Cats the way to honour our Len

It was just my luck that the first home game I'd missed at Pools this season turned out to be a real cracker – as many friends have delighted in telling me.

Our elder son Martyn had taken my seat in the Cyril Knowles stand for the day, and I'd asked him to text me every time a goal was scored.

At the start of the second half of the 3-3 draw, my phone nearly melted!

I was up the road at the Stadium of Light watching Sunderland beat Boro 2-0 in front of almost 40,000 people.

The company was excellent, and the stadium's superb, but half of me was at Victoria Park willing a 4th goal in.

I've said it before, but I'm sure that you get a more exciting football experience at Pools most weeks than in the Premiership.

Unlike the cut and thrust of League One, a lot of the "top class" stuff is like medium paced chess.

The late Boro penalty miss and 2 goals from the hosts didn't hide the fact that this was an average game.

One other thing has amazed me about our Big Three neighbours in the North East over the years.

They never seem to spot talent on their own doorsteps.

Much as I'd hate to lose either of them from Victoria Park, Sunderland and Boro were clearly crying out for a forward with the sharpness and guile of a James Brown or a Joel Porter.

There was a Poolie connection for me on Saturday, because a lovely ceremony took place on the pitch at half-time in honour of Len Ashurst.

Len, of course, was player/manager at Pools in the early Seventies when the club was going through, to put it mildly, difficult times.

Len is currently writing a book on his life in football and he's kindly let me have a sneak preview.

It's a cracking read on football at the really sharp end, and I laughed out loud at some of his tales of Pools when money was short and re-election to the Football League applications were plentiful.

Throughout his Sunderland career, Mr Ashurst was known as Lenny the Lion for his fierce tackling and he's still held in massive affection by the Sunderland faithful.

On the pitch last Saturday, he received a presentation to celebrate 50 years since he made his debut for Sunderland.

He still holds the record for the most appearances by any outfield player at the club, and it's unlikely that his 458 games over 13 seasons is likely to be matched any time soon.

It's amazing when you think of some of the fantastic characters he played alongside – legends like Brian Clough, Jim Baxter and Charlie Hurley.

Back in 1984, he returned to the old Roker Park as manager and took Sunderland to the old Milk Cup Final.

It was while chatting to Len recently that I had a flash of inspiration – and, you're right, that's worth putting in the Mail!

As I've told you before in the column, I'm a big fan of progress at the new Hartfields Retirement Village at Bishop Cuthbert.

We're planning to put on our first big social evening there next month and had started to think about a star guest speaker or two to kick off the series.

Bingo – Len's the man.

Not only that, but he's also going to bring along Sunderland goal-keeping legend Jimmy Montgomery. Even football fans born after 1973 will have seen the video often of his amazing saves in the match when Sunderland beat the then-mighty Leeds United in the Cup Final.

If you fancy coming along to meet two great characters, it's on Friday, October 17th at Hartfields with bookings available on reception.

In these tight times, we've done well to keep the ticket price down to 12, which includes a proper Hartlepool buffet by chef Paul Noble.

There'll be time for a question and answer session, and photos too, and there's a cracking evening in prospect with two great football characters.