Deja Vu


I started last month's Monkey Business by detailing Pools' November record of four losses and one win in five games, scoring eight and conceding four.

Each night we hear the same old banal paper talk from players and manager alike quotes such as 'Pools are in for extra training'. 'Harsh words used in the dressing room' 'The players must stand up and be counted' 'We are better than this' ' We have to raise our standards' etc etc. I fear shortly based on December's results we will be soon hearing that 'We are too good to go down'.

At the time of writing, in the event of Pools suffering a ten points deduction for going into administration, it would see the club one place above the bottom four by one point. Mind, if the Chester game had gone ahead and Pools had lost, they would be in the drop zone. December's results were even worse than November's: played five, drew one, lost four. Goals scored 4, goals conceded 11. It makes even worse reading when one of the results was the humiliating and costly cup exit at the hands of part-time Workington, two divisions below Pools.

The home defeat at against Maidenhead was equally humiliating on two counts:

1) After the Workington result Harrison had his team in the following day for training. During the week, ahead of the Maidenhead game we are told that the players put in a couple of double shift training sessions, which on reflection is just as well as the score could have been a lot worse.

2) Part timers Maidenhead have taken six points from Pools. Oh sorry, and all due respect to Pools, that isn't exactly true. I have since been informed that Maidenhead have two full time professionals on their books.

Basically since the beginning of November there has been no improvement whatsoever in style of play, tactics and more importantly results. Come to think of it, if I am brutally honest, there has been little or no improvement since last season, let alone this season. We are now at the stage of the season were we are playing teams the second time around. Already Maidenhead and Dover have taken, sorry, being given, six points from Pools, Dover giving us a damn good thrashing in the process, whilst Macclesfield have taken four points.

As I type this Macclesfield are 21 points clear of Pools which, taking nothing away from the Macc lads, apart from the four points that we gifted them, is a damning statement on how far we are off the pace. Never mind, there is always the play-offs I hear Craig Harrison say, but Pools are currently ten points adrift and would have to win four games just to catch up, and some teams have a couple of games in hand of Pools.

I can't make out if it is the Manager or the players who are culpable. In truth I think it is a a bit of both, or perhaps a lot of both. Craig Harrison is classed as a progressive manager with all his stats percentages, game plans, charts, tag lines etc etc. This may be all very well for a manager blessed with a talented squad of players who understands what is required and take it on board. At National league level and particularly in the Pools camp one needs to factor in the level of ability in the squad and play to their strengths ...if of course they have any, and try to not baffle them with too much science.

"one needs to factor in the level of ability in the squad and play to their strengths ...if of course they have any"
Many fans on the terraces, myself included, are now of the opinion that Craig Harrison is well out of his depth at this level. Although there is discontent mounting on the terraces there has not been any chanting demanding his dismissal as the fans are aware that Pools cannot afford to sack him and fund a replacement. The only way that can be done is if Harrison nobly decides to call it a day and resign with no strings attached for the benefit of himself and more importantly the club.

Another alternative is now that some monies will be freed up from releasing the two loanees Adeloye and Thorne and possibly Scott Harrison in January to get someone in, like Ronnie Moore or Eddie Kyle on a token wage to assist him in much the way Terry Venables was brought into the borer set up when Byran Robson was struggling with the managerial side of things. Another possibility would be to send Harrison away to spend three or four days with the successful Cowley brothers, the joint management team at Lincoln City, to get their input on how to manage a team at this level and get them out of this league.

If Craig Harrison is to make a fist of things I think that he should be harder on the players. Tell Deverdics for example to to stop bleaching his hair as he looks like a wuss, and concentrate on his football.

Because of the recent run of poor results, much like Sam Allyardyce at Everton, Harrison should have put his foot down and cancelled the players' Christmas party. Dublin I heard. Harrison should go back to basics and play 4-4-2 at home and, unless circumstances dictate 4-5-1, away from home. If it means ugly football as opposed to woeful football so be it. The manager needs to drop the tactic of having his starting eleven encamped in their own the penalty area when defending corners and to leave one man up front. Basic basic, basic stuff.

I am unable to recollect any other team in this division that uses this ploy. Harrison needs to look at how many goals Pools have conceded from this statagem. Not sure how many that is, but plenty seems to ring a bell.

He should consider why 'Pools concede so many goals within the first ten and last ten minutes of a match. Concentration and fitness spring to mind here.

As for the players, let's not beat about the bush, it is a poor squad, average at best. Due to two year contracts we are stuck with many of the team that successfully got us relegated in the first place. To make matters worse, half the players that Craig Harrison has brought in are no better than what we had previously and the other half are injury prone or both. One ex-Pools legend has commented that he would scatter the whole of the current squad as they have no heart.

The only level of consistency that Pools have is that of inconsistency throughout the side. One week a player will have a blinder then he can't play for toffee the following week. This is something few managers can legislate for unless by dropping them (but then they are still on the payroll), or shipping them out elsewhere (but who would have them?)

We have been told that injuries have had a big impact on results. I don't buy into this. We have a squad of 29 professionals which is bigger than most league clubs. Until the loss of the two right backs Magnay and Richardson a few weeks ago we have had cover in pretty much every position on the field. The only significant loss was Keith Watson who not only kept our opponents' forwards at bay but had the added benefit of keeping one or other of the chuckle brothers from playing in our back four.

We have not missed Ryan Donaldson at all as prior to his injury he was fairly anonymous in most games. In the little of what I have seen of Luke George he has failed to impress at all and is probably better off in the sick bay as far as the first team is concerned. The midfield is slightly more attack-minded with the benefit of Featherstone's absence, so the ball is not being returned to his keeper at regular intervals. Jake Cassidy has yet to start firing on all cylinders since his eagerly awaited return so I cannot accept the injury situation as an excuse for our current league standing.

I thought that last season's league two was poor but the National League is even worse, with some truly awful sides it.

No team has a divine right to win the league or gain promotion but one would have thought that with the resources Craig Harrison has at his disposal Pools would be making more of a fist of it. I never thought for one instant at this stage of the season that we would be 21 points, yes 21 points behind the league leaders.

The one thing Craig Harrison has done so far is firmly establish Pools as a National League side. After today's game against The Plastic Geordies at the Vic he should be taking a good long hard look at himself, however he would probably respond to that with "Hartlepool United are unbeaten in 2018".