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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