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Mark has another attempt at becoming the best manager in the world. Can he do it?

Discussion
Season is ready to start.

Now I have a wee dilemma. Do we go with individual match reports (which are gonna take time to play and update) or do we summarise everything month by month?

Decisions, decisions...
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I'd say month to month @HockeyBhoy, but indiv. match reports are good too.
My Football Manager 2017 career: Journeyman's Journey
Think that sounds a great suggestion @r96Skinner - I will go along with that.

Maybe do the bigger version for the bigger games such as Cup-Ties. I'll have some updates in the next few days, bear with. Everyone else liking it?
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Apologies everyone for a lack of updates, mega busy with work. It'll return soon.
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Hoping to have an update from the first month of the season in the days ahead, trying to juggle playing time and work in equal measures.

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We drew Everton in the second round of the League Cup at home


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Season 2016-17: August Review

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So a very good month to start with and totally ahead of expectations. The media think we're going to have a battle against the drop but survive just in 20th position. After the recent tribulations, that would be a great achievement but if we can finish higher then all the better eh?

It started off with a shock to the system as recently relegated Colchester United came to the Vic and spanked us 4-1 on the opening day. We looked in it at 1-1 at half time but the U's turned on the style in the second half scoring three times in seven minutes through Macauley Bonne. I played a 3-1-3-1-2 formation that day which the team had never played before so I think I kinda screwed it up with the tactics.

Next came Blackburn Rovers in the Carabao Cup, and I changed the formation to a 4-1-2-2-1 formation with wingers supporting an out and out target man. It unsettled Blackburn and made them work for it. Twice we led, twice we got pulled back level and it looked we were heading for extra time until Rob Jones headed in the 4th minute of injury time to send us through to the second round which is some kind of feat for Pools.

That result acted like a springboard as we went to Exeter City and won comprehensively 3-0; Pádraig Amond taking full advantage of two defensive lapses to secure the win. Three days later, he went one better and scored a hat-trick as we demolished Crewe Alexandra 4-0 at Gresty Road, an amazing result for us. That game also showed how good a player we have taken on loan from Tottenham in Filip Lesniak as he scored a gorgeous free-kick from just outside the box which gave the Alex keeper no chance whatsoever. Lesniak scored another superb free-kick in the next game as we edged past Notts County by the odd goal in seven, Amond also scored again too, but we had to hang on as Jonathan Forte scored their third in injury time when we looked to be cruising at 4-2.

Following on from that, we entertained Everton in Round Two of the Carabao Cup. It took the Toffees 85 minutes to break us down, that man Romelu Lukaku scoring it. Really wish we had taken it to extra-time. A 2-0 loss at home to Newport County finished off the month league wise but we're handily placed as you can see in the table. A penalty shootout win over Port Vale in the first of the Checktrade Trophy group stage matches ended what I think has been a successful opening month, much better than what the pundits thought.

League Table at the end of August 2016

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In the monthly awards we did rather well too, even though I didn't win Manager of the Month.

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Next Update: September 2016
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Hoping to have an update this weekend, depending on real life work commitments. The story continues...
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Season 2016-17: September Review

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Normal service has been resumed at Hartlepool, we are in the bottom half of the table as many expect us to be all season long.

We only picked up three points out of a possible 15 and just can't seem to recapture the winning formula which served us so well at the start, very disappointing to say the least.

The month began with a visit to then league leaders Stevenage at Broadhall Way, it was a game that many thought we would lose but we came out of it with a creditable 2-2 draw. Luke Wilkinson gave the home side a ninth minute lead when he got on the end of a Jobi McAnuff corner, but the Ginger Ninja (Michael Woods) levelled with a powerfully struck effort just before half time. McAnuff then created their second, this time a left footed finish from Josh McQuoid was enough to beat Trevor Carson. However, with four minutes left we were awarded a penalty when Woods was sent tumbling by Michael Tonge. Jack King saw red for 'Boro for protesting, it was his second yellow, but it didn't faze top scorer Pádraig Amond who sent the keeper the wrong way.

A week later we were on our travels again as we made the long journey down to Yeovil. Nathan Thomas gave us the perfect start, scoring after only 23 seconds - I hadn't finished my Bovril when he found the net! However, Yeovil equalised midway through the first half thanks to Ben Whitfield and just after the hour took the lead thanks to their burly centre forward Tom Eaves. It looked like the long journey back to the North East was going to be a miserable one when we equalised just as the fourth official put their board up for three minutes added-on time. Nathan Smith's back header never looked like reaching the keeper and Amond showed great composure to steer the ball past the bewildered custodian.

We didn't perform when we faced Mansfield, slipping to a 3-1 home defeat. Amond scored again but they scored three times in six first half minutes to kill us off completely, it just felt like we were chasing shadows all the time. Another long away trip beckoned next, this time to Plymouth and it ended in another 3-1 loss. We were 2-0 down after just 16 minutes, Spencer and Tanner taking advantage of some sloppy defensive work but the Ginger Ninja pulled us back into it with a shot that their keeper should have really saved. However as much as we tried, Plymouth were too good and Matthew Kennedy's header seven minutes from time gave them the points.

Nobody gave us any chance when we faced an in-form Luton Town at the Vic to complete the month and those fears seemed to be founded when former Sunderland youth player Jordan Cook set up Danny Hylton to open the scoring just before the interval. Yet we rallied and this time got a point out of a difficult opponent when Sean Kavanagh did superbly down the left flank, and Amond powerfully planted a header home at the near post with twelve minutes to go.

Where we are in the League Table at the end of September 2016

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Newport, Stevenage and Wycombe currently occupy the three automatic slots, with Cheltenham, Luton, Portsmouth and Exeter in the four play-off places.


Next Update: October 2016
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Things are a little bit less busy at the moment so I found a bit of time to play the games in October as seen below. Hopefully I'll be able keep firing out more updates as and when possible. The story is far from finished, just not easy juggling it and working long hours. Enjoy this update - Mark.

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Season 2016-17: October Review

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After a month of despair in September, October was a much better one as we climbed the table and started to pick up a bit of form.

The first game of the month saw us travel to Cleethorpes to face struggling Grimsby, and we came away with three much needed points. It was our first three point haul since the 20th of August. We opened the scoring after 26 minutes when Liverpool loanee Adam Phillips was on the end of a great team move to place the ball beyond the Mariners keeper. We never looked in danger, and secured the points midway through the second half when who else but former Town striker Pádraig Amond was in the right place to steer home and send the visiting fans into ecstasy. Those fish and chips never tasted so good on the way back to the North East.

A few days later it was the second of our Checktrade Trophy group games, and a trip to the Bescot to face Walsall. Nicky Deverdics' first goal for the club gave us the lead five minutes into the second half and we looked like coming away with a win until the Saddlers equalised two minutes into four minutes added-on time. As there is no extra time in this competition, it went to the lottery of penalties and that's where we came unstuck. Walsall scored four out of four, we could only score once so we slipped to a 4-1 loss on spot kicks but got a point from the game in the strange group format which kept us second in the group standings.

Our next league outing was a home game against Crawley Town and we made the perfect start; scoring twice in the first 11 minutes. Lewis Alessandra, who was brilliant on the right wing this month, opened the scoring after just 2 minutes and the now match-fit Brad Walker made it 2-0 with a composed finish nine minutes later. Crawley pulled one back through Jordan Roberts but we scored a third and decisive goal with three minutes thanks to substitute Marcus Harness when he reacted first to a rebound from a Phillips piledriver. Crawley finished the game with ten men when skipper Jimmy Smith saw red for two yellow cards.

We then went off to Cumbria to face Carlisle United in what is a local derby of sorts, well when York and Darlington aren't in the league then Carlisle are the next best thing. It was a happy day for the 1258 visiting Poolies as three second half goals made it three league wins on the spin. Pádraig Amond opened the scoring in the 64th minute and then two goals in the closing stages secured the triumph. Former Carlisle striker Billy Paynter scored the second with eight minutes to go and then an absolute fizzer from Phillips put the game beyond doubt.

It was four wins out of four seven days later as we came from behind to defeat Leyton Orient 4-1 at the Vic. Gavin Massey gave the O's a seventh minute lead and we were looking down the barrel of the gun until a tactical reshuffle at half time. Two goals in as many minutes from Walker and Deverdics, the latter doing a great left wing job whilst Nathan Thomas was sidelined with injury. Amond's 15th of the season made it 3-1 with 18 minutes left on the clock and we added the coup de grace with a fourth goal in injury time when Paynter scored past the bewildered O's goalkeeper.

We finished the month with a trip south to face Barnet. Deverdics headed us into a 38th minute lead and we were looking good value for three more points and possibly third place in the table when the Bees scored with five minutes left. Who else but former Pools captain Michael Nelson with a thumping header from a corner, a goal I've seen him do many times in the past. We then had to hang on after that but did so. 13 points out of 15 isn't too bad a haul and a complete turnaround in our fortunes.

Where we are in the League Table at the end of October 2016

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The bottom two at the moment are Morecambe and Grimsby Town.


Next Update: November 2016
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Here are the winners of the monthly awards for October.

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Can't believe that I missed out on winning my first ever managerial gong. All three of us had identical records in the month, yet they plumped for that fat man from Mansfield. Bet he slipped them a few backhanders to ensure he got it, he's got a dodgy reputation to maintain. Still there's time for me to get something in the future if I can replicate October again and again.

Colchester's on loan striker from Huddersfield Rekell Pyke got the player of the month award but as you can see, he didn't make it a double with the young player of the month:

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Well deserved to Brad Walker who did take the honour! He's justified my faith in giving him a run of games after recovering from a bad injury and I now find it hard to drop him from one of the two central midfield roles. He can only go and get better - a rich reward for a player who is enjoying playing for his home town club. If he keeps it up, I can expect the big clubs to start sniffing around and leave me with a dilemma. But we'll cross that particular bridge when we get to it.
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They made the draw for the First Round of this season's FA Cup, this was who Tony Cottee and Chris Kamara chose for us.

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A trip down to Surrey on the first Saturday in November, and not an easy draw.

Sutton United, a team with FA Cup giant killing history behind them. If you didn't know they performed their biggest moment in their history on 7 January 1989 when they knocked out, as it was known then, First Division Coventry City in the Third Round of that season's competition. Coventry had won the FA Cup for the first and only time in their history as recent as 1987 so it was indeed a big surprise to all. Matthew Hanlan was the hero of the hour that day.

We're hoping we don't suffer such an embarrassment! Their squad includes Nicky Bailey whom Middlesbrough paid £1,200,000 just six seasons ago and if he's fit then he'll be definitely be one whom they will look to as well as non-league goal poacher Matt Tubbs who will punish you if you give him half a sight of goal. As regards team selection I might give a few fringe players games but the team will be a strong one, I certainly won't be underestimating them especially on their 3G pitch. We will give them respect but the ultimate goal is to make the Second Round.

Other notable ties in this stage also include:

Barrow v Sheffield United
Gosport Borough v Bradford City
Chester v Chesterfield
Southport v Port Vale
Plymouth Argyle v Bristol Rovers

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For the tactical ones out there, this is my current formation:

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It's a standard back four with Featherstone playing the crab like defensive midfielder in front of them. A couple of central midfielders ahead of him, one as a deep lying playmaker and the other playing as an advanced midfielder. Couple of wingers to attack the opposing back line, Amond leading the line alone as an advanced forward or occasionally played as a target man.
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Hoping to complete another month's gameplay in the next few days. Stay tuned....
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Season 2016-17: November Review

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Another decent month, packed with plenty of League and Cup action.

We started off the month with the First Round of the FA Cup and a trip to Sutton United, Gander Green Lane. My ambition in this illustrious competition is to make the Third Round at least and draw a Premiership team to the Vic for a money-spinning tie which could only establish my and the club's standing. The game started well, taking the lead after just two minutes when Nicky Deverdics continued his good form with a neat far post finish from a Lewis Alessandra cross. However, the winger strained knee ligaments in the same game early in the second half and had to depart the game. Sutton equalised ten minutes into the second half when we didn't pick up Adam May from a cross and he made no mistake. Neither side could find a winner after that, and it was back to the Vic for a replay which I really didn't want due to our congested fixture schedule.

A few days later we hosted Leicester City's Under 23 team in our last Checkatrade Trophy group game. It was an eerie atmosphere with just 528 people inside the ground but we dominated the game from start to finish which was very pleasing indeed. Brad Walker set up Billy Paynter for the opener after 13 minutes and then just before the half hour, the striker returned the favour for Brad to put us well in command. Leicester weren't in it and even when they did have an odd chance, they spurned it with Argentinian striker Leonardo Ulloa particularly wasteful.

Next up was a long away trip to Cheltenham to face the Whaddon Road Robins. We dominated again but should have taken the lead after 11 minutes when we were awarded a penalty when Nicky Featherstone was sent tumbling in the area by Kyle Storer, a decision which Cheltenham felt hard done by. However, they sensed justice was served when Scott Brown saved Pádraig Amond's spot kick. They took the lead with 16 minutes to go when Billy Waters put a superb half volley into the net after some great work down the left by Liam Davis but the game changed when Storer was dismissed for picking up a second yellow card with ten minutes left. The resultant free-kick led to a corner which Marcus Harness whipped in and central defender Liam Donnelly bulleted home a header for the leveller, his first goal for the club as well. Spoils shared.

We had the Cup replay to deal with after that, and after 12 minutes the tie was over for me as we raced into a 2-0 lead: scoring twice in four minutes. Donnelly set up the opener with a superb pass that Amond brought down well and then unleashed a brilliant strike that had the Sutton keeper clutching thin air. It became 2-0 when Harness wasn't picked up by the Sutton defence at the back post after Alessandra had driven the ball low across the goalmouth and caught them out. We had to wait for a third but got it with 16 minutes to go, Alessandra beating the keeper with a low near post finish after we had opened them up again. Round Two here we come.

A resillent performance at Doncaster saw us come away from the Keepmoat with a clean sheet and a point which pleased me no end as many had us down for defeat that day. We then took Accrington apart at the Vic, recording a superb 4-1 win. Amond opening the scoring after just two minutes then we netted twice midway through the first half to put the game beyond our visitors; Alessandra scoring again and then after Harness had crashed a shot against the post, Stanley defender Terron tried to hook the ball clear but could only hook it into his own net for a calamitous own goal. Not that we were complaining! Alessandra's second of the night made it 4-0 in the early stages of the second half and although Billy Kee pulled one back, that was just a consolation for them as we saw them off with ease.

Another well earned point finished the month as we drew 0-0 at Wycombe, and saw us stay in 8th place. We're just three points off the promotion spots and playing well. Things are a lot more rosier for us now, compared to where we were at the end of September. Can we kick on even further?


Where we are in the League Table at the end of November 2016

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The bottom two at the moment are still Morecambe and Grimsby Town.


Next Update: December 2016
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After beating Leicester we went to the top of Group G, but Port Vale and Walsall had to play each other in the final group game. If Walsall picked up a point, they would finish top with us in second spot. As it transpired, Port Vale beat the Saddlers 3-0 which meant we won the group itself. A superb achievement in my eyes, and one that the Club itself should be proud of it. So who would we face in the Second Round of the Northern Section?

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It gave us this tie.
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Yeah, another meeting with local rivals Carlisle. We've already stuffed them in the league but that is going to really rankle with them. It will certainly have them fired up for revenge so we will need to be at our best even in such a meaningless competition like this one. Winning derbies is always good and helps impress your own fans.

The game will be played at the Vic on 6 December 2016.
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It's always good to see our local teams doing well, and we have to tip our hats to Hartlepool United. As we enter December, Pools are in eighth place in the League Two table and are in a bit of form as you can see here:

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BBC Tees asked 'Pools manager Mark Duell if he is pleased with his team so far:

"It certainly is a good feeling around the Club at the moment, and good results breed confidence throughout the team as a whole. I honestly didn't think the unbeaten run was that long but if we're unbeaten in ten league games then I'll take that very much indeed. We know as a group that we didn't start well and in a lot of people's eyes, were performing as a typical Hartlepool United team: namely struggling at the wrong end of the table.

But we had a little chat amongst ourselves, and thought we're better than these results say. So we tweaked a few things here and there and you can see at the moment we're reaping the rewards out of it, with a bit more luck results wise we could have taken maximum points from some of those draws. I'm talking about the games against Barnet, Cheltenham, Doncaster and Wycombe if you want to know specifically. Win those games and we'd be probably be challenging Portsmouth for top spot.

However, we're doing alright as it is. We just need to stay focused and if we do then we can surprise a few people out there and that would be the biggest result wouldn't it?"

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After seeing off Sutton in a replay, we're through to the Second Round of this season's FA Cup. The draw was made by former Chelsea managers Gianluca Vialli and Ruud Gullit. They combined to give us the following tie:

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Another home tie, that will boost the coffers a bit and a chance to make the Third Round for the second successive season. However, standing in our way are League One side AFC Wimbledon who are to most people: more Wimbledon than the Milton Keynes Dons or Franchise FC to their doubters. This game will be played at the Vic on the first Saturday in December. Other notable ties in Round Two are as follows:

Rochdale v Torquay United
St Albans City v Carlisle United
Harrogate Town v Luton Town
Accrington Stanley v Gateshead
Cambridge United v Bath City
Wealdstone v Crawley Town
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So did we make Round Three?

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Ryan can go as Jamie arrives

By LIAM KENNEDY
Hartlepool United reporter


Published: 13:00
Friday 2 December 2016


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Winger Ryan Baldacchino can leave the Vic

There's been a bit of movement down at the Vic with a player being told he can leave whilst a new face arrives on the scene.

Winger Ryan Baldacchino has been told by manager Mark Duell that he is free to find a new a club just four and a half months after arriving at Victoria Park, but the player isn't wanting out just yet.

"I've told Ryan (Baldacchino) that he can find a new team as I simply can't guarantee him a place in the team due to the good form of players in front of him. When players like Lewis (Alessandra) are in the form of their lives then it becomes so hard to drop them, you have to keep them in the team. Ryan is I'm afraid just well behind the pecking order for his preferred position and I've made it clear to him that he is free to talk to other clubs who might need to acquire his services.

However, Ryan has told me that he will see out his contract rather than just seek a mutual termination and we have to respect that. Hopefully someone will come in for him, he's just being a model professional trying at the moment despite the situation being not perfect for either of us."

Duell did also announce a new face to the ranks.

"We've brought in defender Jamie Smith to the Club on a permanent deal until the end of the season after he impressed us all after a four week trial. Jamie has some excellent attributes and we like the look of him. His versatility helps us as well as he can play either right-back or central defence so that is a major asset. We've fought off the attentions of other clubs who were equally keen to have him and he represents a very good acquisition to the squad. I'm sure if he applies himself as well as he has on trial then he can start to push those ahead of him but he will definitely be a work in progress type of defender."
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Hartlepool United manager Mark Duell today further pledged his future to the North East club by signing to an extension to his current contract which was due to expire at the end of this season.

The highly rated manager, who has taken Pools within three points of the League Two promotion places, has committed his future to the club he supported as a boy until the summer of 2018 and doesn't plan to stop there if things go well.

"It was a no-brainer signing this contract extension," Duell told BBC Tees.

"My existing contract expired at the end of the season and it was always in the back of my mind whether to continue here. But with the team playing so well at the minute, when the Chairman approached me with a new deal until summer 2018 I couldn't get the pen out of his hand quick enough and sign the paperwork off."

"This is the club I grew supporting as a boy, and having seen many ups and downs in my time, I said when I arrived I was looking to get the club back on an upward curve. The players have bought in superbly and are turning in performances that some would be salivating over in the Premiership. We have found a system that we're very comfortable with and getting results which we are judged upon."

"I really look forward to making more strides in the right direction, and don't rule me out from staying longer either."
  • Listen: Hartlepool Chairman's delight at keeping his manager
  • Listen: Duell talks about his new contract

With the right man in charge, perhaps everything is looking positive at Victoria Park after all? Time will tell though if this feel good factor carries on.

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Quite a few changes in the hot seats at some clubs in November.

Blackpool:
Out: Gary Bowyer (Sacked)
In: Andy Todd (Caretaker from First Team Coach)

Cambridge United:
Out: Shaun Derry (Sacked)
In: Peter Taylor (from Unattached)

Carlisle United:
Out: Keith Curle (Sacked)
In: Darren Edmondson (Caretaker from Head of Youth Development)

Doncaster Rovers
Out: Darren Ferguson (Sacked)
In: John Schofield (Caretaker from U18's Coach)

Yeovil Town:
Out: Darren Way (Sacked)
In: Richard Shaw (former Crystal Palace Reserve Team Manager)
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