TT OPPOSITION Q&A
“Challinor looks to have made astute signings over the summer and has revamped his squad”
John Jewson discusses the Monkey Hangers from Hartlepool
Hi John thanks for talking to us, so what were your expectations for Hartlepool heading into the season?
Firstly, I’d like to take the opportunity to belatedly congratulate Torquay on your promotion. It’s nice to have the Pools and Gulls long distance rivalry return.
Other than being two English seaside towns, Hartlepool and Torquay don’t have a lot in common. Both having football clubs who’ve experienced more than their fair share of struggle over the years is certainly one. And as a consequence, two sets of passionate fans who’ve stuck by their clubs through all the adversity throughout the years is another.
Expectations were raised from the moment Pools made the appointment of Dave Challinor as manager in November last year. There was a tangible uptick in performances and results. Indeed Pools had an outside chance of making the play-offs until the season was curtailed in March.
Challinor continued to reshape his squad over the extended summer break. And looks to have made some shrewd acquisitions, despite the obvious financial constraints due to covid.
Who are your owners and how have they dealt with the strange circumstances this year?
Raj Singh a local Teesside businessman and former Darlington FC chairman who bought the club at the end of 2017/18 season. Saving us from administration and possible liquidation by injecting more than £1.2 million into Pools. Singh had been persuaded to buy the club by Jeff Stelling. Who himself put funds into his beloved Pools.
From March onwards difficult decisions had to be made. Some long-standing employees were sadly made redundant, others furloughed. Financial constraints remain and the club has become more reliant on volunteers.
At this point I must mention Pools fan Gary White who set up a Go Fund Me page ‘Pools Budget Booster’ with the aim to boost Dave Challinor’s playing budget. To date it has raised £30,520.
That is superb support. Did the club make any notable signings during pre-season and how have they fared so far?
As I said earlier Challinor looks to have made astute signings over the summer and has revamped his squad, bringing in 13 new players, both permanent and on loan.
The uptick in fortunes last term coincided with the loan signings of Gary Liddle, Timi Odusina, both centre backs and midfielder Mark Shelton. Each has now signed permanently for the club. And together with the other new players have given the squad much more depth.
Who are your key players and why?
I’m only going to single out one player, perhaps controversially. Our longest serving player – Nicky Featherstone.
Often the convenient scapegoat after a poor display or result. I think it’s fair to say a section of the Pools faithful have never taken to Featherstone. Yet, during his six years at the club, Nicky has been an almost ever present with every manager he’s played under. Each rating him highly.
He’s the playmaker, calm in possession. He plays well, so does the team. Oddly, I believe we may have had the so called missing piece of the jigsaw here first. The other pieces around him were wrong. And the current manager may have finally addressed that.
Who’s the gaffer and what tactics does he like to play?
Dave Challinor, as you can tell I’m a fan thus far. Challinor was at AFC Fylde prior to Hartlepool. Taking them from the Northern Premier League Division One North to the brink of the Football League. Qualifying for the play-offs twice and losing out to Salford City at Wembley on the second occasion. He also guided them to a FA Trophy win at Wembley a week later.
Fylde parted company with him at the start of the next (last) season. Their loss was Hartlepool’s gain. For the most part Challinor likes his teams to play football, keeping possession. He likes his players to be comfortable on the ball. That includes his central defenders, but can also set his team up to counter-attack on occasion and has introduced more pace to the squad this term to enable this.
How would you rate your start to the season and have any moments stood out for you?
On the whole it’s been a pleasing start from a set of players who are largely new to each other. Most of the signs are positive. And of course we remain undefeated thus far.
We’ve introduced pace into the team and now look really dangerous on the break. Also our fitness levels now appear to be much higher than previous seasons.