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Showing posts from November, 2020

Murphy's Law


WAGGA MOON



Just when things are looking on the up, third in the league and six nil away win in the FA Cup, something nasty comes along and puts us back in our place.

This time it was Torquay United in front of the nation's viewers who took us to the cleaners completely outclassing and more importantly out-fighting us. What should have been a tight top of the table clash turned into a one-sided hammering. To be fair the warning signs were there with the home draws against Aldershot and Altrincham which we were off the pace and lucky to get a point against bottom of the table Altrincham; the defence was all over the place as if they had not played together before.


But the performance against the Gulls from the start was abysmal, especially when Daniel Wright ran through a gap as wide as the Tyne Tunnel to slide home the first goal, holding midfielder Xavi having gone completely AWOL, and then the third when Ferguson passed across his own penalty area to set up their striker with an easy finish.

Having said this, the goalkeeper did not cover himself in glory; he might be a good penalty saver but is a real dodgy keeper. I've seen better defensive displays at Grayfields than that lot last Saturday. Wright showed us how a striker at this level should perform; thirty six years old and he was still too fast and skilful for our defence. As opposed to our striker David Parkhouse who had a great opportunity in the first half when he put his shot over the Rink End into the car park, threatening the vehicles parked there.
"Although it is only one defeat this season and no need to panic it must be remembered that our early games were against teams expected to be in the bottom half of the league"

But it wasn't just the defence with the midfield being non existent. Mark Shelton, Ryan Donaldson, Xavi, Gavan Holohan are simply not up to it, no skill, no passion no fight. What we need is a midfield enforcer in there, someone who is a lot nasty. Gus Mafuta would have been ideal but we let him go. Aaron Cunningham could maybe do a job there but he was allowed to go to Blyth on loan. He has had the right attitude, getting a red card 20 minutes into his debut for Pools. 

Nice to see Mason Bloomfield taking care of himself against Torquay, flooring an opponent who was trying to foul him. What with two centre backs, Gary Liddle and Timi Odusina, out injured, will we need to bring in a loan signing? Donaldson is no right back and Lewis Cass, while doing well at right back, is not ready to be a centre back yet. Although it is only one defeat this season and no need to panic it must be remembered that our early games were against teams expected to be in the bottom half of the league and it is the Notts Countys, Stockports and Barnets who will be the ones to show us how far we have still to go.

One bit of good news this month is Luke Williams signing a contract with us and apparently fit enough for games. Which begs the question: why was he left on the bench last Saturday? Even DC would have to admit that he is a class above Xavi and Co. but he cannot win us matches sat on the bench.

Finally just a thought. It is funny how karma comes around to bite you. Sheffield Wednesday cheat their way to a Championship play-off win in 2005. They struggle all their years in the Championship and earlier this year are found guilty of cheating on financial matters and docked 12 points for this season and are looking a good bet to go back to where they belong. "It's a funny old game", as someone once said.

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Screaming at the Streaming


BILLY'S CONTRACT



I was pleased when it was announced that Pools would not charge season ticket holders for the privilege of watching streamed matches from Victoria Park. This was the very least the club could do to reward season ticket holders who, having already paid their money up front, would lose out by not being able to attend matches owing to Covid.

I am not privy to the economics and the costs involved in providing a streaming service and I fully appreciate that the provider as well as the club would like to make a profit of sorts but I think that the price of £10.99 for pay to view matches live from the Vic is a tad excessive for those fans who do not have season tickets.


Sky and BT are currently charging 5p less than £15 per streamed match which has prompted outrage from many Premiership supporters particularly those who have already paid for a season ticket. By all accounts viewing figures are well down on projected forecasts (and long may this continue) and there is now talk of this fee being reduced to £10 per match. The Geordies' favourite Mike Ashley has suggested that a rate of £4.95 per match until Christmas to watch Premiership games would seem fair.

Here is a breakdown of my own experiences of watching Pools'  screening or otherwise since Covid raised its ugly head.

v Aldershot (home)
Got comfy in the front room, bag of salted peanuts on one arm of the chair and a bottle of Belgian beer on the other. Match kicks off. Picture blurred and freezes every few seconds then jumps about. I thought that it would settle down after a few minutes but if anything it got worse. By the end of the match I had blurred vision as well as a headache which had nothing to do with the Belgian Beer.

v Chesterfield (away)
As this was an away game we had to pay up front for this. The match began but with no picture. We had to revert to radio commentary whilst the son, who is a whizz kid with computers and technology, tried other sources to get the picture to appear on the television. He eventually succeeded and we were able to watch the match starting with the last three minutes of the first half. Based on the radio Tees Cleveland Valley radio commentary the screening people probably did one and all a big favour by not showing a picture as the first 45 minutes were as dull as ditchwater. Chesterfield refunded our money.
"What do you think of it so far? - Rubbish!"

v Maidenhead (away)
This was first class. Quality picture and the two commentators were excellent and very entertaining. What they didn't know about Pools wasn't worth knowing . They had obviously done their research on Pools to such an extent that it would have put John Motson to shame. Example: Dear reader, please allow for some poetic licence for the following... 'A great cross comes in from David Ferguson who once played for Hartlepool's arch-rivals Darlington, and  last season with York City claimed five goals and a dozen assists but as yet has not scored for his new club'. It was the the way that they included the word "arch" in front of the word "rivals" that got to me which suggested to everyone watching that there was some serious history between the two clubs.

Their knowledge of HUFC was only eclipsed by their familiarity with the town itself in references to The Old Town, The Marina as well as the Rat Race pub, which all got a mention. The best was yet to come when they informed viewers about the exceptional direct rail link which Grand Central operated between Kings Cross and Hartlepool. They even went so far as to inform the viewer of how many trains a day ran between Hartlepool and that small fishing village on the Thames. I know it may sound a bit churlish, but my only criticism of the commentary team was when they failed to provide departure and arrival times of this inter-city service and it would have also been beneficial to many if they had furnished the viewer with details of Grand Central's ticket pricing as well as any off-peak fare offers that may be available. Disappointing.

The streaming was going swimmingly until a Pools defender made a Keith Nobbs style clearance and whilst not quite going over the roof of the stand, the ball reached its top tier and the camera shook for a moment or two and one of the commentators said 'Oh, Jackie, our little cameraman has been hit by the ball' and with that the screen went blank and that was the last we saw or heard from Maidenhead, and possibly little Jackie. Was almost like JFK all over again.

v Bromley (home) 
See Aldershot (above) except Tesco own-brand cheese-and-red-onion crisps and German bier.

v Barnet (away - postponed) 
Paid for this but Covid paid for them. Barnet have an excellent website and I later discovered that I can view the rescheduled match against our original streaming fee. So no requirement for a refund.

v Ilkeston Town (away) 
BBC Red button jobbie. Technically not a streaming service; however, could not fault the picture quality nor the commentators; not sure who they were but more down to earth than their Match of the Day counterparts. God bless them, even when Ilkeston went four goals down they still thought that the home side were still in with some sort of a shout of pulling off a giant killing act against the mighty Hartlepool United.

The other good thing about this match was that, because there was no involvement of a Premiership side, there would be no sign of Gary Lineker within 100 miles of this fixture. The ex-Leicester City forward would not recognise any football team outside of the Premiership if it fell on top of him. The main benefit was that the viewer did not have to listen to him pontificating to one and all about everything and nothing. Coming from a well known family of renowned crisp eaters I have to say that Seabrooks are several country miles better than the brand which Lineker promotes and that is not just fresh air.

On the plus side, apart from the result, Pools will pocket a few bob from the Beeb in screening fees. 

v Altrincham (home) 
Prior to this game Pools finally acknowledged that there had been teething problems with the quality of the streaming of the previous two matches at the Vic and to that end the providers of this service, Insight14, would be at the ground before, during and after the match to iron out any gremlins or problems relating to picture or sound quality of the broadcast. It put a vision in my mind of one of their engineers walking around all parts of the stadium with an antenna in one hand held high above his head while a technician gave him instructions to move left or right, or to lower or raise his hand to improve the picture. Another image is that of the producer getting on to the Royal Navy Musuem and telling Tom the cabin boy that the Trincomalee's position in the Marina is interfering with the signal and asking for it be moved half a nautical mile to starboard. 

When the match kicked off there was a notable improvement in the picture quality. In truth, it was almost 100 percent better than what had been 'dished' out to us in the previous two home games at the Vic but it was still well below par. My mate said it is like watching a broadcast from Soviet television, which just about summed it up. Rumour had it that several minutes prior to kick off Insight 14 had actually achieved a picture perfect scenario which was rated as good as Blueray. Then the ref told Insight 14 to remove the engineer and the antenna from the top of the Town End crossbar. 

v Torquay (home) 
BT Stream. Disappointed to learn that Pools would be unable to stream this match as it would infringe on BT's broadcasting rights. All I can say is thank goodness for BT's broadcasting rights which meant I did not have to watch the match as listening to it on Radio Teesside/Cleveland Valley was bad enough. On the plus side, BT, like the licence payers' favourite, will also have contributed some much needed revenue to the club. Dare I ask the Eric Morecambe question with regard to HUFC's streaming service? "What do you think of it so far? - Rubbish!" has got to be the answer, particularly when you look at the quality of other clubs' efforts. Darlo for example; their streaming service is light years ahead of Pools'. 

I know several Pools fans who have said that they will not buy into any further streamed matches until the picture quality and sound is of an acceptable quality. This at a time when cash is in short supply and the club cannot afford to lose the vital revenue that streaming brings in. Basic stuff, Pools. Get it sorted.

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FUNNY OLD GAME




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Reasons to Be Cheerful ...Well, Maybe


DARREN KNOWLES' TASH





Well, the season is officially underway now and what a start we have experienced from Pools. I said my in last column that the team needed to hit the ground running and they did exactly that. Before Saturday we had played five league games and conceded just a meagre three goals which was at the time the joint second best record in the league.

Tests away from home against Chesterfield and Maidenhead were dealt with, and on both occasions the new-look Pools squad came away from the fixture with all three points. To do that is impressive. Added to that, the team had a potential banana skin of an FA Cup fourth qualifying round against Ilkeston to deal with, and comprehensively saw to that. In previous campaigns this could have been oh so different. We've had too many false dawns to last us a lifetime - never mind a season. 

That said, DC is striving for perfection and from some post-game interviews, thinks we could have done this and that better. This is the sign of a manager who reckons we have yet to have reached our full potential. If this is the case, then it makes you wonder what we will be like once we really hit top gear. Saturday though on BT Sport proved to be a bit of Hallowe'en horror as the team crumbled to their worst result of the season to leaders Torquay United when a win could have taken them back into second. I'm sure that the Gulls' number one fan, a certain Helen Chamberlain, is probably winding up Jeff as we speak.

The interesting thing is: how do you respond to something as humbling as this result? It becomes a test of mental strength and attitude, and whilst DC won't be best pleased at the 0-5 loss, it will be his job to repair the emotional damage and scarring caused by a heavy defeat ahead of playing Salford in the FA Cup on Saturday. Some players will respond positively, some will emotionally hurt badly. DC needs to get their confidence back on the horse and not let one result change the dynamic of the season after such an impressive beginning.
"We've had too many false dawns to last us a lifetime - never mind a season."

I said in my previous column though, that I feel the depth of the squad is a wee bit on the thin side. Chuck in a few injuries and we could see the good start evaporate quicker than you can imagine. Ideally the squad should have enough cover in every position possible, I would have at least five or six centre halves on my watch but that's just me. We do have a plethora of midfielders but not enough in the centre of defence now it appears that Timi Odusina has joined Gary Liddle on Buster's treatment table. Perhaps this might result in a recall for Aaron Cunningham from his loan spell at Blyth, and hope that either Liddle or Odusina will be fit enough to partner him. Should neither look like making it, will this see further movement in the transfer market by the Club for a permanent or temporary signing? One can but wait and see.

Now for my look on how the former Poolies are performing at Cork City, that being Scott Fenwick and Connor Simpson. As this goes to press, things aren't going well for City as they have been relegated to to the FA of Ireland's First Division next season which has resulted in former Spurs striker Neale Fenn being replaced by ex-Sunderland midfielder Colin Healy on an interim basis to close the season out. Added to this neither Simpson nor Fenwick have made an impression and I'm half expecting one; if not both; to leave Turner's Cross come the end of the season and seek new employers again.

Would I have them back in the blue and white? No, those ships have certainly sailed and in a majority of cases; second spells aren't usually as good as first time around. Remember the hype that came with the supposed second coming of Stevie Howard? We all know how that turned out; an absolute disaster. Re-signing them would be a backward step as far as I am concerned. Don't do it Pools!

Every game is like a Cup Final, amd there's going to be some bumps in the road for sure, we just have to keep the faith even though we aren't yet inside the Vic to will them on. It's what we do as Poolies, right? 

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Grounds for Concern


BILLY'S CONTRACT



I recently, along with 3,700 others, watched the interview headed A Chat with Raj Singh. We have not heard a lot from Mr. Singh in recent weeks, perhaps understandably as Covid is having an impact on his business. Like most chairmen at other clubs,  in the main he said all the things that supporters would want to hear. He made no bones about the impact of Covid and the lockdown and spoke of the club's financial situation. He confirmed that the government furlough scheme was welcomed as were the monies from the National Lottery and the fans who donated £30k, all of which have kept the club ticking over.

He thinks very highly of Dave Challinor as an individual and as a manager and later next year will, if everything is going in the right direction, extend his contract.


There was a rumour going around the houses that the owner and Jeff Stelling have had some form of falling out. Although he did not say as much Mr Singh was not pleased that the solicitors who represented the group that were looking at taking over the club spoke direct to Jeff Stelling and not him, the owner of the club. A very fair point.

Mr. Singh also pointed out that he had put £2.4 million into the club whereas Jeff Stelling had contributed £100k. He did not confirm that there was an actual falling out as such between them but he was understandably not pleased at all in the manner in which the representatives of the prospective buyers had made their approach.
"a whacking big sign should be put outside Victoria Park stating "Not for Sale under any circumstances""

One worrying point Mr. Singh made was when he was discussing various revenue streams which he would like to introduce in order to make the club more viable such as conferences and concerts being held at Victoria Park but investors would need to know ''Who owns the Ground''. Is Mr Singh interested in purchasing the ground and ultimately to what end? To the majority of Hartlepool fans the ground is the Holy Grail and belongs to Hartlepool Borough Council, which ultimately belongs to the people of the town, and a whacking big sign should be put outside Victoria Park stating "Not for Sale under any circumstances". I would welcome a forward-looking council to work hand in hand with any bone fide trustworthy owner whoever he she or they might be and to that end they must be under no illusion that the ground is a non-negotiable asset

Some argue that if the Council was desperate for funds they could sell the ground and put a caveat in the contract stating that the ground can only be used for football matches. The same applied to Feethams, Darlo's old ground. It was the Cricket club who owned the ground and there was a legal stipulation enshrined in law dating back years stating that if the ground was sold it could only be used for sporting events.

Eventually Darlington FC left Feethams for pastures new and no doubt some smart Philadelphia-style lawyer found a loophole and got round all the previous legalities and the site is now a soulless bland-looking housing estate.

Hartlepool Borough Council knows the value and worth that the club brings to the town in terms of visitors, jobs and revenue as well as the free publicity, and to lose this would be a catastrophic loss to the town. The council is keen to obtain government money to redevelop the Mill House area. Whether Victoria Park remains on the current site or has to be moved elsewhere remains to be seen. However wherever it is located it is essential that it must at all cost remain in council hands.

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Bolt on the Landscape


RABBI BLUE AND WHITE STRIPES





What strange times we are living through. Starting in 2008 with the financial crash, through extreme weather conditions to the current Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit. It seems to me to be a dystopian nightmare straight from the pen of J.G. Ballard. Encapsulating competing theories of science, conspiracies, polarised political views, re-appraisal of history, risk and the breakdown of world order. Well, never mind there’s still the football.

Who would have imagined that football clubs would have to resort to cardboard cut-outs of supporters bolted on to the seats as a backdrop to games played at the elite level, that football commentaries would have library archived crowd noises or that Pools would have started the season so well (as I write this that is, as we know all too well, no one can predict the future). P.S. I’d started writing this before the Torquay game, subsequently it would seem not everything has changed.

The Covid-19 pandemic, depending upon your political and environmental viewpoint has had some benefits. Of course it is disastrous for many both in terms of health but also wealth and especially for the jobs market. Many who had just been keeping their heads above water now face an uncertain future.

It is ironic that the present government, viewed by many as a hard-line right wing one, were voted in by a large majority and are now deploying extreme left-wing policies of massive borrowing and curbs on freedom to fight this pandemic.
"It’s a sad and depressing thought I know - football as a television-type spectacle only"

The benefits may be seen as improving air quality, reduced demand for using finite natural resources, a renewed sense of people working together especially at a community level and a hastening of IT solutions to age old problems. Which brings me to Hartlepool United.

I realise that there is nothing that beats attendance at a real live game but since clubs have been allowed to live stream matches this has brought in a funding lifeline and made games accessible to many who may otherwise be excluded. This includes people that would not normally be able to attend matches such as people with health issues, disabilities, exiles and an additional number of away supporters. There is the additional bonus of reducing pollution of those journeying to games whilst encouraging those that wouldn’t have considered travelling, now being able to pay to see a game.

Of course there is a financial downside with no sales of food or drinks, no programmes, no purchases from the club shop. The human downside is fewer jobs at the ground, not seeing friends, loss of atmosphere, isolation and not being part of a bigger group. Local businesses also suffer such as pubs and eateries.

Against these are benefits in not having to employ police and stewards, cleaning of the ground and a reduction on wear and tear.

So, what of the future? For many people who have been working from home due to the virus this could continue, possibly for at least part of the working week. New patterns of shopping are being seen with on-line purchases increasing rapidly. Enterprising smaller businesses are organising home deliveries which may all become the norm. Even the wearing of facemasks could prevent the spread of other less severe diseases.

So, if this situation were to be with us long-term, clubs may not need to have such large stadiums and relocation to a different type of stadium altogether may happen. It’s a sad and depressing thought I know - football as a television-type spectacle only, played in front of cameras with just management teams and medical staff in attendance.

Let’s hope that a successful vaccination offering long-term immunity or at least an effective treatment is available soon and that we can get on with our lives.

I would still like to have the streaming option available, maybe as part of a season ticket whereby people can either attend or stream a game. Those without a season ticket would be able to stream at a slightly higher cost as is the case of attending a live game.

As Marx once said “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies”. That’s Groucho Marx, not Karl by the way.

On a slightly different note, a massive ‘well done’ to players and supporters whose combined efforts provided food and money for those in need during the half term break – a magnificent community effort.

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FUNNY OLD GAME




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Poolie Pride


POOLPOWER reminds us of events of 15 years ago this month, when a CD single recorded by Pools fans got to no. 24 in the BBC Top Forty despite being sold in only 3 shops.



I wish there was as much enthusiasm in the people who profit from music as there is in a group of fans trying to do some good for Hartlepool United and the community. I know we are classed as small fry in a big pond, but a leg up from some of these profiteers would do them no harm and would do groups like ours a lot of good.

Initially we thought that we had a deal. The recording was done, the artwork for the cover and CD was all finished and we were just about to go. We thought we had deals with four local outlets, then we seemed to hit snag after snag.


Tesco decided from the outset that the logistics were too complicated for them to take the CD into their stock. Asda said they would help all they could, as long as we got our end sorted with a bar code, licence, etc. Woolworths at a local level were keen to help us, but again head office was less forthcoming. WH Smiths were doing what they could locally, but it all boiled down to a company called E UK that controls most of the distribution of music in the country. They did not want to play ball - a closed shop, to independents like us. They passed the buck onto the local people who were of the opinion that they could not move without the say-so of E UK. The main sticking point was that our group wanted to make the charts with the CD - an achievable task, as others have done it before.

That was when we hit the snags with the outlets. We could have just taken the CD out into the streets and sold it ourselves, but there is a little kudos in charting with a football fans CD. Everybody was keen to see that happen.
"Over seven hundred CDs were sold on the night, a fantastic start to the campaign"

We received some good sponsorship from Camerons and Heerema, for which we are very grateful. But we needed more to cover costs of studio time and producing the CD. So Monkey Business came to the rescue. The delay gave me more time to go out with the begging bowl and drum up some support from the local business community. I took out over 30 letters to firms and shops in the town and while I still wait for a response from some of them, a big pat on the back should be given to Julie and Bill of Real Estate, Mike Gough of Mike Gough Sports and Dave Hudson of 23 Taxis, who gave without hesitation.

Another local firm that rallied to support us was H Q Engineering -- thanks to Mick Douglas and John Charlton for a very generous donation. And thanks also to the people of New Deal. We had the money, we had the CD master and we were ready to rock.

Then once again we had no deal with a distributor. Frantic phone calls and e-mails set us back on track. The next step was to fill the town with posters advertising the fact that the Poolie Pride project was about to hit town. At midnight on November 4th we took charge of 6,000 CDs, delivered from the Midlands to Asda car park - sterling work from the Poolie van driver who was so ill he should have been in bed. Splitting the load we sorted Asda Hartlepool, Asda Peterlee, and Music Zone in Hartlepool shopping centre, the only three outlets we were able to sell our CD from.

Printing bar codes and delivery notes kept us busy for the next three days while demand for the CD took off. The plan was to hopefully chart the CD so we could not sell it ourselves. Every sale had to register to reach the charts, so we had to be wary of multiple sales at the tills. The chart monitors asked us to supply them with two copies and explain the massive sales we were generating at different times. If there was any doubt then they could have looked at the videos of the queues in Asda at the time of the CD signings.

“GIT MONDAY" is a Headland term that relates to massive fish sales at Easter. “GIT WEEK" became “GIT MONDAY" when sales soared with the aid of top man Ritchie Humphreys, who turned up at Asda to sign copies of the brand new Poolie Pride CD. The expected half-hour signing turned into a marathon, as Ritchie stayed for over two hours. The queue from the record department went out past the fruit and veg almost to the front doors of the store. The crowds were fantastic, all prepared to spend as long as an hour waiting in line. Not one punter was let down as Ritchie stayed on and signed everything that was thrust at him as well as a variety of shirts, autograph books and scraps of paper offered by the fans.
Ritchie's fingers must have been almost dropping off by the end of his CD signing marathon

Store boss Derrick Burrell and a posse of staff were amazed at the interest the CD was creating. One comment was made that even the Harry Potter book signing had not been anything like what was on show that Monday night. Over seven hundred CDs were sold on the night, a fantastic start to the campaign. The CD was selling very well all week and a second signing was arranged for the Thursday night, this time with Dimi Konstantopoulos and young Anthony Sweeney being on duty, the latter a very able substitute for the ‘flu-stricken Adam Boyd. Once again the fans turned out in force and the lads did us proud with sales of five hundred plus for the night.

We arranged for Joel Porter to go down to Music Zone for a signing. It wasn‘t as well attended, as the shop closed an hour after Joel arrived, but another excellent performance saw the sales flying out of the shop.

A confident committee decided to have a bit of a bash in the Woodcutter and invite all concerned. The good turn-out of Poolies and shop staff from Asda made it a great night, the Passion Killers, Lol Moran and Pooliegirl all putting on a great show. Some Poolies disgraced themselves at the party but they won't be named here. However, we are publishing the pictures (see front cover*).

So it's a big thank you to the staff at Asda and the guys in Music Zone who did not know what had hit them once the Poolie hordes set about getting their copies of the Poolie Pride CD. We set sales records all week at both shops.

[* This refers to the front cover of the original printed edition. We thought that after 15 years some things might be better not being seen again! - Ed.]

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Back to the Eighties

RABBI BLUE AND WHITE STRIPES has been up in his loft



Here are some items from the match programme for the league game at home to Sheffield United on 6th March 1982. 

Who would have thought our trajectories would move in such different directions - well probably all of us I guess. 

I remember this game well as Bob Newton appeared before the game with his wrist in a plaster cast, there was a lot of trouble in the town beforehand and it was the only time as an adult that I'd travelled up to Hartlepool by train. 

We lost 3-2 with Phil Linacre and Paul Staff scoring for us. Some names that stick out for me in the Sheffield United line up are: Keith Waugh, ex-Sunderland; Bob Hatton, a much travelled but prolific goal scorer (215 goals in 617 games); Stewart Houston, ex-Manchester United and of course John MacPhail who was destined to eventually play for and manage Pools. 

The attendance was 4,145 - I watched the match from the old wooden stand, part of which was being lashed together by bits of rope. We stayed overnight and on the return journey a coach replaced the train between Hartlepool and Teesside. 



And here's the editorial, interesting for its mentions of several teams who are now in leagues greatly different than those they were in 38 years ago, including one team which no longer exists.

The arrival of Sheffield United for a Fourth Division fixture this afternoon emphasises that in football you can take nothing for granted. Five years ago they were in the First Division, seemingly sitting pretty with the big boys. Surely relegation to the Second Division was but a temporary setback? Well, as you will see before you this afternoon, that setback was rather more long-term, for United have slithered into Division Four for the first time in their long and proud history. 

And although they are having their best season for some time and fighting hard for promotion back at the first attempt, they have not found life easy in the "basement". Not that they should do. No club can ever afford to think that they are too good for any opposition, and clubs like Sheffield United cannot ever think themselves too good to go to Rochdale, Halifax or Hartlepool. 

They may well stand in our out-dated away dressing rooms and think of their own fine facilities, but success in the game is not achieved among the coat hangers and foot lockers but on the field, whether it be the Victoria Ground or Anfield.

Sheffield United have no more right to promotion than Bournemouth or Colchester, neither of whom have ever played in a higher grade than the Third, or Wigan, who in United's First Division days were still playing the likes of Goole and Worksop in the Northern Premier League.

And as if to serve as a reminder of the League's democratic stance, with pedigree counting for nothing in 90 minutes‘ play, fellow promotion candidates Bradford City and Bury were both respected members of the First Division and winners of the F.A. Cup in the early part of the century. Indeed. today is F.A. Cup sixth round day in 1982, and never before has the First Division found itself so poorly represented at this stage of the competition.

But then the magic of the Cup is its levelling capacity, and since the word ‘go’ this season, 1982 has proved itself to be the year of the underdog. Wouldn't it be a glorious boost for the ambitions of all the country's smaller sides if someone like Shrewsbury (who not so long ago were playing us in the Fourth Division) were to reach Wembley.

We had a lot of replies to the quiz in the Darlington programme. The losing captain in the photo was Graham Normanton, leading off the Horden team after their Cup tie with Blackpool here, and the first correct answer out of the hat was l0 year old Johnathan Chandler of Thackeray Road, Rift House. He won two tickets for today's game and is accompanied by his father.

Today's question: Who scored our goal in the 1 - 1 draw at Sheffield United last October? Two tickets v Bradford City stand as the prize, so answers to me c/o the Victoria Ground within two weeks please.
JAMES BOND

The 'Billy Horner's Viewpoint' column concentrated on Pools' dire financial position of the time, which reminds us that it quite frequently was (and is) thus, apart from that brief interlude when IOR was running the club.

More Football Lists


compiled by SHEDRICK



HALF-TIME PLAYLIST FOR THE SECOND LOCKDOWN

Running Scared 

Here We Go Again 

Only the Lonely
 
Smoggie Mountain Lockdown
 
Eve of Destruction
 
All By Myself
 
Blaydon Races (cancelled) 

Fever 

Don’t Stand so Close to Me
 
The Pub with no Beer 

With Love from Three to Two (Lennon/McCartney/Johnson) 


WHAT'S IN A NAME? 

Plundering the depths of the FA Trophy Competition brought a few interesting club names to light. They may be more familiar to MB readers than to me as I live in the elitist sheltered protectionist bubble more commonly known as The Premiership. 

City of Liverpool 
– wonder if they play in blue and red stripes? 

FC Romania 
– fixation with the Italian capital or eastern European, either way they’ll be gone after Brexit. 

Newcastle Town 
– distinguishable from THE Toon (Army) by replacing the salutation “hinny” with the word “duck”. 

Pontefract Collieries 
– who needs floodlights when you’ve got a light on your hat? 

Runcorn Linnets 
– Cheshire’s answer to The Spice Girls? 

Cray Valley Paper Mills 
– always play with a high press (which we used to call 'tight marking' or 'reckless' in the old days, depending on whether you were winning or losing). 


THINGS ARE MUCH WORSE DOWN UNDER

In more innocent times songs didn’t have double-entendres and non-fitted carpets more easily facilitated having things swept under them. How different are things now – 

Two Little Boys are asymptomatic and have been taken into care; they are due compensation but can’t tell what it is yet. 

A kangaroo was unable to escape the bush fires as someone had tied it down.  

An errant boomerang did finally come back. Burning brightly over Melbourne it set fire to the local football club’s “Charlie Stand”. Local youths, unaware of comedian Charlie Drake's hit record, thought it was named after their night-time habits!

A swagman has been moved into Covid-secure housing as his tent cannot be touched for 14 days. 

RTZ have won the contract to fill in all the billabongs with mining waste to discourage wild swimming. 

Waltzing Matilda is now banned as it contravenes Covid regulations and more seriously it makes gender assumptions.

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FUNNY OLD GAME




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Halloween Horror


Match report by JANE AUSTEN'S ALLEGRO



Pools 0 Torquay 5 (National League)
Saturday 31 October 2020
Victoria Park



What a start to the season - Pools unbeaten in six games and never out of the top six in the league placings. Through to the first round proper of the FA Cup. Goals for column 13. Goals against Column 3. What could possibly go wrong? Then Torquay came to town and a lamentable five nil defeat.

Prior to the Torquay result and I was going to write about Pools' excellent start to the season, but I was also going to mention some of the concerns which I have about the side, some of which were revealed, nay exposed. during the drubbing by the team from Devon. My other concern was that the clubs that we had played were not exactly world beaters and I wondered how we would cope with top-of-the-table sides such as Stockport County or indeed Torquay.

As I have mentioned previously we do not have a fox-in-the-box or a recognised target man up front such as Danny Wright, the Torquay centre forward, who got himself a hat-trick against Pools and could have doubled that tally if luck had gone his way. He absolutely ran riot against our lacklustre defence and did I mention that he is thirty six years old?

Up front we have Grey, Ofusu, Bloomfield and Parkhouse. Let's be honest, they are all novices and still learning their trade - nothing wrong in that but all in the team at the same time? That said, Grey has something about him and looks head and shoulders above the rest of them.

Then we have Rhys Oates whose scoring record does not speak for itself and he does not seem to have improved any since his return to the club. I thought he might do well at non-league level but his best starting position seems to be on the bench.
"What really took the biscuit and annoyed Pools fans more than anything else was the manner in which Pools capitulated without an ounce of fight"

Ofusu did well in pre-season but seems to be out of his depth at this level and needs to be broken in gently or sent out on loan. He may go the same way as Niko Muir and to that end he needs to start cutting the mustard.

Bloomfield does have something about him. His best game for the club was against Ilkeston when he should have bagged at least five or six goals. Then again perhaps that is the level he too should be playing at. Sounds harsh but prior to the Torquay game almost all of Pools goals were coming from midfield.

When Nicky Featherstone gets man-marked or closed down, which of late he does, there does not seemed to be any other outlet for creativity in midfield. Perhaps a fit Luke Williams might be the answer.

Killip, though much improved since last season, is still suspect and does not inspire confidence. When a player is one-on-one with him he goes to ground and leads with his feet which is fine in some situations but not all. He should stand up and make the goal a more difficult target to breach.

Let's not take anything away from Torquay they gave Pools a thoroughly good hiding and could have had double figures. What really took the biscuit and annoyed Pools fans more than anything else was the manner in which Pools capitulated without an ounce of fight in them. The way heads dropped after conceding the second goal was pathetic.

Worse still, to a man they seemed to accept being turned over. I never saw any Pools player rollicking or shouting or even encouraging a team mate. With the exception of Luke Molyneux there was no passion or fight whatsoever in the team.

Ryan Donaldson set a thoroughly bad example after, I think, the fourth goal. His body language said it all as he meandered back into his own half prior to the re-start, head down and almost sulking, or was that skulking, back to his position on the pitch and not saying a word or offering any encouragement, especially to the younger players on the pitch. I do believe that he is the captain of the team. Not exactly an example-setting performance.

Dave Challinor was correct in his post-match summarisation of the team's performance, saying that, had there had been a crowd in attendance at the Vic, they would have well and truly let the players know their feelings in no uncertain terms and Challinor added that if he had been on the terraces he would have had a go at them as well!

I trust that the Torquay result, much like Liverpool's six-one thrashing at Aston Villa, is a reality check for the players. It could well be, even at this early stage, the defining point of the season. Let's hope we get a positive reaction from the squad.

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Any Other Business

MERVYN THE MONKEY mops up



Well, the last few weeks have compressed the whole Poolie experience into the space between two editions of the Bizz. We've had the elation of being top of the league from the first day, the impressive away wins, the unimpressive home draws, an away goal-fest in the FA Cup and finally a home tonking in the league, with two Covid-19 postponements as well.

At least the disappointment didn't arrive with the first match! As is often said about early reverses, they show up problems while there's still time to correct them, so perhaps Pools will have learned something from Torquay's football lesson, if only that the chairman's "value-for-money" approach may perhaps have its downside.



On the day Pools were slaughtered by Torquay, showing neither fight nor determination, Hartlepool's Savannah Marshall showed just those qualities to take the WBO world middleweight boxing title.

So congratulations to Savannah from us at the Bizz. Perhaps if she's free at the moment she could pop round to the Vic and give them a few desperately-needed tips.




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