Pools legend Brian Honour gives us his views on England's World Cup exit, Pools' summer transfer business and the anticipation for the new season.
Hello everyone and welcome to my Blog here on the Official Website.
It was really disappointing to see England’s World Cup adventure come to an end on Wednesday night, especially because it feels like to me like a big opportunity missed.
I watched the game at home as I have done with every game during the tournament. To be honest, I didn’t much fancy getting swilled with beer and have plastic glasses thrown off my baldy napper! Haha!
Obviously we are all proud of what they have achieved over in Russia but I was listening to Piers Morgan earlier (and I’m in no way a Piers Morgan fan!) but I agreed with him when he said there can’t be any open top bus tours or processions. They’ve done very well, exceeded expectations and will get pats on the back but they haven’t got medals round their necks.
We had such a good route through the groups and in to the latter stages of the competition I just can’t help but feel disappointed. That’s not trying to be negative because I’m thrilled with what they’ve done.
In the first half on Wednesday night there was only one team in it and we had quite a few chances but in the second half we hardly got a kick and Croatia played very well.
England are a young team though and I think a lot of the credit for the positivity which has built up has got to go to Gareth Southgate. I like the fact we have an Englishman in charge because I’ve read things about Sven and Capello saying they were hardly in the country and only flew in for games and get-togethers. Gareth is visible all the time at games and he’s been a credit to himself and the country – his interviews and media approach has been immaculate, in my opinion.
He’s managed to reconnect the England team with supporters, with the ordinary and working-class people of England. It’s united everybody. A couple of years ago with the players in the squad there was this WAG culture and I think they definitely alienated themselves from the run of the mill supporters. They’re not like that now; they’re a young, very likeable group and the future looks rosey.
Since back in 1988 for every tournament Rob McKinnon and I have had a bit of a ritual going. If England scored I will ring him and then just put the phone down – but he rings me if Scotland scored or if someone scored against England! It’s happened since the Euros in 1988 so last night I rang him early on but then unfortunately I got the two calls from him later on. To be fair, through gritted teeth he did admit they had done well but then added: “But let’s be honest, anyone can beat Tunisia and Panama!” Haha.
I read somewhere earlier that the last time England were in a World Cup semi-final Pools got promotion the following season. I remember that 1990 World Cup really well because I was fighting back from injury at the time and trained through the summer in a bid to get fit and force myself in to Cyril Knowles’ squad. It was Italia 90 which was famous for lots of things, including Gazza’s tears but what England did that year inspired me and I always seemed to have an extra spring in my step the next morning after an England game as I headed off for a run in Castle Eden Dene. Hopefully history repeats itself and Pools can get promotion again this time.
I certainly think things are shaping up well at The Vic. Matthew Bates seems to have brought in some good characters who want to be here for the right reasons so there is some optimism building now. I don’t know a lot about Andrew Davies but I have seen Liam Noble play against us a number of times and he’s always ran the show so it’s quite a scoop for us to bring him here.
I think maybe we have lacked a bit of character in recent seasons. Teams who have come to The Vic have fought and scrapped for everything – you need to do that at any level but particularly in the National League. It’s paramount. I think we have had good players but you need the ones who are going to be up for it on a wet Wednesday night at Barrow – or wherever – and I think we might have more of that now.
I’ve said before I’m not a big fan of pre-season and I pay no attention to results in the games. They can make supporters feel doom and gloom if you lose to a lower league team or you can get over-excited like the year we thumped Manchester United. There is no relevance in terms of the results, it’s all just a means to an end.
I’m coming to the game against Sunderland on Saturday and hopefully there will be a decent crowd along too because it all helps put money in the Club’s coffers. It’s dramatic the way both clubs have dropped in recent years – I think Sunderland were in the Premier League when I started doing the commentaries – but thankfully it looks like there are better days ahead for the them and us.
It will also be good to see The Neale Cooper Stand officially opened at the weekend. I didn’t know Neale during his first spell as manager but got quite close to him when he came back for his second. He was simply a top drawer bloke with an infectious personality – but he also truly cared about the Club and the supporters. He wanted everyone to be happy, not just the players but all the people in the offices and who worked for the Club too. He’s got the stand named after him now and rightly so – and he’s in good company with the great Cyril Knowles.
There is excitement building for the new season now. I know Batesy had a taste of it last season and deserved his shot at the job on a permanent basis. He’s got Ged McNamee alongside him who is a real football man and an excellent coach so I think we can aim high this season. I know lots of people are saying they’d be happy halfway up the table but, in my opinion, we can be better than that.
Anyway, let’s look forward to Saturday’s game with Sunderland – just don’t mention the WAR (wind at Roker…)!
Never Say Die.