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If God had intended me to walk on water... (The Brian Clough Challenge)


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If God had intended me to walk on water he'd have called me Byron Clough

- Randy Wakeman III, 1969-2048

OK, so I decided to give the first challenge of 2005 a go. There’s not a lot to say in terms of background, FM2K5 – running full English setup and nowt else, I’d just started another game in England so I’m cannibalising the save game for this, hence the comments in the opening post.

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If God had intended me to walk on water he'd have called me Byron Clough

- Randy Wakeman III, 1969-2048

OK, so I decided to give the first challenge of 2005 a go. There’s not a lot to say in terms of background, FM2K5 – running full English setup and nowt else, I’d just started another game in England so I’m cannibalising the save game for this, hence the comments in the opening post.

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When Randy Wakeman III walked into the Victoria Park ground in the late summer of 2004 there was much consternation amongst those around the club, not just because of the fact that Hartlepool had changed managers after the pre-season program had begun, but also because he was an American.

“You have to remember that as far as the English were concerned, Americans generally knew very little about football, and when the new boss was a totally unknown American – well the fans were up in arms†Mark Tinkler recalls. Tinkler was a well established part of the Hartlepool side by then, going into his fifth season, he likes to be remembered as the ‘voice of experience and reason’ but he admits that he was among those who doubted the sanity of the chairman “it didn’t help Wakeman’s cause that he shook up the formation of the squad too†he says, looking back “he came in with this idea of playing a bastárdised wingback system that immediately meant a couple of well known players found themselves on the transfer listâ€

As well as uncertainty from the players, and a reaction from the fans that went from quiet interest to outright hostility, Wakeman also faced financial problems. The previous regime had built a squad that was drawing wages at a level a little more than ten percent higher than the board’s budget, and as for transfer funds – they were as good as non-existent.

Monetary problems had been a significant part of the English game for a few years by then, and an article from a Hartlepool fanzine refers to the fact that ‘…the new manager will have to be looking to cut the wage bill and offload some deadwood, particularly with the outstanding bank loan taking chunks of our income’. All in all there seemed to be little doubt that it was going to be a period of change for the people of Hartlepool, players and fans alike.

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Tinkler recalls the first few days under Wakeman fondly “every player just wants to win football matches†he wrote in a diary that he was keeping for the club website “and we wrapped up the pre-season with two wins, scoring four in both, one home and one awayâ€. The midfielder particularly remembers the trip to Lincoln City, even talking fifty years later he clearly recalls the hat-trick that assured Adam Boyd of his place in the starting eleven for the season’s opener “Adam was a good kid, he’d already been with the club for five seasons and he was still only twenty-two. Most of us thought that he had a bright future, and that day he smashed home three goals from outside the area. Wakeman loved him from that moment onâ€

With the season due to kick off at Barnsley, Wakeman – who was known to be looking for new coaching staff – had effectively selected his playing squad for the season already. It wasn’t a particularly young team, Darren Craddock was the only teenager in the line-up because Wakeman had acknowledged that, as a newcomer to the English game, he would have to rely on the experience of established players to help him get a foothold.

Adam Boyd still has a copy of the team-sheet from the game against Barnsley “I’d already played something like seventy games for 'Pool†he says “but Randy was the first manager to make me feel like a first-choice player, he effectively gave me the platform from which to launch my careerâ€. The list reads; Jim Provett; Chris Westwood, Darren Craddock, Michael Nelson; Hugh Robertson and Jack Ross as wingbacks; Tinkler and Strachan; Richie Humphreys; and up front Boyd and Joe Porter. Porter was in the squad following an injury to Andy Appleby, who was among the names on the bench, but he was under no illusions about his role, “Joe knew that he was putting himself in the shop window, whilst I was about to embark on my career with ‘Pool, he knew that he was one of a half-dozen names on the transfer list, in fact he’d already been made available even before Wakeman arrivedâ€

Every player on that list had been with Hartlepool since at least the previous winter, with the exception of Ross, Wakeman’s predecessor had made just the one signing in the summer and, with the financials the way they were, the new man had elected not to start adding to that just yet. Michael Barron, the longest serving member of the squad, was suffering from a long-term injury when the season kicked off, “I’d managed to strain my groin in before the pre-season and it was incredibly frustrating to be forced to watch the new squad taking shape from the sidelines. All footballers are creatures of confidence and superstition, the natural reaction was to spend my days wondering if I was going to find myself out in the coldâ€.

On Saturday August 7th 2004 Randy Wakeman III led his team into the footballing heartland of Yorkshire to embark on what would be a remarkable career one way or another, with the press raising eyebrows at his pedigree, and the fans at his nationality, he stood tall and took it like a man.

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cheers PM, I thank an unnamed author whose work I've been reading recently and whose style provided the inspiration for this retrospective

Wakeman’s early results were received with raised eyebrows by the sporting press in England, many put it down to a peculiar phenomenon known as ‘new manager syndrome’ which, like most other people involved in the game, Mark Tinkler knew all about. “Nobody has ever really given me a good reason for why the new manager thing happens, but it does seem to be far more common than probability alone would account for, was it new manager syndrome that was working for us though? I don’t think so, when you look at what Wakeman did he was actually pretty astute, he’d looked at the squad and decided what would best suit the players he had available to him and the early results reflected thatâ€

After an unusual start to the season, back-to-back games away from home, the Monkey Hangers [see Appendix A – club nicknames] were already riding a wave of confidence. Barnsley and Wrexham had both been beaten without a goal conceded, and then the early pace-setters – Hull City – had come to Victoria Park for Wakeman’s home debut. “Gavin Strachan scored the winner that day, he was a popular lad but then it was hard not to like a Strachan, and his free-kick was worthy of winning any gameâ€.

Tinkler refers to Strachan’s popularity which the Scotsman himself has always put down to one thing, “you have to remember that my Dad was probably one of the most popular names in the game back at the turn of the century, even after he’d announced his retirement from management there were plenty who refused to believe that he wouldn’t make a comeback. I dislike those people who say that my entire career was built on the back of his name – I was a player because of my ability and my desire to be one – but I’ve never denied that my name helped to make it easier for me to be acceptedâ€. Strachan’s free-kick against Hull took Hartlepool into an early second place in the table behind Sheffield Wednesday and he knew what it meant to the fans, “to get a good start to the season was one of the most important things that we could have done, it gave us confidence, and more importantly it gave the boss some breathing space. When Randy first came to the club there were many disapproving voices but they were fading already and those supporters who were less entrenched in pessimism were already starting to predict great thingsâ€.

One of Wakeman’s most endearing features in his years as a manager was his propensity for sound bites, he was always comfortable talking to the press but possessed the ability to make mistakes, almost at will, without knowing it - some actually suggested that they were not mistakes at all. Following the Hull game one correspondent asked for his views on the Hartlepool fans’ sudden turnaround in opinion, his response was from the heart and immediately won him even more followers; “I’m just happy to be winning games, but I just hope that the fans aren’t expecting me to be the next Alice Ferguson†he told the world.

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<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>

INJURIES CAST SHADOW OVER FIGHTBACK

Sunday Sun, Sunday 22nd August 2004

Hartlepool climbed to the top of League One yesterday with an Adam Boyd inspired fightback over Swindon Town, but injury worries are the main talk of the town as both Richie Humphreys and Mark Tinkler had to leave the field of play in the last ten minutes. We understand that Humphreys, suffering from an elbow injury, should be available for the next league game but will miss the cup tie with Rotherham, as for Tinkler the news is not so positive. John Murray, the club Physio, reports that the midfielder suffered a sprained ankle in the challenge that left him on the floor, and Pool down to ten men with all of their subs already used – he isn’t expected to play for the four to five weeks and speculation is that Randy Wakeman III will be looking to make a short term loan signing to provide cover.

It should have been a much cheerier occasion at Victoria Park, after Grant Smith’s headed opener gave Swindon the lead it was all ‘Pool and a Boyd brace gave Wakeman’s side their fourth consecutive win – the only perfect record in the league. Boyd’s first came on the stroke of half time, a powerful shot from the edge of the area after a cross-field ball from Ross had allowed Robertson the freedom to supply him, his second was almost a carbon copy strike after Appleby found him lurking in the second half.

Wakeman can now take the team into the first round of the League Cup riding a wave of confidence, but with Rotherham starting well in the Championship it will be no cakewalk, especially with Tinkler and Humphreys absent.

<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

The injury meant a spell on the sidelines for Tinkler and he was less than happy about the situation “we’d got off to the best possible start and of course you want to be playing when confidence is that high. We didn’t have a lot of depth in the squad, certainly not for my position, and I think it was Antony Sweeney who got called up from the reserves but Wakeman was already looking at optionsâ€.

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The first arrival of the Wakeman era at Victoria Park was Paul Crichton, “It was a strange feeling, there I was coaching at Leigh RMI and suddenly this American guy, who nobody had even heard of six months before, is on the phone offering me a job. Well I jumped at the chance and the first game I got to see was that League Cup affair, and that was a great gameâ€. Wakeman had identified that the coaching staff needed a boost consisting, as it did, of one coach plus his assistant. He saw Crichton as a promising young talent in the field and spent much of his transfer budget to bring him on board. The League Cup game that Crichton refers to was the clash with Rotherham, a match that Gavin Strachan remembers particularly well.

“I was so relieved when it was all over, I think I went through every emotion in the book that day. Scoring against opposition from the next league up, especially just five minutes in, that was something special but then it all looked like going pear shaped for me. We let them back into the game and you can’t afford to do that with quality opposition, but we somehow had it level again by half-time and then I go and hit probably the worst penalty of my career – I don’t know what to say, I mean my legs were shaking and the keeper obviously knew where I was going to put it even before I hit the ball. I’m just glad that I didn’t mess up the one in the shoot-out, but I don’t think it would have mattered if I had, Jimmy Provett was on such a high – he’d just got a call-up to the England Under-21’s – and he saved two of their kicks before someone blazed another over the barâ€

“It was hardly like getting into the latter stages of the FA Cup or anything, but to have got past Rotherham was still a big deal†Mark Tinkler had watched the game from the stands and had been impressed by the spirit of the squad, and the animated way in which Wakeman directed his team from the sidelines, “I don’t think that anyone could question his commitment or his desire back then, even as an unknown quantity, he was quickly becoming a fans favourite for his enthusiasm and outspoken nature if nothing elseâ€.

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The League Cup was about to provide something much bigger for the Hartlepool fans to celebrate though, after three further victories in the league – and a first ‘Manager of the Month’ award for Wakeman – there was another thriller of a game and a huge boost in the subsequent draw.

“It was almost the opposite of the Rotherham game†Gavin Strachan recalls “Blackpool got the lead but then it was us that overhauled them in front of their fans and with ten minutes to play we went in front. We really should have been able to defend that lead but we’d lost Chris (Westwood) early on and we had to make do with a bit of a makeshift defence, when Blackpool pulled it level we were looking at another extra-time gameâ€. Fate was smiling on Wakeman’s side though, with the American hollering instructions from the sideline Adam Boyd broke into the box and was pulled down by Sasa Ilic, Blackpool’s much travelled goalkeeper “It’s never nice to see someone sent off so late in a game but rules are rules and Sasa knew the chance that he was taking. The Blackpool boss (Colin Hendry) had used all of his substitutes so I think it was Scottie Taylor who had to face me, after having one saved against Rotherham that made my job a lot easier but I still felt bad for Sasa when I put us throughâ€

Mark Tinkler had mixed feelings when the draw was made, he was just returning to full fitness but had seen his place taken by Ben Webster, a teenage midfielder on loan from Newcastle United, “When our name came out of the hat there was almost total silence in the players lounge†Tinkler wrote in his website journal “and when Middlesbrough followed it the roof nearly came down. Mind you, I’m not entirely sure where I’ll stand for selection, Ben Webster has played my position for the last three games now and he looks quite a talent, and he’s already said that he’d be keen to look at a permanent move when his loan expires. All I can do is get back into training and fight for my placeâ€.

The prospect of a north-east derby was a mouth-watering one for the Hartlepool fans, with Boro just a few miles down the river Tees there would be plenty of opportunity for local rivalries. It’s a fact of life that towns with a small football club will see a lot of their local support siphoned off by bigger neighbours and Wakeman was about to experience the real passion of English fans in all it’s glory.

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The run up to the big game produced mixed results for Wakeman’s Hartlepool, the press put it down to the bubble bursting, suggesting that a slide might well follow, but Michael Barron has other ideas, “The draw was great for us, but it was a double edged sword. I came back into the squad shortly after the first defeat of the season – a last minute one-nil at Oldham – and it was clear that the cup game was on a lot of minds. We had a lot of local lads in the side; I was born in Chester-le-Street, there was Jimmy Provett – he was from Stockton, Tinks (Mark Tinkler) and Darren Craddock were both Bishop Auckland lads, and the list went on. When Boro came out of that hat there wasn’t one of us that wanted to miss that game, now I’m not suggesting that we started to take it easy but it was understandable that not everyone was going into every challenge fully committed. We’d seen Strach (Gavin Strachan) get crocked in the Blackpool league game and none of us wanted to go the same wayâ€.

For his part Wakeman took the brief slump in his stride, in his program notes for the visit of Port Vale he wrote, “It’s true that we’ve suffered a couple of defeats but both of those were hard fought games, and we can’t lose sight of the fitness issue either – we don’t have the depths of the Chelseas and Arsenals of this world and, we certainly don’t have the facilities. We’ve played two extra-time games in the last few weeks, it was nearly three, and for a squad the size of ours that’s not to be sniffed at. When we play tonight we will attempt to repeat Saturday’s win over Bradford but you, the fans, need to understand that I am not Arsene Wagner (sic) and we won’t be going through the season without the odd defeat here and thereâ€

“He always seems to know what to say to keep us grounded, but at the same time push us to our limits†Tinkler wrote in his web journal after the trip to Walsall, “that’s three wins again and we’re all up for the cup now. Gavin will miss it, that’s a real blow for him but it means that Webster and I will definitely start and if McClaren (Steve – the then Middlesbrough manager) decides to give the youngsters a run then we might be in with a chanceâ€

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The game against Middlesbrough was a turning point for Wakeman, a fact that he only revealed some years later when he made an appearance on the BBC’s ‘McPartlin’ chat show, “Many people seem to think that I came to England determined to be a top class soccer manager, but in all honesty I would’ve been happy enough with staying in the lower rungs of the ladder back then, or so I thought until that game. Sitting in the dugout watching the likes of Mendieta, Hasselbaink, and Downing run us into the ground, that’s when I knew that I wanted work my way up to the highest levelâ€.

“You can imagine the effect it had on us†Barron remembers “when they posted the team sheets and it was obvious that we were facing most of their first team. In all fairness we had our chances, probably not enough to win it but at least we didn’t disgrace ourselves. When I was asked to take the penalty I was terrified, we were only one down at that point, thankfully I hit it well and got us level but we were under no illusionsâ€. Others have similar memories of that game.

“I don’t think anyone played a particularly bad game, I was certainly happy with my performance, but I think Jimmy Provett was immense even if he did concede three†says Mark Tinkler when asked about his team-mates, “actually that might have been what prompted him to come out in the press and say that he wanted to move to a bigger club. There were managers that would have reacted badly to that but Randy didn’t, he just made a mental note of it and stored it for when he needed it. As for the rest of us, Andy (Appleby) was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet and the back line were pretty impressive too - everyone remembers the incident when Chris Westwood threw himself in front of Hasselbaink’s free-kick. I don’t think I ever saw a player who hit the ball harder than Jimmy, there was some German chap at Villa who had a hell of a left foot (Thomas Hitzlsperger) – and Roberto Carlos used to put some venom into his shots, but for my money Jimmy hit it harder. Anyway he steps up and Mendieta touches the free-kick to him, that touch meant we could charge Jimmy down but he took no notice and hit it as hard as he could, I swear he nearly took Westy’s head off. He claimed that the ringing in his ears didn’t stop for four days and he must have been millimetres away from a broken noseâ€.

Adam Boyd couldn’t hide his disappointment at his own performance, having returned six goals in twelve games the home-town hero was substituted in the game, “I have no regrets about the game, I just wish I’d been able to make more of an impact, but in all honesty Southgate had me in his pocket from the off. I was still young back then, and I wasn’t the strongest player in the world, Southgate just muscled me out of it – simple as that. Joe (Joel Porter) had more joy when he came on for me, maybe because he had fresher legs, but he couldn’t find the finish. One thing was certain though, we all wanted more chances for that sort of game and we’d already decided that Randy could give us those chancesâ€

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Boyd actually found himself out of the starting line-up in the games after the League Cup clash, “Everyone told me I’d done alright in that game but I knew I could do better, I struggled in the league defeat to Bristol City and the Vans trophy tie – the third game against Blackpool in a little over a month, and Randy decided to give Joe (Joel Porter) my place for the Brentford game. Watching him hit a hat-trick, and then hearing that the gaffer had taken him off the transfer list, I knew that I had a fight on my hands to get back into the reckoning for the FA Cup game, and my appearance off the bench did little to brighten our defeat to Wednesday (Sheffield)â€.

The cup match that Boyd refers to was the first round tie in the famous trophy, and it seemed to the Hartlepool faithful that someone was out to test Wakeman’s capacity for pressure games when they were drawn at home to arch-rivals Darlington.

“A cup run was just what we needed too,†Wakeman admitted in his season retrospective on the club’s website, “with the coaching staff I’ve brought in, and the loan deal, we were pushing the limits when it came to the bank balance, that was my motivation for beating Darlo, the players didn’t need one of courseâ€.

Boyd did in fact make the squad that faced Darlington on a cold and wet Saturday afternoon, “Porter was called up for international duty with Australia,†he says with a smile when reminded of the day, “Randy decided to give me the start alongside Eifion Williams, I think he wanted to keep Andy (Appleby) fresh for the league to be honest, but we weren’t about to complain about his reasons. I really enjoyed the game, we all did in fact, two-nil up and playing against ten men is a great feeling after fifteen minutes, the only shame was that it was Eifion doing the scoring and not me, but it still did wonders for my confidenceâ€

Whilst it may have helped the young striker, the win did nothing to improve the squad situation as Wakeman was forced to deal with injuries to Michael Barron and Darrell Clarke, the latter being ruled out for three months.

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Fitness issues continued to cause problems in the early days of Wakeman’s career, but some relief was at hand when a loan deal was finally thrashed out for Sunderland’s Jeff Whitley to join Hartlepool for three months, “Whilst nobody wants to lose their spot, it’s good just to know that we have the necessary backup available,†Mark Tinkler wrote in his web journal when the news was announced, “we’ve got a couple of cup games coming up and we seem to have developed a knack for taking them to extra time, it’s been a long time since we’ve had a squad that was at one hundred percent for a gameâ€

“Nobody liked extra time†he says now, looking back “but there was no other way to settle games unless through a replay and then extra time, so it was important for us to get the LDV Vans game out of the way in ninety minutes. We’d come off the FA Cup game only to take a beating at Tranmere, then we limped past the MK Dons – that was a sign of how tough we were finding it physically, the Dons were a laughing stock but they came close to beating us on the dayâ€. Hartlepool did get through the LDV game in normal time, the records show a straight forward two goal win, before coming to what Wakeman described as ‘the most important game of the season’. The FA Cup had seen them drawn at home to opposition from the then National Conference, Tinkler and his team-mates knew that there was potential for an upset. “To a team like Stevenage the second round of the cup was a huge affair and history shows that the minnows frequently produce surprises, but to us it was a matter of ‘must win’ – if you make it to the third round then the big boys go into the draw. For us that meant the possibility of testing yourself against the best, as we did with Boro, for the club it could mean a huge pay day, that’s why the third round draw is one of the biggest days in the football calendarâ€

Adam Boyd scored the second goal in Hartlepool’s win and felt that he’d turned something of a corner, in an interview for the local paper he said, “It’s been a while since I’ve scored, six weeks or so I think, and I’m hoping that this will put me back amongst the goals again. I’m a confidence player and I need to be scoring to play well, I recognise that and that’s why I’ve been on the bench recentlyâ€. Looking back he still carries that same feeling, “It was the same for any striker, when you’re not producing goals you feel like you’re letting the side down, to come off the bench and get that goal gave me a lift and made me determined to get back into the starting line-up, although I did have a feeling in the back of my mind that maybe the way we played just didn't suit me. Our league form was mixed, we were still top but we were either winning comfortably or taking a beating and the top of the table was getting very, very tightâ€.

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<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">

| Pos | Inf | Team | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D. | Pts |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 1st | | Hartlepool | 17 | 12 | 0 | 5 | 27 | 18 | +9 | 36 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 2nd | | Bournemouth | 18 | 11 | 3 | 4 | 28 | 21 | +7 | 36 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 3rd | | Sheff Wed | 18 | 10 | 5 | 3 | 32 | 13 | +19 | 35 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4th | | Luton | 18 | 11 | 2 | 5 | 23 | 22 | +1 | 35 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 5th | | Tranmere | 18 | 10 | 4 | 4 | 27 | 17 | +10 | 34 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 6th | | Hull | 18 | 9 | 6 | 3 | 27 | 11 | +16 | 33 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 7th | | Barnsley | 18 | 10 | 3 | 5 | 22 | 11 | +11 | 33 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 8th | | Torquay | 18 | 9 | 4 | 5 | 30 | 25 | +5 | 31 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 9th | | Oldham | 18 | 10 | 1 | 7 | 19 | 15 | +4 | 31 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 10th | | Bristol C | 18 | 8 | 4 | 6 | 31 | 19 | +12 | 28 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 11th | | Swindon | 18 | 6 | 6 | 6 | 20 | 21 | -1 | 24 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 12th | | Peterborough | 17 | 7 | 3 | 7 | 29 | 33 | -4 | 24 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 13th | | Bradford City | 18 | 7 | 2 | 9 | 24 | 22 | +2 | 23 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 14th | | Colchester | 18 | 5 | 7 | 6 | 27 | 25 | +2 | 22 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 15th | | Port Vale | 18 | 6 | 4 | 8 | 17 | 22 | -5 | 22 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 16th | | Huddersfield | 18 | 6 | 3 | 9 | 20 | 22 | -2 | 21 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 17th | | Blackpool | 18 | 4 | 9 | 5 | 25 | 28 | -3 | 21 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 18th | | Doncaster | 18 | 6 | 2 | 10 | 24 | 35 | -11 | 20 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 19th | | Stockport | 17 | 5 | 3 | 9 | 15 | 26 | -11 | 18 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 20th | | MK Dons | 18 | 4 | 5 | 9 | 10 | 18 | -8 | 17 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 21st | | Brentford | 17 | 4 | 3 | 10 | 23 | 33 | -10 | 15 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 22nd | | Chesterfield | 17 | 3 | 4 | 10 | 11 | 27 | -16 | 13 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 23rd | | Walsall | 18 | 2 | 4 | 12 | 11 | 23 | -12 | 10 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 24th | | Wrexham | 17 | 0 | 9 | 8 | 11 | 26 | -15 | 9 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

</pre>

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Thanks Pierroth, I'm really surprised at how much some people are struggling with the FM2005 incarnation of Hartlepool, and how many changes they've made to what I saw as a fairly decent squad

Gavin Strachan remembers the draw for the cup vividly, “Back then they used to make the draw right after the last games of the round, for us that meant a wait of twenty-four hours whilst the final matches were played out. Randy gathered us all at the training ground to see the draw on the BBC, Tinks had got hold of a list of all the teams in the draw and was ticking them off as the balls came out. There were still a hell of a lot of teams in at that stage and the draw seemed to take for ever, one or two of the youngsters began to wonder if we’d been missed out but Tinks was getting a glint in his eyeâ€

“I was ticking the names off,†the midfielder recalls, “and as it got down to the last ten or so there were still four Premiership teams in the draw, and still we didn’t get pulled out, when it got down to us and three Premiership sides we knew we had a huge game on whatever happened, but we really didn’t want Man United. As it turned out we got a decent draw, United were drawn at Norwich and we got an away tie with Everton – we were the very last name out of the draw. The atmosphere over Christmas was bound to be electricâ€

Although they’d only been playing for Wakeman for five months the squad, as a whole, had already developed an affinity for him and his enthusiasm at the draw did nothing to lessen this. “Looking back it’s no surprise how quickly we warmed to him,†Tinkler echoes the views of all those that I have spoken to, “he was just an incredibly enthusiastic individual, he had a kind of infectious personality and he was very much an English manager too. When he’d first arrived there’d been plenty of doubts, mainly wondering what his style would be. Some of the lads were worried that he’d be a stereotypical American, all pep talks and motivational speakers, but he was very down to earth. He knew he was good though, and he never hid his light under a bushelâ€

“I think the simple truth was that he was supremely confident of his own abilities, he didn’t need to bring in power talkers because he believed, one hundred percent, in his ability to motivate us himself, and that certainly came across in the month or so leading up to the third round game†Adam Boyd adds, when asked about the manager’s style. “He turned round to me and said ‘Adam, we’re going to turn you into a quality player’ and there wasn’t the slightest hint of doubt in his face, I know that if I’d have voiced the doubts that I was feeling, he would simply have told me that I was flat out wrong. It was a good job we had that motivation though, because we really got hit hard with injuries and disciplinary issuesâ€

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Cheers Brian, the style has been 'borrowed' from a book I recently read but I have to admit this is turning out a little more dialogue heavy, not that it's a bad thing.

The cup game is importnat financially, but a result would be nice too icon_wink.gif

As for the table, tight isn't the word, a couple of losses could be disastrous......

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“As soon as I was declared fit to play I was back in the matchday squad,†Gavin Strachan says of his injury, “and half an hour into the game I was brought on to play, on the left. That’s how difficult we had it coming up to Christmas, the English Christmas schedule has always been ridiculous, especially for the lower leagues. We were coming off the pitch after every game and John, the Physio, would give Randy a list of players who needed a rest.â€

It was no secret that Wakeman wanted to bring in more players, add depth to the squad, but he felt bound by the wage budget which was already being broken. In an early interview he made specific reference to the financial issues and said how he was determined to not push the boundaries any further, it might have been a sign of unwillingness to be confrontational with the board although that was never a facet of his later career.

“Things actually started off okay over that period, a couple of home wins had us looking very good but then we got thumped at Bournemouth, when we followed that up with a home defeat to the bottom side – losing to a penalty in the first minute – some of the fans started to fear what the press had suggested earlier in the season, that we were going into the predicted slump. To be honest Christmas was pretty much forgotten for most of us, it was just an endless slog of games and we did start to drop down the table, not a happy time at all†says Tinkler.

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<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by LongTimeComing:

Hi, ahm Randy Wakeman the thurd, and this is Baston Gowls <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Busted! icon_biggrin.gif

...and PM, I'm using 3 DC's, 2 wingbacks, and a flat 3-man midfield out of which one pushes up behind two strikers. I think part of the reason for the lack of draws is a habit I have of either shutting the door or chasing the game in the last 15 minutes, depending on the score at the time

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if you insist...... icon_wink.gif

In December Hartlepool had played seven league games in a little over three weeks, they’d dropped from the top of the table to fourth place and on New Year’s Day they travelled to Hull – who were fifth – knowing that they could drop out of the play-off spots. They were without Boyd and Webster, and Gavin Strachan was played on the bench despite carrying a injured shin from the home game against Wrexham – another game where points had been dropped to a side at the bottom of the table. Ninety minutes later, and five games without a win, Wakeman’s side had swapped places with their hosts.

“Whilst Randy seemed sure that we would turn things around, most of us were starting to worry by then,†Tinkler recalls, “We’d played five games and only scored in one of them, and that was an own goal. The Luton game turned all that around but probably gave Randy a real headache too, with Andy (Appleby) grabbing a hat-trick like thatâ€.

On January 3rd 2005 Hartlepool played host to Luton Town and a four-two win propelled them right back into contention for the top spot. Andrew Appleby got three of the goals, Joel Porter one, and there was a feeling of unease around the town. When the transfer window had opened there’d been a lot of speculation about Appleby following an alleged approach from Portsmouth, the team then enjoying a mid-table slot in the Premier League. The press had carried stories of Portsmouth’s enquiry along with a brief statement from Wakeman to the effect that no decent transfer offers would go unconsidered. For the teenager it was an exciting time.

“That hat-trick took me to something like sixteen goals for the season and I admit that I was probably lifted by the interest of Pompey, I was perfectly happy at ‘Pool – even with the problems we’d played ourselves into – but the prospect of signing for a Premiership side was enough to excite anyone. Wakeman took me to one side to discuss things when an official approach was made, he told me that Harry Redknapp had enquired about my price and that he intended to suggest a figure, but he made it clear that his decision was no reflection on me as a player. I think it must have been a really tough situation for him, on the one hand he didn’t want to let me go on the cheap, but on the other even a few hundred thousand would have done wonders for the club’s finances.†The records don’t show what figure Wakeman gave to Portsmouth, but from articles in the press it’s clear that their interest cooled and this can only have been down to the price. For the time being Appleby would remain at Victoria Park, and Wakeman would keep balancing the books.

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On Saturday January 8th, FA Cup third round day, Randy Wakeman III got his first taste of playing on a big stage as he led his side out in front of nearly 32,000 fans at Goodison Park. Quite aside from the financial windfall of the game, which would have been a very welcome boost, the pure theatre of the occasion was certainly not lost on the American.

“When he went through the team sheet for the cup game you could see a light in his eyes, like an excited kid†says Gavin Strachan, who went closest to scoring for Hartlepool, “He’d done his homework and he knew that Everton were in a pretty terrible run of form, we actually came close to surprising them but I have to say that they deserved the win. They created a shed-load of chances and Jimmy Provett was on top form, Gravesen’s effort was the only one to get past us, if I’d managed to put my free-kick a couple of feet to the right then we’d have earned a replay on home turf and who knows what would have happened then. Still, it seemed to help our form, after that we went three straight games without defeat, we were unlucky not to grab a late winner at home to Barnsley, then we went to Swindon and Huddersfield and took four points – no small thing with our main scorer outâ€

Strachan makes reference to Andrew Appleby’s fractured jaw, suffered in the Barnsley game. With sixteen goals to his name Appleby was the primary threat in the ‘Pool front line, especially as Boyd had started to misfire once more. “What can I say? I just wasn’t in form, but through that whole time the gaffer never lost enough faith in me that I was dropped from the squad. Six weeks might not sound a long time to go without scoring but remember that this was the Christmas and New Year period, I’d not put the ball away I nine games before the Swindon trip.â€

As always seemed to be the case however, the run of form didn’t come without a price. Hugh Robertson suffered a lengthy injury during the Huddersfield game, and with John Brackstone already out Wakeman was left without a left-sided defender for at least the next four games, starting with their LDV Vans regional semi-final.

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<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">

| Pos | Inf | Team | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D. | Pts |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 1st | | Hull | 29 | 15 | 8 | 6 | 47 | 26 | +21 | 53 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 2nd | | Bristol C | 29 | 15 | 6 | 8 | 49 | 28 | +21 | 51 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 3rd | | Hartlepool | 28 | 16 | 3 | 9 | 41 | 30 | +11 | 51 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4th | | Sheff Wed | 27 | 14 | 8 | 5 | 46 | 22 | +24 | 50 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 5th | | Torquay | 28 | 14 | 6 | 8 | 47 | 40 | +7 | 48 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 6th | | Oldham | 28 | 15 | 3 | 10 | 32 | 25 | +7 | 48 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 7th | | Colchester | 29 | 11 | 12 | 6 | 46 | 36 | +10 | 45 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 8th | | Barnsley | 29 | 12 | 8 | 9 | 31 | 24 | +7 | 44 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 9th | | Tranmere | 29 | 12 | 8 | 9 | 43 | 37 | +6 | 44 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 10th | | Bournemouth | 28 | 13 | 5 | 10 | 41 | 39 | +2 | 44 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 11th | | Swindon | 28 | 12 | 7 | 9 | 36 | 31 | +5 | 43 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 12th | | Luton | 28 | 12 | 7 | 9 | 35 | 40 | -5 | 43 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 13th | | Peterborough | 28 | 10 | 8 | 10 | 41 | 46 | -5 | 38 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 14th | | Blackpool | 29 | 8 | 13 | 8 | 42 | 40 | +2 | 37 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 15th | | Huddersfield | 29 | 10 | 5 | 14 | 27 | 33 | -6 | 35 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 16th | | Stockport | 29 | 10 | 5 | 14 | 29 | 40 | -11 | 35 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 17th | | Bradford City | 27 | 10 | 4 | 13 | 38 | 37 | +1 | 34 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 18th | | Doncaster | 28 | 9 | 5 | 14 | 40 | 54 | -14 | 32 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 19th | | Brentford | 29 | 8 | 6 | 15 | 44 | 51 | -7 | 30 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 20th | | Walsall | 29 | 8 | 6 | 15 | 25 | 35 | -10 | 30 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 21st | | Port Vale | 29 | 7 | 9 | 13 | 29 | 43 | -14 | 30 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 22nd | | MK Dons | 29 | 5 | 10 | 14 | 15 | 30 | -15 | 25 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 23rd | | Chesterfield | 29 | 6 | 7 | 16 | 24 | 47 | -23 | 25 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 24th | | Wrexham | 27 | 4 | 11 | 12 | 21 | 35 | -14 | 23 |

| ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

</pre>

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<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by bartley_m:

A soccer am fan eh flippers... icon_razz.gif

<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

So much so that I edited The Badgers into the Conference North but then I found out just how bad they were and dropped them.

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by bartley_m:

Anyways, promotion looks a certainty now, better than I did. gave up after 23 games lying bottom with 20 points icon_frown.gif

KUTGW <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Cheers, it's really strange how a few of us have found it so much easier than a lot of others with the same squad(s)

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“Randy moved fast to try and bring in some more backup on loan, but he couldn’t do anything in time for the LDV game and frankly we got stuffed by (Sheffield) Wednesday on their ground. We were all over the place, Richie Humphreys was playing at full back and Gav (Strachan) was in the hole behind the strikers, but somehow we got through to the end of January without dropping out of the title battle and then we managed to get some cover†Mark Tinkler recalls the end of the turbulent two month period that had seen Hartlepool averaging a game every four days without respite. “Jim Goodwin came in on a three month loan from Stockport and just missed out on the draw at Peterborough, it wasn’t a moment too soon either – if I remember right, myself, Gav (it was actually Jim Whitley) and Joel Porter all reached the dreaded yellow card limit in that game and we were desperate to plug the gaps. Actually the whole disciplinary thing was becoming something of a problem for the FA. They’d come down hard on the referees, they wanted bookings for dissent, bookings for so-called ‘simulation’ and even bookings for goal celebrations. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of stuff in the game that needed stamping out but it was getting silly. I remember one game in February, Blackpool I think it was, where the ref gave out thirteen yellow cards, I mean that’s just ridiculous – to me that just shows that he had no confidence in his own ability to run the gameâ€

It’s strange that the December and January period was viewed as being so much worse than the rest of the season by players, in February Hartlepool played seven more games in a day or two over three weeks, but once January was over most players seemed to feel that they’d got over some sort of mental obstacle. Certainly that seemed to be the case for Hartlepool, having battled their way through the winter period they swept into March on the back of a truly memorable month, in fact it was only the trip to Bristol City – the last game of the month – that resulted in defeat. Before that Wakeman had taken his team through a run of five wins and a draw, the wins included 4-2 and 5-3 away victories at Oldham and Port Vale respectively. At the end of February, with ten games to go, Hartlepool sat top of the table with a five point cushion over third placed Hull.

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<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Cheers, it's really strange how a few of us have found it so much easier than a lot of others with the same squad(s) <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Maybe because some of us are **** managers icon_biggrin.gif

Another couple of good results there icon_wink.gif Most people seem to be having difficulty getting the next job though, lets hope you dont icon14.gif

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Cheers guys, and OMDave - if you like the style, and you can look beyond football, I'd heartily recommend reading some of Stephen E Ambrose's WWII books (Band of Brothers, Citizen Soldiers, D-Day etc) - there's just something magical about the way he mixes facts and history with the retrosepctive narrative from those who were there

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March started off with probably the most important game of the late season for Hartlepool, a home tie against Sheffield Wednesday, their nearest challengers. Wednesday had, in fact, taken the top spot thanks to the fact that they’d played out their game in hand earlier in the month. Adam Boyd had found the goals drying up once more, whilst his strike partners were enjoying something of a purple patch.

“Randy kept faith in me and kept playing me, but I was struggling with my consistency and the Wednesday game was a perfect example, we dominated the match, we created most of the chances, but I don’t think I had a single shot in the hour that I played. That’s how life as a striker can be, you’d be feeling terrible because you hadn’t scored in ages, but you were on the winning side and you knew that the latter was more important. Joe (Joel Porter) had knocked in six in his last five games and he did it again in the Wednesday game, to be fair it had only been a matter of time before I found myself back on the bench with Joe and Andy (Appleby) starting up front – but I got a bit of a reprieve because Andy took a knock in training. I had to be pleased for Joe though, don’t forget that he’d been on the transfer list when Randy arrived, and now he was looking like putting together a twenty goal seasonâ€

March offered some relief on the fixture front too, after the constant pressure of the previous months Wakeman found that he had a whole week to prepare his side between games, and after a close-run defeat at Brentford Hartlepool bounced back with a good win over Stockport and a disappointing draw against MK Dons.

The first sale of the Wakeman era saw Hugh Robertson leave Victoria Park for Gillingham in a move that at least gave the manager nominal transfer funds to work with. A reporter from a local paper immediately contacted the club to ask who the manager would be looking to sign, Wakeman’s response? He faxed a copy of the league table to the young hack. Although they’d slipped to a point behind Sheffield Wednesday things were looking better and better for Hartlepool, with six games of the season remaining their cushion over third place was nine points.

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The start of the run-in didn’t get of entirely according to plan, Mark Tinkler recalls that Wakeman had set a very definite strategy for the last six games of the season, “The boss had looked at the table, and our fixtures, and identified the trip to Tranmere as a game that we needed to win. Unfortunately we couldn’t quite manage it, in fact it ended goalless – as did the trip to Torquay. We got lucky though, Bristol City were in third and they went one worse than us, drawing with (Port) Vale at home and then getting thumped 6-1 at Bradfordâ€

“We were looking good in the table but the problem was that we only had one game left against struggling opposition, and that was away, and of course John Murray was still pleading with the gaffer to give half of the first team a restâ€. Hartlepool’s fourth consecutive draw followed, conceding a one goal lead to Bournemouth at home, but luck stayed with them according to Tinkler, “when the Cherries held us we were sure that the gap was going to close, but Bristol could only manage a draw at Walsall and Hull went goalless against Luton. We were into the last three games, Wednesday had won, and guaranteed themselves promotion, and we were left needing just two points from the last threeâ€

On April 23rd 2005 Hartlepool won promotion to the Championship, in the end their own result was irrelevant, Bristol City travelled to Huddersfield and were beaten by four goals to nil, having worked their way into third place they had proceeded to put together a run of two draws and two defeats. Meanwhile, on a wet and windy day in Chesterfield, Joel Porter and Adam Boyd were scoring the two goals which would send their hosts to the bottom of the table whilst guaranteeing promotion for the Victoria Road side.

Boyd had found his scoring touch again but was beginning to wonder if he needed to consider his future, “With Joe taking his tally to twenty-four, and Andy Appleby on twenty, it was pretty obvious who the first choice strikers were by the back end of the season. I couldn’t blame Randy for making me the backup but there was still a part of me, that spark of ego that every striker needs, that wanted to be in the limelight and I was starting to think that maybe I needed to be at a higher level, the fact was that promotion looked likely and – though I hate to admit it even now – I didn’t think that the squad was good enough. I felt that in a team that played more quality football I’d be able to show my best, I know some people found that strange but when I spoke to Randy he actually understood – his response was typical of the man, ‘Adam, you just bide your time young man, we’ll be big enough, soon enough’ he said when I had a quick one-to-one with himâ€

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Victory at home to Colchester, coupled with an away defeat for Sheffield Wednesday, set up the slimmest of chances for Hartlepool to lift the title on the last day of the season, Mark Tinkler remembers that Wakeman delivered something of a surprising team talk in the changing rooms that day, “I’m not going to lie about it, we were knackered by then, all but one of the loan deals had finished and we were about ready to enjoy our holidays. Randy came in and we couldn’t believe what we were hearing, he basically told us to go out and make it look like we were trying hard, but not to worry if we just couldn’t deliver. His philosophy was simple, whatever happened we were going to have a real scrap on our hands to stay in the Championship, as far as he was concerned it would serve us better to go up in second than as Champions, I sometimes wonder if he would have preferred to go up through the playoffs†he suggests with a wry smile. “I don’t know if it was reverse psychology or not, but the lads played their hearts out that day, Luton took the lead but Joel Porter pulled us back level before they swamped us. We ended up three-one down and the message we were getting from the fans was that Wednesday were walking it, even then Adam (Boyd) came off the bench and grabbed a goal to make it a grandstand finish, but we couldn’t sneak an equaliserâ€

Hull City would go on to join Sheffield Wednesday and Hartlepool in promotion, beating Bristol City in the playoff finals, and for Randy Wakeman III it was time to start rebuilding the squad for their journey into uncharted territory.

“It was a strange time for the players, especially for myself, after the talks I’d had with the gaffer I began to wonder if he would be looking to offload me†Adam Boyd speaks for many of the players who were with the club at the end of the season, “Here we were, heading for the Championship, and the first question that hit a lot of them was ‘will the boss think I’m good enough?’. It’s weird balancing that uncertainty against the euphoria of having won promotion, and against the feeling that I wanted to be in a better team. I certainly didn’t see Joe or Andy having any problems, between them they’d ended up on forty-seven goals, and I just hoped that the couple I bagged near the end of the season would be enough to keep me in as third man, and maybe get me some attention from scoutsâ€

Unfortunately in writing this book I was unable to speak to Joel Porter, having retired to his native Australia in 2015, he lost his life to a heart attack at the age of 59. At the end of the promotion season he was interviewed in the local press though.

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>

TRANSFER LIST TO HOT LIST

Hartlepool’s striking sensation on a season to remember.

When Randy Wakeman III arrived at Victoria Road Joel Porter was on the transfer list, and seemingly on his way out of the club. Ten months and twenty-seven goals later the Australian hit-man is looking forward to life in the Championship.

“I’m not sure exactly why Neale Cooper felt that I was surplus to requirements, I never really had a straight answer, but I accept that at this level it may be that he was looking at the financial stability of the club. When Mr Wakeman came in he gave me a chance, initially he told me I’d be on the bench, and I just decided to make the most of itâ€

To say that Porter succeeded would be an understatement, and he’s now looking forward to whatever next season brings. “My contract is up for renewal at the moment and I’ve made it clear that I want to sign up, I’m in talks with the boss at the moment and I think we can find a point that suits us both. After this season I just want to see what I can do at the next level, and I’m sure that Mr Wakeman feels the same about his own career, it must feel great to have won promotion in his first season as a manager over hereâ€

<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

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<pre class="ip-ubbcode-code-pre">| Pos | Inf | Team | | Pld | Won | Drn | Lst | For | Ag | G.D. | Pts |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 1st | C | Sheff Wed | | 46 | 26 | 10 | 10 | 80 | 38 | +42 | 88 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 2nd | P | Hartlepool | | 46 | 25 | 9 | 12 | 74 | 51 | +23 | 84 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 3rd | P | Hull | | 46 | 19 | 16 | 11 | 66 | 48 | +18 | 73 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 4th | | Bristol C | | 46 | 20 | 13 | 13 | 75 | 59 | +16 | 73 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 5th | | Oldham | | 46 | 21 | 10 | 15 | 58 | 53 | +5 | 73 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 6th | | Colchester | | 46 | 17 | 20 | 9 | 72 | 53 | +19 | 71 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 7th | | Tranmere | | 46 | 19 | 13 | 14 | 68 | 59 | +9 | 70 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 8th | | Peterborough | | 46 | 19 | 12 | 15 | 68 | 70 | -2 | 69 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 9th | | Luton | | 46 | 17 | 17 | 12 | 58 | 58 | 0 | 68 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 10th | | Swindon | | 46 | 17 | 16 | 13 | 63 | 55 | +8 | 67 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 11th | | Blackpool | | 46 | 16 | 17 | 13 | 72 | 57 | +15 | 65 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 12th | | Bournemouth | | 46 | 17 | 11 | 18 | 60 | 67 | -7 | 62 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 13th | | Doncaster | | 46 | 18 | 8 | 20 | 78 | 88 | -10 | 62 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 14th | | Torquay | | 46 | 17 | 10 | 19 | 66 | 74 | -8 | 61 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 15th | | Barnsley | | 46 | 14 | 17 | 15 | 41 | 39 | +2 | 59 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 16th | | Stockport | | 46 | 16 | 11 | 19 | 55 | 62 | -7 | 59 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 17th | | Huddersfield | | 46 | 16 | 10 | 20 | 49 | 54 | -5 | 58 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 18th | | Port Vale | | 46 | 13 | 16 | 17 | 58 | 69 | -11 | 55 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 19th | | Bradford City | | 46 | 15 | 9 | 22 | 67 | 73 | -6 | 54 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 20th | | Walsall | | 46 | 12 | 13 | 21 | 52 | 69 | -17 | 49 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 21st | R | Brentford | | 46 | 12 | 11 | 23 | 60 | 76 | -16 | 47 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 22nd | R | Wrexham | | 46 | 10 | 17 | 19 | 42 | 60 | -18 | 47 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 23rd | R | MK Dons | | 46 | 10 | 15 | 21 | 31 | 47 | -16 | 45 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

| 24th | R | Chesterfield | | 46 | 10 | 11 | 25 | 43 | 77 | -34 | 41 |

| ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

</pre>

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Writer’s Note: Challenge update

OK, this being a challenge story I’ll be keeping an eye on the overall picture at key points in proceedings, so here’s where we stand at the end of season one.

Stage one is over and done, Hartlepool promoted to the Championship as runners-up in League One.

Derby came close to a play-off spot in the Championship and the chances of a move there look slim at the moment, George Burley seems to be a popular fellow at Pride Park. Leeds is a different story, mid-table at the end of the season – they had undergone a real slump under Sam Allardyce and I confess to having declared my interest in the position the day after securing promotion with ‘Pool – only to have Gerald Krasner laugh off my comments in the press. I certainly fancy my chances of scoring an FA Cup win higher with Leeds than with Brighton who finished thirteenth, two places behind the Elland Road crowd.

Separating Leeds and Brighton were Notts Forest, it seems that many of the teams in the challenge are on a similar footing at the moment and that’s what leads me to believe that this is going to take a loooooong time, I don’t know about anyone else but on the basis of Bobbev’s idea I’m thinking that challenges should be set every two years icon_wink.gif

Oh, and what about England? Played six and won six in their World Cup qualifying group with Wales sitting in a strong second place at the moment.

It will be interesting to see how season two starts, with; Appleby, Boyd, and Provett all looking for moves to bigger clubs, and not a lot of cash to play with, I’m sure that at least one will be making a move. Whether I can build a team capable of mounting a serious survival bid is the big question, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find Randy Wakeman III letting his ambitions override his loyalty if a job at a more ‘established’ club came up. Who knows, I guess I’ll just have to keep reading……

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For Wakeman it was a summer of juggling as he tried to prepare for the new season, with little cash available for transfers, despite the money from TV rights, he knew that he was in a ‘sell to buy’ situation and he knew what his best chance to do so was. Writing in a local paper he revealed the news to the fans.

“I’m not in a position to spend large sums this summer so the fans shouldn’t be expecting a host of new names. If I do want to buy anyone then we’re going to have to sell first, rest assured Joel Porter is going nowhere, he’s signed a new deal, but there has been some speculation about Andy Appleby. Andy was brilliant last season and I’d love to keep him, but he feels he’s ready for bigger and better things and I’ve agreed to listen to offers if they’re good enough. Andy is a great talent in the making and I won’t be short-changed on any deal that might be thrashed out. There’s no denying that we will need to strengthen the squad for next season, and if that means loan signings then so be it but I’d prefer to have players who are committed to the badge by being Hartlepool playersâ€

“I had been to see the boss†Appleby recalls, “and he was very good about it all, obviously the money was a big factor but I don’t think he’d have agreed if it hadn’t been for the season that Joel put in, the fact that he came off the transfer list to out-score me spoke volumes about his sheer will to winâ€. A deal was eventually thrashed out and Appleby left, giving Wakeman a huge boost to the coffers, “Wigan had gone up into the Premiership and they came in with a decent offer that worked well, from what I remember it was something like a million up front, another eight-hundred odd on instalments and a sell-on clause – not bad business for a team needing to keep their income ticking over.â€

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