Moaning Minnies


Jake Cassidy got some flak recently when he said in the press that Hartlepool is a negative club and that the  atmosphere at the Vic can be poisonous.

You could argue that Cassidy had a bit of a grudge against the club when he made this statement. For one reason or another he himself was not exactly a fans' favourite so the feeling may be mutual, but when I think about it, he may to an extent have a valid point.

It has to be said that it is clearly noticeable that at times some sections of the crowd/individuals are far less tolerant of the team than in recent years. Perhaps this is down to the club's slow decline over the past 7/8 years and the level (I won't say quality) of football which was being served up week in and week out.

The one thing that stands out for me now is how early in the game some fans are on the players' backs or players are singled out for special attention.

At a recent home game after the P.A. announcer had given out the starting elevens you could see the tangible disappointment on the face of one fan who stands down in the front of the Town End, that Niko Muir was not playing.

He was devastated. His assigned boo-boy was not going to take to the pitch. In truth he has been on Muir's case for some time and as everyone predicted, including Monkey Business, because of his previous part-time status, at some stage Muir was going to struggle with full-time football and was inevitably going to run out of steam.

For this particular individual Muir could do no right and he was delirious with delight if Muir had given a bad pass or lost the ball, just to reinforce his case. I would love to see this fan's reaction if Muir scored a worldie. Probably walk out of the ground in disgust.

His afternoon did not end in disappointment as after 10/15 minutes or so he had found an alternative boo-boy in Liam Noble. Personally I think Liam Noble is one of the few decent footballers at the club and really should be playing at a higher level. On the day however, he was not having the best game of his life but was still giving it his all and wanting the ball.

Though not his fault, his first couple of diagonal 30-yard passes into space went out of play mainly because the wing back in question hadn't bothered to run into that space. Noble then delivered a succession of poor corners and free kicks and it was not just young fellow-me-lad in the Town End who was starting to have a go at the midfielder but other sections of the crowd as well.

Noble, not unlike like Ritchie Humphreys, always wants the ball even when things are not going his way; he will not hide when things are not going right and is still demanding it. As such, like Humphreys, he probably sees more possession of the ball over ninety minutes than any other player on the pitch which means by the law of averages he will make more errors which are all the more highlighted than for an example a teammate who hardly comes into contact with the ball or shies away from it when things are not going right.
"I would love to see this fan's reaction if Muir scored a worldie. Probably walk out of the ground in disgust."

At the end of this match the normally ebullient Noble left the field a tad crestfallen; you could almost hear him thinking "What on earth am I doing here? I don't need this abuse."

If it is bad for the seasoned professional I think the treatment to which some of our younger players are subjected is totally unfair, and this is what Cassidy is getting at, an example being Kenton Richardson. In one game under Bates, and just coming back from injury, he came on as an early substitute for an injured player and was like a square peg in a round hole as he was being played out of position. Nothing went right for the lad on the day; he did not know when to go forward or when to stay back but every error was followed by a boo or a groan or much worse from the Mill House side of the ground.

The lad is an excellent prospect for the future and has only just turned 19. With sub appearances included he has only played 30 or so games for the club and most of those last season in a very poor side. What many people forget is that the lad like many others at the club is still learning his trade.

What must he and other youngsters in the squad feel like before they leave the dressing room, knowing that some sections of the crowd will be straight on their case early on, highlighting even the slightest error. Even before a ball is kicked they must really be on edge. Worse still is what they are feeling 90 minutes later in the dressing room having been subjected to the unnecessary vitriol from the terraces.

Word gets around and many visiting players who have experienced the negative vibes directed at Pools players might be reluctant to sign for Pools if the club were to come knocking on their doors, owing to to the toxic atmosphere of the crowd within the ground that they would have to play before.

I admit that it is only a small element sporadically spread around the ground that are part of the problem but my main concern is not only how it has a negative knock-on effect on the team's performances overall but more importantly how it impacts the younger players.

One only has to look at Pools' home record - 10 wins in two seasons. I am sure that the fear factor instilled into the players through some fans has played its part in achieving this dismal record.

My message to the fans is, no matter how poorly Pools play, support and encourage them. Spur on our team and not our opponents and treat the players as if they were your own sons/grandsons who are playing (mmmm perhaps not!)

Taken from from the Book 'A Tenner and a Box of Kippers' There are a lot of nasty people in Hartlepool. There are several hundred nice proper people but the majority of them are nasty people. There are more of them at Hartlepool than anywhere else. Also from the same book, about Chris Beech getting abuse from the crowd. Chants of: "What are you doing out this half Beechy?" The result: Chris Beech was suffering a nightmare afternoon as everything he tried fell to pieces.

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