Showing posts from May, 2020

Uncertain Future


So the inevitable happened and the National League was brought to a close with nothing decided on what comes next. Which is a pity as Pools were in with a shout of the play-offs with some games to come with ample chances of picking up points from teams in the bottom half of the league.

I suppose it could be worse - we could be Barrow, four points clear and not certain to go up. The kind of luck that we thought belonged exclusively to Pools. But now we are in a position where players and some staff are on furlough and some have been paid off. Unfortunately, going back to the days of Mein Fuerher Hodcroft, the people who were sacked haven't actually been named by the club which you might think was the least they could do. 

Apparently one is media manager Mark Simpson who has been with the club for 18 years through thin and thinner. He had a massive job to follow the late great Paul Mullen and didn't do too bad job. For a Mackem. I don't see how he could have been made redundant in the job of Media Manager but still be needed by the club. It seems a case of cutting costs by any means they feel free to use and it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. It was bad enough that the news has to be broken by ex-player Mick Barron on social media. Now it appears to be up to manager Dave Challinor as to which players will be at the club for the new season, whenever that may start. And I'm not holding my breath on that one.

If it starts up again this year I think we will be doing well. Apparently Ben Killip, Gus Mafuta, Ryan Donaldson, Luke Molyneux, Gavan Holohan and Aidan Keena are under contract and so will be here. Our five loan signings Timi Odusina, Gary Liddle, Mark Shelton, Macaulay Southam-Hales and Rob Harker will have gone back to their clubs. Out of those five I would have them all apart from Harker back with us full time. I don't think Harker is experienced enough for this league yet.
"There is going to be a surfeit of players looking for a club from July onwards and with Challinor's connections I am sure he can bring in some really good additions."

I would like to see a real cull of some of the deadwood we have left. There is going to be a surfeit of players looking for a club from July onwards and with Challinor's connections I am sure he can bring in some really good additions. To make way for the new blood I would say Goodnight Vienna to the following under-achievers: Ryan Catterick, Kenton Richardson, Frazer Kerr, Michael Raynes, Mark Kitching, Jason Kennedy, Nicholas Featherstone, Adam Bale, Nico Muir, Aaron Cunningham and Luke James. That would mean new contracts for Josh Hawkes, Gime Touré and Luke Williams.

Obviously the contract for Williams is controversial and would have to be a short one, or a pay-as-you-play one to start with but having spent all this time trying to get him back up to scratch it would be foolish to let him go and perhaps to another club where he can show his true class and make us look like a bunch of mugs.

I am not sure whether Touré would want to stay at Pools as he appears to have a strained relationship with Challinor. So it's looking like two full backs, two centre backs, and two strikers on the list. And I would certainly go for another goalkeeper as Killip hardly cuts the mustard. He might be under contract, thanks to the folly of ex-manager Craig Hignett, who has an awful lot to answer for, but I would be doing my best to foist - err, I mean move him on - to another club.

Whatever happens in the current climate it is going to be a good time to set the club on an even, sustainable keel and plan for a better future than the desperate times the loyal supporters have had to endure.

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Old Football v New Football


In my youth I would always politely stifle a yawn when someone from the next generation or two upwards would say to me that football now was nowhere as good as in yesteryear. And that the likes of Len Shackleton, Wilf Mannion, Jackie Milburn and Tom Finney would run rings round the footballers of today such as Bobby Charlton, George Best, Tony Currie and Rodney Marsh - "...and they played with a laced-up 'casey'."
"Yeah. yeah, yeah" I would say (The Beatles were at their peak then), "But you have obviously never seen Barry Wardrobe in full flight down at the Vic!"

I now find myself having the same debate with my son, comparing Premiership football of 2020 with that of the old First Division of the late sixties and seventies. In fact we have now reached the stage of comparing football of 2000 v 2020. The same old arguments come up. The players nowadays are undoubtedly a lot fitter and quicker and are built like athletes. Their diets have improved and in the main they drink in moderation and very few would dream of having a fag during the half time interval.

In the seventies and before, the pitches were very much a seasonal affair. For the first few games of the campaign they would be of a reasonable standard but in the main bone dry. Apart from a good downpour of rain or a quick splash from a two gallon watering can, I cannot ever recall seeing a pitch being watered by the ground staff. As winter set in, pitches would go from being rock hard to a muddy quagmire that would not have been out of place on the Somme battlefield.

Then came the snow. Many is the time I have seen games played with banks of snow shovelled from both goalmouths and around the pitch to reveal the white lines, piled up against the advertising hoardings. That said, there would still be a couple of inches of snow on the main playing surface itself but nonetheless the game would be played and without any of the participants wearing gloves to keep warm. Not now though.

As springtime approached it was common to see more sand on a pitch than grass. More often than not the pitches resembled beaches and I swear I can recall in Pools' case that there was more sea coal than sand on the field of play when they applied 'sand' taken from Seaton beach.

The thing about pitches of yesteryear compared to today's is that they were a great leveller. For instance, you could have an all-conquering, in-form, footballing side visit a bottom-of-the-table team and comfortably beat them. A month later the sames two sides could meet again in the Cup at the same ground but this time on a sodden pitch and the result might fall in favour of the strugglers as the conditions might not be conducive to the footballing side.

West Ham were renowned for their pleasing one/two touch football played on the deck but they were equally renowned for their slide down the table once British Summer Time ended and the clocks went back.

In truth, with a few exceptions, I doubt if many of today's footballers could adjust to the demands of playing on poor surfaces week in and week out. I also don't think many of them would have been able to cope with the physicality of the game and lack of protection from the referee. Also, not only had teams to play with footballs that absorbed water, making them heavier, but the players of yore also wore boots that were of an industrial quality and weight.
"Someone later said that he would only issue a red card upon the presentation of a death certificate."

Even the football shirts are now considerably lighter, I am sure. But to put that assertion to the test, moments ago I popped my old 1970's West Ham hooped away top onto the kitchen scales and weighed it against the current Pools first team shirt. The Happy Hammers shirt is six ounces heavier. (I got some very funny looks from the Bride when I carried out this exercise on the kitchen worktop!) Can you imagine when that lot got wet it was like carrying an additional four two-pound bags of sugar around with you.

At a Sportsman's dinner Duncan McKenzie recounted the tale of his Leeds United debut in the Charity Shield match against Liverpool. He was stood in the Wembley tunnel next to Tommy Smith who turned to him and said 'Now we are not going to do anything silly today are we Duncan?' Could you imagine that conversation taking place with the likes of say, Raheem Sterling. He would be putting a sick note in every other week when he found out that he would be up against the likes of Chopper Harris, Norman Hunter, Paddy Crerand, Ian Ure, Jack Charlton and the like.

The notorious and brutal cup replay between Chelsea and Leeds of 1970 was recently reviewed by a number of referees. One ref said he would have given eleven reds and 6 yellows. On the night of the match itself the ref in question only awarded one yellow. Someone later said that he would only have issued a red card upon the presentation of a death certificate. Another comment from a player was that "each time time he went to his pocket we thought he was reaching for a card." Turns out he was reaching for his hanky before blowing his nose then telling both sets of brawlers to get on with the game.

I would argue that many of the players of the sixties and seventies would walk into today's teams without batting an eyelid. Could you imagine the likes of Bobby Moore playing on the billiard-table top playing surfaces of the twenty-first century. If such a thing was possible, he would have gone up to another level. The same would apply to the likes of Duncan Edwards, Jimmy Greaves, Colin Bell and Martin Peters to name but a few.

Several areas where my son and myself were in agreement:
4-4-2 is almost a thing of the past. There now seems to be acres of space available to players and very little true man-to-man marking. Attacking players are now closed down as opposed to being tackled. My heir correctly noted that you could almost count the tackles over the 90 minutes in a Premiership match on the fingers of one hand.

There are pros and cons of watching top class football from both periods but on reflection I think if I had a time machine I would board it every Saturday afternoon and take it back to the seventies where not only was the atmosphere within the grounds a lot more exciting than today but the football itself was far more entertaining.

Postscript: In defence of twenty-first century football, there is no doubt that, Ebbsfleet aside, the quality of lower league football has come on in leaps and bounds and at all levels surpasses what was offered back in the day. The beauty of it it is that it still retains an element of physicality and honesty. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that crowd attendances at this level continue to rise year on year.

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He said,
He said


Coronavirus or no coronavirus, there is always something happening at Pools. It was reported in the Mail that some seven months after his dismissal as Hartlepool United's manager, Craig Hignett still has not received his four-figure severance payment, and is now considering taking legal action.
The club acknowledges that the former manager is owed money but is seeking clarity over company equipment before making payment.(Hartlepool Mail 28/4/20)

Read into that what you will. I can understand Hignett's frustration at not being paid = who wouldn't - particularly as he states that the club are no longer talking to him or returning his text messages, but how has this story got into the media?

Is the threat of legal action (via the press) a ploy to force the club's hand? If I was in a similar position and was not getting a response from the club or whoever I would have been straight on the phone to my Philadelphia lawyer/solicitor, not talking to the press. As it now stands the whole affair is unnecessarily in the public domain.
"Is the threat of legal action (via the press) a ploy to force the club's hand?"

British Telecom once had a great tag line which was 'It's Good to talk'. It worked for Nelson Mandela and President F.W. de Klerk as well as Mo Mowlam and Gerry Adams. If it worked for them it should work for Hignett and Pools, thus keeping it out of print as it doesn't show either side in a good light.

On a lighter note, in the same article Craig Hignett was also quoted as saying "I don't know to this day why it (his dismissal) happened." I had to re-read that piece several times over. Next time, whenever that may be, when Pools are at home, he should have a wander around the terraces and get the fans' view. A few pointers from myself would be: poor football / results / substitutions / lack of a Plan B / tumbling down the league apace and rapidly heading to the bottom four (16th place when he left). A shame really as he always came across as a canny enough, likeable fellow.

Pools seem to be a managers' graveyard as, to the best of my knowledge, besides Hignett, none of Bates, Jones, Cooper and Money have ever managed a football club since leaving Hartlepool United.

I really hope that Dave Challinor is not reading this!

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(except possibly Pools)


Well, the game of football has got itself in a real old pickle hasn’t it? The banking crisis of 2008 passed right by the game and things bumbled on as normal.

I would guess that the Premier League and the English Football League never thought their lucrative empires would be threatened. Threatened they are and there is no indication as yet when things might return to normal.

Over the past few weeks we have had the unedifying discussions about wage reductions, particularly in the bog standard Premier League where the PFA seem to have expended all their energies on the high wage earners. In general terms, I wouldn’t be lectured to by politicians but the intervention of the Health Secretary certainly stirred up a hornet's nest, which triggered off all the discussions. There’s no unified approach as most clubs pursue their own selfish interests. In short, they’re running round like headless chickens.
"Pools can, fortunately, just sit back and let dog eat dog and think about next season’s campaign."
But it isn’t all about the Premier League. There are 72 clubs in the EFL and little has been focussed on them. And this is where the danger lies, particularly in Leagues 1 and 2 where most of the revenue comes from season tickets, match day receipts, hospitality and sponsorship (particularly from local businesses). If there is a long delay in completing the current season – and a long delay before next season - then I can see a number of them going out of business. That would be a tragedy but it’s a crisis that couldn’t be avoided. But maybe it could have been if the PL had loosened the purse strings a lot more. And there’ll be no handouts from government.
So we come to the National League. They’ve aborted the season but left the issues of promotion and relegation on the back burner. And that’s where the fun will start. Barrow and Harrogate are almost certainly going to be promoted to League 2 but the issue of relegation will be hard to resolve – as will promotion from National Leagues North and South. Pools can, fortunately, just sit back and let dog eat dog and think about next season’s campaign.

As of the end of the season, we’ve eight players under contract and Dave Challinor has plenty of time to assess the squad for next season – whenever that will begin. Pools made an early start to cutting costs – sadly people had to be made redundant – and there are modest fund-raising schemes – like the Match Day Lottery.

Why aren't Pools running round like headless chickens? Simply because we're used to crises!"
A depressing end to the season. Things can only get better (we hope!)

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Geordie the Bruce, possibly a descendant of Robert de Brus, Lord of Hartlepool, is back in his shed, wondering what will happen if and when his team is finally sold off by the Lord of Newcastle.

He had known long before he took the job that it wouldn’t be easy to keep his difficult boss, the Lord of Newcastle, Michael de Ashley, happy.

And then, just as he’d managed to keep the club going on a miserly budget and proved the doom-merchants wrong, along comes this virus to put a spanner in the works.

But more importantly, it put a spanner in the finances of His Lordship, whose already-struggling retail empire had had to close down for a few months. Which no doubt was part of the reason for the impending sale, to yet more rich Arabs.

So there was Geordie in his shed, pondering on his chances once the moneybags started to arrive. Being a cheap option tends to cut no ice in these situations, as these people will want the best there is, not the best they can get for peanuts.

Geordie could see the writing was on the wall, and it was saying “P45”. He as usual tried to gain inspiration from Sid the Spider, who would just keep going, whatever difficulties arose.
"While he couldn’t become a world-beating manager overnight, perhaps he wouldn’t need to."

And that gave Geordie an idea. While he couldn’t become a world-beating manager overnight, perhaps he wouldn’t need to.

His Lordship is rumoured to want, once the sale has gone through, to take over a Football League club, which would obviously require less of the cash that he was losing fast. So that would require a cheap manager whom he could work with.

Geordie the Bruce knew just the club, one he had previously managed before it hit hard times, and, even better, it was just down the road. “Sunderland is the ideal solution”, he said. “So, although at first I didn’t succeed, I’d be able to try again!”

And Sid the Spider said to himself “Loser!”

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A True Local Football Legend

ANDY DIBBLE'S GLOVES and ELVIS COSTELLO'S GLASSES reminisce about their childhood

[Recycled from Bizz no.78 of December 2005]

A lot has been said over the years about local legends... and football is no exception. And let’s face it; Pools have a few, but not always for the right reasons. But there is one guy who deserves legend status, and I am pretty sure he hasn’t been honoured in the past. And a good number of 30- and 40- something blokes around Hartlepool should be, and are, embarrassed about it. 

So let's put that straight now. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give the you the legend that is: SAMMY ROBERTSON 

So... who has heard of Sammy then? I would hazard a guess that a good number of Poolies have. Some will have forgotten. Me, and my good mate Elvis Costello's Glasses, got talking about Sammy, and we reminisced about those days.

ADG: What do you remember about Sammy then, mate?

ECG: Everything. How can anyone forget those days.

ADG: I can remember getting up on a Saturday morning, putting my Leeds strip on, and walking down to Fens School field for 9:30am with a few mates, climbing over the fence, then waiting for Sammy to turn up.

ECG: I remember that, those terrible Leeds "Admiral" things with the epaulettes ...awful.

ADG: I looked a right tart.

ECG: You still do mate.

ADG: Cheers.

ECG: Nobody had Pools strips back then, though I had the blue Bukta one from about 1976. And how many had that awful yellow Mag strip?

ADG: Do you know what? I still to this day don’t know much about Sammy, or how this started. Do you?

ECG: Yeh, Sammy Robertson was one of the Town's best amateur footballers when that was something worth shouting about. Went to try his luck as a pro at Chesterfield and came back to Hartlepool in the 50's. Lived in Claymore Road in between The Manor and The Fens. He was some relation of me Dad's... I reckon he was my grandmother's cousin, as she was a Robertson as well.

ADG: So how do you reckon it started then? I have this idea that we used to go to the field for a kickabout and then the big kids would take over the game. Then Frankie must have told his uncle Sammy, who thought he would come and watch.

"always looked after the young 'uns, making sure if there was a corner, free kick, penner etc. that a little 'un or one of the not-so-hot players took it."
ECG: That’s about it, I think.

ADG: So he must have just said he will pick the teams then.

ECG: Yes, Sammy took over then. Sammy would pick two evenly-matched sides with a mixture of nippers, decent players, crap players... Sammy, in grey tracksuit top, old 50's style shorts and white plimsolls, like Brian Glover in "Kes", would referee. Always fair, always played by the right rules, and always looked after the young 'uns, making sure if there was a corner, free kick, penner etc. that a little 'un or one of the not-so-hot players took it.

ADG: When did it start though? I remember going from about the age of 9, 1974-ish. Actually it was probably earlier than that.

ECG: I reckon it started in 1972. I can deffo remember going there in 1973 when Sunderland won the FA Cup.

ADG: It always seemed like it was 20 a side as well. And we would be waiting around looking for Sammy to arrive. I remember him running along Catcote Road being followed by half of the kids who would play. Oh, and cheering when he got there.

ECG: Sammy would jog round to Fens School Field, with kids "Pied Piper" like, joining the back of the jogging line all the way up Torquay Avenue and along Catcote Road.

ADG: There were some good players as well. Not that I can remember many of the names. I suppose you can with your photographic memory.

ECG: Well you know me... Paul Frankland (Sammy's nephew and still a Poolie!), Me, Our Kid (who was known to Sammy as "Charlie George" due to his long hair, flair on the ball and strange Derby County away kit!), Sully (a great lad and always in goal), Hoggy (Geoff... lived on Owton Manor Lane and best childhood mate), Mick Ritchie (STILL cutting it as a FINE player in the over 40's league), loads of Fens/Manor School lads... the Priest twins (Darren and Russ), Cliffy Lodge, Trevor Lowe, a lad called Loynes who was deaf, "Cogser", who had a big "Billy Bouffant" blond hairstyle, Nicky Delafield, a kid called Hogan who was always getting sent off by Sammy, some kid called Measor, who was obviously basing his career on Martin Gorry.

ADG: Cheeky get. I never once had one of those curly perms. I remember some of those names, but there were more than them. The best laugh was in the rain and snow in winter. We used to go home covered head to toe in mud. And the scores...

ECG: Some of the games had to be seen to be believed. Scores of 22-21 were commonplace. In the winter months, it looked like 30 aliens playing in chocolate blancmange as the sea of mud was scraped from Adidas Beckenbauer Super boots. The contrived "Next Goal The Winner" finishes ...the goal celebrations (15-man pile-up).

ADG: Aye ...but no one failed to turn up the following week though did they? And then it was home, quick bath, Footy Focus, round mate’s house, then the Number Six to the ramp. Up to the chippy on top of the ramp. Then off to Pools, and in the ground for 2 o’clock.

ADG: And do you know what? I can’t remember when Sammy's ended. I seem to remember going till about 1977, but that was it.

ECG: Nah, it went on for a couple of years after that. 1980-ish.

ADG: Sammy must have been gutted when we all just stopped going, after all he had done I reckon we must have just outgrown it. Especially your stomach eh?

ECG: That's rich coming from you, Homer.

ADG: Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr... right. Thanks mate.

So that was it. How Sammy Robertson started the football careers of 40 or so promising young footballers. Well, OK then. There wasn't much talent there. But there was an awful lot of fun. And it was all down to one man. Never did any other parent join in. It was all the work of Sammy Robertson.

Can you imagine an adult giving up his time to do that now. He is one true footballing legend. Sammy Robertson ...we salute you. 

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Cost Cutters


Prior to the coronavirus hitting the streets the hierarchy at Pools were quite rightly looking at next season's budgets and cost cutting. It has gone on record several times that Raj Singh has invested more money in Pools than he had envisaged. Presumably this was in the hope of making the play-offs and perhaps an unlikely promotion which would have boosted the coffers no end.

There was talk of having a smaller squad (all under five foot four?) next season as well as the probability of part-time football. Consideration was given to volunteers working at the club. Basically the club on a week-to-week basis is still losing money and still has past debts to repay and this situation rightly has to be assessed and redressed.

I am sure the pressure must be on Mr Singh who must be fighting on two fronts as in addition to pumping additional funds into Pools the impact of the coronavirus must be having an big impact on his own business (care homes) which in a worse case scenario could further impact on Pools. I would like to think that the receipts from Pools' cup run and Peter Kioso's transfer fee have provided a cushion of sorts in the interim.

Through no fault of their own, Hartlepool United have now become victims of the old adage about the best laid plans of mice and men. The coronavirus has, to coin a phrase, not only moved the goalposts but effectively dismantled them and sold them for scrap.

Let's assume that the National League draws a line under the 2019/20 season. Hartlepool United, like a lot of other clubs, find themselves in a conundrum. Before planning the budget for Season 2020/21. Pools have other issues to address.

Pools had four home matches left to play before Covid-19 struck. Do they appeal to the sense of loyalty of season ticket holders who can afford to do so, to forfeit this money for the good of the club? The club could cover part or all of their loss by offering the ticket holder, as a sweetener, so many free pints/pies per match for the 2020/21 campaign.

Whilst retaining the annual attractive offer of a cut-priced season ticket if purchased pre-season, consideration should be given to a 3-5% increase in their cost. Pools season tickets are probably the most competitively priced in the National League and watching Pools is considerably cheaper than Darlo, Gateshead and York, who are all a division below us.

Then comes Catch 22. On the downside, many fans could have been hit hard financially because of Covid-19, having seen a reduction in their incomes or, worse still, loss of work, which would rightly put Pools low on their list of priorities.
"Hartlepool United have now become victims of the old adage about the best laid plans of mice and men."

It is no secret that the squad does need streamlining as it is far too big. There might be some shock departures when the club releases its retained list.

Bringing in loan players is the obvious option and with other clubs similarly trimming squad sizes down there will be a decent pool of players nationally desperately looking for work.

It was mooted from several sources, even before Covid-19, that Pools, like many other National League clubs, might go part-time or bring in semi- professionals. So far Raj has ruled this out but with Nicky Featherstone signing a new deal this week, that is nine full-time professionals on the books for 2020/21 season.

The club are also considering bringing in volunteers (I presume not playing staff?) to help run the club on match days. A great idea, but not if it means filling in for permanent staff that have recently lost their jobs. A bit like filling a dead man's shoes. But to ensure the club's survival, unpalatable as it may be, it could be a case of 'needs must'.

A number of clubs deploy match day volunteers and it works very well, Darlington 1883 being an example. I was once told by a Darlo-supporting friend (is there such a thing?) that they have/had a lad who travels up from London for each Saturday home game to man a turnstile (but I think the word turnstile at Darlo is singular and not plural.) Probably another cost-cutting exercise, but, joking aside, fair play to the lad. He must like trains.

I would like to think that we are in a better place than some of our counterparts in the National League as I fear some of them will go to the wall. It is a great shame that the 'Greed is Good' League is not doing more to support the lower tiers of the football community. Consideration should be given to imposing an additional levy on the transfer fee of any overseas player who joins a Premiership / Championship club, which would in turn filter down to the lower leagues and this would perhaps, long-term, encourage clubs to look at home grown talent instead of going abroad when considering bringing in new players.

I am sure that we will see many other cost-saving exercises in due course and perhaps a few shocks along the way but we will have to roll with them if we are to have a football club in the town and to support.

Support is going to being the key word.

Never Say Die.

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Billy Turley's Nightmare

[With its 16th anniversary being celebrated recently by Poolies - yes it really is that long ago - we thought we'd remind readers of what appeared in 4 different parts of MB no.70 about that day]

BILL THE BIRO had a brilliant outing to Northamptonshire

Rushden and Diamonds 0 Pools 2 (Division Two)
Saturday 24 April 2004
Nene Park

While Poolpower was at the Riverside being hospitalitized (as opposed to being in South Bank being hospitalized) and claiming it was all part of his journalistic duties, some of us were actually elsewhere supporting our team. No doubt his report will appear elsewhere in this mag*, in a vain hope to defend such treachery.

I refer of course to our return to Rushden, twelve months on from THAT match - when we cruelly lost the Third Division Championship to a village team with ideas above its station.

With Pools having pulled a late good run out of the hat, they were occupying the final playoff spot, five points and nine goal-difference goals clear of the next team, with only three games left. The initial slow ticket sales had a late increase as a warm weekend got nearer and excitement mounted.

Now this was a match I’d had pencilled-in for a long time, for various reasons. The first was that it's the nearest away match for me. The second was that I'd also been invited to enjoy a corporate hospitality bash, but had loyally turned it down in order to sit with the Poolies. It had come from the owner of a transport company which does work for my employers, and who knows of my allegiance. He had sponsored the match ball for our game. He is also the father-in-law of Billy Turley, the infamous Rushden goalie who conned the ref into disallowing the perfectly good Graeme Lee goal which would have won us that championship. When I informed Tony that his son-in-law was not popular in Hartlepool, he seemed surprised, despite having been there last year. Anyway, I got my ticket (via a season ticket holder who wasn't going) and one for my mate (by phone on the day they went on general sale.)

This young lady shows us
exactly how big a pr*ck
Billy Turley made of himself.
As my mate's mother-in-law lives only 10 miles from R & D, he dropped off his wife and daughter for the afternoon before heading us to Nene Park (local knowledge allows me to pass on the correct pronunciation, which is Nen, not Neen) in the village of Irthlingborough (where the sign is longer than the village). This being my third visit to Nene Park, I am no longer impressed by it like I was at first, but it's still a pretty good stadium. It was obvious 90 minutes before the match that there would be a huge Poolie presence. A good indicator is the number of ancient home shirts you see, and there were a few with Camerons on the front, and even one with Heritage Homes.

Surprisingly there was a turnstile open for buying tickets on the day, after Pools had advised fans not to travel without a ticket. Subsequently there were complaints from people who had heeded the advice, which is understandable. However, if Pools had not done that, Northamptonshire Police would have had to cope with hundreds of disgruntled Poolies (for all I know they may have done anyway, because there were very few empty seats inside).

Inside the ground it didn’t quite match the carnival atmosphere of last year, but nevertheless it was still pretty good in the bar area.

Pools started reasonably brightly by attacking from the off, but the scoreless first half seemed about right, even if Rodney Jack's disallowed goal for R & D seemed ok to me.
"he was given an affectionate chorus of welcome: “Cheat! Cheat! Cheat!“, which was repeated at appropriate moments (i.e. every time he touched the ball)"

The 1100 Poolies were in fine form again, and sang all through the match. I cannot understand why we can go there, and QPR, Barnsley, Sunderland and Hillsborough, and raise the roof, yet the Vic is like a morgue. And while the away crowds get bigger and noisier each season, the home ones get bigger yet quieter. My mate, an Arsenal fan who does go there occasionally, so he knows a bit about large crowds and following successful clubs, found it deafening behind the goal.

For the second half, Billy Turley had to come down to the Poolies‘ end, and he was given an affectionate chorus of welcome: “Cheat! Cheat! Cheat!“, which was repeated at appropriate moments (i.e. every time he touched the ball) for the rest of the match. At one point, when the crowd were asked to “Stand up if you hate Turley“, Billy sat down in the penalty area, which did get some applause from the Poolies.

In the second half Pools took over, scored two goals and won the match. Yet it wasn’t quite that simple, as Rushden had a penalty appeal turned down, and they hit the woodwork. Eifion’s goal, ironically after he’d been moved out to the wing to make way for Joel, reflected Pools’ second-half superiority, but it was Boydy's goal that meant so much to Poolies.

Billy Turley decided to deal with a back pass by kicking it over to the edge of the penalty area so he could then pretend he was a midfield player, rather than just grab it and make it safe.

Boydy spotted this and did what Gordon Watson would have done, and chased over to him. Now for a goalkeeper to take on a striker in a tackle is a bit risky, but when he's one of the most skilful ball players in the division is asking for trouble, and so it proved. Boydy came away with the ball. Billy was left stranded as Boydy walked it into the net. This was revenge being as sweet as it gets. The cheat getting his just desserts, and humiliated into the bargain.

A big difference between the Boydy of old and the new one is his commitment and preparedness to chase lost causes, which can cause defensive errors, and who better to be there to pick them up. Super Gord's apprentice has learned from the Master.

Afterwards, I was able to reflect that I had made the right decision to turn down that invitation. Can you imagine spending the afternoon with Billy TurIey’s wife, parents and inlaws, and having to be polite at all that went on? I think any Poolie would have been ejected.

This was a superb day out.

[* It did then, but not now! Ed]


Mystified Millhouser reports from Northamptonshire (or somewhere like that)

Dateline 25 April 2004.

Newly appointed Rushden manager Ernie “I was a coach at Wimbledon - honest” Tippett has decided to stop playing with an actor-goalkeeper following Billy Turley’s nightmare against Hartlepool United on Saturday. This follows close on the heels of the club's decision to dispense with the services of Barry Hunter as player manager. Turley, formerly understudy to Den Watts in Eastenders and Leonardo Di Caprio in Titanic has previously had some success in the unusual dual role, notably with his impression of a dying Luftwaffe pilot when caught a glancing blow by a plastic Lucozade bottle at Victoria Park in September 2002, and of a major road accident victim when coming into contact with Kevin Henderson’s little finger nail at Nene Park in April 2003.

The final straw for Tippett was Bungling Billy's failed Ken Dodd impression when losing out to Adam Boyd on Saturday. Not content with gifting Pools a second goal, which will hopefully see the Airwair Kings back in Division 3, the hapless custodian went on to give a poor impression of a footballer with a severe groin strain.

Fortunately the new gaffer saw through this ruse and told Turley he would have to stay on the pitch to the end and have the p*ss ripped out of him by the gleeful Poolies behind his goal.

After the match little silly Billy said he was taking his thespian skills elsewhere next season, probably to Kettering Town or Oakham United. He also announced that he would be sending his Alice band back to Ronnie O’Sullivan immediately.

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Crystal Palace

Fish Sands

My first "encounter" with Palace came on a very cold February night back in 1976. My father, a Sunderland fan, was working so I volunteered to queue all night outside Roker Park to get two tickets for their much-anticipated quarter final FA cup clash with Division Three Palace. 

Sunderland were going well in division 2 (now the Championship) and in fact were champions that season. I remember a load of hype over this game with Palace's larger-than-life manager Big Malcolm Allison, who sported a fur coat, large fedora hat and cigar at games. 

Anyway, with no idea of the glorious summer to follow, I almost froze outside Roker Park, queueing from around 6pm until I think around 9 or 10am on the Sunday morning when the ticket office opened. I did manage to get two tickets and dad was delighted and I had helped cement good Poolie-Mackem relationships whilst finishing further back in the queue than when I had started!

As it happened, Palace won 1-0 with Malcolm Allison upsetting the Sunderland crowd with his fedora cigar routine plus giving the Fulwell End the V sign and was probably saved from a lynching by the bobbies. Also that day, a train load of Palace fans travelling up from London and passing through Hartlepool railway station, were met with a hail of stones from some Pools fans who smashed the train windows. The northbound train was late and when it reached the disused Ryhope station on the outskirts of Sunderland, most of the Palace fans believed they had already arrived and piled out of the train. They all missed the first half of the game.
"...most of the Palace fans believed they had already arrived and piled out of the train. They all missed the first half"

As fate would have it, the Poolies showed the Mackems how it was done when, two short years later, Palace were drawn away at Pools in the FA Cup 3rd round, a game famous for Pools winning 2-1 with two Bob Newton goals after the blues went a goal down in 9 minutes.

I can still see the thousands of Palace fans stunned to silence at The Town End, where Newton had scored both goals. Roared on by a crowd of over 9,000 it was a heady victory for Pools who had been so shite in the league.

Big Bob Newton won himself a suit for his exploits and Pools were off to Ipswich Town in round 4, being the last 4th division side left in the competition. Ipswich won 4-1 and went on to win the cup that season.

Pools would of course meet up again with Palace in 1993 when that famous Andy Saville goal knocked them out by 1-0! But back to the 1978 clash. Apparently the Terry Venables Palace team had stayed at their "lucky" Staincliffe Hotel in Seaton where they had stayed before beating Sunderland. Not so lucky this time.

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Memorable Matches

A personal selection by SHEFFIELD POOLIE
- you may not agree

My favourite or most memorable Pools matches:

Swansea v Pools 6/5/1968
0 - 2 (Cummings, Hepplewhite)
For obvious reasons.*

Pools v Northampton 11/5/1991
3 - 1 (Dalton, Allon, Baker)
Last match of the season to gain promotion at home.

Pools v Sheffield Wednesday 15/04/2005
3 - 0 (Boyd hat trick)
After living in Sheffield since October 1969 and this being my birthday it couldn't get any better, especially as I had some friends in the away end who still talk about that night. Weather was that bad my brother and I had to get a taxi to the cricket club. I have a montage of Boydy's goals immediately above where I am sat now.

Sheffield United v Pools 29/12/2012
2 - 3 (Howard 2, Humphreys)
Bottom-of-the-league Pools knock the Blades off the top. Howard caused that much bother (why didn't he play like this in all the other games in his second spell at the Club?) Harry Maguire lost his cool and got booked and look where he is now. Special for Ritchie to score against the team he supported. Danny Wilson was their manager as well.

Pools v Crystal Palace 2/1/1993
1 - 0 (Saville pen.)
Third round of the F.A. Cup. The first Premier League team to be knocked out of the F.A. Cup. Pools did it on Match of the Day.

Darlington v Pools 26/3/2007
0 - 3 (Williams 2, Monkhouse)
What a day, beating Darlo at their new ground with an all round excellent performance topped up with 3 brilliant goals and two Micky Barron assists (and I saw Dolly Parton the night before - what a weekend).

Stockport County v Pools 17/3/2007
3 - 3 (Monkhouse, Barker 2 (1 pen.))
3-nil down against a form team with an excellent home record. They missed a penalty to win it and Ritchie Barker hit the bar near the end. Danny Wilson (then our manager) was sent off with one of their staff.

Pools v Manchester United 5/1/1957
3 - 4 (Stamper, Johnson, Newton)
For the older readers I don't need to say anything but we gave the Busby Babes a fright. This was one of the best Pools teams ever. Record home crowd.

Sunderland v Pools 3/1/2004
1 - 0
Third. round of the F.A. Cup - great atmosphere made by thousands of Poolies in front of one of the biggest crowds ever to see Pools play.

Scunthorpe v Pools 19/4/2003
4 - 0
Lost but still got promotion with Mike Newell in the dressing room because he didn't know - bizarre day.

Pools v Sheffield Wednesday 29/5/2005
2 - 4 (Williams, Daly)
Robbed by a referee decision that still rankles. I travelled all the way there and back in a Wednesday supporters coach, which had got lost on the way there. What a day.

My best 11 (4-4-2): 
Dimi Konstantopolous
Micky Barron
Chris Westwood
Michael Nelson
Brian Drysdale
Brian Honour
Mark Tinkler
Tommy Miller
George Luke
Paul Baker
Joe Allon
Sub. Ritchie Humphreys

There are quite a few others I could mention but I have restricted myself to 12.

Sheffield Poolie (*one of the Swansea 16)

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Dorty Deals Afoot


Mike Furlough is selling up his business after 13 years of profitable trading, to Shi Kara, an eastern trader with deep pockets and a burning ambition to own a football club.

MF “It’s time for me to move on, I’ve got lots of assets to liquidate doon south so no f’in receiver could get his scruffy mitts on anything worth selling.”

SK “I didn’t think there was an 'f' in receiver, but your English spellings still confuse me.”

MF “Come on Shiki, you’re getting a good deal for a modest sum, like all the fixed assets - that’s the groond, er... real-estate to you.”

SK “Yes but I’ve also got to take on the liabilities, which seem considerable.”

MF “The only liability that matters is my loan repayment, and to be helpful we’ve given all the others numbers, and even put them on their shirts, apart from the office manager but y’erl na him, he’s the one wearing a track suit.”
"Why-aye, my squeeze is just the same, virtually lives there, says it’s cheaper than paying me rent."

SK “That is very kind. Did you say we could have a discount for cash, only my wives have brought a suitcase each, but I need to intercept them before they get to the Metro Centre, you know what these women are like.”

MF “Why-aye, my squeeze is just the same, virtually lives there, says it’s cheaper than paying me rent.”

SK “That is settled then. Just one more thing, you did say that if I got the deal for less than £350m you would run round the Haymarket wearing nothing but a pair of speedos and flip-flops.”

MF “How about we pass on that and I knock off another tenner?”

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Terry Cooper and Leeds United


In recent weeks a couple of great players from the golden years of Leeds United have sadly passed away, Norman Hunter and Trevor Cherry.

Nobody interested in football in the 1970s could have not heard or been aware of either of them and likewise their fearsome teammate, full-back Terry Cooper.

In fact they all were in a team of, I believe, 11 international players at one stage. Apparently Gareth Sprake was the alleged weak link but he was a fair keeper and a Welsh International to boot who was crucified for one high-profile, televised mistake when the ball spun out of his hands with no apparent danger.

But back to Terry Cooper. We have all read about what a great player Terry Cooper was and I agree. But my honest opinion is that he was a cynical player whose over-the-top fouls tarnished his reputation as a great player. Ask Sunderland's George Mulhall and Bobby Kerr what they thought of playing against Terry Cooper and Leeds United in general. We Pools fans would chant "you dirty Yorkshire b******s!" And I feel in Leeds United's case it was justified.
" Leeds United were undoubtedly a great team but would have been even greater if they had stuck to football."

A certain Don Revie encouraged this cynicism and Leeds had a policy of going in hard and nailing the opposition's most dangerous player early on and if any got a booking he laid off and the bookings got spread around the team. Leeds United were undoubtedly a great team but would have been even greater if they had stuck to football.

Other players in that Leeds United team were cynical foulers as well and wind-up merchants who went beyond gamesmanship like Paul Reaney and Jack Charlton (who favoured climbing on a centre forward's back or standing on a goalie's foot on a corner kick. There were others: Paul Madeley, Billy Bremner and later Terry Yorath. Johnny Giles was a midfield genius second only to Pools' Eric McMordie but he too good put the boot in when he felt like it.

Leeds United had a reputation of being a dirty team which sticks even to this day. It's justified in my opinion. I suspect that if all clubs' fans were to vote on the dirtiest team Leeds United would come somewhere near the top.

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Any Other Business


What a bizarre month!

Right now it should be the most exciting part of the football season. Some relegation and promotion issues would already be decided - at least the most clear-cut ones - and some clubs would be preparing for cup finals or playoffs. 

Yet what have we had - very little. OK, the league season has been officially ended for all but the top teams, but the promotion and relegation issues are still to be decided, never mind how the cup competitions can be decided. Yet by having ended the playing season with some matches unplayed, the authorities have limited options, and will be facing legal challenges from interested parties whatever decisions they make. At least Pools were unlikely to have made the playoffs anyway, so still being around to start another season will be more important to Poolies than which division they'll be playing in.

Two former Pools players of the 1970s have passed away.

Former Sunderland and Darlo man Allan Gauden played for Pools from the summer of 1973 and scored 20 goals in 77 appearances before following manager Len Ashurst to Gillingham. RIP

John Rowlands signed in 1975 from Seattle Sounders and scored 10 goals in 47 appearances. He then saw out his career in the US, where he settled, before eventually returning to the UK. RIP

End-of-season solution
Gary Baldey sent in this simple suggestion for finishing the season in a full and competitive manner without leaving teams able to claim that they wuz robbed, if, as expected, promotions and relegations are ultimately decided by committee.

Each club would nominate a table-football player from among its existing first team squad, and they all would travel to a central location, say Wembley or Villa Park, maintaining social distancing throughout. Each remaining match could then be played between the the clubs at table-football, using a table with extra-long handles, under normal table-football rules.

This would allow for all domestic league and cup competitions to be completed, including the playoffs, with the competitive edge that real matches would naturally have, including the pressure to win, and it could be all televised. So the most valuable match in football, the Championship playoff final, would still be as important, with the same prize, and would be riveting viewing.

And if ITV can show the virtual Grand National and get decent viewing figures, why not?

Finally, as this is the last Monkey Business of the season, we'd like to thank all our readers and contributors.

It's certainly been a different season - because as well as the coronavirus ending, Pools have had their first top half finish for a decade, so there's something to be relatively happy about, even if, as with all lower-league clubs, finances are going to be a bit precarious for a while.

So while we're intending to return next season, nobody really knows if that will be in August, so we'll just wish you all well in avoiding the dreaded lurgy, hope you have as nice a summer as you can, and we'll see you ...when we see you!

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