-up compared to the jumpers-for-goalposts outfits we are fighting it out with. While we are getting gates of 3,000+ some of our rivals struggle to reach 1,000 yet still give us a dicking.

We can lose in League One and League Two and take it but now we are in what I will always call the Conference and getting humped at home to teams like Dover and Aldershot is really the thin end of the wedge. I see our beloved ex-owner and chairman has gone bankrupt for a second time with no sign of the money that went missing from Pools. A fit and proper person to run a football club according to our friends at the Football League. But what would they know. They thought the previous incumbents TMH were up for it and the two shysters are now doing time at Her Majesty's pleasure. I will say one thing for Ken Hodcroft, someone so prudent and taking so long to make a managerial decision, he can pick out a dodgy potential buyer when he sees one. 

Clutching at Straws


I read recently that the Football League are having talks about allowing the use of plastic pitches in League Two as well as in the National League.

At present Sutton, Bromley and Maidstone in the National League play on artificial surfaces. However, and it is a whacking big however of immense proportions, under current league regulations, should any of these three teams gain promotion either automatically or via the play offs, they will not be allowed to take their place in League Two unless they guarantee to replace their plastic pitches with grass prior taking their place in League Two.

Should they they fail to comply, they won't be able to remain in the National League but will face immediate relegation instead to the National North/South ...and here's me thinking that we had some barmy rules and regulations from the Government, the Borough Council, the F.A., the E.U. as well as the committee of our local working men's club. A bit strict, nay, savage to say the least, and I'm now beginning to think that Darlo 1883 got a rough deal by being denied access to the playoffs last season because they did not have enough covered seating accommodation.

After much thought the cynic in me now views this whole issue in a more positive, but selfish light from a Hartlepool United perspective. It is estimated that the cost alone of replacing plastic with turf is in the region of £250k. Even with the enhanced payments from the Football League after a successful promotion this would not cover the overall outlay unless the club in question had substantial resources of their own to pay for this, along with the other expenses that come with the running of a football club at the next level.
"Darlo 1883 got a rough deal by being denied access to the playoffs last season"

As the league table currently stands Sutton are top of the table with a 39 point haul, 8 points more than Pools. Bromley are in 8th spot, five places higher and 4 points more than Pools. Maidstone are in 14th place trailing Pools by one place and two points. Basically if none of these clubs have the desire or the cash to replace their existing playing surfaces, as it stands it would technically see Pools move up two places at Sutton's and Bromley's expense and not having to worry about Maidstone behind us snapping at our heels.

This is the level of desperation I have now reached. Clutching at straws on a massive scale, due to Craig Harrison and his team not getting their cushioned backsides in order and getting on with the real job of making a fist of a credible promotion campaign without our having to rely on the misfortunes or hindrances of other teams to assist us.

A Note from Me Mam

ELPIN has tracked down an important letter

This interesting letter has recently come to light, which the defence wisely chose to ignore at the recent trial and which sheds some light on the disturbing events surrounding the abortive sale of Pools to TMH in 2014. However it obviously shows the meticulous care which The Football League gives to ensuring that club owners are not cowboys and rogues.

Big Sam and Big Craig

BILLY'S CONTRACT compares and contrasts

Like most Poolies, prior to his appointment I had never heard of Craig Harrison and was in truth surprised and a little concerned about him being appointed as Hartlepool United's new manager. 

From the outside it looked as if he was appointed 'On the cheap' particularly when more experienced managers with impressive CVs could have been better equipped for the role. Harrison's credentials at his previous club The New Saints (TNS) in the Welsh Premier League are impressive, with 6 titles wins and the Welsh Cup under his belt, Lot forgetting numerous forays into Europe. On the surface this looks quite impressive but if we bear in mind that TNS were pretty much the only full time professional club in the Welsh League, that gave them a distinct advantage over their rivals. At of time of writing this I note that they are top of the Welsh Premiership. A bit like the Welsh version of Celtic.

I think what swung the appointment for him was his youth, enthusiasm, positivity, planning skills and attention to detail,which in many respects are similar traits to those of Pam Duxbury, a manager in her own right. Pre-season Craig Harrison was saying all the right things, new signings were coming in on a regular basis and friendly matches were being won. The despair of relegation had almost vanished and the majority of Hartlepool United Fans were now in positive mood and could not wait for the new season and new era to begin.

The first match kicked off with nearly 4,000 fans in the ground 2,600 of them being season ticket holders. The game ended in defeat and the performance put in by Pools mirrored that of the previous season. The excuse given was that the team was still hungover from relegation. Many fans thought that the Dover performance was a one-off but as one match followed another a pattern was beginning to develop of Pools huffing and puffing their way through games, not getting into orbit as expected, but not even having left the launch pad.

As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, it has only been the goalkeeping ability of Scott Loach that has kept Pools from several defeats. I am guessing Loach has been worth 12 point alone to Pools so far this season. Some of Harrison's new signings did not seem fit whilst others were carrying injuries, were found lacking or have yet to discover their form. Fans began to wonder if these new additions were any better than the players that were let go at the end of last season. One comment made, which I would not argue against was that if this current side gained promotion they would be back in the National league again the following season.

Worse still is the standard of football that we are having to endure, particularly at home, where Pools are playing like the away team. Bar the odd flash, the entertainment level at the Vic is nine below zero. After the Aldershot match two of my pals said that was the finish for them for this campaign and they won't return to the Vic unless either Harrison leaves or the football and the results improve massively.

Twenty three games in I have come to the conclusion that Craig Harrison does not know what his best starting eleven or his best formation is. That being the case, if Jack Munns is not suited to a particular formation why on earth was he signed in the first place when another player who could have slotted in seamlessly could have been brought in and fulfilled the role.

Sam Allardyce is big on statistics. As soon as a match finishes he spends hours and hours viewing and reviewing Pro-zone and other sources to see how much ground a player might have covered, tackles and passes made, most/least active period of a player during a game and much more. There is a lot to be said for analysing statistics which can work in your favour. If you look at any of Big Sam's teams they very rarely had a defender on the back post to defend free kicks coming from 'out wide' positions. When he was Bolton manager he studied videos of 400-500 free kicks conceded by his own and other teams.

Let's say, for argument's sake, that Big Sam knew that something like 80% of the time the ball landed in a certain spot within the six yard box, then instead of having a defender on the back post he had him placed on the edge of the six yard box instead, allowing the defender to head the ball clear and not give the opposition the opportunity to attack the ball in the first place. I think he claimed that leaving a defender on the goal line only prevented something like 5% of goals being conceded.

From what I have read Craig Harrison is very much in the same mould as Allardyce relating to stats, percentages and game plans, as well as being over-cautious. Craig Harrison's post-match comments after the Morecambe cup exit horrified me. ''I think the first goal has killed us'' he said. ''It has given them an early advantage and we have to take more risks. It takes the game management away from us.'' To me, what this translates as is that after the first goal which was conceded after only three minutes of play, it was game over as far as Harrison was concerned, despite the fact, including time added on, that, there was another 90 minutes left in which to not only salvage the match but also win it. Alex Ferguson on the other hand would treat the last three minutes of a game as if it were 90 minutes and never give up.

The point Craig made about 'having to take more risks' comes across as a negative. It gives the impression that Harrison's mindset is one of not losing at any cost even at the expense of winning. The second bit about 'The management plan' suggested that there was no plan 'B' whatsoever. It would seem to the outsider that he has a rigid plan in his mind which he will not deviate from. The trouble with these so-called management plans is that even with the best planning and preparation, due to unforeseen and unexpected circumstances as well as outside influences, such as plain bad luck, or just bad management in the first place, they can go spectacularly wrong. (The Air raid at Arnhem during World War 2 springs to mind).

 Several contingencies should be built into any so-called plan. What if a player gets sent off, What if the pitch had been turned into a a quagmire a few hours prior to kick off, What if Pools go two goals up in the first ten minutes do the tactics change? If we go a goal down the best we can expect is a one all draw. If we go two goals down it is game over - as I said earlier there is no plan B.
" Alex Ferguson ...would treat the last three minutes of a game as if it were 90 minutes and never give up."

After the draw with Tranmere, Harrison said “Performance-wise, we were good for an hour, but the last 10 minutes we ran out of steam a bit."  This tells me that either his tactics were wrong, his players were not fit, or his tactics caused the players to tire. Having seen the game, Pools were hanging on for a point and were confined to their own half for most of the second half, chasing Tranmere players down. As per usual we had eleven back for every corner conceded. Then the players had to sprint after any clearance in the hope of starting an attack only to find themselves running back again into their own half as Tranmere promptly sent the ball back there It is little wonder that the players ran out of steam.

Harrison must have a statistic logged somewhere that if a team defends with eleven men back in their own penalty box that there must only be a 10% (or whatever) chance of the opposition scoring. I would challenge this as there is:
The possibility of conceding a penalty
The possibility of conceding a penalty and having a man sent off
The possibility of scoring an own goal
The possibility of conceding another corner
The Impossibilty of scoring on the break as there is no outlet further upfield waiting to break.

For the record in the consecuctive home matches against Tranmere and Sutton, both teams scored late goals from corners despite Pools having eleven players back in their own half, which speaks volumes. In the home game against Aldershot when defending a Pools corner the Shots had a forward stood on the halfway line. The ball was cleared and reached the forward who spun round leaving two Pools defenders in his wake and was almost one-on-one with Loach, who fortunately dived at his feet to prevent him getting his shot away. However other positive outcomes could have occurred for Aldershot just because they kept a man 'up top':
Aldershot score
Aldershot gain a penalty
Aldershot gain a penalty and Loach sent off.
Aldershot gain a corner.

For the record in this same match Pools did not have one shot on target. I see many parallels between Craig Harrison and Big Sam in the way they operate. Caution being the main one. Allardyce has been in management for over 25 years and with the exception of winning the Irish league with Limerick and the old Third Division title with Notts County then later getting Bolton and West Ham promoted to the Premiership via the play-offs, he hasn't had a lot of success. However whilst he won't win many cups or titles he is the master at preventing teams from getting relegated or keeping them mid table.

When he joined relegated West Ham, who had a talented and experienced squad and money to spend, they were favourites to win the Championship by some considerable margin. In the event because they played their home games as if they were the away team, they drew far too many matches and only scraped into the play-offs by the skin of their teeth, only narrowly beating Blackpool, who gave them a real run for their money in the play-off final.

I think Craig Harrison is over-complicating things and probably is spending too much time looking at stats and the numbers game. He should be looking at turning defeats into draws and draws into wins. If I were in Craig Harrison's shoes I would ship out half a dozen of the current squad and bring in a box-to-box goalscoring midfielder, a centre forward and if Keith Watson is out injured for the rest of the season I'd sign up an experienced, preferably nasty, centre half who has been round the block a few times.

The moment the ref blows his whistle Harrison should have his team coming out of the blocks fast and slick a la Danny Wilson style as opposed to the slow, tedious, side-to-side Danny la Rue style we now see each week at the Vic. Harrison should stop overly worrying about our opponents and instead have them worrying about what Pools are going to do to them. If they score one goal, Pools' mindset. along with that of our opponents, should be that Pools will score two or perhaps even three goals.

Hartlepool United  P22  W8  D7  L7  F23  A22  Pts 31

The above is Pools' position in the National League table as it stands prior to Saturdays match against the Macc lads. Reading it, and taking in the detail you could imagine someone saying 'If I did not know otherwise I would say that this was a team that was managed by Sam Allardyce'.

Big Sam didn't lose the England job because of his techniques, and now he's got the Everton job will that only confirm to Big Craig that he's doing things right?

Jon Buys a Trophy

Another Janice and Jon story from SHEDRICK

Janice was waiting for the new vicar. The church had appointed a woman priest and she was calling round for afternoon tea and cucumber sandwiches.

Jon was getting ready to walk into town to buy two trophies for the Pools Social Club. He watched all the competitions and although he wasn’t in the darts team they let him chalk up the scores. See the sticking plasters on Jon’s head.

Jon had won the Supporter of the Year award, but being a Pools supporter, didn’t know much about trophies. Janice said not to worry as the lady in the shop would help him choose the right ones. Jon put on his coat quickly, he was scared he might bump into the new vicar, she had already admonished him at church last Sunday when he called her “father”.

John peered through the window of the Trophy and Engraving Shop and then tried to go in quietly without the door-bell ringing.

“Ding, clang, dong, clang”

“Hello Jon, come in.”

“Er hello Mrs., er”

“Call me Wendy, how can I help you?”

“I want to buy two trophies for the Pools Social Club competitions” said Jon, “I’ve won one and the other is for the Darts competition.”

Wendy said she was sure she could help him as she knew all about cups.

“But I don’t know what size to get” said Jon.

Wendy took him to the back of the shop.

“I have two big trophies here, beautifully engraved, try them for size” she said, handing them to him.

Jon nearly dropped them, “My, they are heavy, but I’m sure the darts players would be happy with them, they like them big as they all have huge hands” said Jon.

“Good”, said Wendy “I’ll keep one back to engrave your name on, and it will be ready for you to collect this time next week.”

Jon handed her the money and went home the long way round to avoid bumping into the lady vicar.

“Hello I’m home” shouted Jon. Janice was just walking to the door with the new vicar. “Hello Jon” said the vicar “And where have you been?”

“I’ve been to get something to take to the Pools’ Social Club. The nice lady in the shop got out her two huge trophies which she was very proud of, and asked me to hold them. She said she was sure that the whole club would like to get their hands on them, and if I came back next week there will be one with my name on it.”

Janice still had half a cucumber left. Jon ran up the stairs as quickly as he could, but wasn’t quite quick enough.

2018 Poolie Calendar


Following Monkey Business tradition (OK, so we only started it last year), we've knocked up another calendar for readers to print out and fold up, featuring floodlights we know and love - if only we could say that about the players of late. And for some of the chairmen.

If you print it on an A4 sheet of card or photo paper crease it and fold it up you've got a Poolie desk-type calendar. You can glue it. staple it or tape it together.

Download the file here 

A few years back we did something similar, but it wasn't a calendar. We provided two different versions of the old Hartlepool Corporation Festive Bus (which has recently been saved from being scrapped) for you to print and cut out, and we thought it was time for a reminder.

So if anyone wants to see what that was all about, or would like to have their own festive bus model, here are links to the relevant pages of the December 2012 and 2011 editions of Monkey Business. features a model of the Hartlepool Corporation Christmas Bus in its earlier, mostly-red livery, with a roof and chimney, and Santa on top, and the download file is now at: features a model of the Hartlepool Corporation Christmas Bus in its later, mostly-cream livery, with Santa, sleigh and reindeer on top, and the download file is now at:

Rout of the Shaymen

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 4 Halifax 0 (National League)
Tuesday Nov 21 2017
Victoria Park

I think everyone at the Vic tonight expected a reaction to Saturday's game. The Pools squad had been hauled in on the following Sunday and given a good rollicking and understandably they were pretty down about such a limp collapse. especially at home. 

There were four changes for this game as Laing, Woods, Newton and Oates were all back in the side. On balance I would say that both Woods and Oates should be automatic starters when they are fit as the do give their all. When I saw the team come out, I wondered who the swee,t young, very blond-haired new signing was, but it turned out to be the new look Deverdics. If he keeps messing with his hair like this he will be bald in two seasons. I just hope he doesn’t go down the earrings route too. No footballer should look like a wuss when wearing the strip.

Halifax, on a bad run of games, were there for the taking, but how many times in the past has a struggling team come up against Pools and ended a bad run? Halifax looked to be nervous from the off as Pools set about them with pace and flair. I was shocked and stunned as in seven rampant minutes Pools were two nil up and cruising.

The sweet young boy who had dropped back in the field from Saturday's game linked up with Woods and the boy made a great run in and slipped the ball into the net past the tall Halifax keeper.

Rhys Oates was red hot tonight as he took the game to them, he looked dangerous every time he went on a run. He brought a silly challenge from a defender in the box and Pools were given the penalty which Donnelly took and sent the keeper the wrong way. Two nil up in seven minutes was a sterling performance after the last home game when we never had a shot at goal.
"Halifax looked to be nervous from the off as Pools set about them with pace and flair."

A long clearance by Loach, straight down the pitch, had their keeper back-pedalling as the bounce almost beat him and he was lucky he fell the right side as he hit the post as he tried to push the ball clear. Halifax's confidence must have been really shot. Woods had a great game and he made the third goal setting up Oates with a ball down the line, Oates cut in and struck a great ball back across the goal into the corner of the net, three nil up. As Kammy would say, “UNBELIEVEABLE, Jeff”.

The visitors had chances as a clever winger was making life difficult for Harrison and was whipping some great crosses in. Their tall striker, who the Ditchburn Poolie confirmed was six foot seven inches tall (don’t ask me to convert that as I was taught the English way and refuse to change), won just about every header and missed at least two clear chances, winning the ball in good positions but thankfully when it came to his shooting skills he was bloody awful.

Rodney was subbed on the hour and the young lad Adeloye had a very good home debut and looks a decent player. The visitors restricted us a little in the second half as they stepped up their game. Some fans seemed to complain that we had stepped off the gas but we just controlled the game making sure of the three points. They did get a goal late in the game that was ruled out by the ref, who as far as we were concerned had a great game.

Pools were not finished as a great ball, again from Woods, found Oates down the right wing and he made it look easy. Stepping over challenges he laid the ball off for Newton who only had to stoke it into the net making it four nil to the Hartlepool.

What a difference this was to Saturday when we were under the cosh from Aldershot. Today it was a very good performance from what some of the pundits around me called a very well balanced side. Every man played his part today from Loach right through the team, the rollicking worked a treat. There was an argument as to Man-of-the-Match. Ditchburn gave it to Woods who was back to his best but I favoured the engine of Oates who had some clever touches tonight and never stopped taking the game to them

Not a Shot

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 0 Aldershot 2 (National League)
Saturday November 18th 2017
Victoria Park

A blast from the past as we meet an old foe down in this non league of football.

Both on the radio and among the fans going to the ground, and with two consecutive home games to come, the expectations were high. Both teams in a similar position in the league, good chance to get a result today and push for the play-off position against Halifax on Tuesday. The manager said he was going against the grain to pick an attacking set up for the game. Will someone please tell him that is what the home fans expect and we have seen very little attacking threat all season.

His plan was to go four four two with Cassidy and Rodney leading the charge, Now Cassidy has played twenty minutes’ football in the last three months and Rodney still does not know what position he should be in when we are attempting to attack. Sorry but the lad always seems to be running the wrong way.

Now a rant. Will the club at least warn the fans about these cheap day tickets for non-football fans. I am all for attracting more people to the Vic, it is good business and assures the survival of football in the town. As I made my way to the ground just a tad late, you just expect to get to “your” spot on the terrace that you have stood in for the last thirty years and people around you respect that. Today with this one-pound-a-ticket-for-youngsters turned out to be a disaster for me. There were six kids standing in my spot.
"if you don’t shoot you don’t score"

OK, you move in as close as you can and expect them at some point to drift off. Today was not going to be like that. This gang were the most obnoxious group of youngsters I have ever met at the ground. Both boys and girls used such bad language between them it would have shamed a bunch of squaddies on the razz. They foul-mouthed each other and other kids who passed, and when they did watch the match, which was very little, anyone on the pitch got the same treatment.

One comment from a young lad of about eleven years old was “I don’t give a **** about the ******* language I just *******say it. He said "I am going over to ask my dad for some more money" - why the hell was he not with his dad instead of harassing old folk like me.

The game. OK, the faint-hearted fans who claim game after game that we had sixty-seventy percent of the possession need to wake up and smell the salt air. We were at home and we bumbled through the first half without even a shot on target; we had no threat whatsoever against a team who stood back, weighed us up, then led us to the slaughter. The highlight of the first half was a great tackle from Donnelly to rob the striker of possession, otherwise he was one-on-one with Loach in the box.

Loach made a dive into feet to stop an attack and was lucky not to have been injured as the striker was off the ground leading with both feet. That was it until on forty-five minutes the Shots broke into the box, a simple ball down the line was chipped into the box for a free header; clever play that by the striker Mensah.

The comments at half time were "if you don’t shoot you don’t score". Simple logic from the fans but apparently not for the Pools players.

A nice little diversion at half time saw Malcolm Dawes come on the pitch to finally receive the Player-of-the-Year trophy he should have received in 1973. Shame he had to wait so long.

The second half we were expecting the manager to change things as we were not making progress. The first half had just given the visitors confidence and instead of us taking the game to them they set about us big time. Both teams had a goal ruled out for offside but again it was the visitors running the show. And then there was the obvious time-wasting, with players not even involved in the game going down, and with the rules being that if someone goes down the ref has to stop the game.

The slowest walk off you have ever seen was performed by an Aldershot player, which just frustrates the fans. In this division every team I have seen this season uses the same tactics; maybe we have to learn something.

The visitors ran out worthy winners as they scored a second goal and thoroughly deserved the win. Apart from the odd flick at goal the only save their keeper had to make was from a low cross come shot from Richardson late in the game. He was so pleased to see the ball he milked it all the way, diving to the ground clutching the ball.

The manager has to realise that his system at home needs more than tinkering and he should not field players on a whim. Places should be earned and then he might get some fight out of them.

Funny Old Game

Boreham Stiff

Match report by ALREET

Boreham Wood 0 Pools 0  (National League)
Saturday November 11th 2017
Meadow Park

I was looking forward to this game as, in the absence of Barnet, it has now become my local venue. I continue to be confused by the fact that Borehamwood is the home of Boreham Wood FC which, I believe, was its original spelling. Things were much simpler when we referred to the place as Boreham Stiff.

Although I've driven past the ground several times in the past, I took the bus/es this time and lost my way slightly on one of the roundabouts (taking the 'gypsies', I was to discover that the bus I had just left at Tesco, thinking that I had gone past my stop, actually stops right outside the bloody ground!). I asked several people if they knew the location of the ground but was quite amazed when every one of them said, "Sorry. I don't live round here".

I decided to ask the last couple of girls, "I'm not being nosey but everyone has said the same thing - where are you going?" and they replied, "We're off to see Strictly” something or other. I then spotted a chap standing with his young son at a bus stop so asked about the ground and, fortunately, he told me that I had taken the wrong exit off the roundabout. Five minutes later, I was waltzling through the car park and on my way to the visitor’s entrance.

A couple of Poolies followed me and asked one of the stewards if they could get a drink in the bar only to be informed that they couldn’t and would have to return to Wetherspoons on the roundabout. Obviously none too impressed with this, it drew the response, “I don’t like their beer”. The ground itself is small but neat with stands on both sides and two open ends. We were allocated the end with the entrance and half of the adjoining seats. Having a stroll around the ground it dawned on me that the even, lush playing surface had an immaculate edge to it and is, in fact, artificial.

Boreham Wood were early into their stride and Loach was forced to punch away a high cross. Featherstone committed a foul on the halfway line but the long free kick went straight out for a goal kick. A shot from distance forced Loach to push the ball away before he cleared the danger. Smith, their No.2, sped down our left flank before delivering a hard, low cross across our area but we were lucky that it was a whisker away from being converted. Andrade, their lively No.11, was causing us problems with his footwork and direct running wide and through our defence. He tried his luck again but Loach collected his shot.
"We obviously need to start scoring a few goals if we are to make progress against teams in this very ordinary league."

We conceded a free kick on the halfway line which Smith took in his stride as he raced forward and his pass was met by their No.23 whose shot was deflected for a corner. Oates, who had been working hard, made three great tackles in quick succession. He then received the ball wide on the left of the opposition’s half, cut inside his man and got a shot away that was our first meaningful effort of the afternoon.

Adams made a typical charge upfield but his pass went behind Oates. Richardson bundled his man over and received a raspberry from the ref for his efforts. Deverdics set up an attack with a neat pass but the move was ended when he got flattened on the edge of their area. The kick was taken by Franks but his effort didn’t even clear their wall. We were beginning to have a say in matters and Franks saw a shot blocked. Rodney put in a good run down their right but the ball was scrambled away for a throw in.

Play switched ends and Loach saved a shot from the edge of our area. Andrade made another tricky run down our left but the final ball drifted just wide of our upright. Rodney on a run found Adams whose fierce shot was saved by the keeper before the ref decided that it was time for a cuppa. Due to the artificial pitch, it was interesting to see that during the break, there were no long forks on view but a couple of very short versions and, beguilingly, chaps wandering around with black buckets into which they were dropping items of I know not what as they were minuscule and couldn’t be identified. Or was it all a con and they were just pretending to pick things up?

The second half had hardly got under way when a ball was played into our area and Harrison followed his man who was running wide before bundling him over and the ref pointed to the spot. Andrade stepped up to take the kick but his effort was tame in the extreme and Loach made the save to keep us in the game. The Pools crowd who had been vociferous until that point immediately increased the volume at the let off; we do get some tremendous support at these games. Undaunted, another long ball was played into our box but we were alert to it and cleared it to safety.

We then had another escape after a free kick was headed across our goal and drilled home by their stocky No.10 but the ref had already spotted an infringement and blown for a foul. We had another slice of luck when a shot hit one of his own players before we hoofed it clear. Andrade latched onto a through ball and skimmed past Laing but Loach saved his first attempt and he put the rebound into the side netting.

Deverdics left the field at this point and Adeloye came on in his place. We conceded a corner on our right but the resulting header was wide of the target. Cassidy, who had replaced the willing Oates, received the ball wide on our left before neatly turning his man and played a low ball across the six yard box where the onrushing Rodney narrowly failed to connect with it. Adeloye showed a neat turn of pace with a mazey run inside from the left touchline which took him past three or four players. Andrade dispossessed Richardson on our right flank but Loach managed to divert his shot to safety with his boot and that was that.

Yet another game where I thought we rode our luck and were fortunate that Boreham Wood had left their shooting boots at home. That and the obligatory commendable performance from Loach ensured that Pools made the long journey home with a point under their belts. We were generally composed in defence but are still guilty of giving the ball away in dangerous positions. Harrison and Laing won several important headers and the former made a vital block late in the game to balance conceding the penalty.

Richardson continues to make progress while Adams poses a threat whenever he decides to head upfield. I have been a fan of this aspect of his game but he does seem to stand off his man at times when defending. Featherstone lost the ball a few times which is unusual for him. George is growing into his position in midfield while Deverdics flitted in and out of the game with some deft touches.

Oates ran his socks off once again. As in the Torquay match where he looked knackered, taking a glug at every opportunity, this appears to be his role - being replaced with a fresh pair of legs. Rodney was energetic as usual, making some strong runs but lacking composure. I liked the way he charged back after losing the ball, taking out his man in the process, Franks offered little but then we produced little threat in attack generally. Perhaps with Cassidy returning to the fray, we might at last have a constructive pattern up front.

We obviously need to start scoring a few goals if we are to make progress against teams in this very ordinary league. Boreham Wood aren’t a bad side with speedy attackers willing to take on and get behind defenders and on another day would probably have made more of their chances. Their large no-nonsense defenders made sure they cleared the ball and didn’t bother to play the ball out from the back. At corners, they employed an unusual tactic with four attackers/defenders lined up, arms on shoulders, on the penalty spot before breaking in different directions as the kick was taken.

The crowd totalled 773 of which there was a healthy 285 contingent from Pools. Oh, and apart from a couple of occasions when he penalized Pools for “making a back”, I thought that the ref had a decent game for once.

Up for the Cup

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Morecambe 3 Pools 0 (FA Cup)
Saturday November 4th 2017
Globe Arena

I was talked into getting a ticket for this game. Looking at our form I thought we might be in with a chance of an away draw and the subsequent home game to bring some money into the coffers. 

One reason I wanted to return to the Globe Arena was that the first (and last) visit I made was when we, despite the efforts of Dave Jones, managed a draw. Looking back, we did have a five-two win there the season before when the goalkeeper Roach had a wobbler in front of the Pools fans and was sent off. So from 2-5 to 1-1 and now 3-0, we have become progressively worse at Morecambe.

I wanted to go back a second time as last year I had hoped to see the statue of Morecambe’s famous son John Eric Bartholomew, or as he was better known, Eric Morecambe. I liked Eric Morecambe back in the day, I thought he was a funny man despite his little side kick with the short hairy legs. I was told last season that from the ground it was too far to walk to see the statue, as we were in Snapper's car and he had to get in the ground early, I thought about getting a bus but it was a twenty-minute wait so despite a warning from the sprog it would take an hour. OK we can stop here and wait for an hour for food that never came as the Snapper* did.
"we had no game plan other than to hoof the ball away and it just kept coming back; we literally ran out of ideas."

So we set off down the side streets to cut down the distance rather than head for the sea front and follow the prom. Overall it took about an hour to get there and back. One thing about using the back streets - you see what the town is like behind the shabby fa├žade of the seaside resort. It is just like all the other seaside towns that have fallen out of favour with the British public who now enjoy warmer climes for their jollies. A bit more run down than most, it reminds me of Seaton Carew on a dull day. Despite all the money spent on Seaton I still say the best thing about Seaton Carew is the view of the Headland, but I may be a little biased.

We made it to the statue after stopping to help an old local chap who had fallen off his mobility scooter after hitting the post of a street sign. He was a little shaken up bur once we got him back on his scooter and got it started again he was off home. We crossed the road to the statue to get a photo. I always thought of Eric being a tall man, but maybe they cut down on the cost by making a reduced size statue of this giant of British entertainment.

We hiked back to the stadium on the strength of a local meat and potato pie which I would rate six out of ten as I was hungry. It was a good job after hearing how The Snapper had fared in the pub grub stakes, He did get his drink free after complaining twice about the service that never happened. As you can see from my efforts to entertain you all I have waffled my way to a decent word count simply because there was very little to write about in the football stakes.

It is a tidy ground the Globe Arena but the roof of the away stand behind the goal did not shade the eyes from the low autumn sun, so it was a good job in the first half that the clouds were rolling in. One drawback was that the area behind the stands was too small for half time recreation and what turned out to be unisex toilets brought screams of horror or delight from the ladies during their ablutions as they came from the cubicles seeing half a dozen blokes queuing up to use the same facilities. Surely they were not away fans?

The football. Two names we will remember: Kevin Ellison, the tall, rangy, bald striker who has tortured Pools for far too long was making a return to the team after injury. He loves to score against Pools and always does. And he did. Along with another player Adam McGurk whose combined ages must be eighty-six, used cunning and guile and pulled us all over the pitch all afternoon. Ellison duly got an early goal from poor defending and we struggled to get anything going at all in the first half and were lucky to go in just the one goal down.

Hawkins took a booking for a two footed lunge early in the game that deserved a card. Morecambe played the ref all the game, one player going down four times in the first half after some innocuous challenges. The only real chance of the half I remember was when Featherstone made a run into the box, but once there he had no idea what to do next. A shot may have helped but he stood motionless then stroked the ball to a defender who wellied it away.

Second half Pools stepped it up a bit, playing towards our fans. We made hard work of it and were living on scraps as we looked as if we had no game plan other than to hoof the ball away and it just kept coming back; we literally ran out of ideas. One incident saw the ref pulling up Donnelly and booking him, after pointing around the ground to show where he had made bad tackles but we thought he had taken the rap for some of the tackles George had made. One of them needs to get a shave!

As we all now know, we got beat three-nil and the goals came on the break as Pools pushed forward looking for an equaliser, one goal was credited to Loach which was a bit unfair as a shot came off the post hit him on the back of the head and went in the goal. As you know I do not normally do away games but I have to say the Pools travelling fans are something else. They backed the lads all the way and even though we were three nil down with fifteen minutes to go the fans all crowded down to the edge of the pitch and the noise was unbelievable. At home three nil down with fifteen minutes to go would have seen all the glory hunters leaving the ground with gestures of mock disgust These true fans supported the team all the way and to a man the Pools players all came down to the fence to salute the travelling army. It was a pleasure to watch.

Now I have my pic I have no reason to travel two and a half hours to see the sea -  I have that at home.

* The Snapper is a certain gentleman who always brings his own seat to the Vic - Ed

Any Other Business


So frustrating

As several contributors are saying elsewhere in this edition, this season is turning out to be as frustrating as the last one, with similar financial pressures preventing the acquisition of desperately-needed new players, and a lot of tedious football being churned out. Pools' current mid-table position is mainly due to the two 'L's, Loach and Luck. Loach saved us points and Luck gained us points. Without either we'd be really struggling, but we need more than that to have a realistic chance of  the playoffs.

Former owners

The final outcome of the trial of the fraudsters who took over Pools at the end of 2014 was that Stephen Murrall got 8 years and his accomplice Peter Harris got two and a half years. While their crimes didn't have much visible impact on Pools as a League Two club, they ended up doing time (and rightly so).

Gary Coxall, their successor in the boardroom, whose tenure was pretty disastrous for Pools, has become bankrupt (again) and thus will be free to take on  company directorships again within a year, ironically around the time Peter Harris (who may have been more naive than anything else) gets a chance of early release.

And finally...

We'd like to pass on seasonal best wishes to all Monkey Business readers and contributors, and hope that you all (and Pools) have a good time.