Showing posts from December, 2019

Positive Attitude


After a succession of duds as managers it looks like Pools have got the right man in charge at last. And not a Borer connection in sight. Dave Challinor has made a successful start to his time in charge and the future is looking bright when he gets the chance to add a few players of his choice to the squad.

Our performance at Exeter coming from two down at half-time to earn a replay was something that would never have happened under previous failed regimes.

I see Craig Hignett is now claiming he was not fully supported by the owner last summer after being allowed to assemble one of the largest squads in the National League albeit top heavy with midfield players but for a man of his alleged superior football knowledge he must have known what he was doing. Because unlike the fans he would not get his football knowledge on the back of a postage stamp.

I wonder what he was thinking of when he took young Boro keeper Zach Hemming on loan in August and never gave him a game. Which pissed Borer off that much they recalled the player from his loan early, Now this is something Pools have got previous for, going back to the days of Tubby Turner when we would take players on loan and then not give them a game. It is a wonder there are any clubs left who are willing to loan us a player.

It is nice to see our present squad sharing the goals around and to have a striker like Gime Toure who looks like he could become our first 20-goal a season man for donkey's years. Indeed a striker bringing back memories of Ernie Phythian and Joe Allon.

Also I wonder who the imposter wearing the No 8 shirt is. It is certainly not the Xavi we love to hate and when he steps up to smack a goal in like the one at Exeter. For Featherstone to do something like that is totally out of character and must be down to the influence Dave Challinor is having on the squad. Let's hope this is not just a flash in the pan and he does not revert to the garbage he has been playing over the last five years.

Luke James is another who has shown a big improvement under the new manager. He is being played in a more central position rather than out wide under Hignett and looks a far better player for it.
"Barrow are top at the moment and no-one will convince me they are a better team than Pools"

Gav Holohan has been given his chance in midfield and is looking like he can do the job given an extended run in the team. It looks like Luke Williams and Luke Molyneux could be back in the squad before Christmas and both if they can get back to their best form can give a massive boost to the club.

We are settled in 10th position ready for a real push at the play-offs or better in the New Year. We will never have a better chance than this season with one of the weakest leagues for a while with no outstanding team in it. Barrow are top at the moment and no-one will convince me they are a better team than Pools; if they are the best the league has to offer then we have nothing to fear.

As for our FA Cup chance I think we can squeeze past Exeter, who don't travel well, in the replay and then it is on to Oxford in round three. An absolute shocker of a draw when all the lucrative ties were available. I don't know how long it is since we were drawn against one of the big teams. Boston or Rochdale get Newcastle at home and we get 'Orrible Oxford away from home. Looking at it pragmatically we can go there and get a draw and bring them back to the Vic to do 'em. And then, who knows, we get the draw we deserve and earn a bundle of cash out of it.

It was unfortunate that injury to Peter Kioso has kept him out of the side when he was enjoying a really successful season but it was good that Kenton Richardson was able to step in and not let anyone down. It augurs well for the strength of our squad when we have suitable replacements ready to come in for any injuries we may have.

So under Dave Challinor we look equipped to take on the second half of the season full of optimism and more than a good chance of regaining our Football League status.

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Almost a Home Game!


After drawing Yeovil in the first round of the FA Cup (a round trip of about 600 miles) and then Exeter in the second round (a round trip of about 700 miles), Poolies could have been forgiven for thinking that if we beat Exeter then we might get some respite from all the travelling. 

But, no, we get landed with Oxford United – a round trip of about 500 miles. Maybe if we could get to the 6th round we might be away to a Yorkshire club, which would be almost a home game!

For the game against Exeter, the powers that be didn’t exactly cover themselves with glory. A 3pm Saturday game would have been ideal for Poolies making a relaxing weekend break of the game. Arrive on the Friday, relax on the Saturday morning, see the match, have a night out and then drive back after breakfast on the Sunday morning. So easy, but some clown decided to kick off at 2pm on the Sunday. Normally, check out times at hotels are 11am leaving three hours before the match and then the long drive home before a day’s work. But then that’s present day footy – the interests of supporters come last.
"that’s present day footy – the interests of supporters come last."

I was interested to read the party manifestos for the election. Amongst all the words about spending money there were pieces about footy in both the Labour and Conservative manifestos. Labour had the following to say, “Sport must be accessible and run in the interests of those who participate in it and love it. In football, the professional game has become divided between the extremes of the very rich and the very poor with clubs in Bury and Bolton facing collapse. A Labour government will examine the state of the game, its governance and regulation, its ownership rules and the support and funding of the clubs "that are vital to local communities. WE WILL REVIEW THE ‘FIT AND PROPER PERSON TEST’ FOR CLUB OWNERS AND DIRECTORS (capitals mine) and ensure that supporters’ trusts have a proper role so that the professional game is properly run for all its fans and all its clubs”. The Conservative manifesto had this to say, “We will establish a £150 million Community Ownership Fund to encourage local takeovers (including) local football clubs. We will set up a fan-led review of football governance, which will include consideration of the Owners and Directors Test…”

So you have some consensus between the two main parties as to the interests of fans. Poolies will certainly agree with a review of the owners and directors tests!! Hope they carry out their promises!!! Some other poor club could be caught short in the future.

Ben Killip sure proved his worth against Exeter. He’s had his critics but the triple save must have heartened his team mates and fans. One thing is standing out in this year’s campaign – the form of Nicky Featherstone and Luke James. So far as Luke James is concerned, the reason is obvious – he’s getting the ball at his feet instead of having high balls pumped up to him in front of 6 feet 3 inches centre halves. He sure has the ability to run other teams ragged and he’s scoring the goals.

So we have some optimism as we come into December. A happy Christmas everyone!!


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All Change


I know that Dave Challinor has only just got his feet under the table, and soon to be hopefully on top of the table, but already he seems like a massive breath of fresh air when compared to his predecessors.

I thought he was the right appointment for the job mainly because he has had no previous connection with the club or for that matter Middlesbrough FC - think Cooper, Harrison, Bates and Hignett.

With absolute total respect for Tony Sweeney and Ian McGuckin I felt that the job was too early for them and at this juncture in the club's history Hartlepool United required someone with experience and who knows the lower leagues inside out. That said I am sure that their time will deservedly come.

Craig Hignett allegedly said that what the average football fan knows about the game can be written on the back of a postage stamp, which I felt was an arrogant statement. Even before he became manager of Hartlepool United Dave Challinor had done his homework on Pools and identified a number of things which most fans had already written on the rear of that postage stamp. He pointed out that we have too many players that are similar. I take that to read the midfield and central defence. Similar in style as well as in lack of pace.

He also said that the team needs to play with an intensity. That is a word which has been lacking in previous Hartlepool United managers' vocabularies.
"He also said that the team needs to play with an intensity. That is a word which has been lacking in previous Hartlepool United managers' vocabularies."

Here's hoping that we are going to see a different brand of football with a higher-octane level putting an end to passing the ball back to the keeper and across the park and to get the ball up front in two or three moves instead of the usual twenty three. Above all for the team to move with pace and get forwards into the box at speed. It is heartening that the first signs of this style have been seen away at Yeovil, Chesterfield, and in the second half against Exeter in the Cup. I am not his biggest fan but Nicky Featherstone looks a transformed player. If we can replicate this form at home there is no reason why we cannot make the play-offs.

Myles Anderson and Adam Bale have been loaned out either to get minutes under their belt or possibly they are being put in the shop window as deemed surplus to requirements as perhaps they fall into the 'Too similar type of player' bracket. Allowing players to go out on loan gives the option of bringing in other players which Challinor has already hinted at.

Give Craig Hignett his due, with a few exceptions Dave Challinor has inherited a decent set of players to work with. I have to say that this is the best squad of players that we have assembled in many a year.  I would argue that most of the current squad would have walked into any Hartlepool United side in their last three seasons of league football, replacing any of them (Amond and Carson aside.) I would even go on to say that they would have probably avoided our descent into the National League

For Dave Challinor the trick will be to, unlike Craig Hignett, get these players to work as an effective unit and if they play the entertaining style of football Challinor's former club Fylde served up I for one will be delighted.

Welcome to Hartlepool Dave Challinor. It is a bit like Blackpool but without the lights and a damn sight colder, But the town has a passion.

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In Due Course


The Mail recently blazed the following banner across the internetty thing. "Hartlepool United's 'Project 25' plans revealed:New stadium and renovations to Victoria Park on the horizon?"
Talk about contradictory headline. Having read the article twice I did not see anything about definite plans for a new stadium, only speculation as to what these developments might be.

They quoted Mark Maguire as saying amongst other things as ''Whether that will be a new stadium or a new stand, we'll announce that in due course. Maguire also uses the words 'hoping', 'could' and 'due course'. I feel that the Mail has jumped the gun somewhat and in doing so is building up supporters' expectations. They should, like the fans, wait for the official announcement which, as Mark Maguire said, will be released in due course and would save the Mail the bother of writing a spurious headline.

I've now got that rant off my chest but, talking of which, do we need a new stadium? I would argue not. I took a Borer supporter to see the Yeovil game. It was his first ever visit to the Vic and he was pleasantly surprised.
"try as you may, which ever way you look at it, it does still resemble a garage/car showroom"

The stadium as it stands ('scuse the pun) could do with some redevelopment. I once saw Harold Hornsey's plans for the Mill House side back in the day, which were impressive. Offices/changing rooms and a sports hall which the public could avail of. Something should be considered similar to Chesterfield's ground which has business premises occupying parts of the ground which brings in much-needed revenue.

Looking now to the year 2025 - when we are a first division club as per Mark Maguire's Project 25 vision - I believe that the first priority should be to replace the Rink End stand in favour of a bigger one to accommodate the away supporters of the larger visiting clubs such as likes of Sunderland, Borer and, as it now stands, possibly Arsenal. Office accommodation for the staff could be incorporated into the structure. This would allow the demolition of the existing office block because, try as you may, which ever way you look at it, it does still resemble a garage/car showroom. Money being no object the Cyril Knowles stand could be made bigger and the space behind it utilised better.

Mark Maguire stated that this project will not be a white elephant, which suggests to me that a move away from the Vic would sound unlikely. The Vic is almost bang centre in the middle of the town and is easily accessible. For away fans the ground is but a 5 minute walk from the railway station as well as the busy transport interchange next to it.

All this is hypothesis at this stage and until the scheme is made official we can only wonder how this project will be financed and who will be providing the money. I am keenly looking forward to hearing what Project 25 entails and am quite excited about the whole thing.

Mind, if the word "Heskylators" crops up in the plan I will be very worried indeed!

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Deck the Halls


If you're like me, come the first of December, you have a Tom and Jerry "eek" moment when you realise that Christmas is coming.

You need to do something soon: make prezzy and card lists and find which of the ones that you bought last year but never gave/sent are suitable to be disposed of this time round. If you're used to always doing your Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve by spending the afternoon traipsing around the shops, well, those days are, like many of the shops themselves, gone. Online shopping has seen to that.

While every town has its decorations up for all of December, we may not be quite that ready in our own houses. Our decorations have all been up in the loft gathering dust for 12 months. Batteries which should have been removed may have corroded, a jumble of wires will need to be disentangled and some baubles will have broken.

So Monkey Business has come up with the answer to the broken bauble problem:
download our "Mervyn the Monkey" baubles file and print your own Bizz Baubles.

They can be printed on an A4 sheet of white card or photo paper, then cut out, folded and stuck as shown, making your Christmas tree distinctively show your allegiance to both the town of Hartlepool and its football club.

You'll need scissors, glue/double-sided tape and sewing thread/string and about 10 minutes.

The file can be downloaded from HERE

For those who remember the Hartlepool Corporation Christmas bus, the Bizz models of two of its incarnations are still available by going to last season's December Edition HERE

And if you're wondering where the 2020 Bizz calendar is, it will come with MB186 on Jan 3rd, but you won't have need of a calendar before that date anyway!

[And the headline is not an incitement for anyone to attack people who have the surname Hall. -Ed]

Past Back


I was looking through an old Mail Sports Special from 28 December 1985 - 34 years ago - for something interesting to illustrate how times have changed. Sadly there wasn't much.

First of all, I was surprised that both the Fooball Mail title and the green paper it was printed on were gone by 1985.

In the paper, we read that Pools' game with Chester had been called off due to 4 inches of snow but Boro beat Sunderland 2-0. Elsewhere there were New Year greetings from Pools' chairman John Smart on the Pools two-page spread, which at this time of year usually carried an upbeat headline, this one being "Season of Progress." For that season at least, such a headline seems to have been fair enough - Pools went on to finish 7th top of the 4th Division, compared with 6th bottom the previous season.

And most of the teams in Division 4 were the 'usual suspects' - Burnley, Chester, Hereford and Preston being the only ones that couldn't theoretically join Pools in League 2 next season.

Even the full page of photos of some blonde in her underwear didn't seem worthy of much comment other than that it would have been far more tasteful than page 3 of that day's edition of The Sun, so I picked on this reader's letter to show what people had to do (write to the local paper) to voice their footy opinions four years before Monkey Business existed.

It might be interesting to try out the "no back-passing from outside the penalty area" idea.


There is no doubt there has been a serious fall in gates at Football League matches. Two reasons have been put forward as the prime cause of this — hooliganism and the high cost of attending matches (including travel due to the dispersement of the population away from the vicinity of football grounds).

There have always been hooligans in all walks of life and not just among the unemployed and under-privileged as highly-paid sociologists would have us believe. Before the advent of the permissive society, hooligans invariably received their desserts either justly or otherwise and no one lost much sleep over them.

The point about the cost of attending matches, particularly for fathers taking children is valid. Clubs had no control over the shift of population and transport costs, but they failed to put their house in order when gates were far higher than now and they are payinq the price for greed and mismanagement by certain boards of directors.
"Before the innovation of the plastic-covered ball, back-passing was a dangerous habit"

I wonder if the powers in football have ever considered that one of the reasons for big gates in the past was that matches were more exciting. When matches were regularly televised it was nothing for as many as 15 back passes to be made to goalkeepers, from the half way line in as many minutes and for the same goal-keepers to stand with the ball clutched to their chests for what seemed ages.

Who is going to pay good money to watch this except drunken flag-waving morons spoiling for trouble?

Before the innovation of the plastic-covered ball, back-passing was a dangerous habit, specially on heavy ground as defences under pressure were forced to yield possession by kicking into touch. Back passing to the goalkeeper should only be allowed within the penalty area and, for good measure, the offside rule should be altered to encourage attacking football.

T. K, Hartlepool


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Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 2 Boreham Wood 2 (National League)
Saturday 23 November 2019
Victoria Park

Boreham Wood had never beaten Pools since we joined the lower ranks; this team today looked as if they could change all that. They were at us from the off and we just could not hold them; they were slick and linked up very well and could have been three up in fifteen minutes.

We were not holding onto the ball, could not push out of our half and returned to going square or back to Killip.

Even then we were put under a lot of pressure and at the other end I remember only one decent shot on goal all through the half, which was from Luke James. Even so, Boreham were making good chances and missing them so we were still in with a chance.They had three very good players who looked far too good for this level, and they worked really well together. Everyone knew their game plan and it was looking good against our hoof-it-away-asap.

According to the Ditchburn this was a game we could never win. You have to give him a bit of slack as he is still recovering from some surgical operation. No, not cerebral but you just might think that when he stated that this Ashmore, the goal keeper who was actually on loan from Ebbsfleet or some other club is the best goalkeeper in the world and we will never score past him.

We did get the ball into the net and photos show it was at least two foot over the line. There was a pile of bodies on the line too and I think it was Kabamba that landed in the back of the net as he forced the ball in but their world-beating keeper, who was on the deck, looked as if he pushed the ball up in the air and a defender hoisted it away from the goal. The lino ruled it a no goal and the ref agreed. WE WAS ROBBED. The club photographer showed me the pic and it was on the internet immediately but that does not help the poor minions that have VAR to help them win games.
"I managed to head it into the back of the Town End to save anyone around me being injured but a lesser man would have been knocked over"

Shortly after that I was hit with a ball, one of the hardest shots you have ever seen and it hit me square on the nut, I managed to head it into the back of the Town End to save anyone around me being injured but a lesser man would have been knocked over. Those that laughed at my predicament and made jokes of my lucky escape will not be named here, apart from the Ditchburn who is probably still laughing.

The penalty Boreham were gifted was another farce. Ok it was along the opposite end of the terrace to me but it looked like a perfect tackle; the attacker messed up his pass to a companion and the ball was played up field. The ref then turned back and gave the penalty. The explanation at half time between different fans was that the ref was playing advantage. Ok, there was nothing in the tackle; he missed his pass so what or where was the advantage? Another gift from a visiting official that was duly dispatched past Killip.

Going in a goal down, Pools had to start and play football, but the first half must have been an eye opener for the new manager and an insight into the task in front of him. The visitors took a two goal lead early on when their star man Tshimanga chipped a ball over Killip.

The manager, obviously not happy with the start, made a couple of changes as he brought on Cunningham and the MAGIC MAN, TOURE. He turned the game with his pace and skill and it put the visitors on the back foot for the first time in the game. Donaldson began getting forward and set up a chance for Featherstone who left "the world's best keeper" (ref. Ditchburn), grasping at thin air when, from at least twenty yards out, Featherstone blasted one into the net giving the Poolie faithful hope.

Someone in the dressing room must have put an extra sugar cube in the ref's half time cuppa as he returned the favour by giving the home side a penalty after a Kitching run into the box was thwarted illegally by a defender. 'Mr Magic' Toure stepped up and put the scores level again giving the world's best keeper (ref. Ditchburn) no chance and Pools were now looking good. Ashmore, the world's best keeper (ref. Ditchburn), got booked for foolishly running up the field with the ball, trying to delay the restart. He must have added twenty minutes onto the game when he delayed every throw or kick while Boreham were in the lead; dontcha just love it when it comes back on them. James nearly won all three points with a decent header right at the end of the game but at least we scraped a point from a game we could have easily lost.

There was a bit of a shindig in the game when the visitors took it on themselves to surround Featherstone after a tackle and Pools players also got involved to protect their team mate. This is becoming a feature of games now and it is not pretty and has to be stamped out. While I am on the Ditchburn soap box I will also comment on the celebrations in front of opposition fans inciting trouble like the Dover game.

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Done Over

Match report by RUNNING MONKEY

Pools 0 Solihull Moors 1 (National League)
Tuesday 05 November 2019
Victoria Park

This delayed game on a 'bommy’ night, which may see the end of Tony Sweeney's caretaker role, took off like a rocket then fizzled out with a whimper as Pools were done over by the visitors.

Although nil-nil at half time, it was a decent game of football with both teams having chances. Pools' back four looked a little suspect with too many back passes as the visitors were no slouches getting forward. A combination of Raynes and Kerr put Killip under pressure with a short pass and Killip had to scramble to clear the ball from an advancing attacker.

The visitors looked dangerous and stretched us at times. A long range shot that caught Killip napping fortunately bounced back off the bar. They had a long throw ‘‘expert’’ who showed his hand with a throw from the Mill House side, level with the eighteen-yard box and it landed in the Town End which entertained the Poolies. Pools looked handy in the first half but once again no end product after some good entertaining football, Holohan had a coupe of decent chances but was either wide or blocked and he needs to make his mark as he has good approach play but needs the goals to back it up.

Early in the second half Kioso made a fantastic clearance off the line as Fillip went wide of his box to cut out a long ball but the attacker slipped it past him and shot at the goal. The speed of Kioso was a sight to see as he raced into the box and scooped the ball clear when we all thought we were a goal down. The visitors were a decent side and their passing game looked good pressing us on the break.

In the second half the visitors looked as if they had taken confidence from our inability to score when we had the chance and stepped up their game and from the pressure we were under it was only a matter of time. Pressure from a cross found the ball in the back of the net when a header hit the post and went in.
"This delayed game ...took off like a rocket then fizzled out with a whimper as Pools were done over by the visitors."

Pools started to play some better football, albeit a bit late in the game. Williams looked very lively when he came on and flashed a couple of decent shots at goal but also some decent play around the box, testing the keeper with a nice chip over the top that was inches wide.

The visitors were now in time-wasting mode. It took them an age to celebrate in front of their twenty-nine fans and they milked it all the way, aided by the ref. I know I should not mention the ref as overall he looked as competent as any of the other merchants we have seen of late. He did warn the keeper for taking so long to kick the ball back into play, who just continued with the same tactics, even going down at a corner claiming he had a broken leg, asking for the trainer then refusing treatment and kicking the ball away with his potentially broken leg. I may labour on about these tactics at every game but it is a sad fact of today's football. The ref seemed to change tack when a Pools player argued a decision; for a long period in the game we never won a challenge or a fifty-fifty as he continued to stop the game, giving the visitors the benefit. He let a few nasty challenges go but recovered himself after Luke was scythed down and he let play go on but then went back to book the offender.

The new manager sitting in the stand will have to look at the lack of goals, and as one punter said, the unsettled striker at Fylde could be a target, but you know I never start rumours.

Sweeney has done well and let’s hope they keep him with the first team set-up.

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Any Other Business


Well, Dave Challinor seems to be proving that he's been able to continue what Tony Sweeney started, by getting the best out of the current squad, something that Craig Hignett couldn't manage.

The Never-Say-Die motto always seemed to be more of a hope than an expectation, but several two-goal comebacks suggest that it is now quite apt.

Perhaps automatic promotion is a bit too much to hope for, but as we head towards the new year, Poolies will be looking forward with some confidence, even if old habits die hard and our first thought is always "how far are we off the relegation zone.!

We can't vouch for its authenticity but this Luftwaffe bombing map was sent in by a contributor. Supposedly dating from the Second World War it would suggest why Pools' second grandstand didn't perish to German bombs, unlike its predecessor.

(rough translation:   "Bombing Targets: West Hartlepool
IMPORTANT: Don't bomb the Victoria Ground. We got so much grief last time!")

Finally, with this being the last Bizz of 2019, we'd like to thank all our readers for being with us for another year of following the ups and downs of the club we love. 

We especially would like to thank the contributors who answer the call each month. Thankfully, or perhaps sadly, Pools always manage to give them something to write about.

So we'd like to wish all of you, readers, contributors, the players and everyone connected with the club an enjoyable festive period and a happy and prosperous, and hopefully a promoted New Year.