Consummate professional Nolberto Solano embodies renewed pride at Hartlepool says Graeme Smith.
Whilst the football media salivates over the attempts of one South American footballer to put as much distance between his toys and his pram as possible, another is showing everyone how it should be done.
Nolberto Solano was Pools' headline-making signing of the close season, one that none of the fans saw coming. It wasn't even rumoured as a possibility, fans were more concerned about whether another of the Wadsworth-Newcastle connections (Lomano LuaLua) was coming or not.
Solano was announced by the club and, like most fans, my immediate reaction was "wow", and then you started to think about whether he could still do it at his age. Searching the web only showed just how much respect that the Peruvian had garnered over the years. He was one of those rare creatures in football, because no-one seemed to have a bad word to say about him, much like one of his ex-bosses, Sir Bobby Robson.
Some two months into the season, it's obvious why. The bloke is just a consummate professional. He goes about his business without any fuss or histrionics whatsoever, no diving around as if shot, no false badge-kissing, no hissy fits when substituted, just a steady stream of intelligent balls and fizzing crosses.
He is proving that he is here to contribute at League One level, not just pick up his wages for a year. The quality of some of the balls he plays is way beyond what we are used to at Victoria Park. As he adjusts to League One, that quality starts to shine through more and more. OK, he might not be able to last 90 minutes week-in-week-out (Saturday's home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday was his first full game) but I'll enjoy what we can get out of him for however long it lasts - be it just one season or longer.
That defeat on Saturday brought to an end Pools' unbeaten start to the season. Despite plenty of huff and puff we couldn't find a way through Gary Megson's seemingly enormous team and the game was decided by a scrappy goal after a flicked header from a long throw dribbled its way into the far corner.
It may have ended the unbeaten run but it extended Pools' unerring ability to disappoint in big games. How many times over the years has a big crowd been attracted to the Vic (and yes, around 7000 is what we call "big") only to leave downbeat following a defeat.
At least we have moved on from the Chris Turner days when pre-match comments before games against 'big' clubs like Leeds, Nottingham Forest and Southampton seemed designed to prepare fans for the inevitable defeat, almost like handing the psychological advantage to the visitors before a ball was kicked. It was almost like "Well, we are only little Hartlepool after all". Mick Wadsworth changed that mentality and the whole approach to games like these is more positive.
Next up for Pools is another area where we have not exactly regularly covered ourselves in glory - the live game. Sky Sports is screening our trip to Notts County live on Sunday afternoon. From memory, we have only won one regular season game live on Sky TV, a 2-0 win at Huddersfield in 2004, so the omens aren't good for an away win (there was also a victory in the play-offs later the same year, but Pools' live record is generally poor.)
The team is scoring goals away from home, however, so let's hope that maybe a bit of South American magic can set something up for us & reverse the TV trend.