Showing posts with the label Bllly's Contract

Ticket to Ride

BILLY'S CONTRACT is worked up about tickets

For it was written, some say even fixed, that Pools would inevitably meet South Shields in the qualifying round of the FA Cup proper. It was common knowledge that due to the small capacity of Shields' Mariner Park ground that Pools would only receive a limited number of tickets for their travelling away support and that many fans would be left disappointed and unable to make the journey up the A19. 

What did come as a surprise was that Pools announced that only 409 tickets would be available for sale. I use the word surprise as York, who played Shields in the previous round, had an allocation of just under 500 tickets. The common feeling among many supporters was that Pools received the same number of tickets as the Minstermen but these were distributed to sponsors and within 'the club' itself.

I desperately wanted to attend this match, for several reasons. Apart from the match itself it was an excuse of having a couple of sherbets with my son who lives down the road in The Heed. I also have a very good pal who supports Shields and it would have been good to have the craic with him before the match, after which we would have headed down to Ocean Road, the curry capital of the North East, for an Indian.* Having said that, I had no intention whatsoever of getting up at daft o'clock in the morning to to queue for a ticket to ensure my place on the terraces at Mariners Park.

On the day the tickets went on general release I arrived at the Vic around 9.45, did a quick head count and reckoned that there were around 150 fans patiently stood in the queue, which extended thirty feet into the club's car park. Under the impression that it was one ticket per person I reckoned that I would have a ticket in my grubby little pandies within the hour.

Whilst standing 'In Line' as our colonial cousins would say, we heard that the ticket office had opened half an hour earlier than advertised but even so the queue was hardly moving at all and when it did move it was at a snail's pace. One could not help noticing that many fans who had left the ticket office had purchased more than one ticket, in fact I saw one lad stuffing about half a dozen of them into his wallet.

It was only when I got talking to a well known Monkey Business contributor whom I won't name, (but for convenience's sake let's call him/her 'Mr'. Running Monkey), that I learned that many fans ahead of him in the queue were purchasing tickets en masse on behalf other season ticket holders who had passed on their season tickets to save queueing themselves.

On the face of it this seems a laudable act, purchasing tickets on behalf of friends and family, particularly for those who travel the length and breadth of this great country to follow their team but were unable to get to the ticket office on the day due to work and other commitments. The flip side to this was that those who were actually in the queue, many who likewise travel far and wide to see Pools (the lad stood behind me had travelled down from Northumberland), were then put at at a distinct disadvantage on two counts:

1 In effect those fans who were actually stood in the queue were penalised by having to wait even longer than necessary whilst the ticket office had to process and confirm the names and addresses of those fans who were being issued with tickets and were not present in the queue.

2 More importantly it also meant that fans who had queued for several hours were penalised yet again as this lessened their chances of obtaining a ticket.

After an hour we had reached the reception area of Pools' offices. Some disquiet amongst those in line arose when several Poolies who had got their ticket(s) told us that we were wasting our time staying and might as well go home as there were not many tickets left, which did not go down well at all. So much so that a couple of lads beside me went into the reception to ask if they could check if there was any point in their waiting. They were allegedly informed by the lady that she was too busy to check (This could have turned nasty after having stood for two hours, particularly had the weather been inclement).  Surely it would not have been too hard for her to wander down the corridor and ask the girls in the ticket office how many tickets that they had left, and do a quick head count and advise fans either to stay or go.
"would they have been allowed to purchase all 409 tickets in one felt swoop if they had had the necessary season tickets to cover them?"

I managed to persuade a young lad who was stood behind me, and who was all set to give it up as a bad job, to hang on, as he would kick himself if he later found that he had missed out. I also added that he would probably kick me if he did in fact get a ticket and see Pools get beat off Shields. After waiting an hour and fifty minutes I finally made it into the ticket office thinking that it would be ironic, having waited so long, to fall at the last hurdle and hear "sorry that's it, they have all gone". For a second I thought that was going to be the case, as the girl who was about to serve the lad in front of me was told by her colleague to turn her computer off.

For a brief second, I got same the feeling as those in the lifeboats when they witnessed the lights going out on the Titanic. Thankfully as it turned out they were only rebooting the system. I estimated that that I managed to get one of the last few tickets available as I then heard one of the girls say that she was on to her last book. HUFC and issuing tickets do not sit comfortably together. Not a great track record over the years to say the least.

It has to be said that it was a masterstroke when the club decided to outsource ticket sales for the play off final at Cardiff in 2015 otherwise many of us would still be waiting to get them. Firstly I would like it to be put on record, that this is not a criticism of the sales personnel in the ticket office, whom I have always found pleasant and helpful, but of the, let's say the admin backroom department within the club.

Two suggestions:

For big cup matches or ones with small ticket allocations such as the Shields game, the club should as a matter of course open the ticket office at 8.30 am or 9 am at the latest. I cannot understand the concept of opening at 10 am. Most people in the real world will have done three hours work by then. It would mean a couple of hours less standing/camping time for people like those who camped outside The Vic for the Shields tickets at two in the morning.

Communication. Intermittently someone from within the club should monitor any large queues and advise fans roughly how many tickets are left or how long it will be before they are likely to be served. Although it would be nice, I am not suggesting that they provide courtesy tea and biscuits to waiting fans, but some form of communication, no matter how basic, could allay any frustration that might be building up. As the ticket allocation was so small for the South Shields game they should have been issued one, two top whack, max per person. When asked why they were issuing more than one ticket per person the girl in the office replied that they did not think that they would sell them all ...obviously knows her fan base.

It was said that the first two people in the queue purchased 14 tickets between them. That is 3.5% of Pools' ticket allocation. I wonder would they have been allowed to purchase all 409 tickets in one felt swoop if they had had the necessary season tickets to cover them? Knowing Pools I think the answer might have been yes.

* Turned out he didn't get to the match after all as Shields had sold all their tickets. That didn't prevent us enjoying our post-match curry. I offered to treat my mate to a sweet but the waiter told me there was no direct Indian translation for 'humble pie', so he had ice cream instead.

The American Dream

The second part of the Malcolm Dawes story, by BILLY'S CONTRACT

31 March 1973 was an unusual day for Malcolm Dawes.The kick-off for Pools' home game against Peterborough had been put back until 6.30 p.m as the earlier 3 p.m. kick off clashed with the Grand National. I am not sure if it was Pools or the course officials who were more concerned about how this clash would impact on attendances, both at the Vic and at Aintree! 

Despite Pools playing well and Dawes himself playing a blinder he still ended up on the losing side as Posh ran out one nil winners. After the match Len Ashurst pulled Malcolm to one side and told him that a meeting had been set up for the following Monday in Seaton Cricket club where he was to meet Gordon Bradley.

Bradley, an Easington lad, was the Coach of New York Cosmos (NYC) of the North American Soccer League (NASL) and was recruiting British players for NYC, as well as recommending players to other clubs in the NASL. The conversation moved at a pace, and Malcolm did not take much convincing about joining NYC during the summer. NYC was owned by Warner Bros.

Dawes was told that upon arriving at New York he was to take a flight to Mexico where he would meet up with his new team mates to play at the Aztec Stadium, where the World Cup final had been played three years earlier. At this time Dawes's head was spinning. Bradley then made his apologies and had to leave as he had to get down to Manchester that night to secure the services of a certain George Best, however United later vetoed the deal.

At that same meeting was Stan Anderson who had recently resigned as Middlesbrough's Manager. He turned down the offer of managing in the USA in favour of taking up the manager's role at AEK Athens instead.

Pools were happy enough to release Dawes on loan before the English season ended, on the understanding that Pools had to be mathematically safe from the re-election zone. At the time of Bradley's approach this was not the case. All would depend on how the results went over the Easter period.

Pools, like all other teams at that time, would have to play three games in a four day period, two of which were away from home. Can you imagine Premiership players doing that today? Neither can I. Every evening at 5.20 p.m on the dot Bradley would be on the phone wondering when Dawes would be crossing the pond. On one occasion he rang when Malcolm was in the club bath tub.

False start: I've packed my bags and
I'm ready to go ...back to Hartlepool
The first result on Good Friday was a one all draw at home to Mansfield. The following day Pools were away to Northampton. Dawes, confident of Pools getting the right result at the County Ground, travelled down on the club coach with cases packed. Dawes had made arrangements to be collected from the ground, once the final whistle had been blown, by some friends from down south who would whisk him off to Heathrow Airport. That was the idea. However the best laid plans of mice and men found him back on the team bus heading back up north to Hartlepool after suffering a three-one reverse at the hands of the Cobblers.

Dawes did not help the team or his own cause by scoring an own goal and being responsible for another goal conceded. Consequently he remained at Pools until the end of the season which, thanks to a couple of draws, saw Pools finishing one spot above the re-election zone.

Dawes eventually joined up with his new NYC team mates several weeks behind schedule, but because of his delayed arrival he missed their pre-season tour of Mexico and appearing in the Aztec stadium.


Whilst waiting to board his flight to New York, one of half a dozen people sharing the executive departure lounge with Malcolm, killing time instead of baddies, was Warner Brothers star Clint Eastwood, complete with cowboy boots. Malcolm to this day regrets not having made the effort of speaking to him. I said Clint might have had the same regrets about not makng an effort to talk to him. 'Go ahead Malcolm make my day.'

Malcolm boarded the BOAC aircraft directly behind Eastwood only for Clint to turn right into business class and Dawes turned left into economy. Ironically both men were technically work mates as they shared the same employer.

Once in JFK, Dawes had to negotiate Immigration. He had been warned by his new bosses that if asked, under no circumstances should he tell them that he was in the USA to work and he should say that he was only on holiday. Bear in mind that this was at a time when very few Brits were holidaying in America. As luck would have it, he was stopped by Immigration who quizzed him several times about the purpose of his visit particularly when they determined from his passport that he was a professional footballer. They gave him two pieces of paper and told him to sit down and to await further questioning. He read the papers given to him showing that two other footballers had been denied entry to the U.S and had been sent back home as they did not have work permits. Fearing he was going to be searched Malcolm surreptitously removed from his holdall his contract from NYC. and ripped it up into tiny pieces and stuffed it down the side of the seat he was sat on. Shortly afterwards he was called back to the desk where a different person simply waved him through without question. I wonder how Clint got on with them.


The accommodation provided for the NYC team was based at a university campus with all the mod cons one could wish for. Probably the equivalent of a five star U.K hotel at the time. The wages, allowing exchange rates were nearly double than that of what he was earning at Pools. The only thing Malcolm had to pay for was his food and entertainment.

Although the NASL was in its infancy, Dawes was quite surprised at the standard of football, but considering that many of the players had been recruited from the professional leagues of Britain, Europe and South America, it was probably to be expected.


In NYC's league there were a total of nine teams plus three guest teams, Finn Harps, Moscow Torpedo and Vera Cruz, whom they each played three times. Dawes was the only player at NYC to play in every minute of every game that season. He was duly awarded The MMP by The Cosmos promotions team for the player with Most Minutes Played. I did say it was America didn't I?

Football, or should I say Soccer, was ever so slightly different in the States. Instead of coming out of the tunnel as a team, each player would be introduced individually with his name announced loudly and spectacularly over the Tannoy to roars of approval from the crowds. The attendance at each game varied considerably in size, but NYC home gate averaged between 5,000-7,000. It is universally acknowledged, that Americans in whatever sport have a low  threshold of interest and demand instant gratification whether it be goals, scores, points, touch downs or bases. They would never, in 'one hundred overs', be able to comprehend cricket or snooker, let alone a goalless draw.

In an attempt to generate more goals, each half of a the pitch was marked width-wise with an additional white line 35 yards from the halfway line. This meant that the offside rule did not start at the halfway line but but 25 yards away from the opposition's goal line. If a game ended in a draw, instead of a penalty shoot out or a toss of a coin, a series of outfield players would take it in turns to go one on one with the keeper, and try and dribble round him and score. I was surprised that the Americans did not come up with the idea of next goal the winner. I know that Americans have their strange ways regarding improving 'Soccer' such as making the goals bigger and improving the chances of more goals being scored during a match. Oh how we laughed. If it ain't broke don't fix it! That said British Football has embraced the American format of Play-offs and to my mind has made many a season more absorbing by prolonging the interest as well as generating welcome revenue for the clubs involved.
"...the best laid plans of mice and men found him back on the team bus heading back up north to Hartlepool"

In addition to coping with the razzamatazz, the heat and the new offside rule, Malcolm had to adapt to playing on artificial turf, again something that some British football clubs flirted with (QPR, Luton and Preston) but it never took off for many and varied reasons, but mainly because it was not grass.

For away games, or for the benefit of our American readers, 'on the road games' First class air travel and hotel accommodation was the norm. To get to the ground the team would be picked up by half a dozen stretch limousines, complete with the previously unheard-of air conditioning. This was about the same time as car manufacturers in Britain were experimenting with sun roofs!

Dawes had his first experience of a totally different type of air conditioning back in England soon after his return from the States when, on a filthy cold and windy night, coming back from Exeter, the team coach broke down. The players were left soaking wet by the roadside at two in the morning until a Good Samaritan, in the form of a passing lorry driver, allowed the players and staff to huddle up together in the back of the open topped tipper and drove them to the nearest service station where he 'dumped' them off. "Now that was air conditioning!" said Malcolm.

Most of Dawes's spare time, when not training, was spent on the beach. On one occasion they heard by chance that a well known popular singer was going to perform at a local venue. The players asked Warner Brothers, if they could assist in getting tickets. "No chance!" came the answer. Malcolm and a few of the other players strolled up to the ticket office and got tickets to see Elvis at £2 a head, which even in the mid seventies was ridiculously cheap. The concert is something that Malcolm said that he would never forget and as a tribute he often includes Elvis songs in his own karaoke set.

Some years later when he was playing with Denver Dynamos he was asked if he would like to see Frank Sinatra in concert as there were six spare tickets. Malcolm snapped the offer up and got them at face value as the chap couldn't give them away. Later he also got to see Roberta Flack perform. He was that close to her he could hear her telling the band to "Ramp it up! Ramp it up!"

On the sporting arena he went to see baseball and football matches, but his biggest thrill was seeing Sugar Ray Leonard fight in a boxing tournament against Canada. Malcolm's son was later to become an amateur boxer. A little know fact is that one of Malcolm's team-mates at NYC was Werner Roth who, apart from being inducted into the National Soccer hall of fame, and playing for the U.S. National side, also captained none other than the German team in the film 'Escape to Victory' alongside Michael Caine, Bobby Moore and his fellow NYC team mate Pele. Roth played the role of Baumann, who did much of the translation for the two sets of adversaries.

Malcolm played two consecutive seasons for the Cosmos, who were keen to re-sign him for a third term, however Pools would not allow him to leave before the end of the season. Cosmos could not wait and in the interim made other signings. Dawes's replacement at NYC was a Brazilian chap by the name of Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better know as Pele. Dawes's number six shirt was given to another newcomer, the German midfielder Franz Beckenbauer.

In the period 1971/74 Dawes played in the region of 180 games for Pools and NYC. Tell that to the players of today - Raheem 'I need a holiday' Sterling springs to mind - and they would not believe you. In his first season at NYC Dawes was voted 'Most Valuable Player 1973' (I think the Yanks mean Player of the Year) and still has the trophy to prove it. Dawes's third and last spell in America was with Denver Dynamos, who played their games on a baseball pitch with grass on it. The stadium within sight of the Rockies. "A beautiful place" he reflected. Due to injury Dawes only made 19 appearances for Denver.

Still carrying the injury he sustained in his time in Denver, Dawes, although not 100% declared himself match fit for Hartlepool's first home game of the season, the one all draw against Bournemouth. Little did he know that this was to be his last game in the blue and white of Hartlepool. The injury kept him out for several weeks but he was delighted to make it back onto the bench in time for his fellow centre back Alan Goad's testimonial against Nottingham Forest. Dawes was seething when manager Ken Hale did not play him in his friend's big match.


The following morning he banged on the manager's office door. fully intending to go in all guns blazing and to ask why he did not get a spell on the pitch the previous night. Before he could say anything Hale said "Malcolm, I'm so glad that you popped in. Workington are interested in signing you." And off he went, initally on a month's loan, that same afternoon to Cumbria's version of Hartlepool United.

Alan Ashman, who had managed West Bromwich Albion to Cup final victory in 1968, was now in charge of Workington, In his first season at 'Worko' (as they were known with fond affection by Pools fans), Dawes was made player coach, a job he relished. He also scored against his former employers at Brough Park in a two-one defeat. He did get his revenge later that season when 'Worko' came to the Vic and ran out two-nil winners. Dawes had a hand in both goals, the second from a cross which Bob Scott headed into his own net.

Workington Town team photo. Malcolm Dawes is centre front row. Ex-Poolies Kevin Johnson and John Honour are first and second from left respectively on the front row. John McNamee, another
ex-Poolie was at Workington at the time and the following season Mally Moore joined them.

Despite winning the Player of the Year Trophy Workington finished 92nd in the Football League. The following season Dawes had problems with his right knee and unfortunately was not referred for further medical advice thinking that it was just a ligament problem that needed resting. It later turned out that he needed a cartilage operation. That season (1977) Workington finished three places below Pools, once again the bottom of the Football League with 19 points. They were not re-elected. Their place was taken by Wimbledon and, as they say, the rest is history.

Malcolm then went to play alongside ex-Poolie Derek (Catweazle*) Hampton, for Whitby, which he said was a great club, and he also played for Scarborough. It was in the game between Scarborough and Wigan when he felt his left knee giving bother and he immediately knew from previous experience that his cartilage had gone and as such it was time to bring the curtain down on his distinguished footballing career.


Dawes, a keen cricketer, was aproached by Durham County Cricket club and became an English County Cricket Coach in 1986,  coaching in local schools. He also managed Durham C.C.C. under 12's who were captained by Scott Borthwick ,who was selected and played for England last year.

Another of Dawes's proteges was Ryan Pringle. A proud moment for Malcolm and his fellow coach Tim Lightfoot was when Seaton C.C. were one of a handful of cricket clubs selected to run 'The Chance to Shine' project, encouraging youngsters to take up the game and teach them the values of the cricketing ethos both on and off the field.

Not forgetting his footballing roots Malcolm also coached S.E. Durham boys and Trimdon Juniors, who, over the years produced over thirty players who went on to sign professional forms with league clubs, chiefly Middlesbrough. In Dawes's eyes the most distinguished of these was former Pools manager Colin Cooper, who went on to play for Middlesbrough and Notts Forest, as well as gaining a full England cap. Dawes says that having talent is one thing but having the right attitude is essential to be a success in any level in sport, or indeed life itself, particularly if you can learn from your mistakes.

He said that even at a young age both Borthwick and Cooper had that quality in abundance. Dawes was one of the founding members of the first over-forties football team in the Trimdon and Sedgefield area, and which has since grown into a thriving league.

Malcolm carried on playing football until the age of 62. In between he found time to run a cleaning supplies business that served the County Durham and North Yorkshire area. Malcolm is a modest man who, rightly so, is very proud of his footballing career and his achievements and all the opportunities that football and 'soccer' has given him. His memory regarding the games he played in and the players he played with and against is razor sharp.

I asked him who his favourite players were. Stanley Matthews was his all time hero and Blackpool is his second team. Remarkably, throughout his career he never once played at Bloomfield Road or visited the ground as a fan. His favourite players at Pools were team mates Rob and Bob Smith (no relation), Kevin McMahon, Mally Moore and George Potter. Most difficult opponent was Cliffy Wright. He said you could just not get the ball off him.

Malcolm with his Player of the Year trophy
from Workington and Most Valuable player
for New York Cosmos (note in the backround
Malcolm Dawes look-alike holding the
World Cup aloft).
Malcolm has always looked after himself and though now in his early seventies he still looks remarkably spry and lean and probably would not look out of place in the current Pools side! He can still fit into his New York Cosmos training top no problem, some 42 years after he last wore it. I on the other hand struggle to get in to last seasons Pools top!

In his spare time Malcolm and his wife look after 'The Grand Bairns' and between karaoke singing, he can be found on matchday afternoons or evenings down at the Vic watching his beloved Hartlepool United. They say that you should never meet your heroes. I have met one of mine and I was not disappointed.

Malcolm Dawes's career record (or would "Scores on the Dawes" be more appropriate?):
1970-1975Hartlepool United21312
1973-1974(loan) New York Cosmos352
1974-1975(loan) Denver Dynamos192
1975-1977Workington AFC511

Postscript: Let's hope that Hartlepool United do the right thing and honour the likes of Malcolm Dawes, Alan Goad and Barry Watling with replica Player of the Year trophies, particularly as each player played over one hundred games for the club.

*ironically Geoffrey Bayldon, who played Catweazle, died, aged 93, two days before this edition of the Bizz was published - Ed.

Teessiders Go North

BILLY'S CONTRACT on that final home match

The night before the home game against Exeter was like the night before Christmas. Going to bed late, not being able to sleep until the wee small hours then after falling asleep, having to get up to 'wee' in the 'wee' small hours. Then waking up a good hour earlier than usual absolutely 'Cream Crackered'.

The big day had finally arrived, Though without the Christmas presents (Ronnie Moore would deliver these later in the afternoon).

The morning was spent wondering what to wear as the weather could not make up its mind what to do. The club had asked the fans to wear something blue on the day so for a change I thought I would go for one of the striped home shirts. Sadly as I had not worn them for so long they must have shrunk in the wardrobe. I must say that a good number of other middle aged Poolies have experienced this same problem. I really must take issue with the club shop, as this must be a common fault either within the fabrics that they use or some quality control malfunction or other within the manufacturing process.

Mind, an afterthought did occur to me that my hearty breakfast of two stotties filled with black pudding and sausage, as well as three mugs of tea, might have contributed to the problem. Not to be deterred I tried on a few of the other home tops that I have and I could not help but notice that the blue and white stripes on the shirt did look distinctly wavy from just below the chest area down. Obviously not very flattering for those with a fuller figure. To that end, I abandoned all thoughts of the blue and white stripe ensemble and opted for a dark plain colour which would hide a multitude of sins.

So, thinking that it might bring 'Pools some luck I donned the navy away shirt that 'Pools wore at the play off semi final against Tranmere ten years back. Amazing to think that ten/eleven years back Cheltenham Town Tranmere Rovers and 'Pools were battling each other for a play off final place, and on this day all three are all battling each other to stay in the Football League.

I had pre-arranged to meet a group of my ex- work mates (Two Boro fans and two Mags) who travelled over from the far flung parts parts of Teesside to take in the game and lend their support to the 'Poolie Cause. Kev, who had left his home town of Marske in glorious sunshine, wearing a short-sleeved T shirt. could not believe how cold it was in Hartlepool. I told him that he should come and visit us in winter time then he would know what real cold was all about. With that he ordered a hot meal from The Ward Jackson grill."I overheard an Exeter fan on the next table say to his mate that sadly it would probably be many a year before he would see his team play at the Vic again."

As the alcohol began to hit I was starting to become quietly confident of a Pools victory, but as we were quaffing away I overheard an Exeter fan on the next table say to his mate that sadly it would probably be many a year before he would see his team play at the Vic again.

Further discouraging news filtered thought that Carl Boyeson, that most pedantic of all pedantic referees, would be officiating at the match. Then my worse nightmare was confirmed, much to the delight of my Boro mates, that David Mirfin would not be playing and that his place would be taken by Matthew Bates. My son, who a few moments earlier had placed a £20 bet on a 'Pools win, having heard of Bates' inclusion in the side, wished he had not been so hasty in his trip to the bookmakers.

I won't comment too much on the actual match itself here as I am sure it will be covered elsewhere in this issue.

The atmosphere was second to none and The Vic rocked for the full ninety minutes with a vociferous crowd behind the team, unlike the last couple of home games when the crowd became very quiet after a short while, and it was a case of "does the crowd get the team going or does the team get the crowd going?" I think both supporters and players were very - and probably rightly - nervous, and neither really got going!

For the early part of the game I kept telling my mates that I couldn't understand Ronnie Moore's logic in playing Bates, as a fair percentage of Pools' goals-against column is down to his lack of pace and the ability of attacking players to turn him with ease. Dave, one of the Boro lads, who had not seen Bates in the flesh for some time (have a look on the internet Dave!), thought Bates was portly and very slow and could not relate to him being the player that he used to watch in Boro's heyday (Did boro ever have a heyday?)

I had not got the words out of my mouth when Bates gave away a needless corner when he could have shielded the ball out of play from the attacking player. From the resulting corner Bates failed to pick up his man who sent in a header which Scotty Flinders pushed out for another corner. Now re-read the last sentence, but this time the Exeter forward headed the ball firmly past Flinders.

For the next ten minutes Exeter began to throw balls into the box and our back four, particularly Bates, were all over the place, and at that point I genuinely thought that we would be lucky to get a result. Fortunately Exeter seemed to take their foot off the gas and as they say the rest is history.

At one point I was beginning to think that Ronnie's decision of playing Bates was nearly as bad as when Danny Wilson put in Mark Tinkler at centre half in place of the injured Micky Nelson at Rochdale (06/07 season.) Like Bates, Tinks had no pace, and had also been out injured for some time. Rochdale won two-nil, both goals were down to Tinks, and the result would effectively cost 'Pools the title.

I was praying that history would not repeat itself as instead of losing out on silverware we could lose out on our league status. Hopefully. Ronnie would do the right thing: hook Bates at half time and put Neil Austin in at centre half with Duckworth filling in at full back. Thankfully Hugill and Fenwick kept Exeter occupied and took the pressure off our defence for long periods.

Just before half time Kev, in his now wet T shirt is starting to shiver quite violently, and has offered Dave £10 for the loan of his coat. In a matter of seconds the transaction is complete and Kev is wrapped up in Dave's coat and Dave has pocketed the tenner.

Dave in an effort to stay warm himself joins in enthusiastically with the chanting and singing and urging on the boys in blue so much that at the end of the game we have momentarily lost sight of him, until one of the other lads sees him celebrating with the players on the pitch! What is it about 'Pools that can have such an effect on people?

Afterwards, back at The Ward Jackson in West, then at The Highland Laddie and The Red Lion in Norton, we exchanged our post-match thoughts. The four lads loved the day, saying it was great being on the terraces and so close to the play, and that the atmosphere was nothing short of brilliant.

They had to admit that at times the quality of football was a bit rough and ready. and lacked the finesse of the Premiership and The Championship respectively. The thing the lads enjoyed most was the physicality and contact side of the game, and in particular when Scott Fenwick and Exeter's centre half well and truly clattered each other when going up for a high ball. Both of them lay on the ground for a second or two then shook their heads and were up and running again. If that had been in the Premiership they would have been rolling around the pitch in feigned agony for twenty minutes, awaiting the air ambulance or a coroner to arrive on the scene!

All four lads said it was a great day out and were absolutely delighted that Pools had beaten the drop, and they said that without no mistake they will be back next season. ...and so will I.

Postscript My son won £50 on his bet. So all and all not a bad day.