Noble Players


Last season's leading goalscorer Liam Noble, it would seem, is not everyone's cup of tea on the terraces. Personally I think he is (inverted commas) the best footballer at the club.

Some of his passes are sublime but more often or not his team mates are not alert to them or the pass itself is at fault as it should be played several divisions higher than in the National League. 

When he first put pen to paper for Pools The Non League Newspaper hailed it as the best signing by any club, such was his pedigree and, certainly for the first half of the 2018/19 season, that was indeed the case. After his penalty miss at Gateshead his form did seem to dip and at times, perhaps because of the pizza-gate affair he did not seem to be firing on all cylinders and his performances dropped to the same level of some of his team-mates. Perhaps a case of, if you can't beat them, join them. Another contributing factor may well have been his expectations of being in a promotion-winning side but, in reality, the automatic promotion spot soon slipped away at a very early stage in the campaign. As for the much-vaunted playoff-place, that never even was sighted on the radar. In truth. all there was to look forward to was the possibility of yet another relegation battle.

That is now all in the past, a new season has dawned and despite having a slow start as well as being on the bench it looks as if Noble has got his mojo back. In one recent game at the Vic he came on as a late sub and could not find his man, only his opponents. Several passes went astray or into touch. Some groans in the crowd were raised but, fair play to the lad, a bit like Matty Robson or, dare I say even the Ginger Ninja, he never once hid or let his head drop, he just kept looking for more.

Without doubt Noble's performance against Wrexham was a masterclass. It was the best midfield performance I have witnessed since the days of Ritchie and Tinks. Scored two, and chipped in with two assists for Gime Toure's goals, as well as winning the penalty for himself. For me his piece-de-resistance was his 20 yard shot in the first half which Son of Dibble did well to save. From where I was stood in the Town End it looked like a conventional shot but when I later viewed the highlights it was a piece of absolute magic. I must have watched it a dozen times. If it had gone in it would have certainly been goal of the season and possibly next season as well.

Notwithstanding that I would have given him a mark of 9.5 out of 10 for his performance, in quick succession he then gave two misplaced passes and a couple or three fans on the terrace were on his case in a jot. It seems that most players have their own self-appointed  boo-boys who are delighted when the player in question makes a mistake. On the other hand the same fans must go home down in the mouth and disappointed when they watch their targeted, or dare I say 'hated' player leave the pitch clutching the match ball in one hand after scoring a hat trick, and a bottle of bubbly in the other, having being named Man-of-the-Match.
"He doesn't seem to know when he is beaten. How did he get missed by other clubs even at a higher level."

There is another Marmite midfielder in the squad who I am not altogether fussed on but even if he makes a mistake or some other error I might only sigh or mutter under my breath at him during the match. But after the final whistle has blown I will have a good moan to my mates in the pub about his abject performance. I see no point whatsoever in being verbally abusive to any Pools player on the pitch, I want them all to do well as I firmly believe that it is detrimental to a player's performance and confidence if someone is constantly yelling at him.

If fans are passionate, and they don't come more passionate than Hartlepool supporters, they should direct their attention to the opposing players and give them a hard time instead. Gus Mafuta revealed as much, when he played against Pools for Salford at the Vic last season, he said that he had 'lost it' as the Poolie crowd had targeted him after some incident, and got 'on his case' and ultimately 'into his head'. As a result he was hooked towards the end of the game by the Salford bench for fear of his getting a second booking which would mean him missing the play-offs. Basically if you want the do the team a favour, then if you can't shout encouragement keep stum.

Gime Toure. If we don't get a million pounds for this lad in the next transfer window I'll show the editor's bottom in Binns window.*  Talk about a find. When I first read about him he sounded very much like a Nicholas Anelka type character - a bit moody, sullen, temperamental and petulant, someone with a bit of a chip on both shoulders, all of which could be described as typically, well if I am brutally honest, French. His footwork is dazzling and his work ethic is the equivalent of having an additional midfielder/defender or forward in the side. He doesn't seem to know when he is beaten. How did he get missed by other clubs even at a higher level. His signing is a real coup.

One player who has really come into form is Mark Kitching. When I first saw him play in last season's friendly match against Spennymoor I thought that he looked the business ...ermm hmmmohhhhh and so did Louis Laing for that matter! It would not be disingenuous to say that many of his performances last season did not set the world alight. It could be argued that he did not get much support from his team mates when he pushed forward by their not making themselves available or again when he was defending at times he received little or no cover. In the current campaign he seems to have a new found belief in himself, is keen on getting forward and putting decent crosses in. Against Wrexham he had three shots at goal which is something we have not see from a Poolie left back since the days of Hugh Robertson. The positions he takes up should see him bagging a few goals, particularly at the far post. Good luck to the lad.

Fraser Kerr is another lad who has been a slow burner, taking time to settle but of late he is starting to show why he was so highly rated at Gateshead and why Pools willingly paid £2,000 for his services. Again, not one who is blessed with pace, but he has started to do the simple things, particularly not being too clever and just putting the ball into touch when needed even at the expense of giving away a throw-in. Playing alongside Michael Raynes has got to be a big plus as well as an education for the lad.

I often wondered how Gary Pallister's career would have fared had he not had the likes of Tony Mowbray or Steve Bruce of Borer and Man Utd respectively at his side. He admitted himself he was like Bambi on Ice without these two seasoned players in the trenches with him.

Slowly but surely, in comparison to the start of the season, many of the current squad are starting to get into gear. It could be down to competition for places and keeping the shirt but whatever, if they all click at the same time they will take some beating. Let's hope it is not a flash in the pan.

[*No you won't - Binns closed down years ago! - Ed.]

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