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Showing posts from March, 2021

Ready for the Big Push


WAGGA MOON



Moving into March in third position in the league with a visit to the leaders tomorrow, Pools are in a super position to make it a successful season.

Whilst playing at far from our best, our home form is superb and a small improvement in our away form would have us well and truly in the mix. Assuming the season will be allowed to run its course this is our best opportunity for years to do something positive.

Credit to Dave Challinor for assembling a half decent squad on very little money. Compared to some of the previous bozos who have owned and managed the club he is like a breath of fresh air to be running the club professionally and getting a bit of success with it.

His recent dips into the loan market in Lewis Cass, Jamie Sterry and Luke Armstrong have been brilliant signings and have a lot to do with how well the team is doing. However for all the up sides there have to be downsides and they are Ben Killip and Gavan Holohan. Killip has surely exhausted his first team opportunities with staying rooted to his line as a cross comes in to an opposition striker with the inevitable result. Or he will run out flapping and be knocked out of the way of the ball. He might be adequate as a shop stopper but is a liability always likely to cost us a goal. And to Holohan who has been off the pace for the last six games and his shooting is atrocious with numerous gilt-edged chances squandered. He doesn't seem at it for some reason and it is definitely time for him to warm the bench.
"While the point at The Shay was very welcome it should have been three and Manager Challinor said as much after the game."

Another loan signing, Tom White, brought in to cover for the injured Xavi, has done well in midfield although it is too early to judge him. But he is definitely promising so much that we hardly missed the little fat feller with his injury. Except for all the sideways and back passes that he likes so much.

Luke Johnson missed the Halifax game with injury but he has been a rock in our defence this season. Fortunately we have Cass, Liddle and Odusina in central defence all up to the job. While the point at The Shay was very welcome it should have been three and manager Challinor said as much after the game. The chances we created and failed to finish could be very costly at the end of the season, especially with Sutton United on such a good run and with games in hand.

Tomorrow's game at Torquay gives a chance to rein in the leaders and we certainly owe them one for the five-goal drubbing they gave us at the Vic in front of the TV cameras. Torquay may be without Danny Wright who netted a hat-trick first time around and is recovering from a long-term injury.

The Dover situation is still to be addressed with them threatening not to play any more games. Whether this will result in their relegation and their record being expunged remains to be seen.

But we can't rely on outside influences and if we are to go up we have got to do it for ourselves but with the squad we have I think we are capable of doing it.

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The Plumber


BILLY'S CONTRACT


I appreciate that football is a team game but where would Pools be if we they hadn't signed Luke Armstrong, the fox in the box? I would prefer if his parents had given him the first name of Jack so we could call him the Jack in the Box.

To date he has scored nine times in thirteen matches which is some going. His nickname should be The Plumber for all his tap-ins.

It is not only his goals but his work rate and closing down of defenders which is also a major part of his game, forcing them into mistakes, taking a weight off our midfield and making space for our other forwards. The big debate is about whether he will be with us next season.

First obstacle is that he has another year of his contract to run at Salford so they would expect to command a transfer fee but even a nominal one might be out of Pools' reach. Wages could be another factor as Salford pay generously. Could Pools match his existing package or get anywhere near it? I would be delighted but surprised if they could.
Could Pools match his existing package or get anywhere near it? I would be delighted but surprised if they could.

In Pools' favour, Armstrong is enjoying his spell at the club and has a smile on his face. He has oft been quoted as saying that he is keen to come back to the North East, which would suggest that he would like to play for a club nearer to home.

Obviously Sunderland and Newcastle are out of the equation as are Darlow, who are further down the ladder than Pools. And who would want to play for their Dad? Would Carlisle be a step too far for him football-wise? Perhaps even more so if they moved up a level to League One.

The only other contender in my view would be Harrogate Town who could be prepared to pay for his services. The pros for Armstrong for a move to Harrogate are that they have the resources to match his current wages and they are in the Football League. The cons: Although not a million miles away from the Tyne and Wear area, driving up and down to Harrogate every day would be a bit of a chore - losing three hours a day of your life behind the steering wheel of a car.

There is the remote possibility that Pools might be a Football League club themselves next season and even if they were still in the National League, surely a player would prefer to play in front of a passionate crowd double that of The Sulphurites.

Ultimately, much like Liam Noble, it could all boil down to money and who could blame the lad if he could earn more elsewhere and secure his future for a life after football?

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FUNNY OLD GAME




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Still in the Hunt


DARREN KNOWLES’ TASH


It’s the business end of the season as everything starts to build up to the inevitable conclusion.

Teams within touching distance of getting promoted will be looking to kick on and make that final push. Unlike previous seasons, Pools are firmly in the mix in what we hope sees a return to Football League football at the Vic.

As I said last time out, I was half expecting to see Torquay have a blip. And guess what, they have. This has enabled clubs such as Pools to close in and make the title race a far from foregone conclusion. We stand third after the 1-1 draw at Halifax which didn’t go down well with some fans on social media. More on that later, but most are saying that the title is probably Sutton’s to throw away due to the matches they have in hand and the fact they’re managing to eke out last-gasp wins when they appear to be draws.

I digress to a point; it’s all well and good to have matches in hand but you have to win them. One slip up is all it can take to derail any ambitions.
"I was half expecting to see Torquay have a blip. And guess what, they have."

Yeah the draw at Halifax didn’t go down with some Pools fans. Some were bemoaning the fact that we’re hopeless away from home. For a team that is doing so well, it feels like a knee jerk reaction by some. I would take one point away from home rather than none at all. Added to that, if the team have not performed then DC will know so and he’ll be keen as mustard to ensure it doesn’t fester and threaten what has been a much-improved season for Pools.

We’ve done well to contend with injuries to key players such as Liddle and, most recently, Nicky Featherstone. The squad doesn’t have masses of depth but players are doing what they can. Special thanks to Raj for backing Challinor when he needed it the most. We could have a chairman like Dover’s and that would be terrible.

It was also good to see the majority of National League clubs being in favour of finishing the season out, unlike those in the sub divisions below. Pools' aim has to be garnering points home and away and stockpiling them. There will be teams that will continue to struggle, Kings Lynn are one apparently, but the clubs should support each other in times of crisis, if it’s not in a financial support measure. Unfortunately whilst the richer clubs get richer, those further down the line will be forever be looking to keep the wolf from the door.

Silverware is not beyond Pools; all it needs a bit of luck and patience. This can still be a memorable season.

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Go Compare


BILLY'S CONTRACT


In last month's MB we showed how we could make a a £27 annual saving on milk.

I had made it my quest to see what savings I could make on behalf of our readers to effectively get their 21/22 season tickets at a vastly reduced rate or even free by putting aside the money they can save on day-to-day items.

As I previously mentioned, with nothing better to do during the Covid lockdown and in order to get out of the house, I now, much to her annoyance, accompany the Bride on her shopping expeditions.

It is indeed and eye opener. I, for instance, always thought Colmans mustard was actually Colemans mustard. Up until recently I was not aware that mustard has a best before/sell by date on it. Depending on which supermarket you go to the prices of 170 grm of Colmans ranges between 0.89p (Lidl) and £1.50.

Today we had a trip to the supermarket that many refer to as 'The' Asda. We are not regulars in The Asda and only pop in occasionally for their home-made pick-and-mix pizza which puts many of its big-name rivals to shame. (Press* to skip ad).

In recent years I have started, or should I say was told, to use deodorant and always thought that the pound shop was cheapest. Not the case. Is it me or are products getting smaller in the pound shop?
"they definitely tasted of teak wood shavings with some MDF thrown in for good measure"

In Asda you can get Sure bright bouquet deodorant, which, although it doesn't say so on the tin, can also be used as an air freshener and fly spray. I know - I have tried it thus. It comes in at £0.98p. for a 150ml spray. However the next size up at 250ml comes in at £1.48. Amazing. You are getting another 100ml for 50p. NOTE: Savings to our readers will vary and much depends on how much spray is used under each pit per annum.

Asda is indeed a strange store. I went to get some Anchor spreadable butter which came in at £3.50 a tub, sell-by date: end of March. I happened to go in the next aisle and here was the exact same product at £1.75 per tub with a May sell-by date. (This coming May and not last) How bizarre was that?

In my mission to save you,the reader ££££££'s, I thought that I would investigate own brands which offer considerable savings over the market leaders. With that I went to one of the German supermarkets and picked up a box of their own version of a 500 gram box of cornflakes, coming in at £0.50p. I could not believe this and wondered how on earth they and their supplier are making any profit from the product. Basically, in imperial measures, I was getting just over 1 pound of Cornflakes for half of £1. Kelloggs Cornflakes cost £2 per box and you could get 4 of the own brand ones for the same money. I was delighted with myself.

I thought I would try these for breakfast thinking that they might taste of wood shavings and, not surprisingly, they did. I had another go the following day and they definitely tasted of teak wood shavings with some MDF thrown in for good measure. I was distraught as I had thought I was going to announce a massive saving to you, our dear readers.

Then a lightbulb moment. Feed these flakes to the birds.

I currently spend around £5 per month on bird feed so these own brand cornflakes would indeed show a substantial saving. With that I threw a couple of handfuls of flakes (without milk) onto the lawn for our feathered friends.

Sadly this exercise failed as, when I came back home later that same evening, the flakes were left untouched on the lawn. My only hope is that the woodpecker we had in our garden last year might make a return visit when it sees these wood chippings scattered all over the grass.

Note: I will be submitting an expenses claim to the editor of MB for loss of my 50 pence. [I'm afraid we can't accept garden expenses - Ed]

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Brains in His Hat


JANE AUSTEN'S ALLEGRO


It was heartening to see that Hartlepool United have got themselves two new sponsors in the form of The Nuffield Hospital and Brunel Insurance, both of whom are from out of the town.

In the Covid times that we live in it cannot be an easy task attracting any form of sponsorship for the football club or any sporting organisation for that matter, particularly when many companies have other priorities such as just surviving.

One only has to look at the sad case of Utility Alliance, Pools' shirt sponsor for the last two  seasons, who went into administration last month with the loss of 250 jobs.

When I first saw that Brunel had taken out sponsorship my first thought was that the great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel must have left a legacy to the club on the back of his visit to Hartlepool in December 1831 when he was quoted as saying 'A curiously isolated old fishing town - A remarkably fine race of men'. He was obviously referring of course to the Headland.
Mr I K Brunel (centre), after signing the lucrative sponsorship deal (visible in the club secretary's hand), is seen here at the official renaming of the Town End as The Brunel Stand.

The Preacher John Wesley, after visiting Hartlepool nearly 70 years prior to Brunel was less complimentary when he said of the town 'Surely the seed will spring up at last, even here ...among this dull, heavy and sleepy people'. In all honesty some of Wesley's disparaging remarks about the town would not be out of place in 2021 never mind the last half of the eighteenth century.

Anyway, back to one of the greatest half-French Britons of all time, Mr Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Can you envisage if the Great Man was still alive - he'd be two hundred and six in April - and was indeed the main sponsor at Pools, imagine how the adverting hoarding boards might read:

For all your Transatlantic cable-laying requirements The Great Eastern is the vessel for you.

Brunel can 'Bridge' that gap.

Want a hole through a mountain? You need Brunel's Tunnel Vision.

Let's lay it on the line. Why settle for four foot eight and a half when we can offer seven foot and a quarter.
(That's one for the railway buffs.)

One thing that would be certain with Mr Brunel in charge is that the stands at the Vic would be demolished in favour of something far grander and more aesthetically pleasing.
"'A curiously isolated old fishing town - A remarkably fine race of men'"

Our other new sponsor is the Nuffield Hospital from over in Teeside (apologies - I only use one 's' in this obnoxious word). I am speculating that the hospital is not putting any money into the club per se but is offering free medical treatment to any injured Pools players. Not sure how that works as I would have thought that all professional football clubs would be obliged to insure their players to cover injuries and such. Perhaps it might mean a reduction in cost to the club of insuring players but should the insurance company insuring the players be Brunel, I can see a conflict of interest between our two new sponsors.

I fear that the Nuffield sponsorship deal could be a poisoned chalice for the health organisation with the real possibility of financial ruin, particularly if the Pools hierarchy, when signing off the sponsorship agreement, failed to declare the Luke Williams injury situation.

[By the way, the title of this article comes from this entertaining song about Isambard Kingdom Brunel by the now-disbanded steam punk band The Copperfield Ensemble. Warning: this song is an ear-worm, so don't blame us if you end up singing the chorus all day - Ed.]

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FUNNY OLD GAME




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No Comment


BILLY'S CONTRACT


Not that you would notice it, but slowly, very slowly, the Pools streaming service has improved ever so slightly.

We now see a clock on the top of the screen allowing the viewer to see how many minutes of the game have been played. Surely even at this rate of pace it can only be a matter of months before we enjoy seeing replays. The picture quality is a mite better and the camera at times is keeping up with the play.

I was surprised to hear mumbles of criticism from some quarters levelled at match day commentator Alex Chandy who is also the clubs media officer. Apparently some clown complained that he was unable to pronounce the name of one of the away players. For the record it took me the best part of a season to be able to pronounce Dimi's surname correctly.

I am guessing that he is a young lad just fresh out of College/Uni having majored in  journalistic studies. Possessing a degree in media studies doesn't automatically entitle one for a job in this field as the competition for work is fierce with too many people chasing the same job. Not unlike a fashion and design or a sports psychology degree, only a select few fulfil their dreams of working for a top London fashion house or a Football League club, or for that matter, working for a regional newspaper let alone a national one.
" let's not forget that when Mark Simpson first joined the club he too, like Alex, was a little green and still learning his trade."

I am sure that Alex is delighted to be at Pools. He had big boots to fill after Mark Simpson was let go by the club but let's not forget that when Mark Simpson first joined the club he too, like Alex, was a little green and still learning his trade. This came through on some of his early interviews with players and you can see that he is a bit rushed and naïve with the dead give-away nervous laugh. Over time Mark became more controlled and self-assured. To his credit Alex Chandy has become more confident with each broadcast as well as his pre- and post-match interviews with the likes of Dave 'Cheers, thank you' Challinor. I don't know if Alex is from the town or not but his knowledge of Pools is very good.

One has to say the early streaming services from the Vic were very poor at best and my heart went out to this cub reporter who had to continually apologise to the viewers week in and week out for the poor quality of the picture, let alone commentate on the match. To his credit he kept his calm and, as they say, carried on. I would like to see if some of his critics could perform any better in such circumstances. I feel most would throw their headphones down onto the Millhouse terrace and say "That's it, I'm off." I know I would have.

As I mentioned earlier, he is still a rookie and there are certain areas that are in need of improvement such as being slightly more impartial in his commentary - it only winds people up - not only away fans but home fans like myself. He would do well to take a leaf from some of the away commentary teams such as at Wrexham and Maidstone who were excellent.

There are though some areas for fine tuning. Alex has recently developed the annoying habit of, when Pools score, going into Alistair Brownlee mode, shouting and screaming at the top of his voice which is bloody annoying and embarrassing. He sounds like he is a member of the studio audience for Strictly Come Dancing. There is a time and place for this moronic behaviour, such as when Pools score a last-minute winner in the play-off finals.

At times I think that he needs to slow down the pace of his commentary, be more measured and not overly excited. I was going to suggest sub-titles but apart from the fact that Pools' streaming service hasn't yet got round to showing replays, that is unlikely to happen and besides, the sub-titles would have a job keeping up with him. A quality he does have is not allowing long quiet spots and has always something to say as well as bringing in his co-commentator at the right time.

It may well be that both parties, Alex and Pools, have benefitted each other with Alex gaining journalistic experience at a high level thus raising his profile within his industry. Pools on the other hand having someone to keep the club's own profile in the public eye.

Given the club's circumstances, I cannot work out in my mind if Pools are paying Alex a modest wage or if he is paying Pools for the privilege of gaining broadcasting experience as well as getting his name known in media circles.

Keep up the good work Alex and, who knows we, could have another Jeff Stelling in the making or if things go the other way ...a Greg Dyke.

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FUNNY OLD GAME




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Pilgrimage


More from the attic of
RABBI BLUE AND WHITE STRIPES




This month's trawl through the attic left me with this thought – why do I keep all this stuff?

I came across several Morris Minor workshop manuals and parts lists, one for a Ford Anglia / Popular (sit up and beg style) and one for a Jaguar – I’ve never owned a Jag and don’t suppose I ever will now. Needless to say nothing got thrown away.

The programme I happened upon was one with the heading ‘Pilgrims’. I thought that was odd as I’d never been to a game at Plymouth Argyle. On closer inspection I saw it related to Boston United, a bit nearer to home (well my home anyway) although not that close.

On re-reading the programme (this is assuming I read it at the time) I was pleasantly surprised that it dedicated a lot of space to Pools as the away side. Interesting to see that Steve Evans was their manager – rather like a pantomime villain he does elicit quite a lot of ill feeling – I like him, an outspoken character that football needs. He’s currently the manager of Gillingham. At the end of 2002 whilst Boston’s manager he was suspended by the FA for ‘contract irregularities’. I would like to think he used the Father Ted line “the money was only resting in my account”. He returned to manage Boston in March 2004.
"Steve Evans was their manager – rather like a pantomime villain he does elicit quite a lot of ill feeling"

The programme is for the 2005 FA Cup 3rd round replay which Pools won 1-0 following a goalless draw at the Vic. A long range goal by Adam Boyd just trickled over the line and beat veteran keeper Nathan Abbey.

I actually remember this game as Wallace & Gromit and I made the journey from our respective North Essex homes. I’m sure neither of us thought it was as far as it was – the days before Satnav. I also remember it being very cold with a flurry of snow during the game.

The Pools team was Dimi Konstantopoulos; Jack Ross; Hugh Robertson; Chris Westwood; Michael Nelson; Mark Tinkler; Ben Clark; Ritchie Humphreys; Adam Boyd; Andy Appleby (replaced by Steven Istead) and Tony Sweeney.

In the next round we lost 1-0 at home to Brentford.





FROM THE DUGOUT with Steve Evans

May I welcome everyone connected with Hartlepool United with an extended welcome to my opposite number, manager Neale Cooper.


Our opposition tonight are warm favourites with the bookmakers and that alone speaks volumes of just how difficult our task is this evening. Hartlepool United sit in fifth place in Coca-Cola League One and have high hopes for promotion this season.

Neale Cooper was a superb footballer himself who I played against many times and I believe he will progress from the North East club to the top level in management. Tonight's match is played to a finish and a difficult trip to face Brentford awaits the winners. Their manager Martin Allen is another who has worked wonders since he left Barnet to join Brentford and I have no doubt he will be in attendance this evening.

Last Saturday we travelled to Shrewsbury Town and despite the worst pitch in the Football League, we returned with a point. I have no doubt we should have been given a penalty when Andy Kirk was hauled down but it is fair to say we have not had many decisions go for us in the last few months. As a manager, I believe these things normally level out over a season, so let’s hope they do. I was particularly pleased that we kept going right until the end, trying to win the match and it was nice that our supporters recognised these efforts at the end of the match.

On Saturday, we entertain high-flying Swansea City who in my opinion are destined for promotion. Over the Christmas period, they beat us easily and they will provide us with a stern task as we go in search of a vital win. Swansea have an excellent manager to complement their team so we will need a large support behind us if we are to claw back the deficit on them to just six points. We simply have to be ready to face the challenge and make sure we play at our best if we are to get three points.

As you may be aware, tonight will represent our seventh match in 23 days. This by anyone’s standards is a lot of football given how small our squad is, but my boys are more than capable. The fitness levels are extremely high while our determination and desire to win will never be in question. We have had concrete offers and significant interest in a number of our players from other clubs and we should really see this as a sign that we have a lot of quality players here at York Street.

The month of February looks like being crucial in where our season is going to end. In that month alone, we have six Coca-Cola League Two matches and from that we have four of them at home, which could prove to be crucial. Included in this we have our re-arranged and eagerly-awaited local derby against Lincoln City, which I know everyone in the county is looking forward to.

To get a result tonight, we will need to be at our very best as our opposition are top-class, who ply their trade under a manager who in time will move on to the top level. As always. we will need your support if we are to be successful so get behind the players from the off. Enjoy the match and lets hope tonight this club makes history by getting to the fourth round of the FA Cup for the first time ever. It certainly is exciting times again here at Boston United.

Enjoy the game,

GAFFER





TONIGHT'S VISITORS

INTRODUCING Hartlepool United

MANAGER

NEALE COOPER

Neale Cooper enjoyed an illustrious career before embarking on managerial life at Ross County seven years ago. He successfully steered County from the Scottish Third Division to the First in consecutive seasons after their election from the Highlands League. Took up the reins at Victoria Park at the start of last season and guided Pools to the play-offs at the first attempt only to be beaten by Bristol City in the semi-finals.

GOALKEEPERS

JIM PROVETT

Jim enjoyed a remarkable 2003-2004 campaign after emerging as Neale Cooper's first-choice goalkeeper. The 21- year-old was voted both the Supporters‘ and the Players' Player of the Year in his first full season between the posts. Provett came in to the side at Hillsborough for a Carling Cup tie, secured the man of the match award in a dramatic penalty shootout win and since then he's never looked back. The Trimdon-born youngster pulled off a catalogue oi wonderful saves during the campaign and played a major role in pushing Pools in to the play-offs.

DIMITRIOS KONSTANTOPOULOS
Dimitrios arrived on trial initially but did sufficient to impress Neale Cooper and the former Greece under-21 international signed an extended contract with the club in late- 2003. He has a reputation as a fine shot-stopper and he provided excellent competition for Jim Provett although he has so far only been on the bench for the first team. His physical stature also allows him to command his box very well, and his kicking is also a strong area of his game.

DEFENDERS

MICHAEL BARRON

Micky joined Pools in 1996 from Middlesbrough which means he is the longest-serving player at Victoria Park. Although signed as a central defender or sweeper, Micky has captained the side from right-back for the last three seasons. He is a tough-tackling player who leads by example, and Micky has now played over 300 games for the club. The Chester-le- Street-born defender was named the club’s player of the year on two occasions since his arrival at Victoria Park.

MICHAEL NELSON
Michael signed for the club on the same day that Neale Cooper was appointed manager last summer. The no-nonsense defender arrived from Bury and has been a rock at the heart of the Pools' defence. “Nelse” moved to Gigg Lane from Bishop Auckland in 2001 after a successful trial period and he was named their player of the year in the 2002-2003 season and he was a close second to Jim Provett for the award at Pools last term. Aggressive in the tackle and superb in the air, Nelson can also be a threat going forward at set- pieces. He scored a striking debut goal from 25 yards on the opening day of last season at Peterborough.

CHRIS WESTWOOD
Chris joined the club from Wolves in 1999 and has been a consistent part of the central defence ever since. He forged a superb partnership with Michael Nelson last season which was one of the main factors in Pools' push to the play-offs. "Westy" is a good reader ef the game who prefers to stay on his feet rather than dive in and his classy displays were recognised in 2002-2003 season when he was named in the PFA Division Three team of the year.

JOHN BRACKSTONE
John is a young left-back who signed his first professional contract with the club during last season. He is strong but fair in the tackle and also possesses a lot of skill. His classy free-kick goal against Whitby Town highlighted his ability. He battled back from a broken leg sustained in the reserves during the 2002-2003 campaign to feature in the first team on six occasions last term. He was also part of the youth team's Dallas Cup winning side last season. He played every minute of every match in America.





MATTY ROBSON
Matty is a promising young player who signed his first professional contract during last season. “Pop” started last season in the side and was one of four debutants to find the net in Pools’ thrilling 4-3 win over Peterborough United on the opening day. He is a left-sided player whom Neale Cooper has employed both at full-back and on the wing. Matty likes to get forward and has a sweet left foot and an eye for goal.

DARREN CRADDOCK
Darren is a young defender with bags of potential. The 19-year-old featured in the centre of defence in the early part of last season but it was when he was switched to right-back towards the back end of the campaign that he really showed promise. Craddock kept skipper Micky Barron out of the side for a spell and highlighted why Neale Cooper rates him so highly. He was rewarded for his efforts with a first professional contract at the end of the season.

HUGH ROBERTSON
Hugh has quickly established himself as a fans’ favourite since his move to Pools from Ross County in January 2004. The left- back's quiet demeanour does not become the ferocity with which he can strike a football. Comfortable on either foot but particularly lethal on his left, “Shuggy” rifled home four goals last term and his cannonball against Luton Town was voted goal of the season. He is strong and confident in possession and can play anywhere if called upon. He was employed as a striker in his latter days at Ross! Neale Cooper obviously rates him highly as he also signed him while manager at Ross County.

BEN CLARK
Clark made his full debut for Sunderland at the age of l7 in a League Cup game and also featured in the FA Cup game against Pools at the Stadium of Light last season, where he stepped into a central midfield role for the Black Cats. The cultured central defender captained England’s under-19 side in their Championship in Norway in 2002 and also played at under- 15 and under-18 level. Clark will be hoping this experience will put him in good stead when he comes up against League One forwards for Pools as he looks to impress the Victoria Park faithful.

MIDFIELDERS

DARRELL CLARKE
Whole-hearted midfield player whose hard work and energy has made him a favourite with the fans. Darrell joined the club from Mansfield Town in 2001 and is renowned as one of the liveliest members of the squad. Although he prefers to play centrally, he has been employed on the right wing for much of his time with Pools. He bagged an impressive hat-trick In a 7-1 win over Swansea City at Victoria Park in April 2002 and last season completed 50 career goals with his strike at Wrexham. He is currently on a month's loan at Stockport County.

RITCHIE HUMPHREYS
Ritchie is a favourite among fans and players alike at Victoria Park. He arrived at the club in the summer of 2001 as he looked to recover from a broken leg sustained while playing for Cambridge United. He can play up front or in central midfield but it is on the left flank where he feels at his most dangerous. His 11 goals in 49 games during the 2002-2003 promotion season earned him a place in the PFA Division Three team of the year and also the supporters’ player of the year. Ritchie came in to his own as Pools pushed for the play-offs in Division Two last year and led the side as captain on a number of occasions in Micky Barron's absence.

MARK TINKLER
Mark is a combative midfielder who joined the club in 2000 from Southend United. He likes to get stuck in but also has a good eye for a pass and can also chip in with goals. He was the club's second highest scorer in the promotion season of 2002-2003 and likes to have a crack from distance. “Tinks" helped out in the centre of defence towards the end of last season and many have tipped him to become a regular defender later in his career. For now though, he is happy to patrol the middle of the park!

ANTONY SWEENEY
Tony broke in to the side at the end of last season and his form in the centre of midfield helped Pools in to the play-offs. indeed it was his goal at Bristol City that almost took Pools to the Millennium Stadium but for two late strikes from City. He was handed his debut by Chris Turner against Carlisle on the opening day of the 2002-2003 campaign but struggled to hold down a regular place. However, his performances last year secured him a new contract with the club. He is a whole- hearted competitor with a good engine and the ability to get forward as well as back. His height is also an advantage as he is excellent in the air.

STEVEN ISTEAD
Steven was voted young player of the year last season for his exciting performances on the right wing. “lcey” is a tenacious player and his pace has caused problems for left- backs throughout the Second Division. Employed mainly as a second half substitute, his work rate and determination have made him a hit with the fans. Scored at Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup and also netted the winner at Colchester United, he is certainly one to look out for in the future.





GAVIN STRACHAN
Gavin arrived at the club during the 2003- 2004 pre-season for a trial after a brief spell with Sheffield Wednesday in which he played in a friendly against Pools. He signed a deal in time to join with the squad at Peterborough on the opening day and scored a sensational debut goal from a free-kick. His expertise from set-pieces was soon evident as he found the net on a number of occasions, most notably with a dramatic injury-time equaliser at Bournemouth. Having signed on a short-term deal initially, Neale Cooper had no hesitation in offering him a longer contract once he’d seen what he was capable of.

JACK ROSS
Jack joined the club when his contract expired at Clyde in the summer. The 28-year-old Scot expressed a desire to play in England and when Neale Cooper expressed an interest, the versatile Ross was quick to sign up. The Pools boss was well aware of Ross's ability as a player from his own time in Scotland an is certain his excellent passing, tough tackling and high fitness level will boost the squad at Victoria Park. An intelligent player on the field, Ross proved he is just as sharp off it by achieving an economics degree during a break from the professional game.

STEPHEN TURNBULL
Stephen is very much a utility player who has operated at right-back or in midfield in the past and has proven himself to be a good passer of the ball. He is technically sound and has a good understanding of the game. Stephen made his first team debut this season when he came on as substitute in the game against Chesterfield.

MICHAEL MAlDENS
Michael will be looking to produce on a more consistent basis during the 2004-2005 season after showing glimpses of his undoubted talent last term. The midfielder is certainly a player capable of winning games for his team but finding regular form is the key to him making the step. Michael also made his debut for the first team this season, making a substitute appearance in the League Cup defeat to Crystal Palace.

STRlKERS

ADAM BOYD

Played a major role in guiding Pools in to the play-offs last season despite earlier looking like heading for a Victoria Park exit. He was on the verge of a move to Boston United before being recalled to the starting line-up where he netted 12 times including the vital strike at Swindon Town on the final day. A player With undoubted skill, Adam will be hoping that Neale Cooper can continue to bring the best out of him during the 2004- 2005 campaign. Boyd scored four goals in 14 appearances while on loan at York Street last season.

EIFION WILLIAMS
Eifion has been the club's top scorer for two consecutive seasons. He handled the step up to Division Two well last term and his l3 goals were a vital factor in Pools’ push towards the play-offs last term. His consistent performances were recognised with a call-up to the Wales set-up late last season, although unfortunately injury meant he had to withdraw from Mark Hughes' international squad. Eifion, who played up front and wide on the right, signed a new deal with the club during last season.

JOEL PORTER
Joel arrived at the club initially on a short- term contract but soon did enough to persuade Neale Cooper he was worthy of an extended deal. The Australian striker is a hard-working and unselfish player with an immaculate first touch. Porter scored his first goal for Pools in the televised FA Cup tie at Burton last season and also. found the net most notably in the first leg of the play- off semi-final against Bristol City.

DAVID FOLEY
Striker David became the youngest player to represent the club when he came off the bench against Port Vale aged just 16 years and l05 days. If he keeps progressing at the rate he did last season then there is every chance he can go places. He has fantastic ability and skill together with an eye for goal. He was the best player in the tournament for the youth team at the Dallas Cup and coach Paul Stephenson wants him to take the confidence from the way he finished last season through to the 2004- 2005 campaign.

JACK WILKINSON
Young striker Jack had quite a successful taste of life in the first team last season. He scored twice for Neale Cooper's side, the chipped finish against Swindon underlining the confidence he has in his own ability. He understands the importance of being physically and mentally fit, he makes intelligent runs and is a good receiver of the ball. Although his goalscoring was good in the first team, youth team coach Paul Stephenson is hoping he can find the net for the youth team on a more regular basis.

ANDREW APPLEBY
Young striker Andy is a strong runner when played through and has the pace to cause defenders problems. He can improve his already good hold-up play and look to add to the goals he scored for the Reserves last season. "Appo" travelled with the first team squad on occasions towards the end of the last campaign and with a bit more self-belief, youth team coach Paul Stephenson believes he can do so again during 2004-2005.





HARTLEPOOL UNITED DREAM TEAM

Football historian LEIGH EDWARDS selects a post-war Hartlepool United “Dream Team” with the help of several Hartlepool supporters and club officials

MARTIN HODGE
Experienced goalkeeper who starred as Hartlepool took Ipswich Town to an FA Cup third round replay in l991-92. Signing professional for Plymouth Argyle in February 1977, he moved to Everton in July 1979 and joined Sheffield Wednesday in August 1983. He was ever-present four times including their 1983-84 promotion success and moved to Leicester City for £250,000 in August 1988. Ever-present in 1989-90, he joined Hartlepool in August l99l and made 69 League appearances prior to joining Rochdale in August 1994. He has since been a coach at Plymouth and Sheffield Wednesday.

BRIAN DRYSDALE
Versatile full-back who was an important figure in Hartlepool’s 1967- 68 promotion success. Signing professional for Lincoln City in September 1960, he moved to Hartlepool in July 1965 and was “Player of the Year” in 1968-69. He scored twice in 170 League outings prior to joining Bristol City in June 1969 and helped them reach the League Cup semi-finals in 1970-71, the FA Cup sixth round in 1973-74 and win promotion to the top~flight in 1975-76. Moving to Oxford United in July 1977, he was then player-boss of Frome, Shepton Mallet and Clandown. He is now a self- employed carpenter in Bristol.

ROB McKlNNON
Influential left-back who was capped three times by Scotland after leaving Hartlepool United. Initially with Rutherglen Glencairn, he joined Newcastle United in November 1984 and gained top-flight experience before moving to Hartlepool in July 1986. He was ever-present in two consecutive seasons and missed just one match during Hartlepool's 1990-91 promotion campaign, netting seven goals in 247 League games while at Victoria Park prior to joining Motherwell in January 1992. Helping them to finish Scottish League Premier Division runners-up in 1994-95, he subsequently played for Hearts.

JOHN McGOVERN
Midfielder who featured prominently in Hartlepool United’s 1967-68 promotion success. He was Hartlepool's youngest League player at 16 years 205 days old in May 1966 and scored five goals in 72 League games before reuniting with Brian Clough at Derby County in September 1968. The Scotland U-23 international starred in their 197l-72 League Championship triumph and followed Clough via Leeds United to Nottingham Forest in February 1975, skippering two European Cup final triumphs. He became Bolton Wanderers player-manager and has since held various coaching and managerial posts.

BILL GREEN
Commanding central defender who skippered Hartlepool during Len Ashurst’s reign. Signing professional for Hartlepool in June 1969, he impressed in a struggling side and scored nine times in 131 League games before moving to Carlisle United in July 1973. He starred as they won promotion in 1973-74 and was ever-present skipper in their 1974-75 top-flight campaign, joining West Ham in June 1976. Subsequently playing for Peterborough United, Chesterfield and Doncaster Rovers, he then managed Scunthorpe United and Buxton and has since been a director of an engineering firm in Chesterfield.

ANDY LINIGHAN
Central defender who gained England B honours after leaving Hartlepool United. From a local football family, he signed professional for Hartlepool in September 1980 and played alongside his younger brother David. He netted four goals in 11O League games before joining Leeds United in May 1984, and then moved via Oldham Athletic to Norwich City in March 1988. Sold to Arsenal for £l,250,0DO in July 1990, he headed their winner in the 1993 FA Cup final replay and also helped win the Coca-Cola Cup that season. He joined Crystal Palace in January 1997, and then played for Oxford United and St Albans City.





DON HUTCHISON
Midfielder who has been capped 23 times by Scotland since leaving Hartlepool United. Signing professional at Victoria Park in March 1990, he featured in Hartlepool's 1990-91 promotion campaign and scored twice in 24 League games prior to joining Liverpool in November 1990. He joined West Ham in August 1994 and then played for Sheffield United before returning to the Premiership with Everton in February 1998. Sold to Sunderland for £2,500,000 in July 2000, he rejoined West Ham for £5,000,000 in August 2001 and helped them to reach the First Division play-off final last season.

KEN JOHNSON
Long-serving favourite who holds Hartlepool United's all-time goalscoring record. Born locally, he signed professional for Hartlepool in May l949 and scored on his League debut at home to Bradford City seven months later. He netted the penalty that took Nottingham Forest to an FA Cup fourth round replay in 1954-55 and was leading marksman as Hartlepool finished Third Division (North) runners-up in 1956-57. Scoring a club record 98 goals in 384 League games before leaving in May 1964, he subsequently ran a fish and chip shop in Hartlepool until June 1997 and still lives locally in retirement.

JOE ALLON
Goalscoring favourite who was Hartlepool’s leading marksman four times including the 1990-91 promotion success. Signing professional for Newcastle United in November 1984, the England Youth international moved via Swansea City to Hartlepool in November 1988. He netted 48 goals in 112 league outings for them before being sold to Chelsea for £250,000 in August 199l, and then had spells with Brentford, Port Vale and Lincoln City prior to rejoining Hartlepool in October 1995. Scoring a further 19 goals in 56 League games before injury ended his career in February 1998, he has settled in the north east.

TOMMY MILLER
Skilful midfielder who starred as Hartlepool United qualified for the Third Division play-offs in two consecutive seasons. A former trainee at Victoria Park, he was Hartlepool's Young Player of the Year in 1996-97 and signed professional in July 1997. He made his League debut in Hartlepool's 3-1 win at Chester three months later and was leading-marksman in 1999- 2000, netting 35 goals in 137 League games before being sold to Ipswich Town for a record £800,000 in July 200l. Voted "man of the match” on his full Premiership debut, he secured a regular first-team slot during the 2002- 03 campaign.

KEITH HOUCHEN
Striker who was Hartlepool’s leading marksman in four successive seasons. A former Chesterfield junior, he moved to Hartlepool in February 1978 and netted 65 goals in 170 League games prior to joining Orient in March 1982. He joined York City two years later and starred in their 1984-85 FA Cup run, then moved via Scunthorpe United to Coventry City in June 1986. Scoring in their 1987 FA Cup final triumph, he joined Hibernian in March 1989 and returned to Hartlepool from Port Vale in July 1993. He was player-boss and scored a further 27 times in 109 League games until being dismissed in November 1996.



[We had to hold this article back from last month while we worked out how to make a 3-column programme page work for anyone reading this on a mobile phone. The answer was to scan it and use an optical character recognition program to capture the text, then display it with a small picture of the page, all of which made for a bit more work, but there's not a lot else you can do anyway during yet another lockdown! Ed.]

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MERVYN THE MONKEY mops up



Well, the relative joy for Poolies of the last few months seems to be continuing for now, but it still may need more effort by Pools to gain promotion.

Whereas a couple of months ago they were second in the table on points gained but 5th on points per game played, the impressive run of home wins now puts them third on both, so barring a meltdown or any adverse outcome of the pandemic, they at least look to be in with a chance of a playoff place. However, the same might have been said of Altrincham and Wealdstone not many weeks ago so that chicken definitely cannot yet be counted.

We Poolies may have been enjoying the last few months. Let's hope the next few are as enjoyable.



Another famous footballer of the 1960s has passed away. After a stellar playing career with Bill Shankly's Liverpool, Ian St. John became known to many younger fans though his second career on TV 30 years ago, since which he's been out of the public eye. So it's been interesting this week to see the photos of the various stages of his life.

He'll probably be remembered more for his TV career than his playing exploits, but I bet he'd have preferred it to be the other way round.




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