WHERE THERE’S HOPE: It’s all in the name for Pools’ Cheltenham Festival hopefuls

James Poole in action against Colchester United as Pools have a penalty shout turned down. Picture by FRANK REID

James Poole in action against Colchester United as Pools have a penalty shout turned down. Picture by FRANK REID

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IT is the highlight of my sporting calendar – and next week it is here.

The trip to Oldham Athletic’s Boundary Park?

As enjoyable as Ice Station Zebra is – long johns and fingerless gloves (if you’re brave) in March – the Pennines venue, brutally exposed to the elements no matter the season, is not the answer.

No, the Cheltenham Festival is my source of pleasure.

Last night I was at Sedgefield racecourse for their preview evening of the National Hunt showcase meeting.

I prefer to be alone when it comes to dissecting the form and so I had to disappoint a host of friends all desperate to accompany me …

Anyway, I’ll not bore you with my theory on the big races (that’s in Monday’s paper).

However, if your preferred method of picking the winners happens to be a name which takes your fancy, then there are plenty to go at from a Pools perspective.

Let me begin.

James Poole has been one of the stars of recent weeks and, like the livewire frontman, POOLE MASTER could well be on target next week.

The striker’s flat-mate, Jack Baldwin, is another who has impressed and he always covers every blade of grass, at times it even feels like there are FOURJACKS on the park.

Out the flank Jonathan Franks has been causing problems, STOCKTON’S WING might well grab the attention of the Stockton-born wideman.

Meanwhile, such is the strength of the Yorkshire contingent at Pools these days, Boro loanee Charlie Wyke could have been forgiven for thinking he’d taken the wrong direction on the A19 after his first morning at the club, AUPCHARLIE the greeting he received.

Sam Collins is one of those Yorkshire boys. He was dropped and lost the captain’s armband earlier in the season, it’s more like SAM WINNER on current form though.

Alongside him at the back is Peter Hartley, last year’s SportMail and Players’ Player of the Season, PETE THE FEAT sounds like a fair description of his achievements.

Tony Sweeney has been sidelined in recent weeks, perhaps SWEENEY’S TUNES has been his dressing-room contribution during that time.

Now when manager John Hughes arrived at the club in November he did so with a WONDERFUL CHARM.

However, it would have been WISHFUL THINKING to believe results were going to pick up straight away.

In fact, he was probably thinking GET ME OUT OF HERE after the 5-0 defeat to Coventry City in his opening game.

Since then he has installed JOHN’S SPIRIT in his side and Pools are ONTHEWAYUP, thanks as well to his able assistant LIVELY BARRON.

But the gamble we’re all hoping comes in is this – so if SAVED BY JOHN is first past the post then it may well prove a good omen ...

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THERE’S always plenty to talk about when it comes to Hartlepool United.

If I’m not populating these pages then I’ll be helping to fill the radio waves or recording our latest Frank and Hopeful podcast.

Either way, we’re never short of a tale.

And that was never more apparent than at the recent Football Writers Association dinner.

At 4am there were just a select few remaining.

Among them were three former occupants of my current chair, namely Chris Young, Damian Spellman and Samantha Lee.

Like I said, there’s always plenty to talk about when it comes to Hartlepool United - it just helps if you’ve had a few beers given the current position ...