Player of the season
There have been many good performances throughout the year from Hartlepool, despite our mid-table position. On the number of occasions I have been to see them, I have been impressed with the way the club have defended as a unit. I would like to highlight a couple of players who I would put forward for the award, before making a decision.
Evan Horwood, at left back has been very consistent. Scoring a few cracking goals this season screamer and being many of the fan’s favourite he has rarely missed a game for Pools. An attacking full back with a mean delivery, he can certainly hurt other teams going forward as well as doing a good job for the defence.
Sam Collins, one of the club’s longest serving players, the experienced centre half with a wise head on him has once more excelled for Pools in another long hard fought season. A prominent figure in the back line for the team, when he is not playing you seem to notice as the back line does not cope as well without him.
Paul Murray, marshalling the midfield, just in front of the defence this stern, hard nut, holding midfielder does a tidy job sweeping up and protecting the back four for United. Making the midfield tick with his distribution and leadership, he has been second to none and instrumental in the team this season.
The Verdict = Evan Horwood
The left back takes the award this season for me, from many fans and journalists I have spoken to up north this season from the games I have been to seem to agree, not being able to say a bad word about him.
Young Player of the season
There is only one winner here I’m afraid. Although I will give two special mentions who could run him close in years to come. Hartlepool have focused a lot this year on youth, and since the turn of the year looked to integrate some of the younger lads into the first team. These players are Greg Rutherford and Jack Baldwin. Both have made limited appearances for Pools, but look worthy stars of tomorrow. Each have prominent futures at the club, hopefully in the first team again next season.
The Verdict = Luke James
One lad who totally stands out head and shoulders above the rest. Seventeen year old, teenage sensation, Luke James. This young man’s career has taken off since giving the chance to play upfront with strikers like Adam Boyd, Ryan Noble and Anthony Sweeney. Nobody expected this young man to be quite the talent he is at the moment. Scoring three goals in twelve appearances he is certainly one to watch out for.
Unsung hero and under-performing player
For this award, it is hard to look beyond three players. Sam Collins, Anthony Sweeney and Paul Murray have been equally impressive and don’t tend to get much of the praise associated to when the team perform well. Hard-working, reliable and willing are a few words used to describe these different individuals.
As for under-performing player, not really an accolade anyone wants to be associated with, and I don’t like to single anyone out for criticism but I think either Adam Boyd or James Poole this season. Boydy, because his best years are surely behind him now and in the words of the manager recently in a press conference, ‘He isn’t exactly going to run past anyone,’ referring to the type of player he is…a slow one.
James Poole because, I don’t feel he has shown his true potential yet. He has struggled with injury throughout out much of this season, which Pools fans may question my judgement as to why I am mentioning him. Being slightly harsh when he was fit he only showed his potential moments of class when at the beginning of the season for a short period of time. In and out the team, he could never seem to hold down a starting position which he badly needs if he is to progress at Pools.
Team of the season
Again this is what I think, having been to games this year most Hartlepool fans may agree or disagree but I have decided on my final eleven. There are one or two players who perhaps may have got in had they not been injured like James Poole and other late arrivals to the team such as striker Ryan Noble who have only recently joined. Therefore these players miss out unfortunately.
GK – Scott Flinders
LB – Evan Horwood
CB – Peter Hartley
CB – Sam Collins
RB – Neil Austin
LM – Andy Monkhouse
CM – Gary Liddle
CM – Paul Murray
RM – Ritchie Humphreys
ST– Anthony Sweeney
ST– Luke James
The team pretty much picks itself this season as the squad has looked a bit thin on the ground in recent weeks towards the end of the year. I’m sure that manager, Neale Cooper, has been brought in to put his on stamp on the team next season and I’m certain that most of that team will be completely different.
Best and worst moment of the season
The best moment of the season for me was watching James Poole come on from the substitute bench in some of the first few games of the season and practically score with his first touch twice against MK Dons and Rochdale. Not just scoring, but his goals in those two games were pure class. I remember jumping out of my seat on both occasions in sheer amazement at what I had witnessed. Two fabulous goals worthy of being in the Premier League, they were that damn good.
The worst moment of the season, has probably been in the last few weeks. Performances have tailed off and I am certain most of the players already feel like they are already on holiday for the summer. Not winning at home at the Vic in front of our own supporters since February, has been a bit of a worry, and it would be nice to see the club end the season on a positive rather than a negative in what has been another decent season for the club in mid-table.
How the team can improve for next season?
Pools fans will be thinking déjà vu to last year. How can we improve? In my opinion I am almost certain the manager will bring in one, maybe two, strikers. Hartlepool in my opinion lack goals, especially at home and this should be assessed. As for other positions the club may need strengthening, I hear Neale Cooper likes to play with natural wingers with pace; this is something the club do not have. All signs point to suggesting he’ll sign a couple of players he is familiar with to play in these vacant positions.
Written by John Mason, We Are Going Up’s Hartlepool United Blogger
John tweets at @johnmason_29