LED FROM THE DOCK: Pools’ new boss, Newcastle mastermind, Sunderland slump

Paul Murray
Paul Murray

WHAT a rude welcome for new Hartlepool United boss Paul Murray.

His side were just three minutes away from a battling point at Cambridge United until a late goal sent Pools back to the bottom of Division Two.

It seems the only way is up.

Well, actually, that isn’t quite true. Finishing 23rd instead of 24th is not much bleeding use if it consigns the Victoria Park faithful to non-league football next year.

Nor is the club’s ongoing spat with Hartlepool Borough Council over the ground’s ownership helping an already dire situation on the pitch.

While Pools stand accused of saying too little about their plans for the Vic in the past, now is not the time for the row to fester publicly.

With talks seemingly at a standstill, why don’t both sides broker a temporary truce designed to focus everyone’s minds on the increasingly difficult task of keeping the club’s proud league status intact?

Few fans I speak to believe that the council’s apparent refusal to sell the ground for a fee acceptable to Pools is a convincing smokescreen for the team’s current ills.

They would instead rather hear less about the dispute and more about how the club are going to ensure they stay up.

Even if ownership is the key to unlocking redevelopment opportunities to generate the finance to ultimately improve the playing squad - follow that? - none of that is going to happen by next May.

But it is going to be a damn sight harder to eventually attract the right investors and players if there is no league football to tout in the first place.

WHO would have thought it little over three weeks ago?

All Alan Pardew has to do is mastermind a shock Newcastle United Capital One Cup at Manchester City on Wednesday night and he will all but bag the manager of the month award.

Mind, taking into account his club’s mistrust of cup competitions, victory might earn both the award and the sack.

With the Magpies not having beaten the Premier League champions for more than eight years, it is fairly certain that Pardew won’t be picking up his P45 just yet.

But it is the manner of Wednesday’s expected defeat which will be more telling.

Should United field a weakened side and suffer their usual Eastlands hammering then the slight feelgood factor generated by seven October points from nine may have evaporated by the time Mario Ballotelli arrives at St James’s Park looking for his maiden Liverpool league strike.

So that’s at least two goals Newcastle need if they are going to make it three league wins in a row come Saturday lunchtime.

PS: Well done to rookie striker Ayoze Perez for the headed winner on his full Premier League debut at Tottenham last Sunday.

While he may lack a touch of both speed and strength, the Spaniard’s cameo appearances from the bench suggest he knows where the goal is.

Just look at the way he peeled off Spurs’ central defenders and on to the smaller Danny Rose to nod home Remy Cabella’s cross.

WHO would have thought it little over two weeks ago?

There was everyone congratulating Sunderland manager Gus Poyet on a successful first year in charge and yet a fortnight later his side find themselves back in familiar territory known as the relegation zone.

For all their repeated howlers in defence, I’m still convinced the Black Cats will avoid a fifth successive dogfight and eventually rise to a respectable mid-table spot.

Their plight is likely to get worse though before it gets better.

Monday night’s trip to Crystal Palace is a bigger match for the hosts than you might first think because of Poyet’s previous gig at old enemy Brighton.

Add into the mix a passionate home crowd, the visitors’ dismal record at Selhurst Park, their lengthy Monday night hoodoo and...well, you get the picture.

Then it’s Everton at the Stadium of Light looking to pull-off their usual trick of defending desperately at one end before clinching three points with a double deflection at the other.

However desperate the table may look come November 9, chairman Ellis Short cannot afford to axe Poyet and begin a seventh red and white revolution in just under six years.

WHO would have thought it little over a week ago?

Middlesbrough were eyeing the Championship summit before taking just one point from six against promotion rivals Wolves and Watford.

Yet the very fact that Aitor Karanka’s side are still only two points from top after nearly a third of the season is definitely progress in my eyes.

Every side in the division is going to suffer a blip at some point - take leaders Derby’s home defeat on Saturday to struggling Wigan, for instance - and Boro are no exception.

The trick is to recover quickly and to show the consistency needed to stay in the unpredictable hunt.

With a large following making the maiden league pilgrimage to Rotherham United’s New York Stadium on Saturday, I fancy Boro to show their battling credentials and win a frenzied affair by a single goal.

I just hope those travelling fans get in the ground early if they fancy a pie.

Rotherham manager Steve Evans’ weighty presence has even led his own fans to compose one of football’s more amusing terrace hymns.

“He eats what he wants, he eats what he wants...”