Hey, Nicky, You're so Fine


BILLY'S CONTRACT




I never thought I would say this but I am having second thoughts about Nicky Featherstone. It would seem that in many supporters' eyes he has turned from a frog to a prince. The effect of his recent performances is akin to that of having brought in a decent signing.

Out of all the players in the squad it would be fair to say that he has benefited most from Dave Challinor's tutelage. We always knew there was a midfield player in him somewhere and Challinor has found it. I am just hoping that it won't prove to be a false dawn as I recall that under Craig Harrison he had a similar, albeit short spell, and mainly in friendlies it has to be said, of pushing forward and indeed at times looking the part but soon reverted back to form.

The following season he got his backside into gear when Liam Noble arrived at the club
and once again he seemed to come out of his shell, pushing forward and even getting on the score sheet. His game at Halifax last season was in my eyes his best game ever in a Pools shirt and he scored a spectacular goal to boot.

Ironically, a few days later at Salford, he probably had one of his worst games for the club. One thing that is evident is that every Pools manager, caretaker or otherwise* has played him on a regular basis and he has hardly been out of the side since the day Paul Murray signed him. So am I missing something?

I have on many an occasion in MB decried his style of play. His square sideways passing. Back Passing. Being caught in possession. For me his biggest crime is the way he slows the game down unnecessarily to the benefit of our opponents by not making that one quick decisive pass.
"On current form I would say he must be the firm favourite to be the Player-of-the-Year"

I often said he would not make my eleven-a-side team but he would be first pick in my 5-a- side team. This view was shared on a recent Pools video when, owing to the atrocious weather, the team were confined to the Domes at Seaton for training. Before several 5-a- side teams were set up, the interviewer asked each player who they would want in their team and almost unanimously it was Featherstone's name that was called.

I also put the case forward that he could play at a higher level and would be better suited playing in a side that passed the ball around and built up from the back. He would slot into Pep Guardiola's side (or Barca's or Real's) with ease as long as he did not have to cross the half way line.

So how has this metamorphosis occurred? For my money it was the day Dave Challinor walked through the door and transformed him. He is an entirely different player to the one we have been watching over the last five seasons. On current form the way he is playing he just might be in with a chance of breaking Ritchie Humphreys' record number of appearances for the club.

For the Yeovil game - Craig Hignett's last at the Vic - and owing to circumstances beyond my control, I viewed the match from the Cyril Knowles stand and paid particular attention to our midfield maestro.

He made seven back passes to the keeper. One of them from an attacking position 5 yards into the oppositions half.

Normally I am quite controlled and I don't subscribe to getting on players' backs if something goes wrong or an individual makes a mistake. A quiet mumble to myself will suffice or at worse I roll my eyes to the heavens but on this occasion Featherstone had me out of my seat and flinging my dut down on the terrace in frustration. It got worse with minutes to go before the full-time whistle; Featherstone was culpable in part for Yeovil's equaliser. In fairness, minutes later he did atone himself by stepping up a gear for the first time in the match; he moved forward with pace and played his part in Pools' last-minute winner.

Two seasons on the trot Featherstone came back pre-season and was clearly carrying some, let's say 'excess baggage', and in truth looked sluggish. Challinor made comment in the media that Featherstone has recently had a change of diet and it has to be said his shirt looks a tad baggier on him than at the beginning of the 2019/20 campaign. I am speculating that, not unlike myself, he is one of these people who only has to look at a Wispa bar and puts on a stone in weight.

He is now playing further forward and supporting the front runners and more markedly the square balls and back passing to the keeper look to be, fingers crossed, a thing of the past.

He is not afraid to have a pop at goal which gives the team some added firepower. However the thing that most impressed me in the recent game against Notts County was that when pushing forward he was dispossessed of the ball and literally ran back ten yards like a terrier and retrieved the ball and set up a further attack.

Although, thankfully, it does not happen as often as it once did, he does still have a tendency to run a couple of paces with the ball rather than making a quick pass to keep the momentum from breaking when Pools are attacking. It is obvious Dave Challinor sees something in the player otherwise he would not have offered the player new terms well ahead of the close season.

On current form I would say he must be the firm favourite to be the Player-of-the-Year and provided he maintains his current form, and you heard it here first, even I might vote for him. Now that is eating humble pie.

P.S. / N.B. / Stop Press
This was typed up before the Boreham Wood game where he was distinctly average.

* Dave Jones

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