Showing posts from August, 2018
Steady as She Goes!


When Jim Callaghan was Prime Minister, he outlined his strategy for running the country as ‘Steady as she goes’. The phrase was a throwback to his navy days and he used it to emphasise that he wouldn’t be taking any risks given the state of the economy in the 1970s. In some ways, we could apply that to Pools, particularly after the ordeal of last season when we nearly went out of business.

Under performing players have been shown the door and they’ve been replaced by relevant signings. One in particular is Andrew Davies who, hopefully, will bring stability to the defence given his experience over the years. Last season, I said that most teams in this league seem to have 6’ 3” centre halves; well, Pools have joined the club with one. The fact that Andrew Davies has been appointed captain shows that Matthew Bates wants leadership on the field – a favourite topic of mine. On the other side of the coin, we’ve gone for youth and Niko Muir and Marcus Dinanga should give us encouragement up front. Add to the fact that Michael Woods is remaining with Pools then we can look forward with some optimism.

Pools' ‘steady as she goes’ contrasts sharply with Salford City who seem to be signing all and sundry to get into the Football League. When a club like Salford City can pay higher wages then Aberdeen then you know they’re pushing the boat out.

In addition, we seem to be getting things right off the field – the open day, the fans’ forum and a hands on approach from Raj Singh. And then there’s been a good response to the new replica shirts – a snip at £38 when you compare the prices being charged by bog standard Premier League clubs. The fact that Pools seem to be getting things right is borne out by the fact that there’s been very little criticism of the club on social media. There’s always some people will moan to their hearts content but at the moment the moaners are far and few between.
"The only way WE can punish the FA is to boycott the purchase of England replica shirts ...How about it Poolies?"

Just in case you missed it, England reached the semi-finals of the World Cup. Seriously, though, they excelled themselves and this was achieved in spite of, and not because of, the FA. They were remarkably silent on England’s achievement and I now know why - they were busy clobbering Pools with a £25,000 fine over breaking rules on payments to intermediaries relating to transfers. The fact that these indiscretions took place during the tenure of the previous owners mattered little; the FA had to be seen to be throwing the rule book at someone and Pools were in the firing line. I wonder what the FA will waste the £25,000 on! The only way WE can punish the FA is to boycott the purchase of England replica shirts – over a period of years the FA might just lose more than the £25,000. How about it Poolies?

Two comments need to be made about the refereeing of two England games. In the Colombian game the American referee, Mark Geiger, was criticised for not being in control of the game. But how can you control a game when around seven players are surrounding you questioning every decision? Had I been in Mr Geiger’s boots, I would have gone over to the Colombian manager with an instruction to control his players - or else the game would be abandoned. Fortunately, there were no complaints over Bjorn Kuipers in his handling of the England v Sweden game. As one scribe put it “Three bookings, but the Dutchman won’t have had many easier afternoons”. Any chance of having him at Pools this season for a few matches?

Anyway, Have a good season – and stay happy!!

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Neale Cooper 1963-2018


When, Neale Cooper was appointed as manager by Ken Hodcroft following the departure of Mike Newell, the almost universal reaction was "who?"

Nearly two years later, when Neale left "by mutual consent" with Pools having got to the playoffs in his first season and with the playoffs almost achieved again (the ones which were to take Pools to Cardiff for their finest hour), the almost universal reaction was "why?"

In between, Neale endeared himself to Poolies for his honesty, his humour, his encouragement of an attractive playing style, his willingness to give young players their chance, and probably most important, his rapport with the fans. Whether it was chatting to a fan out in the street or being interviewed by the media, he always seemed the same - just a great bloke.

Neale could make people laugh

And his death has brought forth tributes from Poolies, some who never met him, all saying much the same about him. But also back in Scotland former fans and players from his playing days at Aberdeen and then Rangers were no different in their reaction to his untimely passing. He seemed to be loved by just about everybody. Which is possibly one of his greatest achievements, even if he did win the European Cup-Winners' Cup with Aberdeen in 1983.

With some of  his former players

Neale's second stint at Pools may not have been as successful as his first, but he was constrained by the financial pressures which afflicted all managers in the latter years of IOR ownership, pressures that would get even worse after his second departure, but that second spell never dimmed Poolies' affection for Neale. An affection reflected in the universal approval for the renaming of the Mill House Stand as the Neale Cooper Stand.

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Funny Old Game

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It's a New Dawn


It is a long time since I have felt so optimistic about a new season as I do about this one.

We are lucky to have an owner like Mr Singh and the professional management team he put together which is night and day apart from the bunch of Ragged Arse Rovers who have infested our club for the past few years.

I have my doubts about Matthew Bates as head coach but perhaps he deserves a chance with proper backing after getting us through at the end of last season. And with Craig Hignett as director of football I believe the big decisions will be down to Craig and I am happy with that.

It is unusual for a fifth tier club to be able to afford to employ a director of football specially since the talk of money being so sparse. I can remember when we had a Director of Sport and he couldn't direct his own piss down a urinal. Yet he took the manager's job off Danny Wilson, one of our top five managers ever, and made a right balls of it.

With the Hartlepool Fail, which I used to work for years ago when it was a newspaper, telling us all summer that we would have to get rid of the transfer-listed before we could bring in any new faces it was nice to see nine players arriving. Obviously Mr Singh is putting money in and not boasting about it which is another good thing about this management team. Although it is going a bit far giving a year's contract to Xavi Featherfanny who will surely struggle to get a first team place this season. Nice move in offloading Scott Harrison to Falkirk and some cash into the bargain. You will always find a mug out there if you wait long enough. And Jack Munns looks like the next one to follow him out the door. If we could get rid of Woods, Donaldson and Cassidy we might have room to bring in a young loan signing.

Of the new signings I would describe two of them as cartwheel signings. Andrew Davies and Liam Noble are experienced players who have played at a far higher standard and are not too old. One thing is for certain is that no one will be taking liberties with us anymore as these two both like a tackle and have a nasty streak in them which we have been missing for a long time.

Anyone in doubt should watch YouTube for the red card Davies got for Ross County for a tackle on Celtic's Scott Brown. Ouch. Now Brown is the biggest wind-up merchant in Scotland but he sure wasn't expecting that one.
"Of the new signings I would describe two of them as cartwheel signings"

To solve our lack of goals we have brought in Niko Muir and Marcus Dinanga both prolific scorers in leagues lower to us and hopefully will be able to continue in the National League with us. And Luke James returning to the club should also boost our attacking options.

The jury out is out on some of the other signings although the two new wing backs Peter Kisolo and Mark Kitching look very promising on friendly games appearances.

Although the hammering we got from the Borer brought us back down to earth and to reassess our chances for the new season. That said The Smoggies had £21m worth of strikers playing for them and we certainly wont be facing that quality in the National League. As for our neighbours' chances, it is safe to say that Tony Pulis will either coach the goals out of them or let them go for knockdown fees.

One of the saddest things to happen in the summer was the sudden death of Neale Cooper aged 54. In his first spell as manager of Pools he was one of the most successful ever. His dismissal before the play-off final, along with the injury to Thomas Butler, stopped us getting to the Championship. I believe the reason for his dismissal has never been forthcoming from the Secret Society Hodcroft presided over.

So the decision of the new management team to rename the Mill House Stand as the Neale Cooper Stand was a wonderful gesture as was to specially invite members of his family to the opening.

One unpleasant surprise was the £25,000 FA fine for indiscretions by the previous regime. It seems grossly unfair that Mr Singh has to pay this while the shitehawks responsible get off scot-free. And our former CEO, Rotund Russ, went from being Chief Executive of the Year, self appointed, to copping a £10,000 fine and a year's ban from football for his part in the episode. He of course was responsible for selling the club to two dodgy sets of owners - maybe he is not as good at his job as he thinks he is. Either way we are well rid of him.

The open day and fans forum proved a big success and selling 500 new shirts proved to be a good bit of business. Most fans who attended seemed well impressed with the progress being made after us nearly going under at the start of the year.

I am looking forward to the start of the season and a top 10 finish which could be achievable. We are definitely going in the right direction and have the right men running the club. C'mon you Pools!

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New Beginnings


The start of a new era saw Pools throw their gates open to the fans, which proved a great success with almost 500 in the ground to see the team photoshoot and the unveiling of Pools' new strip. Judging by the numbers you would have thought it was the Turin Shroud that was going on display and not a blue and white footy shirt.

Encouraging to see Pools players in
intense training for climbing up the
steps to the Royal Box at Wembley.
As well as bouncy castles for the kids (and some adults too), it was good to see the players mingle with the fans and this can only strengthen the bond between club and supporters. I think the last time the club organised an event of this scale was when Harold Hornsey was in charge, when the new stand, now the Cyril Knowles Stand, was opened for the first time. When the team official team photo had been taken fans were also allowed on the pitch (Not today as it is sacred turf!), to take their own. I have a photo somewhere of my son aged three or four with Keith Houchen and Mick Tait. My son is twenty six in a few weeks time. Frightening.

On the day Mick Tait was wearing that bizarre away shirt, the red one with the white shoulder and slanting light blue and red stripes. Not saying it fits but still got mine. Regarding the new shirt I was hoping for something other than stripes unless it was something along the lines of an Argentina light blue or West Brom navy blue style (Sacrilege! -Ed.) That said, the new shirt is not bad at all though I am not fussed on the white patch on the rear. The away shirt is very smart and in a fit of madness I got the old credit card out and purchased one of each.

"it was good to see the players mingle with the fans and this can only strengthen the bond between club and supporters"
Peter Kioso and Niko Muir, both of
whom have impressed pre-season.
Scotty Loach as always at the back.
The supporters obviously liked the new styles as there was a queue out the door of the club shop. At one point I thought they were giving gold bars away. I got into my feminine side (the bra was really uncomfortable) and I patiently waited three quarters of an hour to get served, counting 43 people ahead of me and almost the same behind. Then I thought what a hypocrite I am. The previous day, there I was queueing in Matalan with only four people in front of me and three tills open and bemoaning the fact that they wouldn't open more tills to speed the process along. I think I waited all of three minutes to get served. I guess it is a case of "there are shops, and there are shops".

Michael Woods asking
for a fan's autograph
The re-engagement with the supporters continued later that evening when Raj Singh and the board and management held a question and answer session at the Corporation Club about how they want to take the club forward after the debacle of the last 18 months. Despite some reservations about Raj after his previous involvement with our neighbours in Darlington, he was very well received and wants to make amends.

The question that got the biggest round of applause on the evening was when Matty Bates was asked about the tactic of leaving one man up front when defending corners, as we have seen in pre-season, is going to be the norm rather than having eleven in the box. In some instances he said that he hopes to have two up front but it will always be a case of horses for courses.

The fans were assured that the remainder of Jack Munns' contract was not fully paid up and a mutual agreement that benefitted Pools and the player was agreed so that he could return closer to his home.

Mark McGuire the (CEO) said, and I would not disagree with him, that one area of the club that needs a massive revamp is the commercial department, which seems to have lost its way and needs to reconnect with businesses in the town and further afield. He mentioned that some advertising hoardings around the ground had remained in place long after the businesses they advertised had ceased their sponsorship. I often wondered about those signs for Bruce Moore's and Bee Lee Coach tours.

All in all a very enjoyable and satisfying day. Let the season commence.

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Dear Vicki

The Bizz agony aunt solves all your problems

Dear Vicki,
I am a Premier League footballer who plays for a top club as well as my country, yet many football fans continually criticise me because I'm a very quick but miss a lot of goals. My league and international managers obviously have faith in me so why can't the public stop criticising me?
RS, Manchester

Dear RS,
It's just a fact of life that some people of mediocre talent are popular whereas other more gifted individuals can be less appreciated. And in these days when all professional footballers are celebrities to some extent, that means that their personalities as well as their talents come into the mix. So being a jovial character, not getting involved in controversy and being a player who never shirks on the pitch all can improve your public acceptance, whereas skiving and running about like a schoolgirl or a headless chicken may work against you. So try to always do your best, avoid the pitfalls and I'm sure the footballing public will come round. Even if new clubs don't. 


Dear Vicki,
After another very successful World Cup, I would just like to point out that it would not have happened without my unstinting efforts to organise it. So how can my great contribution now be so comprehensively airbrushed out of history?
SB, Zurich

Dear SB,
Very easily! 

Dear Vicki,
I am the manager of a team in the Championship and I am continuously derided for having dull teams which only play the long-ball game, which I have used at all of my clubs. Admittedly it's not as entertaining for the fans, and admittedly I've rarely won anything, but surely being consistent is something to be admired.
TP, Middlesbrough

Dear TP,
Indeed you are right. These days people change their systems all the time, quite often several times during a game, and it can be confusing for both players and fans when they do so. You should be applauded for using your team tactics consistently, even if they are consistently dreary.

Dear Vicki,
I am a Brazilian footballer who plays in France, and at the World Cup I was criticised for rolling and thrashing around on the ground at the merest touch by an opposition player. This is so unfair! As one of the world's most valuable players, I have a duty to protect my club's investment as the slightest injury could end my career, so I'm just making sure I make a full recovery before returning to the game. Do you think I ought to cut it out, play on and risk exacerbating a slight knock?
N, Saint Germain, Paris

Dear N,
Not at all. Your fans have probably come to expect it, so keep doing what you do. If, as you say, it possibly protects you from further, more serious injury, then that is a valid consideration, but have you considered the serious injury which might ensue from winding up the opposition? 

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All Aboard!


Roll up! Roll up! All aboard for the 2017/18 Hartlepool United roller coaster which is about to depart for its second run in the National League. Here's hoping that it will be a bit less bumpy than last season and we won't be taken for the proverbial ride. 

Very much like a repeat of last July, a decent pre-season under Pools belt and what on paper looks to be some excellent signings. Fingers crossed that some of the new signings such as the likes of Noble, McLaughlin and Davies perform better than last season's counterparts of George, Munns and Laing. From what I have seen so far in pre-season is very encouraging. Other signings such as Muir, Kitching and Kioso have impressed. Dinanga looks quick and, like Muir, has a reputation for finding the net on a regular basis.

I said at the end of last season that Pools should make a move for Luke James and that a meet-the-chairman talk-in should be organised as quickly as possible for the club to re-engage with the supporters. I am delighted to see both these things transpired. Luke James will score goals but equally as important with his work rate he will run all day and create goals and chase lost causes and defenders down, forcing them into errors and conceding possession.

We now seem to have a spine down the centre of the team of Loach, Davies and James/Muir. Add Davies, Kitching, McLoughlin and Noble, and that is the nucleus of a decent side. Davies, apart from looking like a Viking,  is a leader and very vocal. He dominates both boxes and will score and create goals from his presence in the opposition's box.

The stand-out player for me so far, is Liam Noble. Again, like Andrew Davies, he's very vocal and wants the ball all the time. His distribution is excellent and unlike last season's midfield, he is not afraid to put a tackle in. I am sure he will be a referee's favourite. Noble might be just the player to bring Nicky Featherstone, to whom I am going to give a clean slate for this season, out of his shell.

It was noticeable against Spennymoor that Featherstone did not play as deep as usual and actually made several forward runs and passes. If Noble could only convince him to have a shot at goal every so often and reassure him that there is not a force field around the white lines of the penalty box to prevent him from entering it, then he might realise his full potential. Andrew Davies likewise could also be the making of Louis Laing, who, in my opinion if he did not make so many schoolboy errors, could be a decent footballer who with his skills is well capable of carrying the ball from defence and over the halfway line.

When I read that 'the much sought after' Myles Anderson had signed for Pools I checked out his CV online and I must confess that I wasn't holding my breath - a centre-half with a similar history to that of Louis Laing: a good few clubs under his belt at a young age. Prior to joining Pools he spent the last year with the mighty Titans of Barrow, Chester and Torquay, which did not send the pulses racing. Two of them got relegated and thanks mainly to the goals of Luke James, Barrow only retained National League status by the skin of their teeth.
"...he is not afraid to put a tackle in. I am sure he will be a referee's favourite."

A note of caution:  my main concern is that new consortium who have taken over Pools said that they would have to introduce a cost-cutting exercise to ensure the club will continue to trade. This is even more relevant particularly as the club's parachute payment will be 50% less than it was last season. Our squad and backroom staff is pretty much the same size as the previous season and the academy is still in place. I am guessing that in order to gain the respective signatures of Liam Noble and Andrew Davies they will have become two of the higher earners at the club, on a par with the likes of Cassidy and Munns.

As it stands, unless we manage to ship out a few of the transfer-listed players,  it would appear to the outsider that our overheads are worryingly even greater than those of last season. I am not sure who would come in for Cassidy, Newton and Munns, particularly if a fee is involved, as that would probably preclude most non-league clubs from making an offer, and even then, could they match the wages these players currently enjoy?

Stop Press: According to the Mail the club is to pay up Munns' contract. Hopefully it is only a percentage of the full contract as otherwise what is the point if there is little or no saving to the club. That being the case we might as well hang on to him.

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Funny Old Game

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Le Football Revient a la Maison


Well, if nothing else, the World Cup, aided and abetted by the excellent summer weather, was a welcome distraction to the close season which did not drag on as it normally does. 

It did not seem any length of time before pre-season was upon us. In fact two of England's matches clashed with two of Pools' pre-season fixtures. Though I wait for it to be confirmed, rumour had it that FIFA and the BBC got in touch with Pools and requested that they bring forward the kick-off time of their friendly with Billingham to 12pm as the original kick off time of 3pm would clash with the England Colombia game and they feared that viewing figures could be drastically affected.

The next England fixture to clash with Pools was the third place play-off match with Belgium. On the same day Pools hosted Sunderland at the Vic and a crowd just short of 4,000 turned up, which I thought spoke volumes for the club v country debate. I bet Gary Lineker would be horrified that this number of people, along with thousands of others throughout the country, much preferred watching their own teams play in pre-season friendly matches rather than roar on the national side to a third place losers' spot, or is it the runners-ups' runners-up place?

I don't doubt for one moment that if England had indeed reached the World Cup final that Pools crowd against Sunderland could have been sub-3,000. As England plodded their way through the tournament there actually did seem to be the remotest of possiblities of their actually reaching the final. With that in mind 'Back Home' we had planned to have our mates round for a bit of scran and the customary drinkees and chuckles. The final, however clashed with our monthly ramble, or in my case amble, with the walking club that myself and the housekeeper belong to.

I was so disheartened at England's second-half performance against Croatia - a golden opportunity lost of a World Cup final appearance and the possibility of winning it, that on the day of the final itself, I instead donned my hiking boots and opted to join our walking group for a delightful hike around the Yorkshire Dales (The Shawl) culminating in my sitting outside a pub in Leyburn enjoying good company, as well as a couple of pints of Symonds Cider to quench the thirst.

We discussed all sorts of things and football never once featured in our conversation. The first mention of Football or indeed the Wimbledon (or should that be the MK Dons men's tennis final?), came on the return coach back home after 5 o'clock when someone mentioned in passing that France had beaten Croatia, four-two. My immediate response was to ask if any of the French players had bagged themselves a hat-trick. The answer after much checking came back as a 'No.' I was delighted when I heard this as it meant that Geoff Hurst's record of being the only player ever to score a hat trick in a World Cup final still stands. So at least in one area England still can proudly hold her head up.


The highlight of the World cup for me was when Alan Shearer was having a right old rant, Jeff Stelling style, about the ungentlemanly tactics of Johnny foreigner footballers, rolling around at the slightest touch, conning the referees, trying to get their opponents booked or even sent off, play acting and the worst sin of all according to Shearer was that of diving. He really got wound up about it. The camera panned back and there sat beside him,  trying to suppress the biggest smile ever, was none other than Jurgen the German Klinsmann, the only footballer in the world who has given Tom Daley a run for his money at diving.


Around a year back I wrote a damning piece in Monkey Business about Raheem Sterling. I would like to put on record that I would like to retract what I had written as it wasn't nearly damning enough. How he got picked, let alone played in every game for England in the World Cup is beyond me. Ah, I hear you say, but he scored twenty plus goals in the Premiership for the league champions Manchester City. One of the newspapers did the stats on the number of chances that fell to him over the season for City and it is lamentable. Let's just say if Denis Behan had played for City last season he would have got forty goals.

I like looking at stats. They can make interesting reading - that is, if they are recorded correctly. In the game against Croatia, Jordan Pickford kicked the ball out 47 times and only 20 of these reached a team mate, which meant that 27 of these kicks fell Croatia's way, giving them possession. The irony of this was that most of Pickford's kicks were not the result of numerous goal kicks resulting from Croatian attacks, but because his team mates kept passing the ball back to him. Nicky Featherstone please note.

Getting back to Raheem Sterling, some commentators said that although he did not get past any defenders he kept them occupied with his work rate. In other words he ran round like a daft puppy achieving very little but tiring himself and the fans out. As for his decision making, he lacks instinct and, (a bit like our 'previously' very own Lewis Alessandra), he would pass instead of shoot and shoot instead of pass, or just get caught dithering on the ball not quite knowing what to do with it.
"Let's just say if Denis Behan had played for City last season he would have got forty goals"

Off the pitch he is not that much better. Prior to departing to Russia he was the only player in the England squad to be granted an extended break so he could visit his family in Jamaica, only to abuse this favour by turning up at the England squad two days late, citing personal reasons. Then, in the next breath, he said that he had missed his flight.

Then we have the laugh-a-minute tale of his tattoo of an A16 assault rifle on his right leg at a time when gun crime is out of control. Tragically Sterling's father was shot dead by a rival gang when Raheem was a young child, but he defended the tattoo stating that it is in memory of his late father. How strange. If my Father had died in a gun shooting the last thing I would have inked on to my leg would be a gun. He later changed his story somewhat telling the press that the gun was on his right leg as this was his shooting leg. After his performance in the World Cup for England with one shot on target in 6 games I think he should have the sights on his right leg recalibrated and bring some ammunition along as well. In his defence I felt Gareth Waistcoat should have played Sterling out wide and out of harm's way in order to allow Harry Kane to play in his normal position instead of deep behind Sterling. Raheem in my opinion you are the weakest link. You're fired.


My mate said that after the finals he got 5/1 on Sterling missing the plane back to England. Talking of daft bets, I wonder what odds the bookies would give for Joey Barton getting the sack from Fleetwood before the end of the season and Raheem Sterling becoming a regular bench warmer after the January transfer deadline. Interesting fact/stat: prior to Brazil's final match against Belgium, Neymar had previously spent the grand total of just over fourteen and a half minutes rolling around on the ground.

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World Cup Brexit

KT Poolie

After a two-year struggle with our neighbours and adversaries to reach the final act, the public is still divided over our ability to make a success or failure of Brexit the World Cup.

Presenter, journalist and Baggies’ fan, Hadrian Childs, travels to Moscow to investigate.

For many in England it’s time to show the world we don’t need players from all over Europe and beyond swarming over here and taking all our premier league jobs. Conversely, many assert the country benefits enormously from their skills and work ethic making the country richer both financially and culturally. Here are three of my critical success factors.

A good outcome in any campaign depends on the managers at the helm. Not just those standing in the dugout, facing the press, outlining the strategy, praising the workrate after an embarrassing setback; but also the unseen power-brokers wielding power behind the scenes and on whose largesse the manager’s job really depends. In this campaign, soundbites such as “being very clear” and “strong and stable” leadership are thrown in at every opportunity, but do they have any real meaning?

The country is in a difficult situation. The team has strong characters at opposite ends of the pitch but limited options to control the vital middle ground. Nevertheless the leader enjoys a slight lead in the polls and shows endeavour and self-belief in an ability to guide the whole team. But how far can we go? By most accounts we will ease through the initial stages if the team can be kept together. Unlike previous leaders, GazBot has formulated a strategy and will stick with it resolutely, but is there the capacity or willingness to change position if things start to fall apart? In front of a questioning audience the manager appears robotic and staid, particularly when compared to exotically named rivals such Boris, Raab and Govey.

The people in charge will be winners whatever happens, they have money in far-flung places, influence beyond their intelligence and second homes in the south of France. It is the loyal fans who are most affected both emotionally and financially by success or failure.
"Perhaps most worrying is the feeling we are into extra time, have played all our subs"

Yet opinion among the masses is divided 50-50. On any supporters’ coach you are likely to hear, “When we win, we take back control”. “We will be free to live by our own rules not these European’ judgements”. Yet these same buses are plastered with lies - “Turkey is being allowed in, even though they didn’t qualify” and “Getting through this group will be the easiest negotiation in history” and “The winners will get £350m a week”. Two years ago the people decided, but did they know what was at stake and are they any less divided now?

There’s no doubt this will be the most watched event in recent history. Every incident will be examined and replayed endlessly in ultra-HD to officials hidden from public view. All sides claim they are keen to eliminate the scourge of play-acting to gain unfair advantage or put opponents in trouble with the law. Yet few are wholly convinced. No matter how many times it is reviewed, some of the decisions seem crazy. Perhaps we need VAR technology to VAR the VAR officials. The further we go, of course, the bigger each meeting becomes, the more pressure mounts, the more fervent the press, the more trenchant the fans’ views. Perhaps most worrying is the feeling we are into extra time, have played all our subs, the result looks ominous and we can’t call it off.

Still, as every Poolie knows, Never Say Die.

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Our Friends in the West

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Spennymoor 0 Pools 1 (Friendly)
Saturday 21 July 2018
The Brewery Field

My first visit to Spennymoor and it was  a fine sunny day, The journey via satnav was a tad longer than just making your way through Wheatley Hill and round a few back roads - as we did on the way back.

The Brewery Field is a tidy little ground with a small stand behind one goal and a reasonable-size stand on one side with the dressing rooms etc.
Spenny look as if they are building a decent side and they gave us a tough game, especially in the second half. They had beaten Billingham Synthonia eleven-one last week with the little maestro David Foley, who still looks a decent player, hitting a hat trick in that game.

Ok, Billingham Synthonia may be well below Billingham Town, but as we managed a draw with them I was expecting a better showing today. I stood behind the Pools goal in the first half and looking down the pitch it looked like it had a serious tilt on either side of the pitch and the goal mouth looked like a pitcher's mound in baseball. It must be hard to play up the hill in a game.

I would have to say Pools played a strong side, but I am not sure if Mr. Bates knows what his strongest side is. We looked very mobile with all the lads looking for the ball and all handling the task very well. Once again Kitchen did very well, picking up the ball and doing a great job pushing us forward. We look a well balanced side and after a brief spell of pressure by the home side Pools soon set about controlling the game and cutting out any possible threat from Spennymoor.

Hawkes was the first to strike and he hit a rasping shot which hit the post and bounced clear with the Spenny goalkeeper nowhere near it. Noble looks a right character, obviously enjoys a joke and plays up to the fans. He went out to the left corner flag and placed the ball just a fraction outside of the quadrant. The lino dragged it back into the quadrant so Noble picked it up and replaced the ball so that it was just off the edge of the quadrant and gave the lino a nod and sent the ball in. Davies met it with a great header and their keeper made an even better save. The ball spun up in the air and through a throng of players and as it dropped Luke James launched himself and managed to get a foot under the ball and hit it into the top of the net to give Pools the lead.

In the second half, despite playing up the slope, Spenny had Pools on the back foot and the defence had to work hard to keep them at bay. Loach made a couple of decent blocks, Noble almost sewed up the game with a nice chip which again hit the woodwork with the keeper nowhere near.

After a succession of subs from Pools the game got a bit laboured but Pools held out.
"Spenny look as if they are building a decent side and they gave us a tough game"

Cassidy, who looked a bit belligerent, started mixing it with their centre half but he did manage to get a decent shot off, which the keeper turned round the post. There was a little afters between the centre half and Cassidy and I think the ref blew early for full time rather than take any action as the defender had been booked earlier.

A decent performance from the lads and a few Pools fans said afterwards that they would like to see Spennymoor come up to Pools' division as it would be a good Derby game.

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Funny Old Game

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Day of Honour

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 1 Sunderland 1 (Friendly)
Saturday 14 July 2018
Victoria Park

Today the new look HUFC entertained a Sunderland side. It was a double celebration with the first game on the wonderfully prepared pitch at the Vic and a commemoration of recently deceased former Pools manager Neale Cooper

Neale's family attended as the MILL HOUSE STAND was renamed the NEALE COOPER STAND. Three and a half thousand fans turned out but two thousand of those were Mackems hoping to see a rise in fortunes for their ailing club.

Like Pools they now know what lack of investment is all about and having lost to Darlington earlier this week they hoped for a turnaround. Sadly for them Pools played them off the park. What looked like Bates' strongest side were really compact and chased down every ball. Nico lobbed their keeper for a well-deserved goal that lasted till the ref blew his whistle once they had got the equaliser. It seemed like an eternity once the Vic clock stopped on ninety minutes till the official finally blew the whistle, letting them equalise with virtually the last kick.
"I'm still getting used to the new faces - and the haircuts of some of the old ones"

Mill House Stand renamed
OK, Sunderland have been probably the best of the local clubs to support Pools and again today two thousand Mackems came, which made it a great day for our tribute to Neale Cooper. Flowers were laid in front of the stand and there was a minute's applause for the late best manager we have had in recent times.

On the hour Bates brought everyone off apart from Kitchen, the left back, which made us think have we only got one no 3(??)  I'm still getting used to the new faces - and the haircuts of some of the old ones -  but it was a good performance by the lads and at this level we look a decent squad.

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Any Other Business


Ignoring the shambles that politicians everywhere seem to be making of the world, at least we footy fans have had a good month or so.

Not only did we have an entertaining World Cup in which England did surprisingly well, we approach the new Pools season in a good place, considering how un-rosy the picture looked six months ago. The consensus among Poolies seems to be that they are happy with the way Raj is running things, with the changes to the playing staff, with the new season's strips and with the pre-season games (well, Boro excepted, and you always learn more from failure anyway!)

No doubt the current feel-good factor will have evaporated - as usual - by the end of August, but it surely can't plumb the depths of last season.

The pages of the new season's Monkey Business may not look too much different to last year's, design-wise, but if the website itself looks noticeably different - it is!

After seven online-only seasons (doesn't time fly!) of using the same website with only annual tweaks involving a new background image and different typefaces, we've now chucked that out and started again. That's basically to enable it to display better on mobile phones, since more people now look at the internet on phones than on more traditional laptops and desktops.

It means that on phones you shouldn't have to move or resize the screen as much because the images should appear in a more accessible format and the text should both fit the screen and be displayed at a legible size.

That 3-stripe button icon, if you see it, gives a pop-up menu, allowing you to access the various pages about contributing to MB, its history, etc., as well as the archive of each of the issues published over 7 seasons of being an online-only fanzine.

Finally we can't finish without giving our own mention to Neale Cooper, who was loved (if that's not too strong a word) by most Poolies, both for his record, his first reign being one of the most successful in Pools' history, and for his amiability and rapport with the fans. 

Renaming the Mill House Stand in his honour will keep alive his name, as does the stand named after one of Neale's predecessors who also died far too young.

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