Showing posts from September, 2020
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The Greed is Good League


With an over-hyped buildup and fanfares by the likes of Sky Sports, BT Sport, Amazon Prime and the Beeb, live televised Premiership football finally returned to our screens after a three month absence.

The over-75 pensioners' favourite, Gary Lineker, was almost hysterical about the fact that it was the first time in the BBC history that it was broadcasting live Premiership football.

It was obvious that the Beeb did not get first pick as the four matches they had on show were the ones the bigger broadcasters were not interested in, so effectively they got the scraps off the table and very grateful they were too.

On show they had Everton v an all-but relegated Norwich City. Then there was the clash of titans Burnley v Wolves - two teams scrambling to get Europa League spots. 

Well, Wow Widdly Whee, I could hardly contain my apathy.

In the build up to the restart of the Premiership poor old Gary Lineker was whipped into a frenzy of delight and was almost in Ian Paisley mode trying to bull up and sell the great British public these matches like a hyperactive double glazing salesman who is one order short of reaching his monthly sales target.

Was the resumption of Premiership football worth the wait? I think not.

At the start of one match the players partook in the BLM kneeling thing. Then another minute was lost when they stood around in silence for someone who passed away. For goodness sake get on with the match.

The first few matches looked slow and understandably many of the players were off the pace. If anything it was comparable to watching pre-season friendlies and almost as exciting.

In a few games, just as the players were starting to find their feet and just as the momentum was beginning to build up, everything stops to give the poor lambs a water break. Not once, but a break in each half, which in turn breaks up the rhythm of the game. I am sure this is some form of dress rehearsal and advance training ahead of the World Cup in Qatar where water breaks will take place every 20 nano-seconds.

It could also be a ploy for football to attract sponsorship from some of the bigger bottled water companies. I hear that Total Aqua Pure is the frame to win this contract. It would be great to watch footballers drinking from a bottle labelled TAP Water.

If water breaks have to be had, there would be plenty of opportunities to issue H20 to the players during one of the numerous stoppages in play owing to VAR. In fact they could have a three course meal in the time it takes VAR to make a decision.

The worst decision of all was allowing 5 substitutes per match. In the worst-case scenario it is possible that ten substitutions could take place in a match, once again breaking up the play and killing the drive of the game.

At times it was reminiscent of watching an England friendly when Fabio Capello was in charge, putting one sub on after another until the entire starting eleven was replaced.

I am surprised that he wasn't called 'U boat' behind his back as he had more subs than the Kriegsmarine (German Navy) during the Second World war.

It was recently put to the vote by The Premiership as to the five sub rule becoming a permanent fixture in English football but fortunately the motion was rejected, albeit just by only two votes.
"Gary Lineker was whipped into a frenzy of delight and was almost in Ian Paisley mode trying to bull up and sell the great British public these matches"

It is obvious that the bigger clubs would benefit from this rule to the detriment of clubs with less resources. Imagine next season Fulham playing Man City and hanging on to a one-all draw with fifteen minutes of match remaining and Pep tells his bench of Jesus, Sterling, Foden, Silva and possibly Messi to start warming up. In reply Scotty Parker, the Fulham Manager, tells Luca Murphy to get ready to come on.

The subs' benches of the likes of Manchester United,  Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs would each equate to the total value of many of the Premiership's smaller clubs' entire squads and backroom staff.

What with SUBS, VAR, BLM,  H20 breaks and all the other delays, the average game will take around the best part two hours to watch.

All this aside, the absolute worst thing about watching football during Covid was the empty stands and the lack of atmosphere. Goodness knows what the players felt like playing in front of 30-60,000 empty seats.

The fans are integral to any football match and like the players have their own role to play by creating an atmosphere encouraging their own team whilst intimidating the opposition as well as influencing the officials.

I watched Michail Antonio of West Ham score four goals in a vital relegation clash against Norwich City. In normal circumstances he would be wildly celebrating with the travelling fans and his team mates; however it was a muted affair, much like scoring goals on the Rec.

I saw some fixtures and in one case I thought that I didn't fancy Burnley's chances at Anfield owing to home advantage but as there was no fans in attendance, there was no home advantage. Turns out Burnley picked up an unlikely point. The only team that would benefit from playing at home in a fan-free stadium would be the Borer.

It is time that the likes of the Football League / Premiership / UEFA / FIFA and the broadcasters showed their appreciation for football supporters instead of treating them as cash cows and taking them for granted because without them football is nothing.

My heart goes out to all the teams involved in playoff finals, especially Harrogate, who have come so far and end up playing in an empty Wembley Stadium. That said, and all respect to the Yorkshire side, but based on their home attendances their fanbase would have hardly filled the dugouts in the national stadium.

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Uncertain Times at the Vic


In these unprecedented pandemic times there has been a lot of movement at Victoria Park. Amongst all the comings and goings some loyal workers and untalented footballers have left the club and we have seen some new faces arriving. High profile departures have included chief executive Mark Maguire and long-serving media manager Mark Simpson. A number of players have departed most of whom will not be missed although striker Gime Touré and midfielder Gus Mafuta are the exceptions. 

Touré was always going to leave as it was obvious he did not get on with manager Dave Challinor and Mafuta appears to have gone because he was the highest earning player, and incidentally one of the best ones. I must admit it doesn't look good that Mafuta goes and we still have Nicholas Featherstone at the club. I fail to see what Challinor sees in this guy. Can't run, can't tackle and useless at headers. 

In addition to last season's loan signings Mark Shelton, Gary Liddle and Timi Odosina returning we have Rhys Oates back at the club. A striker who had an inauspicious first spell at the club, finds it difficult to hit the onion bag but runs around a lot. A new face is Martin Jesper who appears to be running the club on a daily basis. And physio Buster Gallagher is a welcome returnee to the club. Should never have left in the first place. Let's hope he can work his magic on Luke Williams. One thing is certain, with a fit Williams in the side we will be nearer the top than the bottom.

With October 3 looking a likely start to the National League the club has started selling season tickets and after the first 1,000 were sold another 500 were made available. What the temporary capacity at Victoria Park will be is up to the council. But 2,500 looks the likely figure to start with. It may be there will be some live streaming of matches which will be useful to fans who can't get to the games.
"How we could do with a manager now who could get us promotion"

The live games on TV have been a big help during the months of lockdown and giving people their fix of football. Also of interest during lockdown were the "Switch of Play"podcasts produced by Mark Simpson and Micky Barron. featuring former Pools players. They contain some amusing and informative stories from yesteryear and what the boys got up to. Even Joel Porter took part from Australia. Perhaps the oddest participant was former owner Ken Hodcroft. I found the arrogance of the man who sold the club down the river to a bunch of shysters not once but twice quite unbelievable. That is not to mention the managers he got rid of. Neale Cooper, Danny Wilson and Mike Newell. Indeed Newell was shown the door after getting the club promotion. How we could do with a manager now who could get us promotion. It all seems a long time ago now as we sit mid-table in the National League. 

With the new season almost four weeks away we are short of a right back, centre back and goal-scoring striker,. There was talk of a real big-name striker being on his way to Pools but nothing has materialised. The talk was that it might be Danny Graham, just released from Blackburn and looking to return to his native North-East.

Unless he is prepared to take a massive drop in wages to return home there appears to be zero chance of him turning up here. A return to his former club Sunderland looks the most likely option.

I would just like to finish this month by saying how sad I was to hear of the death of Ernie Phythian in South Africa, Pools' best-ever striker. Goals were his game. RIP Ernie.

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Looking for Something to Do...


By this time, the season should have been in full swing. However, this isn't to be and the immediate future is uncertain. How many will be allowed into the grounds and what if we get the nightmare scenario of a second Covid-19? The latter doesn't bear thinking about as footy would probably be one of the first activities to be subject to severe restrictions. 

The delay to the start of the season has no doubt forced many to look for something else to do. In my case, it was reading Jack Charlton's autobiography, doing a Pools related jigsaw puzzle and following Jimmy Anderson's path towards 600 Test wickets. However, my most satisfying activity was looking through programmes of when I saw Pools play away. They certainly brought home the highs and lows of following Pools on the road. Here's a selection.

BRADFORD CITY - 26th NOVEMBER 2005 - A Mark Tinkler strike gave Pools a 1-0 win. Before the game, we stood in silence to remember WPC Sharon Beshenivsky, so cruelly murdered in the course of her duties. After that, we had a two minute clap-in to celebrate the life of George Best who died the previous day.

BRENTFORD - 29th APRIL 2006 - A match Pools had to win to try and secure our League One status. A late goal by Michael Nelson levelled the score but, despite laying siege to the Brentford goal, we couldn't manage the winner. 

BURNLEY - 22nd AUGUST 2006 - A Joel Porter penalty saw Pools defeat the then Championship side and so make for a giant killing act in the League Cup.

CHELTENHAM - 16th FEBRUARY 2008 - The 'poshest' place in the league. A 1-1 draw. Joel Porter scored the equaliser and reckoned it was the best goal he'd scored in Pools' colours. The small band of Poolies gathered there that day wouldn't disagree.

CHESTERFIELD - 16th JANUARY 2001 - Working in Sheffield at the time so a doddle getting there. An entertaining 0-0 draw - defences on top and no yellow or red cards. £5 admission. Seats a bit hard but you can't expect everything for £5.

COVENTRY -16th MARCH 2014 - A 1-0 defeat. I just can't remember anything about this game. Devoid of atmosphere and a pain in the butt getting to the ground and back into Coventry city centre.

EXETER CITY - 3rd OCTOBER 2009 - Wifey wanted to go to Newton Abbot to see her niece and family. So why not go and see Pools play Exeter City? Met up with some Exeter City fans who took me and grandson Joe to the ground and we had a good old natter on the way there. Took the lead from Denis Behan but well beaten in the end 3-1. Left the ground to the strains of The Wurzels singing The Combine Harvester.

HUDDERSFIELD TOWN - 6th November 2007 - Well beaten 2-0. Expectations were high as we'd beaten Millwall away on the Saturday 1-0
"A 2-0 defeat and Pools were never in the game. That's what happens when your manager gets Manager of the Month."

LEICESTER CITY - 27th SEPTEMBER 2008 - A defensive lapse early in the game led to a 1-0 defeat. Difficult to believe now that we were at the ground of future Premier League winners.

LINCOLN CITY - 6th OCTOBER 2006 - A 2-0 defeat and Pools were never in the game. That's what happens when your manager gets Manager of the Month.

LEYTON ORIENT -22nd SEPTEMBER 2007 - The last time I visited London and what a way to go out. Pools beat the top of the table Orient 4-2. A familiar figure in an Orient shirt - Adam Boyd.

NORTHAMPTON TOWN - 12th January 2008 - Not a load of old cobblers from Pools. A 1-1 draw with Pools' equaliser coming from an unlikely quarter - Ben Clark.

PETERBOROUGH UNITED - 23rd September 2006 - What a game as Pools won 5-3. Jon Daly was brilliant.

ROCHDALE - 28th APRIL 2007 - A carnival atmosphere as Pools, already promoted, looked to secure a win to make them League Two champions. Sadly, it all fell apart as Rochdale won 2-0. Richard Barker and Andy Monkhouse sent off and Michael Nelson had to go off injured.

WALSALL - 19th MARCH 2011 - A 5-2 defeat after leading 2-0 into the second half. . The floodgates sure opened. Poolies waiting on Bescot Stadium station after the game chanted "2-0 up and we ****** it up" Back came the reply from the Walsall fans on the opposite platform, "Yes, 2-0 up and you ****** it up."

Quite a few memories - certainly highs and lows!!

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Switch of Play


At the start of the C19 Crisis I thought HUFC got off to a good start in my books when Mark Maguire announced almost statesman-like that the club would keep in touch on-line with the fanbase and provide regular updates as to what is happening at the club and how HUFC would be reaching out to the town's wider community during the lockdown. "A great piece of publicity and marketing" I thought -- or so I thought.

A few weeks later Maguire had gone along with many others within the backroom staff including Mark Simpson the club's media manager. I don't know Mark, and have only ever spoken to him on one occasion and found him to be very helpful and more importantly he always seems to have a smile on his face. I would say that he would be the equivalent of a Brian Honour or a Ritchie Humphreys in the backroom such is the service and the loyalty he has given to the club. He must have been devastated when he was told his services and talents were no longer required. Not the best move by the club.

As a consequence of Mark Simpson's departure there is little or nothing of note on the club website which now gets updated sporadically. Pools' loss is Barrow's gain. Unless Jeff Stelling takes over his role he is going to be a hard act to follow.

Shortly after his departure from the club Mark Simpson turns up, along with Micky Barron, doing on-line Zoom interviews called Switch of Play, featuring ex-Pools players and officials talking about their times with Pools and what they are doing nowadays.

This has turned out to be the highlight of the lockdown. It is a pity Mark was let go as this would have done wonders for Pools if broadcast on Pools' own web site by keeping in touch and in tune with the fanbase.

To date, well over a dozen ex-players have been interviewed, including a shattered-looking Joel Porter live from Australia who, because of the time difference, had especially got up at four in the morning to share tales about Pools, Seaton and Chicago Rock. Others who have featured are Ritchie, Chris Turner, Tommy Widdrington, Hendo, Dimi, Steve Fletcher and a host of others.
"It was heartbreaking, truly heartbreaking, listening to Ken Hodcroft explaining why Neale Cooper was asked to leave the club."

Lots of stories, some hilariously funny, and tales of better days at the club. Tinks, along with Darrell Clarke, seemed to be the mischief-makers in general within the club during the glory years. Needless to say, because they both have responsible jobs within football, they have calmed down somewhat to set an example to others, but I dare say beneath the surface... Piece of advice: Don't let Tinks near your toaster as Ritchie found to his chagrin when Mark  put Weetabix or Hob Nobs or something similar into it.

Surprisingly, for my money, the best interview of all was Ken Hodcroft's with Chris Turner's not far behind, who both gave a great insight into the club. It was heartbreaking, truly heartbreaking, listening to Ken Hodcroft explaining why Neale Cooper was asked to leave the club.

Looking back, those people who wanted IOR out of the club must now be choking on their words. Yes, at times they were a strange bunch and some of their best communication was a screen of silence. In truth we never had it so good as under their tenure. Ultimately the massive drop in oil prices compelled IOR to reluctantly sell HUFC as they could no longer sustain the club.

Chris Turner said his biggest regret during the IOR years was not investing in Danny Graham or Grant Holt. Could you imagine having one or both of those two up front? It would have been automatic promotion for Pools without the heartbreak of the playoffs.

The one thing that stood out which was universal with all the players interviewed bar none was that whenever the name Neale Cooper was mentioned a big smile appeared on their faces. It is the same with me. One could only imagine if he was still with us, the stories he could relate as well as the uncontrolled laughter those tales would provide to both listener and teller!

If you have not watched this series I would urge you to do so. You are in for a treat.

[The Switch of Play series can be found on YouTube]

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Life is Never Dull as a Poolie


So after a long hiatus, must have been nigh on nearly 20 years, I've started to write for MB once more having rediscovered my love of creative writing again. Older readers of MB will remember me as West View Poolie, the kid from Sheffield who came home back to Hartlepool but then went back down to where he came from when things went a bit wrong personally. Well things have changed again since, but I won't bore you with the gory details for sure.

These days to summarise, I can be seen in Northern Ireland. Yep, I've moved again and as far as I know, am the only Pools supporter here. There's your usual Premiership fans in the shape of locals wearing Liverpool, Manchester United jerseys as well as a handful of your Arsenal and Chelsea plus obviously Rangers and Celtic tops in abundance. However you won't be seen alive if you decide to wear hoops in South Belfast as you'll probably get lynched, likewise a Rangers top is not exactly flavour of the times in the West of the city. And we thought we had it intense with Darlo when both of us were in the FL structure.

Football here is mainly semi-professional and of a standard akin to watching a National League North game but it's competitive though. You do have a few teams that are full-time professional outfits such as Larne, Glentoran, Crusaders plus league champions Linfield who play their home games at the National Stadium. Players who aren't full time have daily jobs as teachers etc so it's a proper throw-back indeed. A bit like what we're seeing Pools deal with at the moment. But with home games much cheaper than on the mainland, it's worth watching anyway. Compare that with what you are paying for a matchday ticket at the Vic then all isn't too bad.

That said then, Pools are about to embark on their fourth season in the fifth tier. To some, this is inconcievable but seasons of mis-management both on and off the pitch has contributed to this. No disrespect to some of the newer Poolies but you could sense something like that might happen after the heartache in Cardiff. There's been a few high points and in equal measures, some low points. I'm so happy that Raj (despite his former links down the A66) and Jeff came to the rescue when they did, otherwise the town would have had nothing to show for itself on a sporting level. As usual, players and managers have come and gone like a permanent revolving door but hopefully we now have a manager in place that can start the rebuild which has been a long time coming for sure.
"But with home games much cheaper than on the mainland, it's worth watching anyway. Compare that with what you are paying for a matchday ticket at the Vic then all isn't too bad."

The new season will be Challinor's first full season in charge after coming in last November. Whilst his win ratio isn't great at the moment, I'm sure he will be able to turn this around otherwise I'll be eating a substantial portion of humble pie should anyone want to send it over. He's seemingly recruited well over the summer with the permanent signings of Gary Liddle and Mark Shelton being personal highlights for me. However, the team really needs to hit the ground running from the get go and not give those others a head start on Pools.

If the team can have as few injuries as possible -- I know, easier said than done -- as well as make the Vic a fortress so teams will dread coming up, then that can be a good recipe for success. Chuck in picking up good results away from home and we can have a good season ahead. Fail to deliver and you can be guaranteed that the rumblings again will happen and that's been happening for far too long now. Granted football is indeed a results-based industry, but many a time the panic button has been hit and a full reset is done.

One can hope that this is the season where the phoenix starts to rise from those flames again, and Pools can soon be back where they belong the FL. See you next month and keep the faith!

[Welcome back - Ed]

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Going Undercover


The following should be read to the accompaniment of the Outer Limits music.

This photograph (Exhibit A), which has not, unlike the Moon landing ones, been photo-shopped or tampered with in any way or form, may come as a shock to many. As Chris Kamara once said "Unbelievable." 

I am unsure if this scene was something from a parallel universe, or a symptom of Covid. It would appear that those in the queue have won a Willy Wonky type golden ticket to be served at North East's most renowned fish and chip establishment. How else would so many people know when Verrills was open?

When the chosen few entered the premises I overheard each of them ask in turn for a fish fritter and chips. The reply was "Sorry, we don't do fish fritters any more."  Obviously this was the password and its acknowledgement. I asked myself if these people belonged to a secret society or some form of 'Closed Shop'?

I have spent many a sleepless night trying to comprehend the strange phenomenon of Verrills actually being open. Note, not one, but both doors are open. Must have been expecting a crowd ...or perhaps facilitating entrance and egress to some of their stouter customers.

After they had been served I followed two of their clientele to the Tea Gardens and watched them from afar enjoying their half-lots and their dandelion and burpdocks. As they made to leave I followed this well-sated couple but unlike most people they actually sought out a litter bin to dispose of their chip cartons and wrapping paper rather than in the traditional manner of dropping it on the pavement. Very suspicious indeed.

When they were out of sight, unbeknown to them, I retrieved their litter from the waste bin. For a moment I feared I was spotted when someone shouted 'Oi, What do you think you are doing scavenging for food from the bins?' Fortunately his friend told him that I must be from Middlesbrough and let me be.

Safe at home I rummaged through the litter which I had extracted from the bin. Imagine my surprise when I came across a sheet from a Hartlepool United Calendar. (see Exhibit B below) Nothing unusual in that unless, as I did, I made a second inspection, which was as revealing as it was shocking.

Picture of calendar page

If one looks at the penultimate line of dates from Monday 17th to Sunday the 23rd it is as one would expect. But in the final line, instead of starting with Monday 24th it starts with Monday the 28th. The 24th 25th 26th and 27th are all missing - Why? Are these the opening days?

The last line of the Calendar proceeds with: Mon 28th. (28th is actually a Friday). Tues 29th. (actually Saturday). Weds 30th. (a Sunday). Thurs 31st (Bank holiday Monday). The calendar then reverts back to norm: Fri 28th. Sat 29th. Sun 30th.

For the record I have also noticed that the clock on Saint Hilda's church tower has been stopped at 15.20 for some weeks. Is this in any way connected to Verrills' trading times? 
"I have spent many a sleepless night trying to comprehend the strange phenomenon of Verrills actually being open."

Does the picture of Micky Barron tell us anything? The DNO sponsor's logo on his shirt could be code for Do Not Open. His very greasy hair could denote that the beef dripping is prepared. His left hand is giving the thumbs up. Chippy open? The number of furrows on his forehead, five in all could mean opening at 5. However it does not specify whether it is a.m. or p.m.

This is all speculation at the moment but I am sure that we are very close to the truth. If any of our readers can provide further evidence or information, which naturally will be treated in the strictest confidence, Monkey Business will actively pursue all leads in the hope that in time we will track down those responsible for keeping Verrills' opening hours from the innocent.

Postscript: In doing my research for this article I happened to use Exhibit B, the Calendar, to check what day my son's birthday fell on: Thursday 31st of August (Actually 27th August) I read.

He was most displeased when his card arrived five days earlier on the 27th of August instead of Monday 31st. These people are truly evil and must pay for their crimes.

[Note: Our undercover correspondent put in an expenses claim to MB Towers for reimbursement for one half lot. After much consideration we declined as our correspondent claimed that they were lush and we considered that reward enough - Ed.]

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Years and Years Ago


Some of us at the Bizz have been around for a while. One can even remember THAT Manchester United match in 1957. 

However without naming names to protect the elderly, another of us attended a Pools match in 1961 and he sent us the programme he's been saving all these years for someone to show it to. 

Alan doesn't remember anything about the match (he'd have only been about 1 at the time), but the brilliant In the Mad Crowd website informs us that Pools lost 3-1 with Bobby Folland scoring the goal. In those days the programme looked much the same from season to season - rather small, rather thin and rather thin on content too, but so cheap that you didn't consider not buying one, even if it was only to know which letter represented Darlo on the half-time scores board. Our contributor missed out that day - not only seeing Pools lose, but Darlo weren't even on the half-time scores list! 

We've missed out the ads, which comprised half of the programme. They were mostly for long-gone companies but their names may bring back memories: Blacketts (department store); Lormor's Removals; Hutsons (paints & wallpapers); Edgar Phillips (electrical); Beeline (holidays); Carswells (carpets); Spaldin (shopfitters); JS Rae (car dealers); Football Mail; OW Hair (butcher): Andrew C Watt (model railways); Wilf Spence (TV radio bicycles); Heslop & Hall (glass); Collinson & Pocklington (sports shop); Ferriers (televisions); Ewart Parsons (Ford dealer.)

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Up Near the Arctic


Not many people know this but Monkey Business actually has a Scottish correspondent. I say Scottish, but he's actually a Poolie. And he's not based in Scotland but in Essex. So you'd be quite entitled to ask how he's our Scottish correspondent, and I'll tell you.

He's never revealed his sources, mainly because we've never asked, but he frequently sends us scanned clippings from the Scottish Sunday Post, usually ones with Hartlepool connections. With ex-Poolies having been the backbone of Scottish football for 20 years and more, such contributions are not that unusual, and over recent weeks we've had two, about Trevor Carson and Nicke Kabamba, who both play in the Scottish Premier League. So here are updates on two of our own, which we would have missed had it not been for our Scottish correspondent, Wallace & Gromit (both of him!)

He's had his injury problems, and once he shook them off, another player had his shirt, but Newcastle were desperate for another goalkeeper which enabled Trevor Carson to get his Motherwell place back and resume his international career with Northern Ireland.

He not only scored two of Kilmarnock's goals in beating Dundee United last week, he also got a mini face mask for his trouble.

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The Hull Monty - What a Show!

A memorable  game from the archives, as reported by BILL THE BIRO

Hull City 0 Pools 3 (Division Three) 
Saturday 6 May 2000
Boothferry Park

It's the final day of the season, and it's too close to call. There's only one playoff place still up for grabs. 

If Cheltenham win at Southend, they've clinched it. If not then Pools or Torquay could overtake them, but our adverse goal difference makes us the outsiders. There is also an extreme outsider in Rochdale who need to score a shedful, and hope we all lose — a bit of a tall order. 

Never having been to Boothferry Park, I get out my footy grounds book, which tells me that it has the unique feature of six tall floodlight pylons, which make it very easy to find. 

I set off at 9.30 for the 150-mile trek. A subsequent motorway stop for a pastie and orange squash allows the opportunity of memorising the route to the ground. Nearing the City of Kingston-upon-Hull, the memory feat proves to be no great shakes when I find myself on the very road which had been specifically warned against. However, finding myself following a car decorated with a blue-and-white scarf, I relax and follow it. It tums off left. I turn off left. It indicates right at the next roundabout. I do likewise. I'm already indicating left to leave the roundabout when I realise he's going back the way he came, because he's lost too. There then follows a half-hour voyage of discovery, trying to pick up clues: looking out for  tall pylons; reading bus destination blinds; avoiding the city centre, etc., but eventually the target is reached and I park up in a nearby street, and walk to the ground. 

Now those pylons are indeed six, and they are indeed tall (about half as tall again as ours), and their tops can be seen from a long way off. Which is why the nearby street ends up not being as nearby as originally envisaged. However, with the ground reached, at 1:30 I phone the Monkey Business Postal Service to find out when and where the promised supplies will arrive. 'Ah!' comes the reply, clearly telling me that the two copies I brought with me will be the only ones on sale today. 

Pools shirts are much in evidence by 1:45 (as are Hull shirts, no doubt in anticipation of today's coming of their new Messiah, Brian Little). I start to sheepishly offer my vast stock for sale, but only at sufficient volume to be audible to passing Pools fans. One says ‘Which way is the chip shop mate? Oh, Monkey Business! Sorry mate.’ I like to think he meant 'Sorry for bothering you.'

One MB is sold to a Hull fan, despite my explanation of what it is. The other is a bit sad on its own so I give up, phone the people I'm meeting, and find that they're only 40 yards away.

Boothferry Park
-the highlight of the season?

It's now quarter past two, and we decide to go in. The away end already looks half full. 

Inside, Boothferry Park looks to be another ground that remembers the days when it was up there with the big grounds, but only just! A modern stand at one end, an overhanging building serving as a shallow roof for the rear of the other end, an elderly stand one side and an equally elderly covered terrace roof on the other. And two large stretches of terracing which for very obvious safety reasons are unused. 

The teams come out to warm up and still the blue stripes keep coming. Doubt is expressed that the away end will be big enough. 

Hull City choose the occasion to do their player of the year presentations, and to introduce the new manager, all to commendable (and unusual) restraint from H'Angus. He shows off his trick of balancing a football on his bald patch to anyone bored enough to look. 

Phones and radios are all prepared for the main event. The word is that Turner is going for it, 3-4-3, with three strikers. 
"Brains are being fried by hundreds of mobile phones. Daughters are under strict instructions to phone, the second that Cheltenham's score changes"

Kick-off time comes. The massed Poolies are now all up for it and the volume goes on boost. And they're off straight away, Pools are buzzing and looking hungry. 

The away end goes wild when someone scores at the other end (Who scored? Dunno!). The stewards (who all look like nightclub bouncers, not the weeds that most clubs have) eject a Pools fan for something or other. 

Radio listeners report that Cheltenham have gone one up. 'That's us finished then. Nobody comes back against them!' 

Then we get another. ‘Who scored? Who cares!' More Pools fans are ejected. The home fans are stunned. This was going to be the first day of a new life. 

Tommy is all over the place. Clarky keeps running at them and round them, and the front three are tying Hull's defence in knots. 

Torquay have gone into the lead. Then Darren Knowles goes down and has to be carried off. Arnison comes on and things look hardly any different. The game is so one-sided, we could almost sub Hollund for another outfield player. 

On twenty-nine minutes, disaster strikes. A late Strodder tackle is seen by the well-sighted (and well overweight) Mr. Stretton, and the red card is straight out. 

Graeme Lee then walks nonchalantly back to take over, and the game again continues as if nothing had happened. 

Seven minutes on, and there's yet another goal. ‘Who scored? We did!' More early departures. 

The Hull terrace fans, who have been taunting us by holding up a hanging monkey (guaranteed to wind a Poolie up), then receive the serenade 'Ten men, and we're still three up.' 

Half-time. That first-half performance was magnificent. Every radio and phone is in use to find out the other relevant scores. Cheltenham are drawing and Torquay are behind, so we are now favourites. 

The second half is as expected. Hull at least try to attack, although without troubling our defence at all, and our forwards still cause all sorts of problems. 

Brains are being fried by hundreds of mobile phones. Daughters are under strict instructions to phone, the second that Cheltenham‘s score changes. 

A couple of substitutions replace the overworked strikers towards the end, Coppinger and Henderson having run themselves into the ground. Again, the changes don't disrupt the pattern. No danger of conceding a goal, but still trying to score another. 

Two minutes from the end, a roar goes up, followed by panicked switching on of phones and radios for confirmation that Cheltenham are losing. 

Full-time, and it's party time! The p.a. system confirms the results. Then, punching the air, Clarky leads the team out to celebrate with the fans, knowing that it's Darlo in the playoffs. And if we can again play like this, then Wembley here we come! 

[This Bizz report first appeared in issue 50 of August 2000. Doesn't seem like 20 years ago. And Pools lost to Darlo in the playoffs]

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Any Other Business


What a bizarre year!

It's September. The new National League season would ordinarily have begun a month ago. The pre-season training has started and the first friendly has been played. 

The plan is currently that our season will officially start on October 3rd but as yet we have no fixture list and spectator arrangements and the numbers allowed are still up in the air, but lots can happen before that, and any further local lockdowns which can be expected will only wreak more havoc on the lower-league scene. 

So to talk of hopes and aspirations for the new season seems a bit premature at the moment, given the financial picture of all clubs but especially Pools. The new season looks likely now to happen, but whether Pools survive it - by avoiding both relegation and extinction - is perhaps a bit less certain.

Ernie Phythian

Those of us who remember Cloughie's days at the Vic will remember Ernie Phythian, who died a few weeks back.

Ernie was a skilful centre-forward who, for a while lit up the Vic and banged in the goals. His partnership as half of a "twin spearhead" with Jimmy Mulvaney was a joy to see. While Jimmy was a non-stop, bundle-it-over-the-line-any-way-you-can powerhouse, Ernie did the slick and graceful stuff. However, with their very different but complementary styles they managed one season to be the two highest league scorers. 

Sadly for us, Ernie left for a new life in South Africa while still relatively young. His death there at the age of 78 will have brought back happy memories of his time with Pools.

...And talking of Cloughie...

We've had a request from Chris Hull, a Pools fan and university senior lecturer in languages who's doing a personal research project on Cloughie's time at Pools.

Chris would be interested if any Poolies have personal recollections of Clough and Taylor and their eighteen months at the Vic, or any photos or albums of newspaper clippings. I'm sure most people who ever came into contact with him would have the odd story or two to tell about Cloughie, and if you have any, Chris would be grateful if you could email him at

...And just a decade earlier...

Pools and Gateshead, who play each other shortly, were unwittingly involved in a historic event in November 1955.

These days almost every passenger train is a Diesel or electric multiple unit with a driver's cab at each end and the power units typically under the floors of the coaches, but in the early fifties nearly every train had a steam locomotive pulling it - or sometimes pushing it. Then British Railways decided to produce Diesel multiple units, which were cheaper and easier to run. Most were in 2-coach sets but five 4-coach sets were specially made for the Newcastle-Middlesbrough line, which went via both Gateshead and West Hartlepool and the new service was due to start on November 21st 1955. 

The Saturday before that, Gateshead FC (then, like Pools, in the Third Division North), were due to play Pools at the Vic in the FA Cup first round and in those days of few cars and slow roads, a "football special" train for the Gateshead fans was called for. 

Bearing in mind that the trip covered most of the route that the Diesels would begin serving only two days later, and that they were based close by at Newcastle anyway, someone came up with the idea that, rather than the usual rake of old coaches with any steam engine they could find, they should use two of the new 4-coach Diesel sets joined together, which is what they did. That train is believed to have been the very first 8-coach Diesel multiple unit to work in revenue-earning service in the UK.

Subsequently, similar 8-coach trains comprising two 4-coach sets were the mainstay of the Newcastle-Middlesbrough service for many years.

Those of us who remember the damage done to football specials by hooliganism in the 1960s and 70s will look back on that decision with some amazement -- letting football fans loose on brand-new trains would have been unthinkable by then. But the mid-Fifties was a different era, before football hooliganism was invented!