Hands up Pools fans, who is expecting a big season? I think the general feeling amongst fans this season is we would like a big improvement having spent the last two loitering towards the foot of the League One table. Hopefully things are going to change as Neale Cooper begins his first full season in charge.
So far this summer we have seen a fair bit more transfer activity than normal. Neale, wanting to stamp his authority on the team, decided he was going to axe the players he felt he no longer needed and who could no longer do a job for the club. The senior players to head the list for release included Adam Boyd, James Brown and Nolberto Solano but perhaps the biggest shock of all was allowing Gary Liddle to leave. Cooper obviously feeling the need for change there and thinking he had been coasting in our midfield for too long.
The players brought into the side however, have added a lot more quality to the side. Ritchie Humphreys has been retained, Jonathan Franks has been snapped up on a free and Simon Walton has been brought in from Plymouth. Perhaps the most significant signing though is the return of beloved Pools striker Steve Howard. Turning down the opportunity to remain in the Championship with a number of clubs who were after his signature, its Hartlepool who have ended up securing his services. I know fans are chomping at the bit to see him put back on the Pools shirt he once wore before.
Looking at the way pre season has gone, it has been a mixed turn of events so far. The away tour of Holland didn’t go quite so well with Cooper’s team losing both games against Dutch opponents. Since back on English soil though, results have picked up with the squad working hard in pre season training and looking a lot fitter. A win over Sunderland at home and two good draws against Championship opposition in Hull City have left the fans looking forward to the new season with high expectation.
The league however looks very strong this year. Hartlepool generally tend to start the season well but tail off towards the end. As for the other clubs, Sheffield United are going to strong again combined with a few other sides like Doncaster, MK Dons, Carlisle and Swindon. If Pools can compete with these kinds of teams with the bigger budgets, then we should be well on the way to success.
I think the club can benefit from a few more signings yet, perhaps another striker as we have struggled to score in the past and even another wide player to provide that bit more width to the side. All you can ask for is a steady season and one where we can perhaps finish higher up the table than in recent years.
Written by John Mason, We Are Going Up’s Hartlepool United blogger
John tweets at @johnmason_29