Winters World

by Scott Thornberry - 8th December 2009

winters world

After being accused of not having Darlington content in my article my comments last week certainly provoked debate on their message boards!!! This week, apart from an almost inevitable thrashing at Notts County, the main talking point has been the decision not to play Steve Foster. As usual, fans have mixed feelings on this subject.

I first got wind of it at Accrington, earlier in the season, when Toddy was still in charge. Fozzie came across to me pitch side as they were warming up and told me he was sub and the reasons behind it. So, the “problem” with the owners has been apparent for some considerable time.

Personally I think it is disgusting. As some fans have stated, he stayed loyal to the club when he could have walked with everybody else and is entitled to the benefits of his contract. The issue to me is greater than many are making out. The club desperately need experience and Foster at the back has to be a massive help on the pitch to aid the numerous youngsters who are playing at present.

Worrying about next season does suggest that this season is being written off. It looks virtually impossible to fight off relegation at the moment but surely if there is any chance then you have to use your best players!!
What concerns me more is that the feelings appear to be that the club could not afford his wages next season. I believe that many Conference clubs are already paying their players more than Darlo are, and that division is very hard to get out of. If Darlington do in fact go down and cannot pay the going rate for the best players available then the downward trend is almost certain to happen. One thing is for sure they will be unlikely to be able to challenge for promotion. We have seen this season, albeit in one off cup matches, that the standard is equally as good and indeed better than most of Division Two.

The more important aspect of the club’s future does mask over the treatment of an individual. Foster has fought back from injury and is a good loyal player in the twilight years of his career. He deserves to enjoy his last couple of seasons playing football and also protecting the interests of his family. I would, you would, so why shouldn’t he?

I would be very surprised if Steve Staunton stays beyond his contract especially if Darlo are relegated. Would a more sensible move not be to play Fozzie now and try and help the side with a view to him being player/manager next season? That could actually save the club money. Now, he may not be managerial material, but surely it’s another option.

I was woken early on Tuesday by TalkSport to discuss what they believed was a done deal, that extra goal-line officials would be used in the World Cup Finals. I had to say that, after recent events, I thought that it was a good idea.

Surprise, surprise, FIFA have now back-heeled that idea, without explanation.

Wednesday saw the thermals on again for a visit to Catterick races. Around this time of the year, the trainers and owners look to get their Christmas paid for with nice highly priced winners. I was privy to a little bit of info for an 18/1 shot in the first who had been set out to win the race. Unfortunately the jockey did not follow his instructions and whilst finishing like a train had left his move too late and failed to catch the leader who had got a march on his rivals. A nice each way second but it could have, and should have been a lot more.
During the afternoon I received a call stating that for financial reasons the news staff at Radio Hartlepool would be covering the following day’s press conference. That was a pity as I enjoy speaking to Chris and the players and also being able to put the audio on my site for the fans benefit.

Thursday evening saw me with an invite to do a spot at the Northern Echo’s fantastic “Local Hero’s Awards ceremony, unfortunately I was not available having already agreed to finally utilise the voucher I had paid for at the Crab & Lobster in a charity auction for my former radio station’s “ Cash for Kids” appeal. Sometimes the wife has to come first!!

Friday, with no speaking engagements, I was able to have a day at the stables not only to see Ibrox as he prepares for his hurdling debut but also to check out a couple of yearlings that the syndicate may be interested in acquiring. As the day evolved I was approached by ESPN and asked to go to Eastlands on Saturday to sit in the OB vans and do an experiment with video technology whilst Man City were playing Chelsea.

It was my turn to let Radio Hartlepool down at late notice - in fairness they were great about it and happy to let me do some work on the national stage. At least the Poolies fans will not be able to have a go at me during the half time entertainment!!!

A couple of pieces of news came out of the Riverside that absolutely beggar belief and both seem to have been glossed over by the media. The first could only happen at Boro, their loan signing Sean St.Ledger who is to sign permanently in January cannot play the last couple of weeks of the year missing the Newcastle, Scunthorpe and Barnsley games.

The club’s inefficiency in this matter is unbelievable, it is akin to the ill advised decision many years ago not to turn up at Blackburn. The defence is just starting to settle then, through someone’s stupid mistake with the paperwork, Boro will be short of a player and have to switch the defence about.

Heads should roll and I am sure Mr.Lamb needs to weed out the culprit. But then again!!!

Across in marketing, another own goal. Okay the club have to try and do something to stir the imagination and sell some more tickets but before coming out with a scheme you have to think the idea through. I was involved at Darlington when they were looking at schemes a couple of seasons ago. My advice was always not to upset the regular fans, especially the season tickets holders, who cough up their cash pre-season.

No matter what you come up with it will not please everybody, but Boro’s scheme takes the biscuit, with thousands of empty seats unless you have the desire to sit in the same seat every game there does not appear to many advantages of being a season ticket holder. Most fans miss at least one game a season so any discount is usually lost to the majority.

Now if Boro win four games on the bounce, big ask some might say, then those who buy a half season pass will get it free. It probably won’t happen but it’s the principle that annoys people and many may decide not to renew next season.

As supporters were settling down to watch their sides I was driving across to Manchester for the TV game, I will cover my views on the “Video Ref”experiment in my weekly column out later this week on Sporting Preview/my own site and the Evening gazette, in greater detail.

I was listening to the radio and hearing that Steven Gerrard was to make his 500th appearance for Liverpool against ironically Blackburn Rovers the team who he had made his first appearance against as a sub 10 years ago. That made me feel old as I reffed that game back in 1999. Other news was certainly good news, I spoke to my mate Mark Halsey who had just heard that his cancer is in remission.

He has set himself a target of being back in action in February, I hope he makes it. As well as being an excellent ref, he is a top guy, one of the lads, respected and surprisingly for a referee, liked by both players and managers alike. Later on that afternoon Joe Cole was to ask me how Mark was and that typifies the concern those in the game have had for him in recent months.

I suppose that the almost inevitable defeat for Darlington was not the hardest thing to predict, neither was Rangers victory at Falkirk. What surprised me in the latter game was the ridiculous booking for Kris Boyd, the home fans had been giving him some stick so when he scored his first (150 goals in the SPL) he showed a few inches of his very flat stomach. He got a yellow for his troubles, sheer lunacy!!

What was surprising was Boro winning and scoring five goals in the process. Someone was going to get a hiding when Boro took their chances but no-one expected it to be away to QPR. Taking chances was something Hartlepool did very well also, they not only held on to an early lead but built on it and had the game won by half time. All in all not a bad day for the teams I support and cover.

Petulance was once again the order of the day in Chelsea’s defeat at Manchester City and Hamilton v Hibs brought about a bad tempered affair - plenty of topics for conversation in this week’s Villain of the Week column.


I plan to be at Sedgefield races on Tuesday before going to the Riverside to hopefully see Boro build on their win at Loftus Road against a Blackpool side who suffered their first home defeat on Saturday. Thursday lunchtime, I am speaking at a luncheon at the Reebok then on Saturday, weather permitting, Ibrox is due to run at Doncaster. With both Pools and Darlo away down south and Boro not playing till Sunday, it could work out well for me.

Boro have the chance to take revenge on Cardiff and in some way erase some of the memories of the shambolic FA Cup quarter final humiliation of a couple of season ago. After the lunchtime televised game it’s off to Manchester. I am acting as an expert witness in a case at the County Court as a player claims damages for an injury sustained in a game a couple of seasons ago.


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RUMPLESTILTSKIN - 8th December 2009 18:52:21

Notice you didn't finish what you were writing, stopping suddenly - was there a knock at the door? :D

Seriously though you have a point, is there any loyalty at all in this wretched game anymore? :cry:

onewayup - 8th December 2009 18:56:09

no loyalty at all from the club management,fozzie could have gone but stayed loyal but for what ,a kick in the teeth. shame for the lad. :sick:

hullfox - 8th December 2009 20:27:14

Thing is, he couldn't go anywhere else because he was crocked pre season.

AndyPark - 8th December 2009 21:29:47

But he still stayed, along with Miller & Liversedge :D

princebishop - 9th December 2009 08:54:47

Despite a change in ownership the club still seem to operate in an unprofessional manner.

The Foster contract problem should have been rectified once it became apparent. Surely there is a financial solution as opposed to him being handed a one year extension to his current contract - a lump sum in lieu of it? I am sure that both parties have tried to bring it to a mutually beneficial solution, but unfortunately this seems increasing unlikely now. If that is the case I would imagine that the club must have started discussions with regard tearing up his contract, afterall there is no reason to pay Foster if he is not going to be permitted to play.

I think the main problem with this whole incident is the fact that the club are accepting relegation before Christmas and are trying get financially straight for next season. If the club are accepting defeat...why should the public get behind the team and spend £18 to watch utter gash? The very least the fans deserve is for the club to fight against relegation until it is mathematically impossible to escape.

shawry - 9th December 2009 09:51:23

Im actually more annoyed now about the Fozzie contract saga than before, having read that its ok to play him as a sub, as the clause only mentions starts.

divas - 9th December 2009 09:59:25

also explains why he was Todd's fall guy too!