Saturday, 4 July 2020

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Polo Geezer

Bang into my Ralph again. Always been a staple for shirts - for both work and play - but fell out of love with their namesake polos as was often between sizes. However the classic fit large is now perfect and will replace Benetton as my pique of choice - 'carmel pink' and 'wine' the newcomers.

Also a smashing rugger shirt in a striking colourway, which coincidentally the same colours as my home town rugby club Durham City... which counts for nowt as I'm more of a West Hartlepool RFC man.

Finally a superb Stockport Barracuda in aviator navy. Classy bomber jacket for milling round South Manchester for County away. Ivy League for the National League.

Friday, 19 June 2020

2004 Linoflax

Was supposed to be heading up Glasgow today for Euros - tickets for Czech Republic Vs Croatia, doing a bit scouting on England's opposition. Had a nice weekend planned, just me and the eldest son, cheap hotel and rail sourced - typical  it all went south - but sadly need to wait another year.

Spare a thought for the jacket I purchased for the trip, first time in yonks I've bought something for a specific awayday. Felt good. Nice lightweight khaki Linoflax number from 2004 - wonder if it went to Portugal '04?

Monday, 15 June 2020

Saturday, 6 June 2020

Champ Man 97/98 - Best Players

Eleven weeks of lockdown. All that time to kill. For the first time in about 13 years I returned to Football Manager - FM20 handheld to be precise - and its slightly dumbed down, simple engine (compared to PC version) was easy to pick up, enjoyable and most importantly ate up some hours.

Anyway it opened a Pandora's box and got me reminiscing about older CM games with mates on whatsapp. So obviously that got us on to the classic CM97/98 and the players that made it. I thought I'd share with you my tactics/signings to make Hartlepool United a force in late 90s football.

First up a bit of tampering on data editor. Pears, O'Connor, Proctor, Cooper and Walton weren't at the club so were free transferred, and in their place came 1997s real life signings (no transfer window remember?) of Norwegian trio Martin Hollund, Stig Olav Larsen and Jan Ove Pedersen, plus Paul Stephenson from York. No extra cash or reputation, I just liked a bit of realism with proper players. 

Once uploaded most of the squad could be transfer listed bar the data ed players plus Lee, Barron, Howard, Beech and Halliday. Then it's time to get the cheque book out. Here's my top signings for Pools -

Hollund is a top keeper on the game and undisputed number one. Due to the lack of Norwegian custodians he'll often get called up for international duty as Pools rise through the leagues. But we need a capable deputy for cover and there's none better than Anthony Betterton. Available for free, he'd do a job at a higher level too - in reality he was a Swindon YTS releasee who played non league in Wiltshire.
(Whilst searching for him, you'd often see a young freebie keeper called Nicky Byrne who went on to have a career with Westlife)

Johnny Wright. Never comes up on CM forums/chat as a good signing but was always immense for me. Young Norwich releasee who consistently gets seven ratings in division three and due to form usually gets capped for Northern Ireland. Then his value goes up and the big clubs circle.

Andy Duncan & John Curtis. Two United youngsters often available on frees at the start of the game, although Curtis is sometimes harder to attire and you have to bring him on loan. Both rocks at the back and Curtis will go on to captain England.

Can't think of any top LB signings I had, but always strived to bring Poolie hero Rab McKinnon back from Hearts. Gangly ginger Scot with moustache, he was a heart throb with the ladies at the Vic.

Right mid
Phil Mulryne. Another United youngster, often had to bide your time and get him once you'd raise a few bob. Worth every penny as he blossomed in lower leagues and another who'd regularly get called upon by Norn Iron. If I couldn't get him or he signed for someone else, I'd been known to quit and restart - he was such a favourite.

Centre mids
Orients Bjorn Heidenstrom could usually be picked up for £50k and could play at CB too. Fit in well with Pools Scandinavian revolution during that period.
My go to signing though was free transfer Marc Emmers. Veteran Belgian international who was tough tackling, led by example if you gave him the armband and never missed from the penalty spot.

Left mid
Another CM legend  Tommy Larsen from Leeds for about half a mill. Left wasn't his true position but his class shone through. Another Viking joining the Pools and Norses. In real life he was on trial with Hartlepool around 2001 but didn't sign, which was truly heartbreaking.

Centre forwards.
Erik Nevland and Graeme Tomlinson both often come up in conversation, but I had them both and don't remember them setting the world alight. Nevland in particular - I waited about three seasons for his release from United and then he was poor.
My favourite was James Quinn from Blackpool, big target man but would often go for big bucks. With Steve Howard often wanting to leave Pools for bigger club, gave me a few beans to play with and Quinn could be got, the perfect foil for Pedersen.
Another good div three striker was Andrew Mainwaring. Don't panic about the untrendy name, was worth the few quid from 'non league' club - perhaps Walmington's Old Boys? 

So there you have it, a world beating Hartlepool United side from 22 years ago. If only I'd got the job when Mick Tait was sacked.

For further reading on CM97/98 I recommend Dave Blacks excellent website ( and his book (pictured) where he takes control of England at the World Cup 98 to see if he can do better than Hoddle. 

There's also a Quickly Kevin episode dedicated purely to CM97/98 that's excellent. In fact the whole series of the 90s football podcast is superb, so get it listened to if you haven't already.

Durham United

Some old pictures in and around Durham via United busways...