Kelly’s Eye on Pools: Applauding the away fans, has football gone soft?

Time for Hartlepool United fans to hand out some stick? Picture by FRANK REID
Time for Hartlepool United fans to hand out some stick? Picture by FRANK REID

Has football gone soft? It is a question you often hear posed and I swear it’s true, swear being the key word.

Kelly’s Eye will come to the playing side of it in due course, but first, I must bring up a disturbing trend on the terraces.

Your writer was horrified a Saturday or two back when Maidstone striker Joe Pigott went tumbling into the terrace at the Prostate Cancer UK Stand, the Town End in old money.

After a couple of seconds, Joe got back to his feet and on the park to polite applause. Just what on earth is going on?

It follows on from one of my biggest bugbears – applauding the opposition fans before full-time.

The first time I heard it I was covering Pools at Mansfield in the Colin Cooper error, sorry era. His team had produced one of the finest displays of his reign to win 4-1, when the home announcer read out the attendance and thanked the away fans, prompting the main stand into prolonged applause. I fainted, causing £2,000 of damage to the the press box floor.

It’s the same at the Vic now when Craig Darby gives us the attendance and thanks both sets of fans.

Decades ago when I was on the terrace, there was none of this. There would be chants directed at the away fans about them getting their “heads kicked in” or songs suggesting they would be “going home in a Cleveland Ambulance”.

Following half-time, after walking from the Town End to the Rink End for the second 45, we’d always greet the opposition keeper coming into his area with polite applause. If the goalie, naively, applauded back he’d be met with the most fearful abuse.

The only keeper I remember who avoided being shouted at was veteran ex-Man United stopper Paddy Roche, when he came up here with Halifax.

There was nothing really malicious in any of it, it was part of the atmosphere of being at a football match and supporting your team and hating the visitors.

Kelly’s Eye is not, in any way advocating a return to the bad old days of the 80s, when violence and racism were prevalent. But it does not have to be like Ward Jackson Park’s bowling green.

The atmosphere at the Vic is going to be crucial this season and giving the opposition a hard time can only help.

Saturday’s football was not that pleasing on the eye, but the decibel level from the stands was loud.

It was helped by some strange decisions from referee Dean Bramall who would not blow his whistle for blatant handballs but would penalise Pools for winning the ball. That got the crowd going as did the antics of some of the Dagenham & Redbridge players.

This columnist has a lot of respect for Daggers boss John Still, and his team were excellent. If Pools are a few points nearer to them come the end of April they are not going to be far away in the promotion race.

But why, oh why, do they feel the need to throw themselves to the ground or go down ‘hurt’ as though they have just been struck by a North Korean missile?

They are either soft or trying to buy free-kicks or get opposition players into bother. Or all three.

At least Mr Bramall was not conned. In fact, the only yellow card was for Daggers full-back Luke Pennell who hurt himself fouling Devante Rodney. Football has gone soft and it’s not nice to see!