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Hartlepool v West Ham Utd

Filed: Thursday, 22nd January 2009
By: Preview Percy

Cup time again and we visit the North East for the second time in three weeks for the fourth round tie against Hartlepool United.

Since election to what used to be the old Third Division (North) in the 1920s, the Monkey Hangers have never been out of the third and fourth levels of professional football. We’ve never played at those levels and, since we’ve managed to avoid one another in the cups over the years, Saturday’s match marks the first meeting of the two clubs.

Over the years, even the most die-hard Hartlepool supporter would struggle to describe the club’s history as “distinguished”. Back in the old days when the bottom four clubs in the bottom tier sought re-election to the league (as opposed to facing automatic relegation), the first few weeks of the close-season were often a nervous time for supporters of Hartlepools (as they were then known). However, though it appeared that the club were always up for re-election, there were usually worse clubs in the mix each year, even before the League chairmen’s legendary closed-shop mentality was taken into consideration (between 1960 and 1987 when automatic promotion/relegation was introduced only two clubs failed to be re-elected).

Since those days the club has flittered between the bottom two tiers and came within 8 minutes of gaining promotion to the Championship for the first time in Cardiff when, the day before our own promotion on the same ground, they were 2-1 up against Sheffield Wednesday, only for a controversial penalty and red card to save the Owls, who went on to score twice more against the 10-men in extra time.

Perhaps the club’s biggest claim to fame over the years (other than the support of Sky’s Jeff Stelling – whom God preserve) is that it was the first managerial home of Brian Clough who got a couple of respectable seasons out of the team before going onto greater fame at Derby and, later, Nottingham Forest.

The advent of a brand new name on the fixture list has seen the welcome arrival of a few new North Eastern names on the KUMB.com forums to whom I am much indebted for information regarding the current Hartlepool squad – hats off in particular to Mr Creosote for much of what follows:

At the time of writing Hartlepool lie in 12th place in what us old’uns call Division 3. They are safe enough – 9 points clear of the O’s who currently occupy the uppermost relegation spot but are well off the play-off pace, lying some 14 points behind Scunthorpe who are in 6th. Recent form has been mixed with their last six matches providing three wins and three defeats. The wins have come at home to Southend, in the cup against Stoke and, most recently, last Friday where they overcame Northampton. The defeats came against play off contenders Oldham and Scunthorpe and, perhaps more surprisingly, at home to Bottom of the table Crewe to whom they suffered a 4-1 defeat. Of course, from the list of standard things that it is illegal not to mention in a cup match preview, I am obliged to point out that, this being the cup, the form book goes out of the window (though my neighbours are still not talking to me after being hit by so many Percy-launched form books in 2006).

The home side will be under the stewardship of Chris Turner who appears to be there on a sort of interim/caretaker/temporary basis until someone can be persuaded to take over properly. First choice ‘keeper is Adam Lee-Barratt who older readers may remember having a hit in the 70’s with “In A Broken Dream”. The home support aren’t over-enamoured of their custodians – Mr Creosote refers to Lee-Barratt and his Danish rival for the jersey Jan Budtz (stop sniggering at the back there) as a “choice between Krusty The Clown and Coco The Clown”- though he doesn’t actually specify which is which. This worries me slightly - I still shudder at the thought of the aforementioned Mr Clough’s description of Polish no.1 Jan Tomaszewski in similar terms shortly before the shot stopper had the night of his life in the Polish side that drew 1-1 with England in 1973 to stop us qualifying for the following year’s World Cup.

In front of whichever member of Chipperfields Circus (their description not mine!) is between the sticks, the back four lines up with Sweeney on the right, long-serving Humphreys on the left with Collins and Nelson in the middle. Mr C describes the middle pairing as good in the air, not very quick and possessing an inability to “pass wind” which must be a bit uncomfortable for them. McCunnie has been known to fill in on the right apparently and he made an appearance from the bench against Northampton last week.

The midfield, in their preferred 4-4-2 formation, is usually comprised of former Man Utd youngster Ritchie Jones, on the right, Ben Clark and former Mackem Gary Liddle in the middle (ho ho) and Matty Robson out on the left. Robson may be a particular threat according to our friend in the North – having pace described as “unstoppable” and “a great shot”. His crosses do apparently have a habit of leaving the ground though.

Up front will be top scorer Joel Porter, an import from down-under whose early days at Victoria Park were blighted by knee problems. He seems to be something of a favourite up there, and his 15 goals this season in 30 league and cup matches will have had something to do with that. First name on the list to partner Porter (ho ho again) would have been James Brown whose goals get Mr Stelling singing and dancing on Saturday afternoons. Unfortunately for the home side a knee injury picked up in November has brought a premature end to the Godfather Of Soul’s season. The second striker spot is therefore likely to be contested between Michael Mackay and David Foley who, in the words of Mr Creosote are “not very good” and Liam Henderson, who has recently arrived on a 3 month loan deal from Watford.

As for us, well last week’s prediction that we might remain unchanged was written before a certain ungrateful Welsh idiot threw a hissy fit and stormed off to add us to the ever increasing number of clubs that he’s fallen out with. Still if the papers are to be believed we may have nearly doubled our money on an admittedly talented player – dodgy groin and all and I’d dearly lve to believe that the Fonz will be given all the cash to spend. One thing is for sure we do need that sort of player alongside Cole (or Ashton if he ever returns) and it is to be hoped that the names we’re being linked with have Bellamy style pace. In the last round GZ took the opportunity to give outings to a few squad players and we may see the likes of Tomkins, Boa-Morte and Spector at some stage, and possibly another few minutes for Dyer if the game permits.

Predictions? Well for all Mr Creosote’s self-deprecation regarding the Hartlepool squad, this is The Cup which, as page two of the things it’s illegal not to mention list tells us, is a “great leveller”. Small ground, bumper (for them) crowd and the continued high from the dispatch of Stoke in the last round all mean that this is a potential banana-skin (that’s on page 3) of the highest order. Our traditional vulnerability against sides from lower divisions means that there isn’t a Hammer about who won’t heave a sigh of relief should we safely 'negotiate this hurdle' (page 4). We should be too strong but it is with a nervous twitch that I’ll go for a 3-1 to us.

Enjoy the match!

Danger man: Joel Porter – warmed up with a brace against Northampton last weekend. Though the cup “always throws up unlikely heroes” (page 5).

Look out for: Mr Creosote – who deserves a beer as, without him, I’ve had had to do some more research. Just don’t offer him a 'waffer thin' mint!

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

Your Comments

by markmac
12:17PM 24th Jan 2009
''Thought this would be worth a mention - funny as!

H'Angus the Monkey has been elected mayor of Hartlepool in a victory for the mascot of the town's football team.
H'Angus, also known as Stuart Drummond, beat off opposition from the main political parties to land the £53,000-a-year job as local talisman.

The mascot's vote-winning slogan was "free bananas for schoolchildren".

Despite the embarrassment Downing Street insisted that elected mayors were "the way forward".

Hartlepool's residents are famously said to have hanged a monkey during the Napoleonic wars because they thought it was a French spy.

Mr Drummond is well-known in the town for his frolics as mascot for Hartlepool United Football Club, nicknamed the Monkey Hangers by their rivals.

He has been thrown out of two away games, once when he simulated sex with a woman steward in Scunthorpe in 2000 and a year ago for his antics with an inflatable doll at Blackpool.

How the 28-year-old will handle his new responsibilities in running the local council has yet to be seen.

After the victory, he stressed other education policies and youth issues would take precedence over the "free bananas" pledge. He also plans to quit his mascot job.

"I am just a normal guy off the street, listening to the views of the public and I am the voice of the public," he said.

"I haven't got a big party backing me and I have been using the monkey to promote myself, promote my campaign.

"I haven't tried to make a mockery of anybody - I believe that the mayor should be independent, as I am.

"Over 60% of the vote was for an independent, so the public obviously believes that as well. It is just going to be a positive step forward for Hartlepool," he told BBC News 24.

But such serious talk from Mr Drummond failed to put off a newspaper journalist dressed as a gorilla, who chased the new mayor as he posed for photographs at the town's quay.

He declined the reporter's offer of a banana and walked away.

Downing Street appeared to be philosophical over the whole monkey business.

A spokesman said: "It is only to be expected that new faces come to the fore."

But Labour chairman Charles Clarke said the monkey mascot's success was "a serious issue".

The government might have to think again about the system of directly-elected mayors, he said.

While there had been a positive mayoral result in Doncaster, where the Labour candidate won, "the other end of it is the other guy elected in Hartlepool, the one in the monkey suit, who ridicules the whole system", he said.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Obviously we will have to weigh it all up ... but again like all these experiments, they are designed to encourage better ways of looking at local government and that is what we will continue to try to do."

Hartlepool's MP, former Labour cabinet minister Peter Mandelson was among the crowd left watching as euphoria reigned among monkey supporters.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said Mr Drummond's victory in Hartlepool highlighted the shortcomings in the system of directly-elected mayors.

"We were against the idea of directly-elected mayors because we thought they allowed for gimmicks and superficial characters to succeed and we were clearly proved right," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"Populist politics allow for populist solutions and the mayoral idea allows for that above all."

Three more areas - Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire and Hackney in east London - voted in referendums to have their own elected mayors.

The idea was rejected, however, in Oxford.

Voters in six other areas were voting for directly elected mayors.

The Lib Dems notched up the mayoral victory in Watford, while Labour had their candidates elected in Newham and Doncaster and Lewisham.

In Middlesbrough Ray Mallon - dubbed 'Robocop - won against Labour.

And in North Tyneside where Local Government Secretary Stephen Byers cut his political teeth, Conservative Chris Morgan beat off Labour's Eddie Darke to take the Mayor's office by 26,083 votes to 24,531.''

by robin rumble
10:21PM 23rd Jan 2009
''Very good but Ben Clark is the ex-Makem, Gary Liddle is an ex-Smoggie('Boro) player.''

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