Showing posts from January, 2021

Striking for the Top


After a few bumps in the road Pools seem to have got back on the right track with three wins on the bounce to take us into second place in the league.

Although this does not represent the true picture with teams around us having games in hand which, if they won, would represent a different scenario. But let us not worry about that and enjoy the heady heights of what is not a good league with all teams capable of beating one another. Manager Dave Challinor deserves a lot of praise in putting together what looks to be a useful squad after the past years of dross. Indeed his last three signings, Luke Armstrong, Jamie Sterry and Joe Bunney, look ready-made to shine in this division. He has shipped out David Parkhouse who did nothing of any note while he was here and was sent back to Sheffield and not before time.

We now have four decent strikers in Armstrong, Mason Bloomfield, Joe Grey and, surprisingly, Rhys Oates, who is playing as well as he ever has done for us. The winner he set up for Armstrong against Notts County was pure class. Although he showed the other side of his game in the second half when presented with a clear sight of goal by the County defence he managed to hit Row Z when he had all the time to make it 2-0. One thing that Oates does have is pace in abundance which worries defenders. He showed his passion in the first half after losing possession in their penalty area to cut their full back in half and earn himself a yellow card.

I must say the referee was not a homer and gave us a few decisions which could have gone against us. Especially the "goal" they had disallowed when it looked certainly on. About time we had a bit of a rub of the green from referees this season. Although three red cards for opponents certainly helped our cause somewhat when it is usually our guys getting dismissed for very little. Although things did not look promising at the kick off when the cameras caught the ref and the County captain sharing a joke and it appeared that there might be a rabbit away.
"We now have four decent strikers in Armstrong, Mason Bloomfield, Joe Grey and, surprisingly, Rhys Oates, who is playing as well as he ever has done for us."

With the strikers looking good we also have Claudio Osofu who seems to have fallen out of favour at the moment but could be a good option to bring off the bench late on as he is a tricky customer who could trouble tiring defenders. He looks a talented little player who could really blossom if he was given an extended run in the side.

Our captain seems to be having to settle for a place on the bench lately which is good news as he brings nothing to the game even when used as a substitute. He certainly played the part of a captain when called upon take a penalty in the FA Trophy defeat to Halifax ...ballooning the ball over the bar and out of the ground as predicted by everybody watching in our house.

When you think we have Luke Molyneux, Luke Williams and Gary Liddle to come into the team when required, we have as strong a squad as we have had for some time. And a goalkeeper in Henrich Ravas who I believe should be our No 1.

A real nasty, tough-tackling midfielder could be just the missing link we need - and also for Torquay to lose a few - and a win at their place in March is a must. But this is not out of the question; they are Torquay, not Tottenham.

I must compliment Notts County on the stream for the match although expensive at £12 it was very professional with top commentary, good camera work and replays. Something Pools could learn from with their abysmal service and lack of customer service. A complaint to them gets neither a reply nor a refund and picture quality is pathetic with the camera operator appearing to try to film a herring gull in flight rather than the actual match. I refuse to purchase another stream for a home game while these cowboys are in charge of the filming but I will go for the odd away game when the product seems vastly superior.

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Starting Eleven


Could it be that, rotation aside, Dave Challinor is now in the final throes of putting his pieces into place and finally getting his first-choice starting eleven together?

Since the start of the season, whether due to a heavy fixture schedule, inexperience, loss of form, no form or injuries, it is rare that Pools have fielded the same starting eleven on more than two consecutive occasions. This has been not only a problem for the manager but for the players themselves who have to adapt to playing with someone different each week.

Dave Challinor has used more than two dozen different players in all competitions this season. It would appear that, as we no longer possess a reserve side, he is trying to assess some of his squad by thrusting them into the first team to see if they can perform ...or not. The other problem Challinor has by not having a reserve side is keeping those squad players who are out of the picture fit.

He said as much after the Trophy match with Halifax - that a number of the players tired towards the latter stages of that game. Certainly the likes of Crawford, Bloomfield, Ofosu and a semi-fit Luke Williams need game time.
"It would appear that, as we no longer possess a reserve side, he is trying to assess some of his squad by thrusting them into the first team to see if they can perform ...or not."

I am surprised that Pools have not been in touch with other clubs in the North East who have free weekends because they, like Pools, no longer have an interest in the cup competitions, or because their matches are postponed, perhaps owing to waterlogged pitches. These matches could be played at the Vic. I note that Darlo, York and Spennymoor have had free weekends of late and they would have all provided a reasonable work-out for the Pools fringe players as well as their own.

The signing of Luke Armstrong has been key to Pools' resurgence; at last we have a proper centre forward, one who runs his socks off, chases and harries, is physical and knows exactly where the goal is. If only we had had the likes of him sooner. To get him on loan until the end of the season was a masterstroke. Let's hope he stays injury free.

My pick of the bunch so far this season are Nicky Featherstone, Gav Holohan and obviously Luke Armstrong.

A special mention for Rhys Oates. I have to say that I was underwhelmed when he re-signed for the club but in the last three matches (Halifax, Stockport and Notts County), he has been a different class. Two goals and an assist, and no one else in the side covers the yards as he does. I have often wondered how many times he has played a full 90 minutes for Pools or Morecambe as he is either subbed or comes on as a sub. Any Stattos out there who could furnish me with that information?


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A Little Tweaking


Doesn't time fly. Christmas came and went and a third of the football season is almost over. So now is as good a time as any to do a third-of-the-season review.

At the time of typing, a very average Pools side is sitting in third place in the National league table. (That's the third ...oops, fourth time I have used this word in two and a half sentences!) Not a bad place to be at this stage of the season it has to be said. Yes, some teams have games in hand but have to play each other but we already have the points in the bag.

I said Pools are an average side, perhaps I should have used the words inconsistent, inexperienced, frustrating and at times a naïve side. That said, I believe it only requires a few little tweaks here and there which would guarantee Pools a play-off spot.

There are several areas Dave Challinor needs to look at. Our main problem is that of the central threesome who, along with a goodly number of the squad, are lacking experience with not a lot of miles on the clock and still learning their trade on the job. I am convinced that with the imminent return of Gary Liddle in defence, he would take charge and watch out for his fellow defenders who play either side of him by being vocal and marshal, cajole and guide them them in such a manner that they will eradicate many of their schoolboy errors.
"Challinor has been quoted as saying some players do not listen. Could be a case for sending them for hearing tests."

The one thing Dave Challinor's team has over many past Hartlepool sides is pace and they have plenty of it but it is not being fully utilised as it was at the beginning of the season. Nicky Featherstone needs to play more incisive forward balls, as he did at the start of the campaign; however, he has reverted back to form by passing sideways and backwards. Looks very pleasing on the eye but is unproductive.

In the latter part of the first half in the game against ten-man Stockport I reckon Featherstone must have passed the ball 20 or 30 times plus, without any probing or impact on our opponents' defence and achieving nothing other than slowing the game down to walking pace. The commentator on the live stream broadcast put this static state of play down to the fact that our forward players were not making any runs or making themselves available for Featherstone. I would argue that they were bored into submission and had all the life sucked out of them, waiting for a cross to come into the box. Unsurprisingly when Stockport went down to nine men, unless Pools were trying to conserve their energy for the busy December fixture schedule, nothing changed. It was much like watching Manchester City on barbiturates.

Pools should be playing to their strengths and as they have the resources to play at a higher tempo should do so by getting the ball into the box quicker and and by not giving the opposition the time to get back and regroup. With someone like Luke Armstrong lurking in the penalty area this is a must.

The other thing for Pools is to play for the full ninety-plus minutes. Currently, particularly away from home, they start sluggishly but after the mandatory half-time rollicking from the boss they seem to improve in the second 45 minutes. Challinor has been quoted as saying some players do not listen. Could be a case for sending some of them for hearing tests.

Another thing which annoys me is that when we are pitted against sides who have been reduced to ten men we don't seem to be able to adapt and take real advantage of the situation. We have played four consecutive games where our opponents were reduced to ten men - and in Stockport's instance, nine. Yet in all four cases these sides were putting far more balls into our box and at pace than we did into theirs. Today against Notts County was embarrassing as prior to their centre half being sent off we had eleven back and, excluding the first two minutes of the second half, we had eleven players defending deep and hoofing the ball away only for it to be promptly returned to where it had come from. Did we do anything different to take advantage when County went down to ten men? Not really, and they still had the better chances and had a perfectly good goal disallowed. Basic Stuff.

When six foot five Joe Bunney is playing, I would like to see him in the penalty box when Pools win a corner, preferably stood in front of our opponents' goalkeeper. In the game against Stockport, Nicky Featherstone was about to take a corner with Bunney stood a couple or three yards away from him as a foil for a short corner, thus rendering him and his height redundant. Puts me in mind of when then England Manager Roy Hodgson gave corner-taking duties to Harry Kane.

Apart from signing a ball-winning midfielder and hoping for a level of consistency, Dave Challinor to my mind does not have to do a lot to mould the current squad into play-off contenders.

Part of this was written up prior to the Notts County game.

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Tolstoy Story


I don’t know if you have read Nick Loughlin’s piece for North East Sport News (December 13th 2020) but it is an excellent, insightful yet depressing article.

Entitled “Hartlepool United’s latest humiliation wasn’t a one off – accepting it is the hardest part”. It follows the defeat at Woking and highlights how far we have fallen.

Our decline is not just from the heady days of being near the top of the 3rd tier of English football but from the humble days of having to apply for re-election. It has happened over a period of time, a gradual erosion. The natural reaction every time is that we will rebound and at this level easily be able find success. It’s the same excuse we use for players - existing or incoming ones - that they will find it, if not easy at this level, at least comfortable.

Alas, this is sadly not the case; we have consistently been outclassed by teams we didn’t even know existed in parts of the country that we thought of as exclusively Stockbroker Belt.
"Raj Singh would probably want his money back the same way I want my lottery ticket money back when I don’t win."

I have subscribed to the live streaming for most home games this season and there does seem to be a lack of bite, authority, aggression, call it what you will. Then I was brought up in football terms watching the likes of Roy Hogan, Billy Ayre, Keith Nobbs, Bob Newton and Mark Lawrence. Referring back to Nick Loughlin’s article he mentions Nicky Featherstone apologising for putting in a strong tackle against Boreham Wood. It’s political correctness gone mad. When we have had a player with a bit of aggression they are moved on, I’m thinking of players like Michael Woods, Gus Mafuta and Liam Noble, our top scorer in the 2018/19 season.

Financial constraints are a constant barrier to attracting better players to Hartlepool but other clubs seem to somehow manage this. I realise the days of IOR are long gone and Raj Singh has had to dip into his pocket to keep the place going. He will obviously not be able to do this forever; he has said as much and that was earlier in the season when we were doing well. There was the rumour that people were interested in taking the club over and that these people were the Hollywood duo of Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney who eventually invested in Wrexham. Raj Singh would probably want his money back if someone wanted to take the club over, in the same way I want my lottery ticket money back when I don’t win.

Instead of chasing wealthy individuals I think the club should target large successful organisations. I don’t suppose Amazon, Apple, Elon Musk’s Tesla, Richard Branson’s Virgin empire or Bill Gates' Microsoft would be interested but what about The Walt Disney Company, the company that owns Pixar? I envisage an epic money-spinning drama combining Leo Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ and Pixar’s animation ‘Toy Story’. Telling the account of the French invasion of Tsarist Russia and the rise and fall of the Napoleonic era, leading to the hanging of a monkey in Hartlepool. The monkey becomes infamous and to make amends the local town's football club use it as their mascot. Following the gradual demise of the football club, due to main benefactors IOR - ‘Increased Offal Recovery’ (slogan: 'We’ve got fingers in many pies'), the drama concludes with the signing of former star player Buzz Slight-Tear. Buzz is a talented player, unfortunately beset with a litany of injuries that have prevented him from playing for several years. After multiple false dawns he gradually overcomes his physical and mental scars to become the town's saviour.

Well, at least with Walt Disney we would get a genuine Mickey Mouse set up.

Apologies if I have upset anyone – there I go, sounding like a New-Age midfielder.

Be good to each other.

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Points of View


In issue 193 of Monkey Business I made comment about the quality of Pools' streaming service. Has it improved since then?

Definitely, yes, but not by much. However that is a step in the right direction. Mind, after watching the FA Trophy match at the Shay, I'd say Pools have some stiff competition. At first I thought they were using the same provider as Pools.

Our next streaming broadcast was against Stockport and though not brilliant it was an improvement over previous efforts. Next came Halifax on Boxing Day at the Vic which I was really looking forward to. Turkey sarnies and a big mug of tea on the arm of the chair being the order of the day.

I had previously set my laptop up to the television in good time and when the picture appeared prior to kick off it looked far better than anything that had previously been served up by the provider. However minutes before the teams came out on to the pitch the whole thing went pear shaped as the picture froze, and for the best part of twenty minutes. In a moment of madness I tuned into the radio commentary on Radio Tees Cleveland Valleyside to listen to the match. It has got to be said that Eddie Kyle talks and awful lot of sense.

Billy's Contract Junior on the other hand went on-line and was reading out the comments which numerous disgruntled would-be viewers were putting on message boards. One Halifax fan, having the last laugh, said that if Pools fans thought their streaming service was poor, Hartlepool's is even worse. Other comments were too rude to print here.
"To the outsider it would appear that Pools have employed some sixth-form media studies student to have a go at putting a streaming service together as part of their course work."

Eventually a picture of a satisfactory quality was restored. I decided to watch the game with the sound turned down whilst listening to Eddie Kyle's commentary on Radio Clevelandside Tees. After a few minutes I had to turn Eddie off off as it wasn't in sync with Pools' streaming service, which was a minute or so behind what was happening on the radio.

With that I turned the streaming service sound back on the with the Pools commentator, as he does every home game, profusely apologising for the problems encountered during the broadcast and saying that it was the provider that was at fault and not Pools. The question which has to be asked is, if this provider is not cutting the mustard why have Pools not, like some other clubs, sourced their streaming service from an alternative supplier.

To the outsider it would appear that Pools have employed some sixth-form media studies student to have a go at putting a streaming service together as part of their course work. Either that or Pools have engaged the current provider because they were cheap.

It would be interesting to see how many Hartlepool United supporters have stopped using this streaming service thus ultimately costing the club much-needed revenue.

Instead of displaying crowd attendance figures it would be good to see how many fans 'streamed' each match. A bit of interest if nothing else.

I have just watched the Notts County match and the calibre of their streaming service was light years ahead of Pools' provider. Excellent picture quality. No freezing, jumping or blurring. Interviews with players and staff prior to kick off (as opposed to a camera focusing on the Cyril Knowles stand for quarter of an hour). More of the same at half time including half time scores around the grounds (as opposed to a camera focusing on the Cyril Knowles stand for quarter of an hour).

Notts County's streaming also provided the viewer with various different camera angles. A camera following the flow of play - and keeping up with it. Action replays were the order of the day.

Even the basics were covered such as having a clock showing how many minutes of game time had passed, and if a player was booked, subbed, sent off etc., his name would be shown at the bottom of the screen.

At first I baulked at paying the £12 which County were charging but in retrospect it was worth paying a bit more for a very professional and entertaining product and, unlike that provided by Pools and their current provider, it was, dare I say it, 'easy on the eye.'

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Have We Turned a Corner?


This article was penned just hours after the Notts County away game which has seen Pools record their third win a row.

The team currently have moved back into the play-off positions, and although they have played more games than those below them, it's certainly feeling a bit better after yet another mid-season wobble. All teams will have them, even Torquay will have one soon, but sometimes our wobbles turn into crises and derail the season.

One thing that has coincided with this is that we seem to have a proper out-and-out scorer in the team, a striker who just wants to put the ball into the back of the old onion bag. Comparisons have been drawn by some that Armstrong is a modern day Joe Allon but let's not get carried away. The main thing is we have a goalscorer here and unless Salford have a striking crisis, we have him for the remainder of this season. He's proven to be a breath of fresh air. Keep it going Luke!

Sometimes some signings you make don't work out too. So that was proven by the loan deal that brought Northern Irishman David Parkhouse to the Vic from Premier League Sheffield United. With an impressive pedigree behind him; we thought that this was a kid that had goals in him. However for one reason or another, it never worked out for the lad. Watch him go and score bucketloads for his next loan club. It's on the proverbial cards. But that's football.
"it's certainly feeling a bit better after yet another mid-season wobble."

A major talking point over the last few weeks has been the remembrance kit. Fans have been waiting for ages for their replicas to arrive which actually is nothing short of shambolic even with the global pandemic taking hold. The club to me hasn't had a decent kit supplier since the Nike deal ended in 2017. Sure the stuff was a bit more expensive but we never had the problems that have occurred firstly under BLK and latterly O'Neills. I'm sure I have a 1908 Gold home jersey from 1999 hanging around in the wardrobe, now that was a simple but smart jersey. The kit fiascos of the last few seasons need to be addressed as a priority as soon as this season starts to draw to its conclusion.

One thing I still miss from days gone by is having derbies against the Quackers from down the A66. I was weaned on these games and you always looked to fixture release day to find out when we were playing Darlo. To a lot of modern-day Pools fans, the 3-0 win at the White Elephant Arena is probably their best memory but for us older fans then maybe the last-minute Allon winner in 1997 is a particular highlight especially when it came in front of the Tin Shed at Feethams in the final minute.

Like most teams at this level, Pools have been hit hard with the pandemic and by not having fans in the stadium. Pools have had to cut their cloth and deal with it accordingly. Yet there are some people still banging on with "If only we had allowed the Reynolds-McElhenney takeover to happen." This ship has sailed now, so there's no use in debating that further. Anyway I would rather be where we are than where Wrexham are now, wouldn't you? Be realistic.

In closing, we head into the new year as the division's in-form team. The change in formation, a tweak here and there and we seem to have a bit of an identity about ourselves again. With players such as Lidds on the way back from injury then perhaps we can kick on further. One hopes so anyway. Keep the faith, keep it blue and white.

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Bizz Calendar 2020


With launch day for this Bizz also being New Year's Day, not many resolutions will have fallen by the wayside yet ...but give them time!

And conversely, your 2020 calendars may possibly hang around longer than your resolutions so it's a perfect time to bring you the traditional Monkey Business one. Like last year's it's a desk/table/shelf calendar, which is downloaded and printed onto one side of an A4 sheet of card or photographic paper which, when cut out and assembled, shows only the current month on the front but also shows all 365 days on the back, and has a couple of cartoons as well.

The picture shows the printed-out sheet and on it sits an assembled version showing the visible sides and the nested sliding date panels.

It's very straightforward to knock up with scissors and self-adhesive tape or glue, though a metal straight edge/ruler, a craft knife and a bit of care might be useful to make sure the creases go in the right places. Full instructions are printed on the sheet.

2021 Bizz Calendar pic

The two triangular tubes which show the date are nested into each other and slide inside the outer triangular tube and are slid along, and/or repositioned every month to show the correct month.

The PDF calendar file can be downloaded from HERE

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Journeys Home


As a supporter for approximately 63 years, I have watched Pools all over the country and, while the majority of journeys have been trouble free but often full of gloom, there have been some nightmares along the way.

This is not just talking about the performances on the pitch but what happened after the final whistle.

1. Early 1960s - Chester away. I don't remember the result and I suspect the game was poor, as around that time they were as bad as us. What I do remember is that the match kicked off at 3.15 p.m. but I don't know why Chester kicked off at a different time to the rest of the country*. Me and a friend from school travelled by train and got there with no problem. The problems started on our return to Chester station because, as we crossed the bridge, we saw our train pulling away from the platform. In these days before mobile phones, we were stuck, or so we thought. We got a later train as far as York, where my friend's sister lived. He rang her from York station and she picked us up and took us to her house. My parents did not have a phone, so she rang Hartlepool police and asked them to call in and tell them I was safe and sound. They said they would do this but unfortunately left it until about 3.00 a.m. in the morning and I can tell you that my dad wasn't too pleased about being knocked up at that time by a policeman. The first train to Hartlepool on the Sunday left at 12 noon and the journey took over 3 hours, including going through I.C.I's works without any explanation being give to the passengers.

2. May 6, 1968 - Swansea away. There's no need to discuss one of the most famous matches in our history - our first ever promotion. I was one of the Swansea 16. Twelve of us had travelled to Exeter for the 0 - 0 draw in a mini bus and spent the weekend at Paignton. We went to the Swansea game on the Monday night to watch the famous victory. We were invited in to the dressing room after the match. Before we set off home, the Chairman, John Curry I think, gave us a fiver for a drink on the way. That's £5 for the whole bus, not each! Mind you it was probably enough for a couple of pints each in those days. On the way home, we stopped at a service station and the team happened to be there. I remember somebody playing Cliff Richard's "Congratulations" on the jukebox. (Unfortunately I can't stand the song!) The only problem that occurred was when we were nearing home and we stopped off at a shop. I bought The Northern Echo, which was full of the promotion, and our picture in the dressing room was on the front page. Why was this a problem? I phoned work during the day (Monday) to call in sick and I knew the boss read The Echo, so I had to make a quick call and book a couple of days holiday, instead of a sickie! I wasn't really in trouble as the boss was a sports fan and he seemed to expect me not to be at work.
" Before we set off home, the Chairman, John Curry I think, gave us a fiver for a drink on the way. That's £5 for the whole bus, not each!"

3. Feb 28, 1978 - Ipswich away in the F.A. Cup 4th round. One of our rare visits to the later rounds of The Cup. This was the year Ipswich went on to win it. I was living in Sheffield by now and travelled by train. I don't how long it took but I changed three times to get there. I met my friend George and his father at the ground. They had travelled down in a supporters' coach. After the match, they persuaded me (and the driver) to cadge a lift part of the way home. Against my better judgement, I agreed. They dropped me off on the A1 near Clumber Park. I thought it would be a doddle to walk in to Worksop and catch a train or bus home. Four and a half miles didn't seem far to me but the street lights weren't working and it was a very unpleasant walk until I reached the outskirts of Worksop. I called into a pub and tried a phone box but I couldn't get the number of a local taxi firm, so I walked into the centre. I called into a police station to ask for directions to the train and bus stations. I went to the train station first, to find the last train had gone. I'd had enough by now so I dived into the nearest pub, which was full. It turned out that in those days, Saturday night in Worksop was ladies' darts night and they had taken over the bar, so I went into the lounge. The blokes were standing 5 or 6 deep at the bar and I had to shout over them to order a pint. Someone passed it over to me and it went down without touching the sides. One man said I must have been thirsty and I said he would have been if he had had the journey I had. So he asked where I'd been and I told him. They didn't believe me, so I took the programme out of my pocket to prove it. The next thing I knew, this chap was buying me a pint and when that was finished, somebody else got me another and so on. A night out in Worksop and it only cost me one pint! I managed to get a late bus home and presumably got a taxi home from Sheffield bus station but I can't say for sure!

4. Early 1980s - Darlington away. I took my young nephew on a supporters' coach. When we got there, we were told where the coach was leaving from and after the match we went to the agreed place. Unfortunately the coach didn't turn up and about 8 of us were left stranded. (The coach had left from a different place and we either didn't hear an announcement or the others had been told by another means, but why did the coach leave without a full complement?). We returned to the ground to find out what had happened just as the players were leaving. I remember an old man getting a lift in Kevin Johnson's sports car (how he got out I don't know but it would have been a struggle). We got a lift from Tommy Johnson and the Linighan brothers. Unfortunately it was in a Land Rover and my nephew and I had to lay on the top of the team's skip (which would contain all sorts of dirty clothes). A most uncomfortable trip home!

5. September 28, 1990 - Tottenham away in the League Cup. Once again I travelled by train from Sheffield. After the match, I got to St. Pancras as quickly as I could and was able to catch the last train to Sheffield. Unfortunately when we got to Derby, the train would go no further. I then spent a few cold hours sat on Derby station until I caught a very early milk train to Sheffield. I managed to get home in time to get washed and changed and go to work.

6. May 6, 2000 - Hull away. This game was mentioned in the October and November editions. We were kept in after the game, only to be bombarded by missiles, one of which broke a lens in my mate's glasses. Unfortunately he was the driver and it was a very careful but happy drive home.

7. May 29, 2005 - Sheffield Wednesday at Cardiff - I travelled in a Sheffield Wednesday supporters' coach with my son and his friend (both Owls supporters!) The thing was so badly organised that we were on the same coach but couldn't sit anywhere near each other. After leaving a service station on the way down, the driver (Polish I think) took the wrong turn and we ended up driving through the Forest of Dean. We got there so late that I missed a pre-arranged meeting with mates in a pub and went straight to the ground. After the final whistle I went straight back to the coach and had to wait ages for the Owls fans to return. Just before he set off, the driver counted how many were on board to find out he was two short. He then waited over another hour for two youths to arrive. They got on the coach without even an apology for keeping us waiting. Back in Sheffield, I persuaded the driver to drop me off in the city centre (I'm not sure he actually stopped the coach!) and I managed to jump into a taxi just before midnight so I didn't have to pay the excess fare! I bet some Pools supporters got home before me, though I know of a couple who didn't get any further than Birmingham that night!

[* I think there were a few 3:15 kick-offs in those days and I never really knew why either, but perhaps it was to help workers whose shifts finished at 2pm to get to the match. - Ed.]

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Halifax and Hartlepool


Here’s a timely bit of nostalgia, given that we'll be playing each other the day after this is published.

I made another visit to the damp and cold attic, and stacked behind some Hawkwind rarities, old analogue synths and things - I don’t even know what they are - were some old Pools programmes.

This one is from the 1960/61 season, First round of the FA Cup. Halifax, then in the old 3rd Division, slaughtered us 5-1 in front of 6,402 spectators, our second 5-1 defeat in 3 games, having lost at Gillingham a few weeks earlier.

Needless to say I don’t remember anything of it but thanks to Gordon Small’s wonderful ‘The Definitive Hartlepool United F.C.’ I’ve assembled some details.

Team changes from the programme were: Norman Oakley in goal, Kenny Johnson and Doug Cooper swapped numbers and Cooper scored our goal.

Clive Bircham, the only Pools player named but not given a pen picture, was born in the North-East, as were all his team-mates that day. He played 112 games for Pools, scoring 16 goals, and he died last June, aged 80.

And as he mentioned, Halifax's manager Harry Hooper had previously, as a full-back, played 66 games for Pools between 1947 and 1950, scoring 4 goals.

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Any Other Business


So, yet again Pools do the bad month/good month routine but with so many clubs losing so many games to the coronavirus, the great December run has done wonders for Pools in the league table, finding them second top, 11 points behind Torquay.

However the uneven numbers of games lost to the virus make the league table virtually irrelevant, so the best guide is points-per-game, which puts Pools in 5th place. So all we can really say is that the automatic promotion place is more or less spoken for with Pools being in the play-offs pack, but with the season being two months behind where it would normally be, perhaps it's too early to even say that.

Billy's Contract tells us he recently saw a bus with its digital destination display alternately showing "Middlesbrough" and "Face masks must be worn". He wondered if the latter was specifically connected with the coronavirus or was just a sensible precaution for anyone travelling to Teeside *.

[* Not a typo - BC just loves irritating "Teesiders"]

And that bit of local rivalry reminded me that I watched the BBC2 fishing programme over the holiday in which Bob Mortimer gave fellow comedian Paul Whitehouse a tour of Bob's home town of Middlesbrough and of the North Yorkshire Moors, as well as going fishing in the Tees, the Esk and the North Sea.

Bob unexpectedly slipped in a couple of local words. He referred to himself as a Smoggie, which I hadn't heard used except in a football context, but I suppose that if we're proud of being monkey hangers, why shouldn't they be proud of being smog monsters?

The other word he slipped in, no doubt deliberately, was "owwie" (not sure how you spell it) as in "owwie mate, let's go", which you don't hear too far from the mouth of the Tees, and certainly not here in the Midlands!

Just to cheer everyone up, Shedrick sent us a list of things that Poolies wouldn’t want to hear just after they’ve passed away*.

You won’t need that scarf down here.
Manchester United 0 - Hartlepool United 10.
Hartlepool United 0 - Darlington 10.
I’m the Frenchman that you thought was a monkey.
Hey doc, there’s still a few years left in this liver.
I’m afraid it’s only vegan Bovril served here.
You took Viagra just before you died; I'm afraid you're stuck with it now.
All the harps are taken. How about a banjo?

[* Technically they'd hear nothing anyway, what with them being dead]

And finally, we'd like to wish you all a Happy New Year.

It could hardly be worse than 2020 was, but with the new virus strain spreading fast, and all the mad things that have happened in the last few years, who really knows?

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