TT OPPOSITION Q&A
John Jewson discusses Hartlepool Utd
Hi John, so play-off final this Sunday how proud are you of Pools efforts this season?
Let’s be honest here, Hartlepool United have been in the doldrums for years. It had been a steady decline from season 2012/13. But thankfully that all changed with the appointment of Dave Challinor as manager last season.
Now the fans are “proud to be a Poolie” once more.
Put it this way. Earlier today I overheard some kids who were about to have a game of footy on a local field. All were excitedly telling each other who they were going to be during the match. But there was no mention of Ronaldo, Messi, or Kane.
All now replaced by the likes of “I’m Rhys Oates” and “I’m Luke Armstrong”.
This makes me proud.
What was your semi final like for those who didn’t see it?
Both play-off matches have been more than pleasing.
Firstly, getting the better of a bogey team in the shape of Bromley. Mainly due to an absolutely superb first half display.
Secondly, as underdogs in the semi final at Stockport. With a different approach. Organised and resolute. Methodically quieting the home support in the process. Once the groundwork was done Rhys Oates did the business.
Rhys Oates has been on fire in the play offs – how highly do you rate him?
I’ll be honest here. The re-signing of Rhys Oates didn’t exactly send my pulse racing. I actually thought it was somewhat of a backwards step by the club.
How wrong could I be. After a slightly stuttering start Rhys has excelled. Getting better with every passing week. His pace (don’t recall him being so rapid previously), strength, and ball control has had opposition defences terrified for months.
Who are your other key players and why?
It’s obviously a team game and collectively the team, for the most part, have been superb this season. And as a result I could make a case for most of them.
But, two players spring to mind Gary Liddle and Nicky Featherstone, our two most experienced players.
Both playmakers, Gary Liddle in a deep defensive, almost sweeper role. And Nicky Featherstone in the heart of the midfield. Both comfortable in possession. I can almost guarantee now that these two will see more of the ball than anyone else in a blue shirt on Sunday.
They both perform well Hartlepool will be difficult to beat.
TT PLAYER PROFILE – Gary Liddle
Position – Centre Back
Date of Birth – 15th June 1986, 35 years-old
Height – 1.85m
Previous Clubs – Middlesborough, Hartlepool, Notts County, Bradford, Chesterfield, Carlisle, Walsall
NL Stats 20-21 – League: Played 23, Goals 0, Bookings 3, Red Cards 1
Play-offs: Played 2, Goals 0
What’s your likely line up for Sunday?
I think Challinor will go with the same team that defeated Stockport
A 3-5-2 formation with…
Middlesbrough loanee Brad James in goal.
With three centre backs Timi Odusina, Gary Liddle and Ryan Johnson.
Two full backs of Jamie Sterry on the right and David Ferguson on the left. Both pushing forward, almost playing as wingers at times.
A midfield three of Mark Shelton, Nicky Featherstone and Gavin Holohan.
And Rhys Oates and Luke Armstrong up top.
Dave Challinor has an excellent record in the NL, what’s his strengths as a manager?
I may be wrong, but Challinor appears to command respect from his players. He has an eye for detail, almost obsessive in his preparation for each match. Never resting on his laurels after a great result such as last week’s.
But the greatest testament to Dave Challinor’s managerial skills is how he reacts to adversity. The 0-5 home defeat to yourselves earlier this campaign would have sent many a manager reeling.
Not Challinor, he re-evaluated, re-jigged and re-grouped. And ultimately kicked on again.
What do you think are the keys to Sunday’s game?
Every time I think of Sunday’s game I feel physically sick with nerves. I bet I’m not alone in this.
Loads of factors may come into play though…Luck, refereeing decisions etc
But, as I stated earlier if Gary Liddle and Nicky Featherstone perform well Pools will be hard to beat. If Rhys Oates and Luke Armstrong come to the party, we’ll be extremely difficult to beat.
That’s the key for me. Simply, the team who gets its players to turn up and perform on the day, in the greater numbers wins.
How do you think Pools would cope with the step up to League 2?
I honestly believe the current team would be actually more suited playing at the higher level.
I know League 2 is not exactly a “total football” utopia. But in my experience a little more football is played there. That’s something Pools like to do, and in my opinion do well at this level.
Unfortunately, a large proportion of mangers and coaches in the National league are not overly keen on the notion of the ball touching the grass too often during a game.
This style of play is difficult to play against at times for us. And extremely difficult to watch for us fans.
What has been the main reasons for your success this season?
On the paying side though, a few key events were… The introduction of Luke Armstrong on loan from Salford. Which brought goals to the team. The signing of former Newcastle United right back Jamie Sterry from South Shields, who’s a cut above National League standard.
Also the return to fitness of Gary Liddle following an early season injury. And of course the transformation of Rhys Oates into a Messi-Ronaldo hybrid around Christmas time.
And finally a massive game for two ex-Football League clubs awaits – what’s your prediction for Sunday?
Other than me feeling a little worse for wear following my first alcohol consumption in five months this coming weekend…
I’ll have to back my own team. So 2-1 to Pools in a tight match, possibly after extra time. Now I do feel sick!
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