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Showing posts from February, 2021

State of Play


BILLY'S CONTRACT


With the month of January behind us we still find Pools in second spot of this God-forsaken league.

During this long and dreary month, none of our rivals were able to steal a march on our loss at Weymouth as well, despite the free Saturday Pools had owing to their non-involvement in the FA Trophy, and who failed to capitalise with their games in hand.

I accept that no team has a divine right to beat any other but I still am unable to understand how we managed to be beaten by Weymouth, one of the worst sides in the league.

What at first greatly annoyed me was that Dave Challinor in his post-match comments felt that we should have earned a draw.
"our midfield persistently passed the ball backwards so often that Ben Killip saw more of the ball than Luke Armstrong and Rhys Oates combined."

After I had calmed down and had time to reflect on the manager's assessment, he was probably right in what he said as in truth we did not really threaten Weymouth at all. In a perfect world we should have put Weymouth to the sword but instead of going for the jugular we passed the ball around the pitch, going nowhere in particular, which allowed the opposition to grow in confidence and lose their fear factor. In fact Pools only looked a threat when they went down to ten men. At the time even if we had managed a draw I would have been disappointed but when we look back on the season this defeat could be viewed as the one that possible could have cost us, don't laugh, ever the optimist, the title or, assuming the league programme is completed, a play off spot.

Similarly, against Sutton, our midfield persistently passed the ball backwards so often that Ben Killip saw more of the ball than Luke Armstrong and Rhys Oates combined.

In the last quarter of the game against Weymouth Nicky Featherstone on one occasion, instead of going forward, turned around and made yet another back pass to Ben Killip which turned into a superb inch-perfect pass that landed at the feet of the onrushing Weymouth centre forward. Luke Armstrong could only dream of receiving a pass like that from our midfield.

Whilst I expected that we would comfortably beat Weymouth - after all Darlo did in the cup - I thought the opposite about the visit of Sutton United. Under three different managers Pools have failed to beat Sutton since we joined the National League. My heart tells me that past results count for nothing and tomorrow is another day. However my brain tells me that Sutton are an established non-league club and are a very good side who at present are winning a lot of matches.

It was a cagey first half with each side trying to get the measure of the other and Pools in many respects played the same game as they did against Weymouth with numerous pass-backs from the whole back line to the keeper. It was only when Pools started to run at Sutton that we seemed to cause them any concern and as I have said before in previous editions of MB, cut out the slow build-ups out and attack teams with pace and it will yield results. To paraphrase Corporal Jones from Dad's Army, he might say. 'They don't like it up 'em Captain Challinor'.

A defeat against Sutton would have been a disaster, putting The U's in second place and a point above Pools with two games in hand.

At some stage I can see Torquay going through a sticky patch and dropping points and, with luck, along with Notts County, Sutton United, Maidstone and Stockport, the latter of whom I think will win the league; they all may get a little distracted with their involvement in the FA Trophy.

This could lead to some of the participating clubs involved having fixture congestion at a later date and may see them playing two games or possibly three games a week in order to catch up.

To that end I am pleased that Pools were knocked out of the Trophy in the early rounds and I can now appreciate why the leading Premiership clubs see the League and FA Cups as unnecessary distractions in their quest of winning Premiership or Championship league glory. (You can see at this stage I am clutching at straws!)

The only consolation Pools could offer if they do not gain automatic promotion or a play off place, will possibly be seeing them finish the season in their highest-ever position in - as I previously called it - "This God-forsaken League."

Deep Joy.

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FUNNY OLD GAME




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Dial M for Magloire


WAGGA MOON


Well, we expected a few bumps in the road but not a one at Weymouth. Thankfully we bounced back with a win against our play-off rivals Sutton.

The transfer window came and went with no newcomers and two departures. Unfortunately one of them was not our beloved captain who appears to be on the injury list. Best place for him in all probability. Joe Bunney joining Grimsby will be no big miss as David Ferguson is a better full back.

One player who will be missed is Tyler Magloire who went back to Blackburn when his loan was up and has since joined Motherwell on loan. He is a very good centre back who would have been a massive help in our bid promotion. He could have been the difference in our return to League Two or another season in the jumpers for goalposts league.

Although we have Gary Liddle coming back to full fitness and Lewis Cass doing a good job in central defence, I would rate Magloire the best centre back we had at the club. It is a pity we could not have extended his loan to the end of the season but I wish him well in Scotland and for the rest of his career.
"Let us hope they wait for better weather before they attempt to play the game again. And then we give them a good hiding for wasting our time."

Once again we have a postponed match at Halifax, the third time this has happened. Let us hope they wait for better weather before they attempt to play the game again. And then we give them a good hiding for wasting our time.

Torquay, although still well clear at the top of the table arer having a bit of a wobble lately and are no longer looking invincible and all this happens when they are missing striker Danny Wright through injury. He is 36 years old now and was available on a free last summer. He would have fit in very nicely at Victoria Park.

Manager Dave Challinor looks to have a fully fit squad to pick from and is looking to let a couple of players out on loan, McDonald and Ofosu, if ever National Leagues North and South start playing again. Hopefully the National League clubs give the go-ahead to continue the season as we are looking good to get a play-off spot at the least. The squad is looking quite strong at present although a Mark Tinkler type midfielder would give us the boost we need and bring a more competitive presence to the side.

Goalkeeper Ben Killip is returning to his flapping ways and inclination to stay on his goal line and I think it is time for Henrich Rivas to return in goal and bring his commanding presence to bear in the penalty area.

Finally I would just like to say a word about ex-Poolie loanee Charlie Wyke. The former Borer striker couldn't hit a cow's arse with a banjo while he was with us and now he is banging the goals in like there is no tomorrow for the Makems. Although it pains me to say so I think Sunderland have got the right manager this time in Lee Johnson and he will get them back into the Championship.

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It's Good to Talk


JANE AUSTEN'S ALLEGRO


I appreciate that we live in troubled times and it is all hands to the pump for the few that are still at the Vic on a day to day basis.

However, I am a tad disappointed that Hartlepool Football Club have not made more of an effort to communicate with their fan base.

We had an informative video interview with the owner Raj Singh the best part of three months ago but have heard very little else from the chair since, such as how things are running behind the scenes at the 'Vic. Is the club for instance any further forward in appointing a chief operating officer to replace Martin Jesper or is that being put on hold until the Covid pandemic subsides?

I am not sure of the young lad's name (Alex?) who does the Pools commentary and pre- and post-match interviews with Dave Challinor but, to give him his due, he's doing a sterling or even dare I say a Stelling job and has grown in confidence as the weeks pass by.
"For the record it is Tinks and Monks who score highly against that particular question."

He may well have other commitments but I think that he or some other qualified person could set something up much like Mark Simpson/Micky Barron's Switch of Play stream asking selected players questions such as favourite this or that, best game, goal or ground etc. Or the absolute classic question that gets asked on Switch of Play 'Which team mate would you not want to be a member of your family'. (For the record it is Tinks and Monks who score highly against that particular question.) Doing something at this or any other level would give sort form of connection with the fans to the players.

The website desperately needs updating but at least they have removed the pictures of the former players who left the club at the end of last season.

I am sure that there are many supporters out there who have the skill set and who would willingly volunteer their services gratis to assist the club with web updates and player interviews and such.

At present most of the information about the club seems to come via the various message boards and occasionally the Mail, whose online version, sadly gives more print cover on the borer than Pools.

Communication is the name of the game and as the old BT tagline stated "It's good to Talk."

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Money-saving Tips


BILLY'S CONTRACT


I note that Pools have made early noises about incentives to entice fans to purchase their season tickets for 2021/2022 season.

At first glance, season ticket prices look to have been held at 2020/21 rates and depending whether one pays full or concessionary rates the incentives vary. I wonder if the rates quoted will remain the same in the event of the club gaining promotion. Ever the optimist.

Full rate: would see fans get two free match day tickets and two £10 discount vouchers for the club shop as well as free streaming should Covid persist.
Concessionary rate: gives one free match ticket as well as free streaming.

All in all a very fair offer.

The elephant or should I say the monkey in the room is Covid and will next season be much the same as this with empty stadiums so the free match day tickets become redundant?
"I have promised myself that one day, after lockdown, I will make a point of visiting the tea plantations in Doncaster, Ilkley Moor and Wakefield."

As a gadgie, sorry a senior, the package looks very attractive and in light of lockdown, should the match day streaming service continue, concessionaries will break even. In fact a good cup run at home would put them well in front.

The screen admittedly has greatly improved but it could even be better. Action replays, something happening on screen at half-time as well as an on-screen countdown clock would be a step in the right direction.

Obviously, watching Pools on television does not compare to the real thing of being on the terraces with your mates and having the craic as well as savouring the atmosphere but it is still better than nothing.

I feel that the Senior concessionaries should also be entitled to at least one £10 club shop voucher which could only be used on purchases of £25 and over. Once in a fully-stocked shop, online or otherwise, the likelihood is that we seniors will spend, along with our heating allowance, over and above the voucher's value. Don't forget Mr. Singh, pensioners such as myself have grandkids to kit out in Pools' colours.

I can understand season ticket holders who have to pay the full price being reluctant to be first in the queue to part with their hard-earned/furloughed cash as effectively they would be out of pocket, long-term, compared to concessionaries if fans are not allowed back into football stadiums because of the ongoing pandemic. We will have to wait and see what the full offer will be but it is an encouraging start.

A few years ago I thought I would see if I could fund my season ticket by making cutbacks here and there.

First casualty was the Hartlepool Mail. Back in the day if I did not have sight of the evening paper I would be beside myself. Even when I went on holiday I used to ask my mam to keep all the missed copies so I could catch up on what was happening in the town. Sadly what aided my decision to quit the Mail was basically that it was not the paper it once was in terms of quality or content. At a stroke I saved £150 approx. per year which at the time was 50 per cent the cost of my season ticket.

Recently, for nothing better to do, I thought I would do likewise to see if I could fund my 2021/22 season ticket.

Using any legitimate excuse to leave the house during lockdown I have started to accompany the bride down the aisle ...of Tesco. She asked me to pick up a 2 pint carton of milk. I was all set to put the 2 pint into our trolley when I spotted a four pint carton of milk. Wow, I never knew such a thing existed. Up until that 'Road to Damascus' moment I had thought milk was only available in one or two pint cartons.

When I looked again I noticed that the price of the 2 pint was £.0.80p as opposed to the £1.09 for the four pint. I did the sums ...when I got back home that is. The two pint carton worked out at 0.40p per pint and the four pint carton worked out at 0.27p per pint, and into the trolley it went.

I drink Yorkshire tea like it is going out of fashion. (Being patriotic, I much prefer to support home-grown produce and keep jobs in this country, and I have promised myself that one day, after lockdown, I will make a point of visiting the tea plantations in Doncaster, Ilkley Moor and Wakefield.) What with that and my breakfast cereal I estimated that four pints of milk would be around my weekly consumption.

Based on drinking 208 pints of milk per year I worked out that this would be a monetary saving of around 27 English pounds per annum, accounting for 12% off the cost of the 2021/22 season ticket.

Then I saw something that resembled a milk tanker. How the shelves in the dairy aisle could support it I have no idea: a six pint carton of milk. A beast of a thing. coming in at £1.50 for six pints. Little wonder farmers are going out of business.

Although showing a £31 saving (13.75%) per annum against the season ticket, I reluctantly passed on it, only on the grounds that our fridge would not be able to accommodate its sheer volume.

In the next edition of MB: Savings on Colmans Mustard and Rose's Lemon and Lime fine cut Marmalade.

By the time these and future featured savings are accounted for, your season ticket will effectively be free.

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FUNNY OLD GAME




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Questions, Questions...


The monthly musings of
DARREN KNOWLES' TASH


Covid hasn't gone away, and football is again at a right crossroads.

No, I don't mean that 70s and 80s comedy which masqueraded as a soap opera and was set in Birmingham or the great song recorded by Cream amongst others. You know what crossroads I mean.

Anyway I've been thinking and there are a few things that I know some Pools fans have been wanting answers to. The following are entirely my opinions on them:

1. Jamie Sterry

Alongside Luke Armstromg, this lad has certainly been a great signing for DC and Pools. We might not have seen him play in the flesh this season, webcasts only, but he's proven to be a cracking pick up. In fact he's that good that one hopes that there will be enough money in Raj's biscuit tin to keep him for a few more seasons yet.
"Torquay can still be caught, but only if the season is allowed to continue."

We've been blessed to have so many good full backs in all the time I've watched Pools; Phil Brown, Keith Nobbs, Darren Knowles and Rob McKinnon to name just four. This player could go on and become another. Newcastle's decision to release him is at the moment their loss and Pools' gain. Stay Sterry, please.

2. Lewis Cass

Talking about Newcastle, this is another decent defender we have acquired from them albeit on a season long loan with this one. He's stepped up to the mark when needed and we have suffered a crisis in a certain position. Since his move to central defence, Pools have moved certainly in the right direction. Newcastle obviously see something about him too as he has just penned a new 2 year deal at SJP. Perhaps they see him as a potential first team central defender? Or have they just given him the new deal to see how his development goes?

With Lidds in the latter stages of his career, he's 34 now, Cass should remain on the radar for the future in case Newcastle don't retain him further along the line. That's my opinion on this matter. Didn't do us any harm with the aforementioned Mr McKinnon did it?

3. Halifax

This is becoming more farcical as the season goes on. Every time we are down to play at the Shay, the game gets postponed. I think we're the third or fourth time now and to be honest; it's a joke that is quite simply no longer funny anymore. Sure there has been snow in West Yorkshire this week, but where was the plea from FC Halifax Town to ask people to get the pitch playable? When Pools had a similar situation a few weeks back, players and staff helped Dave Brown and co. to get the pitch ready to give the game a chance. Supporters used to do that back in the day; I think I remember doing it. Do they not think of that in Halifax or is that too much like common sense?

One Pools fan had a good idea though, clear the snow off the pitch and mark the lines blue so they're visible then play with a yellow ball. Perfectly viable. Worst thing: you play on a white pitch with lines marked out and the coloured ball bursts. That happened here in Northern Ireland actually on Boxing Day 1995 when the "Big Two" of Glentoran and Linfield played. Just search "White ball in snow" on YouTube if you don't believe me.

4. The League

As I pen this column, the National League clubs have been given a resolution to vote upon. With coronavirus still prevalent, there is a possibility that the league season could be curtailed if the clubs vote that way. Nobody knows how Pools have voted as there's a deadline of 28 days in which to respond.

Should the teams decide to end the season, does this mean they are going to go on points per game again to decide the final placings? If so, this wouldn't benefit Pools as it would see the team slide down from third to fifth by my calculations. Considering how well the team have responded in recent weeks, that loss at Weymouth might have hurt more than anything now. Torquay can still be caught, but only if the season is allowed to continue. It's been tough for all but this might be the bitterest pill ever to swallow.

There are also other questions that we would love to know the answers to, but these seem to ones that I seem to be hearing more often than most. Being an exile isn't an easy job, I miss rolling up to the Corner Flag at noon on a Saturday then having 2-3 pints of Strongarm (nothing less will do). I'm then rocking into the Vic quarter of an hour before kick-off, will watch the game from the Town End and head back to the Corner Flag to watch the rest of the scores roll in before heading home. Pools are for life, not for a short term fix.

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White Elephant Merchandise


BILL THE BIRO


In my time, like many Poolies, I've been given the odd Pools-related gift.

Shirts, scarves, calendars and ties all come to mind, which are all fine, but in this merchandising age, no club shop ever stops at the sensible stuff, but has to trawl the world's (i.e. China's) manufacturers looking for other stuff to stick their logo on in the hope that some sucker will buy it.

While I can understand the football clubs desperate to raise some money and people desperate to find stuff to give as presents to fans who don't really need anything, but why does much of it have to be badly designed or impractical, or just cheap tat in disguise?

Take this keyring, which I found languishing in a corner recently. I don't remember when I got it but it was no doubt a present for which the thought counted ...just before it got shoved into a drawer for several years. While a keyring can be useful, a prezzy one is rarely of much use unless you haven't already got one, or the new one is better in some way, i.e. lighter, less prone to put holes in pockets, or gives an image you'd like to project.
"All perhaps quite appropriate as a storage box for, say, expensive jewellery ...but a keyring?"

The fob of this particular keyring is made of chrome-plated metal and is cast in the shape of Pools' old badge, and is 5 millinetres thick, so is fairly heavy, but also has sharp edges. So any pocket it goes into very often will suffer. The thing came in a nice presentation box with the club badge embossed in silver foil on the lid, in which a profiled foam insert snugly fits around the keyring with another foam packer on top. All perhaps quite appropriate as a storage box for, say, expensive jewellery ...but a keyring?

I appreciate that almost anything with a club logo on it will be bought by someone, but I do wish clubs would stick to stuff that's practical.

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Sky Blue Day


BILL THE BIRO


In 1976 a load of us Poolies (who didn't yet know we would become known as such) went in coaches, trains and cars to Manchester to see Pools play a Big Club, the one that then was 7th top of the First Division and currently leads the Premier League - Manchester City.

Billy's Contract was there and described the occasion in an article entitled Bussed which you can read in the Bizz archive for April 2020, so I won't repeat any of it other than that the result was a disappointing if predictably convincing defeat, in the days when sending out the reserves in cup matches was just not done.

So here's the match programme from that game which, while being of the larger format then coming into vogue, was still basically black-and-white with one colour, the club's sky blue being used for the page backgrounds and borders. It's also mostly a bit boring and old-fashioned for its time so we'll include only the covers and the text that refers to Pools. That now may come across as a bit patronising, but at the time we were just grateful to be featuring in their programme at all!







IT‘S exactly ten years, almost to the day, since Hartlepool played in the third round of the Cup, and it's 14 years since they last played a First Division club in the competition.

So no wonder the club's fans are treating today as a red letter day, the sort of game, whatever the result, they can tell their children about in years to come.

Glamour is not a word usually associated with Hartlepool, so when it comes along nobody can blame the club and their fans for really enjoying the occasion. And enjoyment is what it is all about to Hartlepool.

They journey to Maine Road confident they can spring a surprise—they have that opinion or it wouldn’t be worth making the journey—but whatever happens they know that their form in recent seasons has at least rid the club of the old Cinderella image.

Club officials hate to be reminded that they have applied for re-election to the League more often than any other club, and they have a right to. The last time they did that was five years ago, and a lot has happened since then.

They have put themselves on the map by providing soccer with Brian Clough as a manager. They gave him his first chance in management in 1966. They also started Len Ashurst on the road to success, which has currently taken him to Sheffield Wednesday, where he aims to provide the Owls with a team to go with their super stadium.

And they can also point to one or two ex-players who are doing well for themselves ...like John McGovern, formerly of Derby and Leeds and now with Nottingham Forest; Bill Green, captain of Carlisle.

And now manager Ken Hale believes he has one or two players on his books destined to make it to the top.

Men to watch out for in a side which generally relies on team-work rather than individual personalities, include: Bobby Scaife, who was in the limelight last May by winning the mile race for young soccer pros before the West Ham v Fulham Cup Final at Wembley.

The power that won him that race tempted Pool to sign him from Middlesbrough for £2,000 in September. The other players who cost money are leading scorer Dave Smith (£2,000 from Cambridge United), and schemer Kevin Johnson (£3,000 from Workington).

The entire Pool team cost a mere £7,000 in transfer fees.

But Scaife and his colleagues prefer to forget City's £1 m superteam and remember one result from last season's F.A. Cup ...Burnley 0, Wimbledon 1. “If a non-League team can do it, so can we,” they say.


AT LAST Hartlepool manager Ken Hale has found a man in the First Division who agrees with his theory that there are numerous players in the lower reaches of the league who could do a good job at the top.

The First Division chief who has given that theory a national airing recently is Newcastle United‘s Gordon Lee who since his appointment at St. James’s Park during the summer, has signed players from lower divisions in an effort to put the Magpies on the map.

Hale's view is this: “We have two or three players on our staff who could more than hold their own in the First Division. They just need the breaks to take them there.

“People always sound surprised when a player is transferred fromthe Third or Fourth Division to a big club and has success, but it doesn't surprise me.

“There are a few Kevin Keegans and Dave Watsons in the lower reaches of the League just waiting for a chance to prove themselves."

Hale a former Newcastle, Coventry and Oxford City midfield man, believes there are a number of players in First Division teams who are extremely lucky to be enjoying the high life at present.

He says: “From what I have seen of Division One recently, and even in my time as a player, there are some very average players at the top who are often carried by their team. Let me straight away stress that this theory of mine does not apply to Manchester City, because they are an above average team, and good teams can't afford to carry passengers.

“But some teams do have places in their first teams which could be strengthened ...by players from the lower divisions.“

Bill Shankly was always a great one for buying so-called unknown players and making stars of them — Keegan, Ray Clemence, Alec Lindsay — but many other clubs have done it and Hale wonders why, in the present difficult times, it doesn’t become a habit with every club.

“If I was a manager of a big club I would, if my team needed strengthening, rather look for good players in the lower divisions and pay for them than pay through the nose for ready-made stars. High-priced players may have First Division experience, but there is no guarantee they will succeed.

“The same applies to players from the bottom, of course, but the gamble isn’t so great. I know City have spent a lot of money over the years, but they have bought wisely and their investment should pay off soon enough.

“But look at all the £100,000 players currently on the transfer list, in the Central League or sold for a fraction of their original cost. Football is short of money, and this spending is often so rash it could be suicidal.

“l’m not trying to tell managers at the top how to do their jobs, merely reminding them that many of today's top stars started at the bottom, and were not big-money signings.

“in my view, there‘s lots more talent where they came from.”

Hale joined Hartlepool at the beginning of last season from Third Division Halifax, where he was coach. He has gradually adapted the playing staff to his own requirements, but there are sure signs now that he is hitting on the sort of blend he wants.


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Any Other Business

MERVYN THE MONKEY mops up



With both the winter weather and Covid-19 taking their toll of league matches throughout January, Pools still find themselves up near the top of the league. That's partly through having played more games than some rivals, but nevertheless the real picture is a lot better than in recent seasons.

With the clubs now having to decide how the season should end, given the lack of crowds, the backlog of postponed matches and worries about funding, it will be interesting to find out which club votes for which option - although their decisions may well be related to their current chances of promotion or relegation.



The saga of the postponed Halifax matches continues, with some being critical of Halifax. However, those of us who remember the re-election days will also recall that winter postponements were not unusual in the times before global warming became an issue, times when, on occasions no matches were played for weeks on end.

In this case it's just unfortunate that the position of Halifax up in the Pennines makes it more prone to snow and ice than most and certainly more than sea-level places like Hartlepool. Likewise it's unfortunate that they happen to be our 'local' derby team so, as such, we always play that fixture in the middle of winter.




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