2021 – New year, new beginnings and as of this week an end in sight for the Covid19 pandemic. This is all good news, especially as from May 17th that fans will be back allowed into football stadiums! This is fantastic for football supporters up and down the country and my dream trip to Wembley is certainly looking likely, whether it be with Pools in the Play-off Final or England in the Euros.
My last column was just before Christmas when I mentioned things were very up and down with performances and results. Since then, it’s been amazing to see Victoria Park turned into a fortress; seven home wins in a row now, with teams coming here playing for a point, something unheard of a couple of years ago. It’s also great to see Pools grind out results like the 1-0 win at Notts County and the recent 2-1 win at home to Yeovil, which provided a classic example of what could happen if you simply don’t give up.
Luke Armstrong is continuing his impressive scoring form and now has a solid front line partnership with Rhys Oates, reminiscent of the Adam Boyd/Joel Porter days from yesteryear, with young Joe Grey in the mix too and improving all the time. It’s certainly strange and unusual to be thinking to yourself ‘Pools don’t need a striker’.
Jamie Sterry has also looked a solid signing since joining in December and with Gary Liddle back from injury we now have the experience at the back that part of me feels we have been missing, despite how impressive Timi Odusina and Ryan Johnson have been this season.
The only crack recently has been the midfield, with Nicky Featherstone injured it’s now seen how much he brings to the side these days. Away from home, our performances have been patchy lately and his calm influence in the midfield was probably needed. Saying that, only a miracle would have saved us against Eastleigh.
Plenty of activity off the pitch has happened too, with the fiasco of whether the season would actually finish or not. While I have a bit of sympathy for clubs who may be in financial peril because of Covid-19, and the promises of funding made, I think it’s shameful they were effectively trying to hold the league to ransom. After clubs in the National League voted to carry on the season 13-7, Dover are now refusing to play their remaining fixtures and Kings Lynn are threatening to do the same. However, on the flip side – the bosses at the National League proved that they were not fit to run a bath, let alone a professional football league. The whole fiasco could have dealt with so much better. Once again, the Premier League and the EFL refused to help – showing where their priorities lay.
Overall, it is certainly looking positive. Pools are solid promotion candidates, the pubs are opening, the South East Poolies can begin to think about the annual summer trip to Whitstable and a weekend in Hartlepool, stadiums will welcome back fans and a potential trip to Wembley beckons, oh what a time to be alive. For Pools fans, it really is a time to believe that, finally, we could be back in the EFL before too long. However, there is still a long way to go.