HARTLEPOOL UNITED are beset by problems on and off the pitch and at this dark time in the club’s history, it’s essential that everyone at the club is committed to the struggle.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Pools, as the late great Brian Clough gave me a trial as a young goalkeeper when he was manager there in 1965, and I have watched the club’s decline with growing dismay.

I read Nick Loughlin’s extraordinary report of last Saturday’s match, and I have to take issue with him over his criticism of centre back Louis Laing which I thought was destructively cruel and way over the top.

I’ve never seen Laing play so I have not got an opinion on his ability but I believe a sports journalist’s criticism should be constructive, not destructive. In the position Laing plays, there is no hiding place and I’m nonplussed as to how standin manager Matthew Bates, who was himself an accomplished centre back, could ask a player to carry out a role for which, if Nick is to be believed, he is clearly ill equipped.

Jimmy Flynn, Acklam, Middlesbrough