|WINTER'S WORLD FEATURING HARTLEPOOL v SHEFFIELD UNITED
2nd April 2012
My first couple of media interviews of the week were as a result of on-field issues. Firstly the handball detected by referee Lee Mason by Liverpool's Suarez against Wigan Athletic.
He was right to penalise the controversial striker and also to issue a yellow card and to be honest the offence was spotted more by good luck than good management. In a crowded penalty area looking through the back of players the likelihood is that a forward would get away with such cheating just as Thierry Henry did to deny the Irish a World Cup Finals appearance.
On this occasion had that 'goal' have cost Wigan points that could have cost them their Premiership place. So does the penalty of a yellow card really fit the crime? A view expressed to me that I had to agree with was that if a defender is sent off for denying a obvious goal scoring opportunity by handling a goal bound attempt then surely a forward trying to handle the ball to score a goal should face a similar fate! Suarez wheeled away to celebrate the goal so he was guilty of not only handling the ball but also of additional deceit as he tried to convince everyone it was good goal.
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Monday night's football saw a below par performance from Manchester United and the late penalty appeal from Fulham that could have led to the title chasers losing points. Referee Michael Oliver had enjoyed a quiet evening with another accomplished performance. Then in the final minutes Danny Murphy went down when challenged by Michael Carrick.
Slow motion replays showed that the United man had caught the Fulham player and not the ball. Gary Neville again put forward a sensible opinion. The referee watching the direction of the ball after the challenge would have been normally correct in assessing that the defending player had got a touch on the ball which resulted in it being diverted away from Murphy. To give a penalty he would have been guessing.
An honest decision but that didn't stop the conspiracy theorists calling him a 'bottler'. Pathetic!! Passion I agree with but ill-informed biased opinions just show complete ignorance as to what happens on a football pitch.
Tuesday night and after a day's racing at Market Rasen and a visit to the stables I made do with Sunderland v Everton on TV. Sunderland didn't turn up but it was good to see Jelavic playing so well. Same coloured shirt as previous but sadly no longer leading the line and scoring regularly for Rangers.
Another Boro game, another 1-1 draw, but in view of losing their central defenders a very good point. More media work as a result of the post-match punch up at Bradford City. It was like an ice hockey game and the referee did very well to spot main offenders as several players got stuck in. Expect both clubs to pick up substantial fines in due course.
On Wednesday evening Barcelona proved that they are almost human. It wasn't their best performance against AC Milan but they still are something special. I'd settle for Boro or Rangers not scoring every 29 games!
Tuesday morning and Phair Winter leads Lady Ibrox as they enjoy their work.
Thursday and in preparation for a busy weekend I decided to fill the tank. Not exactly an irregular occurrence for me as I usually spend about £100 a week on diesel. My local Tesco had no diesel left and the next nearest was closed altogether. I had to go further afield as I had enough to get me to my gig on Friday but would then have had nothing to get me back.
I queued behind loads of cars, many driven by pensioners. As I approached the till the sweet old lady in front of me paid her £8 to fill up her tank! Other than good manners I would have suggested that she will now be okay for the next three months. The cashier confirmed it had been mayhem. What a country of dickheads we are. If you don't need fuel and don't use it, why fill up and deny those that do? Some people might not be able to get to work, sheer madness.
The radio perhaps explained why everybody was panicking. Now I don't give a damn about politics in the same manner as I don't give a toss about religion, but evidently the Government had suggested that everyone should fill their tanks up to three quarters full. Absolute bollocks, those who need fuel need a full tank, those who don't can survive without filling up at all.
What a country we live in. Sheer madness. I don't believe in strikes, never have and never will. The tanker drivers might have genuine grievances but hurting other people is not the answer. Rant over!
Friday and the FA announced the dates and kick-off times of the FA Cup semi-finals. These people never cease to amaze me. Evidently all interested parties take part in these decisions, well apart from the clubs and the supporters I presume. Mass exodus from Merseyside to be seated in Wembley by 12.30, also assuming Chelsea beat Benfica good to see the FA giving them maximum assistance in preparing for a clash with Barcelona. Of course the TV companies hold the sway as per usual.
Saturday afternoon and a sunny Victoria Park welcomes promotion chasing Sheffield United to face Hartlepool United.
Still a few bitter and twisted individuals continue to contact agents and organisations that book me to try and get them to change their minds. I really wish I had the time to carry out such a hate campaign but then again I would never be so bitter and twisted. Still it gives them purpose in what be otherwise a fairly sad existence!
The latest club to ignore the rants was Kettering FC and on Friday night I did a one man show to help the club. I have previously worked for the new owner twice before at his previous clubs, a good Catholic man, who is like most out there only interested in my ability to entertain and make them money.
It was a one man show with my speech followed by a variety of fund raising activities and a Q & A session. A very enjoyable evening, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and the club made valuable monies to help keep them going.
Anyone interested in booking me to host or speak at their event me can be assured that as well as speaking I will give maximum help to fundraising on the evening with my auctioneering skills, contact me regarding availability by clicking here.
Saturday and with no chance of realistically getting up to Motherwell for noon and despite having never been to their new ground the trip to Brighton did not appeal as I needed to get back home to prepare for my overseas trip, so it was back home and a first chance this year to see Neale Cooper's Hartlepool in action.
Before that though Rangers game at Motherwell had been Sky Plussed. I sat down at 12.50 to watch the noon kick off, fast forwarding through throw-ins, goal kicks and other stoppages. The full game included added time took me 64 minutes to watch, the best part of ten minutes less on average to watching a Premier League game using the same methods.
North of the border the fans are getting less value for their money, not only in terms of quality but also quantity. Rangers' late winner once again has denied the inevitable; Celtic can't win the title in front of their home fans against St Johnstone. Cue possible repeats of last week's moaning, "We were never going to be allowed to win the title in front of our own fans".
Arriving at Victoria Park I got to the press box only to realise that I had left my glasses in the car, then the battery went on my camera. It was going to be one of those afternoons.
I sat with Gary Gill who was looking at players in his role of scout for the Boro. No doubt seventeen year old Luke James would be of interest.
My visits to the Vic usually end controversially and today was to be no exception. TV proved that the winning penalty was harsh and that's an understatement to put it mildly. I don't know what the assistant referee thought he saw but Sam Collins did not foul Ched Evans!!! My report for a local newspaper is as follows:-
"Hartlepool's game with high flying Sheffield United ended in controversy as ten men Pools undeservedly lost to a hotly disputed Ched Evans penalty. The home side gave what was widely acclaimed as their best performance of the season in matching the Blades in every department creating better chances and more chances than their promotion seeking opponents. With the added pace of the returning Luke James and the industry of Ryan Noble Pools were on top from the outset pushing back United. Noble had a goal bound effort blocked in the sixth minute and there was an electric atmosphere helped by the boisterous 1,200 visiting supporters.
"Pools were in charge for the first 25 minutes but United showed how dangerous they could be when Evans broke through but fortunately fired high and wide. United were very physical and the home supporters were annoyed by several robust challenges on Pools front two. Humberside referee Carl Boyeson, who on his last visit to the north-east sent off Boro's Barry Robson in the 2-0 home defeat to Leeds United, was fairly lenient early on but then had two yellow cards within a couple of minutes, one for a rash challenge from Andy Monkhouse suggesting that tempers were getting frayed.
"In the second half the Blades became more of a force but Pools still were creating the better chances. Noble had a shot turned over then the substitute had a header blocked from his first touch. United reciprocated when O'Halloran went close, also with his first involvement after coming off the bench. Flinders appeared to kick the ground as he attempted to kick upfield presenting the substitute with the opportunity which he squandered.
"The game turned on a penalty. Ched Evans and Pools' captain Sam Collins fell backwards to the ground and the referee looked to his assistant who indicated a foul by the defender. Evans picked himself up and powered the spot kick home just to the keeper's left. Fired by the sense of injustice Pools powered forward with Monkhouse Lobbing just wide. Another decision by the main stand assistant saw referee Boyeson have to have words with the Pools manager and his assistant.
"Matters then got worse as following a foul by the already cautioned Peter Hartley the Pools defender reacted in frustration by throwing the ball forcibly to the ground and was shown a second yellow card. With almost the last action of the fourth minute of added time Sweeney hooked a shot wide when he looked odds on to score.
"Post match Pools felt aggrieved, Sam Collins saying he was amazed when the spot kick was awarded. He felt that as he and Evans went for the ball they both fell backwards and he claimed the Blades striker had even expressed his surprise when the penalty was given. He was very disappointed and frustrated as he felt that they deserved at the very least a point. They had played well, matching their lofty opponents in every way, creating more chances and better chances and on another day he felt that they could have won convincingly.
"He feels that Pools are now a much better side, they possess more pace and are a solid unit. He was very pleased with the way they played. He was still in shock with the penalty decision, the Ref seemed to take an age to look at his assistant and now he was just frustrated and it was difficult to accept they had got nothing out of a game where they had given possibly their best performance of the season.
"Looking ahead to the Colchester game, he would have a new central defensive partnership with young Jack Baldwin, he conceded that Peter Hartley was disappointed with himself for getting sent off, purely out of frustration, he had not felt he had committed a foul, merely being stronger than his opponent in the challenge for the ball. Sam had no qualms playing aside the promising young defender. From the day he arrived at the club the senior pros had quickly realised his potential and he certainly is an outstanding prospect and one of the best young players at the club.
"Pools manager Neale Cooper was tremendously proud of his players, stating he had congratulated them all, they had been excellent and Flinders' error apart, he joked, had no complaints with any of his team. He felt defeat was very harsh. United, who he had watched on Wednesday, are an excellent team and he was proud how his side had matched them. He was proud of their outstanding efforts, they had competed all over the park and it was very frustrating not to get something from the game. The supporters had been great and had given the team their total backing throughout. He could ask no more of his players as they had given him everything. He singled out Luke James for his effort after missing seven games through injury. He worked tirelessly and is another outstanding talent who has quickly gained the respect of the senior pros at the club."
Elsewhere Boro drew 1-1 for the fourth game in a row and for the second time this week lost points from a winning position away from home. That meant because of their poorer goal difference they slip out of the play-off places. Easter weekend games against Cardiff and Hull City, who are also faltering, could decide the team's fate.
Boro's dismal showing at the Riverside against struggling Bristol City meant no returns for my Charity bets. I should have gone with the Rangers to beat Celtic!! Nevertheless, thanks to William Hills the monies I have raised so far this season is now £742.49 for the Great North Air Ambulance.
At least I tipped the draw at Brighton increasing the total to £758.49.
Odds are often better online than in the offices. Click here to open an account. This week's predictions will appear on the charity page of this website.
I am off to Spain today for a very brief visit to fulfil an engagement, speaking later on this week in Lancashire then away on a family visit over Easter, so no live football for me over that crucial period.
Enjoy your football.
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