Discipline. This is something that courses through the veins of any successful football club.
From the boardroom at the top, to the manager’s office, through the dressing room, all the way down to the tea lady and the mascots.
Do your job. Do it to the best of your ability. Stick to a clear, solid, thought-out plan. That has to be the mantra.
Well, that is if your goal is to succeed.
If any one member of the unit, whether that be a player, or a member of staff does not give their all, or apply themselves as they should, the whole thing can be like a pack of cards.
One weak link and the empire so many have worked so hard to build can fall.
That feels like Hartlepool United at the moment.
One mistake, one lapse, one moment of stupidity.
Pools seem a second, in any given game, away from “a crumble”. The manager’s description of his own side’s frailties, not my own.
While I cannot claim credit for that, it seems wholly appropriate all the same, especially after yesterday’s 4-0 hammering in the FA Cup second round to Port Vale.
Yes, Hartlepool were playing against a side a whole division above them. And yes, Vale have better players and are in better form.
However, Pools should have been able to at least look like holding their own.
Other teams have done it in this competition, even one from outside the Football League.
Yesterday they looked like a team from a different planet, never mind a different league.
Outclassed is one way of putting it, just not up to scratch is another.
Why is it that Pools on conceding a goal, more often that not, concede another in quick succession?
Why is that despite working day-in, day-out on plans to prevent the opposition scoring that time and time again under game pressure, Pools make the same mistakes?
Why is it that Toto Nsiala can see it as a good call to lob a ball to an opposition player in acres of space?
Why is it that Rob Jones, who seemed to suffer an unfortunate injury later in the game, can see fit, with all his experience, to continue to get the wrong side of the player he is meant to mark?
It seems unfair to pick out these two individuals, because all told very few of the 14 players who graced the park in the Potteries for Pools were worthy of pass marks.
I could probably name at least two or three occasions, for every player in the side, where poor decision making, or woeful game management under pressure has proved costly.
This brings me back to discipline.
If these players are being drilled day-in, day-out on how to stop the opposition, how to beat teams, etc, etc, why are they still making the same mistakes?
Is it a lack of quality? Well, we are told that it is not.
Craig Hignett has told Poolies, through the media, that he sees quality in his ranks every day at Maiden Castle.
So it has to be a lack of discipline. A distinct lack of application. That can be the only answer.
Do your job. Do it to the best of your ability.
That does not mean do not think, work strictly to orders.
That means think the game through, do the right things at the right times.
Pools are simply incapable of doing that at the moment.
Poolies are at the end of their tether with it – you could tell that by their anger from the terraces yesterday.
The manager, judging by his frustrated manner on the touchline and the tunnel after a 45 minute dressing down of his players, is also at that point.
Pools at times this season have been sensational. And I personally think they have a group of very talented individuals.
We are not seeing nearly enough from this group. Nowhere near enough.
Port Vale beat Hartlepool by four goals, and did so at a canter.
Not once did they have to get out of first gear. Pools gifted away goals. This is no new thing, though.
So many points have been dropped and poor goals conceded this season.
Last week, Hignett said his players must shape up or risk being shipped out.
On the performance at Vale Park too many of the players in the Pools dressing room seem resigned to their fate of seeking to ply their trade elsewhere.
There were very few who looked like they were inspired by the gaffer’s threats.
I hope in the coming weeks I am proved wrong in this assessment.
But at the moment, too many seem willing to accept their fate.
And that will come as a massive concern, not only in the boardroom at Pools, but Hignett’s office also.