Showing posts from November, 2019



I was surprised how many people were shocked at the departure of Craig Hignett.

I have got to admit that I was, insomuch as I thought that he should leave the club, but I did not expect that Raj would sack his friend. As a sweetener he could have, money permitting, put him back in the chair he vacated as Director of Football. I've got to say though, ruthless as it may seem, that it was good management by the chairman.

In truth, I thought that despite adding better players to the squad, we were not making any progress under his tenure. By coincidence I said to one of my friends a couple of days before his departure that it would be better that Hignett left sooner rather than later, i.e Christmas, as it would give his successor time to evaluate the team and put it on course for, if nothing else, a play-off spot. I won't dwell on what I felt were Hignett's failings but if you are interested look back on the last few editions of M.B. I wonder if the savings Pools made on Liam Noble's wages following his departure to Morpeth will be used as a pay-off for Hignett and Ged McNamee.

At the time of writing Tony Sweeney and Ian McGuckin have not only steadied the ship but are getting results and the team is scoring more than its one obligatory goal per match and so far not conceded any.

With tho odd exception I'll be the first to admit I cannot see how Sweeney's and McGuckin's sides differ from Hignett's. Admittedly they have started with Featherstone, not a favourite of mine but against Barnet he was my man-of-the-match and that takes something for me to say. Donaldson seems to be pushing up front more but apart from that it is business as usual.

In the plus column, most noticeably, Sweens is not afraid to introduce substitutes earlier than in the 89th minute. In the debit column the team is still taking fifteen passes when two or three will get them to their objective sooner rather than later and without being closed down along the way. The midfield and forwards still do not break quickly enough up the pitch when we have a break and our forwards do not get in the box as often as they should. Improved as he has, Mark Kitching for whatever reason hasn't the confidence to take on his man or whip crosses into the box.
"the team is scoring more than its one obligatory goal per match"

My biggest gripe, most annoyingly against ten-man Barnet, we had eleven men in our box when defending a corner. Surely a minimum of two forwards should have stayed up front tying up perhaps three of their defenders. Still on the subject of corners, why don't we have a man, Paul Baker style, hanging out at the far post?*

As well as that, the team still sits far too deep at times. Against Barnet we could have doubled our goals tally but decided to stay put in midfield passing the ball sideways and backwards which in truth killed the atmosphere on the day. Holohan, surprisingly under both managers, does not seem to warrant a start and I'm not sure if Sweens, like Hignett, knows his best starting eleven.

So what is the difference between the two managerial styles. I am only guessing but I can only put it down to motivation. Is Sweens the man for the job? We would all like him to burn up this league and gain automatic promotion and like a budgie with no teeth, I would love him to ...succeed!

But, hmmmm. I am not sure. It could be too soon for the lad. We need to see his reaction to a defeat or a cup exit. I would prefer to see a more experienced manager take the reins and perhaps install Sweens as his number two.

* For the benefit of our younger readers Paul Baker was a centre forward who hung about the far stick and scored an awful lot of goals.

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Managing to Keep on the Right Track


Once again the club finds itself on the lookout for a new manager after Craig Hignett's dismal start to the season brought its inevitable conclusion. 

Long after the fans had had enough of his ineptitude and tactical indecision his friend and employer Raj Singh decided enough was enough and brought down the axe. Hignett can have no complaints after being given a generous budget in the summer and spending most of it on midfielders and not on the positions that needed strengthening.

This of course is the man who loudly proclaimed how much more he knew about football than most of Pools's fans, who could write on the back of a postage stamp what they knew about football. Oh that Scouse sense of humour really has your ribs aching after a while. He might have been wise to listen to the fans who told him that playing his favourite players, last season's proven flops in James and Featherstone ahead of the new signings, might come back and bite him on the bum which is precisely what happened to him. And yet in his glorious ignorance he did not see it coming.

Anyway, enough of this loser and the time he wasted at Victoria Park despite sloping off to his beloved Borer at the first opportunity and failing completely to impress the manager at the time who quickly moved him on. So Pools now have probably the three biggest earners off the books in Hignett, Jed McNamee and Liam Noble so things must be a lot better on the finance side. I am sure there was a lot went on behind the scenes that led to the departure of Noble which is a pity as I thought he was our outstanding midfielder. A bit of a nutcase but someone you would rather have in your team than playing against you.

With Antony Sweeney in temporary charge aided by Ian McGuckin things picked up on the field with some welcome clean sheets and the strikers getting amongst the goals. Whether Sweeney is offered the job full time remains to be seen but he certainly has a tough test away at Notts County tomorrow and a FA cup away tie to follow it. I suggest if we were to win those two games Sweeney would certainly be in pole position. He certainly talks a good game and is very impressive in how he handles the team and players and if he does not get the job this time around looks a good bet to get it in the future. That is if we keep hold of him on our staff and keep any predators away.
"I am sure there was lot went on behind the scenes that led to the departure of Noble ...A bit of a nutcase but someone you would rather have in your team than playing against you"

On the playing side it was good to see Luke Williams getting some game time in the Durham Cup against Shildon and if he can stay fit it will be like us having a new player on our hands. Also in that side that faced Shildon and scoring two goals was Niko Muir. This guy has been shamefully ignored most of the time this season and will always score more goals in the team than Luke James yet is so regularly overlooked. Maybe it was just that the font of all football knowledge, Hignett, didn't fancy him and he will now be given a run in the first team with Kabamba and Touré and then watch the net start to ripple.

Surprisingly there has been very little talk about who the new manager will be. AFC Fylde ex-manager Dave Challinor has been mentioned although it looks like he will be moving into the Football League with Morecambe. Lee Bradbury who was almost appointed before Richard Money has been mentioned; likewise Richie Barker, former Pools striker now assistant at Rotherham.

Phil Brown, now coaching in India, has always fancied a crack at managing Pools but I fear his time has gone after Hodcroft shamefully pulled the rug from him after offering him the job. He then immediately offered the job to John Hughes who he then refused to back with any cash in one of the most embarrassing episodes in Pools' history. Hughes, with a reasonable record in Scotland, was completely hung out to dry by the Pools regime with chief executive Russ Green even refusing to speak to him.

People seem to forget that Pools under IOR were only any good when Bo Larsson was funding the club. Thank you Mr Larsson for bringing Jan Ove Pederson to Pools on loan,  the best midfielder I have ever seen in a Pools kit, way too good for us! When Mr Larsson and his money went we were up shit creek without a paddle. It sort of figures why some of the big hitters in football are not expressing an interest in doing the job. Although now the club is being properly run with an owner who cares about doing things right the future is looking a lot brighter.

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An Interesting Month...


Well, October has been an interesting month – nothing boring about Pools.

It all started off with an added time victory against Yeovil (more about them later), a crap first half performance against Stockport, a good away against Aldershot and then the icing on the cake with a fine win against Barnet, known, of course, as The Bees.

I don’t think anyone had a single complaint about the Barnet game. The defence adequately dealt with anything that was thrown at it and Barnet must have had ten corners to Pools’ one but they were all cleared without any problem. Reference was made to the fact that Ben Killip had only one save to make but if he’d had a pound for every back pass he’d be a rich man. He was sure very busy! And, of course, we created danger even though our leading scorer was on the bench. As well, the Barnet game didn’t have a single complaint against the referee – most of the time you didn’t notice him.

The loss of the game against Stockport cost Craig Hignett his job and Tony Sweeney is doing a good job in his baptism into management. There’s a disagreement as to whether we should appoint a manager as soon as possible or leave Tony Sweeney to carry on the good work. I’m in the latter camp – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. If things go wrong, then change it. But in the meantime, let’s bask in the glory.

In a way, Barnet have a little part to play in our history. Pools, of course, were relegated to League 2 at the end of the 2005/6 season and there were high expectations that we would bounce straight back at the first attempt. The first few weeks didn’t inspire confidence. On 4th November 2006, Barnet came to Pools and in a smash and grab raid came away with the points. Pools were a lowly 16th in the league. The following week we braved the rain and cold to defeat Accrington Stanley thanks to an added time goal by Ritchie Humphreys. That signalled the start of our fantastic run which stretched right up to Saturday, 2nd April 2007. And, you might ask, who buggered up our unbeaten run? You’ve guessed it, Barnet!! No hard feelings, you Bees - we got automatic promotion as runners up.
"I don’t think anyone had a single complaint about the Barnet game."

And so to Yeovil. Both ourselves and Yeovil have become embroiled in the racial abuse debate. Like many Poolies, I was astounded by the remarks of Gareth Southgate when he referred to Pools in the lead up to the Bulgarian game. I was astounded because as a former Aston Villa player, he should have looked at his former club rather than Pools who have been exemplary in their response to the Dover incident. As, for that matter, were Yeovil who expressed solidarity with Haringey and, indeed, contributed to extra stewarding in the FA Cup replay. Neither Pools nor Yeovil need any lecturing from the England manager, the FA or anyone connected with the bog standard Premier League. Let Pools and Yeovil work together to rid our game of the curse that’s hit us. The upper crust should stick to debating VAR - damned glad we don’t have it in the National League!! There goes a Luddite.

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Fair Play

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The Legends Return

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools Legends 20 (twenty)* Pools Trust 0 (nil) - Friendly
Sunday 13 October 2019
Seaton Carew

The best team we have seen in a Pools shirt turned up yesterday to play against a Pools Trust team. 

Legends: Dimi, Brackstone, Nelson, Westwood, Barron, Miller, Humphreys, Tinkler, Clark, Sweeney, Williams.

There were a couple of ringers, namely Oliver Barron and young Charlie Barron who was the star of the show. It had to be said, even though there were a few pounds added, the Legends were up against a heavyweight Trust team.

It was great to see the Legends showing off their skills again even at a slower pace. Dimi had the quietest game he would ever have as the Trust struggled gamely to take the game to the Legends. The Trust keeper was very game and shied away from nothing. The Legends had an obvious game plan: to let every outfield player score a goal. The only let-down was Nelson who fluffed a couple of chances but he claimed he was concentrating on setting up the other players.
"The Legends had an obvious game plan: to let every outfield player score a goal."

Richie started the goal rush by chipping a ball with the outside of his boot over the keeper and into the net from a tight angle. The fittest of the Legends were obviously the players who are still playing such as Nelson. Ben Clark literally ran the front line and Miller was brilliant. Tinkler was stroking the ball around in his inimitable way and Sweeney, our new manager, had a great game too.

The smallest player on the field was Charlie Barron aged eleven if he was lucky. He had all the style of his dad and scored two great goals, the best one when he rounded a rotund centre half and smashed the ball into the far side of the net. His older brother, 18-ish, did not fare as well and missed a couple of sitters but looks a handy player all the same.

I would estimate about three hundred Poolies turned out on a very wet muddy Seaton football pitch to support the lads and thoroughly enjoyed the show as the Legends ran out 20-0. Well done the Trust and the Legends.

* Note: Some accounts give the score as a mere 19-0

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One thing you can say about Pools is that there is never a dull moment. 

It is like watching a television soap such as the likes of 'Corny'nation Streak, Emmerdull and Jollyjokes, each episode ending and as the credits roll and the theme music plays out on yet another cliff hanger, leaving the viewer in a state of suspense - nay, traumatised - and counting down the days and minutes to the follow up episode.

Since the last edition of Monkey Business we have seen arguably Pools' best player, Liam Noble, leave the club with a long, lucrative contract that Mo Salah or Billy Horner could only dream of, allowing him to play on a part-time basis for Morpeth Town, two league tiers below Pools. Mind, on some days Noble did indeed play part-time for Pools.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, came the departure of once, twice, three times a Hartlepool United Manager Craig Hignett. At time of typing it is nearing three weeks since his departure and still no sign of a successor on the horizon. From Raj's point of view by using the resources within the club i.e Tony Sweeney and Ian McGuckin and with the favourable results so far, he is saving a bob or two by not having to employ a full-time manager.
"Mind, on some days Noble did indeed play part-time for Pools."

In between, Pools got a grade one unattractive FA cup draw against Haringay or Yeovil. If the Glovers do progress to the next round you could not make it up that two clubs, a minority of whose fans have made unsavoury racist comments at recent games and brought shame to both their clubs, should be drawn together in the FA Cup.

I cannot wait for the next gripping instalment of The Clarence Road Blues (cue Dick Barton, Special Agent theme tune) to see what happens next. Goodness knows what spiffing adventures and jolly japes November will bring.

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Deep Joy in the Towny Endy

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 2 Yeovil 1 (National League)
Saturday 6 October 2019
Victoria Park

Not a great fixture to look forward to considering our recent form. The visitors on a roll of seven games unbeaten. Could we end the run? Of course we could, and did, in great style. 

The game went off at a good pace with both teams going close in the early minutes. 

There was an incident when Rhys Murphy, once a target for Pools, was felled like a tree in the box claiming he was elbowed by Raynes. His claim might have had more sway with the ref if he had not gone down like a dying swan. I would say Raynes was defending himself and may have raised his arm to protect himself and the ref would agree totally with me. Considering that Murphy was more on the deck than any other player throughout the match he did not deserve a free kick or a penalty. Good job the ref missed it.

Touré hit his usual screamer, which the keeper managed to tip over after some good play by Pools, pushing the visitors back to the Rink End goal line. We looked comfortable and pressed them throughout the half.
"This was a good performance against a top side"

Both teams were breaking down in front of goal but Pools looked the more likely team to score and it was a bit worrying that we pressed them hard throughout the half and had nothing to show for it. Touré is carrying the team at the moment and always looks dangerous and unpredictable which shows when the defenders chop him down as soon as he looks as if he is on a run. He hit a cracking free kick over Yeovil's defensive wall after Donaldson was brought down but his shot skimmed the bar with the keeper nowhere. Both sides were guilty of not taking their chances and in my opinion Pools definitely edged the half against a good Yeovil side.

The half time consensus was that it had been a really good game of football up to that point.

An early Pools goal in probably the first attack at the Town end by Pools, some great work by Kioso, who was Man of the Match, made a great run down the Mill House side, cut into the box and hit a low cross into the goal area, I thought the keeper had blocked it, others say it hit the post but whatever, Touré was on the spot to tap it home.

Once again Pools looked suspect after going into the lead, playing deeper and inviting them onto us and this team did not need an invite. It called for a full team effort from Pools to hold them at bay. Raynes made a fantastic slide tackle to rob a Yeovil attacker as he lined up a shot after charging into the box. They were screaming for a penalty but the ref, who had a good game, waved away their claims.

It was a nail biter as the visitors seemed to get the edge in the dying minutes with Pools playing too deep once again, inviting pressure. Fans complaining that Hignett took the momentum from us by his substitutions again. With ninety minutes on the clock, a goalmouth scramble down at the Rink End finished with the ball in the net for the visitors as the diver Murphy got lucky when a ball dropped for him.

A few fans making their way out were a little too previous as Pools' never-say-die attitude raised its head in extra time and Featherstone, one of the subs that fans had complained about, along with Donaldson, set up a simple chance for Kennedy to slip the ball past the keeper for the winner. Yeovil players surrounded the ref on some pretext: he was offside or some other infringement but the ref was having none of it.

There was a bit of bad feeling on the pitch at the end of the game as Pools celebrated and during the customary hand shakes one player tried to head butt Kioso and there were a few handbags flashed about.

As Pools had just stopped the visitors from being top dogs in the league there were bound to be a few upset players and officials, and a couple of Pools players were quickly ushered out of the way, possibly to save any more aggro at the Vic.

This was a good performance against a top side and must lift the lads ready for Stockport on television on Wednesday night. But in the words of Sir Stanley Unwin "There was deep joy in the Towny Endy and all aroundy as the Pooly Oolies took the three pointers."

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Pools (Not Quite) Up for the Cup

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 1 Brackley Town 0 (FA Cup)
Saturday 19 October 2019
Victoria Park

Tony Sweeney, the stand in manager, got his first taste of cup football today in the Pools hot seat. 

It was a tough game for Pools as the unknown quantity of the visitors, Brackley Town, came to make a game it and to be honest they almost pulled off the big prize. They were no slouches and played some very impressive football against a lacklustre Pools side. 

I have never seen so many Pools players robbed of the ball when they were in their stride; a Brackley player would appear from nowhere and steal the ball as if Pools were not there. If we had got an early a goal, I think this could have been a decent game to watch but we were on our toes from the first whistle to the ninety seventh minute.

Brackley were slick operators who never let up throughout the game. At first I thought they were a bunch of lads just having a go and putting in all the flicks and tricks and getting away with it, but honestly for most of the game they looked a better side than Pools.

Killip had a good game and it was just as well as they threatened us continually and we lost our way in front of some staunch defending. Second half saw Pools with a bit more purpose but after a near miss Pools were once again on the back foot in their own box as the visitors, playing some clever passing football, almost took the lead but the shot was blocked on the line and cleared at the third attempt. Killip watched a ball bounce off his bar before making a last gasp save to keep out the visitors.

Pools had to lift their game and Mafuta had a shot blocked. Pools went ahead after pressing them a little and won a free kick on the edge of the box. Featherstone found Donaldson free in the box and he scored the winner with a low shot past the keeper. A comment from the Ditchburn, who should remain nameless, was "Are Pools actually going to claim that goal after being outclassed for sixty minutes?" He never even applauded the goal.
"OK, we are in the hat but it was not a very impressive start to this season's cup run"

We got a lucky break when their highly-rated striker had to go off after accidentally getting a kick on the head from a Donaldson challenge; it was no foul as the lad dived in and Donaldson went over him catching him on the head with a boot and the player looked spark out. He did try to come back on but because of the concussion the ref sent him to the bench. The seven minutes added only piled on the stress and Pools started running the ball into the corner. Pools won a corner and there were only four Pools players in the visitors' half, which was sad to see.

OK, we are in the hat but it was not a very impressive start to this season's cup run so I would be hoping for a possible bye in the next round and a big draw later.

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Easy Winners

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 2 Barnet 0 (National League)
Saturday 26 October 2019
Victoria Park

Not a lot to write home about in this one other than Sweeney bagging six points in two league games and a dip into the next round of the cup.

It was a bright start from the visitors and they looked a decent side apart from the two big centre halves that were going to sit and protect Loach. I think I only saw him take about three kicks up field in the first half as the ploy was to roll it out to the defenders and let them distribute it.
Pools hit them early on when a ball from Luke James set Kabamba with an easy strike past Scott Loach. A bit like the egg chasers early in the day when they scored past the All Blacks and never looked back.

Loach was applauded
by the Town End
Sweeney looks as if he has a nice balance in the side and they look a different outfit going forward. The players look more relaxed on the ball and even Featherstone was in the running for Man of the Match, according to the Ditchburn. Apart from the two goals from Kabamba, who picked up the prize, I would have chosen Kioso as he was magnificent today. The manager had made changes and is not what you might call a “select my favorite player" man as Touré and Hawkes were dropped.

The Ditchy commented on the ref's decision to allow us to play on after a foul on Donaldson which led to the second goal when Kabamba shot another one past Loach, putting Pools on easy street. It could have been three as Kerr, who is not shy when coming forward, cracked a beauty off the bar just before the break that Loach could only watch bounce over the top.

After the break a great move could have put Pools three up when the in-form Kabamba broke into the box and blasted a shot that Loach was able to block. One comment from a wag was that this was the best game Loach had played at the Vic. The visitors were getting rattled as Pools controlled the game and gave very few openings to them as we were solid both in defence and midfield.
"For most of the second half Pools just held onto the ball and the visitors could do little about it"

The visitors racked up a few bookings and were soon down to ten men when a two-footed tackle on Kioso down the Mill House side saw the ref pull out a yellow and then a red card which the player thoroughly deserved. He was a bit of a show-boater and often Pools defenders stood and watched as he went through his step overs and sideways stepping till he ran out of tricks and lost the ball. He looked as if he was thinking he was a better player than he actually was. To be honest I thought Barnet showed very little commitment - or was it just that Pools had a good day and made them look poor?

For most of the second half Pools just held onto the ball and the visitors could do little about it; one low shot kept Killip on his toes but he was equal to it. Loach was the busiest keeper, having to deal with a Pools team pressing them back. Mafuta, Raynes and Touré, who came on as as sub, all tested the ex-Pools man but Pools ran out easy winners, which looks good for Sweeney.

Three out of three and no goals against looks like the Manager of the Month title could be on its way, but we know what normally follows that for a Pools manager. I even saw a comment from Sir Jeff that Sweeney should be given a chance, yet the news is that Challinor is coming in this week so I hope he keeps Sweeney in as no 2.

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Any Other Business


Another strange month in a strange season, which seems to have good months following bad ones following good ones. All of which suggests that November might be another bad one. That combined with a general election campaign makes November look a bit depressing in prospect.

Hignett's dismissal may have been unexpected but given the financial investment needed to produce the current large squad, perhaps failure to get promotion this year was not an acceptable outcome. In fact, with several local clubs not too many leagues below us on the up, perhaps missing out on promotion this year may be a nail in Pools' coffin, as there's unlikely to be a repeat of this year's investment in players.

And if Hignett's dismissal was unexpected, a more unusual one happened a few weeks back at Huish Park, where Pools are due to play in round 1 of the FA Cup.

That's because referee Aaron Jackson decided towards the end of Yeovil Town's National League game against Bromley that the ball boys dotted around the pitch weren't helping both sides equally.
With the Glovers 3-1 up near the end, it wasn't just the the home players who were engaging in a bit of gamesmanship.

"One ball boy delayed giving the ball back to Bromley's Sam Wood about 10 minutes from the end and was warned by the referee," explained BBC Somerset commentator Chris Spittles. "But when the same ball boy repeated the trick shortly after, the referee asked for them all to be removed. One steward was tasked with gathering them all in and leading them away down the tunnel.

"I've never seen anything like it."

Running Monkey sent in the new Private Eye cover to prove that the mate he stands with at the Vic, The Ditchburn Poolie, aka The Ditch, is now so famous that he has been interviewed by that august publication. To maintain political balance at this time we must point out that there is no evidence to suggest the ditch was referring to any particular Boris.