BILLY'S CONTRACT looks at this season's prospects

Well not long to go now - all the signings have been made, the pre-seasons matches played, and shortly it will be time for the talking to stop and let 'the real footy season begin'.

This time last year I predicted that Pools would struggle and narrowly avoid relegation. However, thanks to the appointment of Mick Wadsworth, we did (even if at times we flirted with it), indeed avoid the drop.

What about this coming season? On the plus side, we will be playing in front of almost sell-out crowds at the Vic, which should naturally spur the lads on. There is talk, thanks to these prospective full houses, that the players are really 'up for it' this season, and cannot wait to get down to business with talk of making a play-off place. I hope so, but I cannot see it.

Basically it is pretty much the same squad as last season. I cannot see Nobby Solano putting in a full season's shift. Poole and Luscombe are untried, but having said that they have shown promise and have stood out in the pre-season. Nish did well at Kilmarnock, but spent most of last season on the bench at Hibs, and from what I have read and heard it will take some time for him to become fully match fit - the Poolie faithful will have to show a degree of patience here.
"I don't know if it is a mental failing with our players, but once we have conceded a goal it is near enough game over as the second, third and sometimes even the fourth goal quickly follows."
My main concern is the defence. Individually they are all decent enough players, but at times collectively prone to make basic but costly mistakes. It has to be said that they perform much better when Murray is in the side and protecting them, but like Nobby are we going to get a full season out of the midfield supremo?

My other concern is the 4-5-1 system that Mick deploys. Yes, there is a time and place for it like away at Old Trafford, but certainly not at home to lowly Dagenham & Redbridge et al.

I don't know if it is a mental failing with our players, but once we have conceded a goal it is near enough game over as the second, third and sometimes even the fourth goal quickly follows. We do not seem to have the 'comebackability' or perhaps fight that we did when Danny Wilson was in charge.

Whilst we did in fact secure our League One status for an extended period, in my book there were quite a few negatives to report. After our comprehensive trouncing of then promotion contenders Oldham, it was another 6 games before we recorded our next win. It was the same towards the end of the season. From mid-March until the end of the season we only recorded one win, and that was against lowly Yeovil, one of the relegation contenders. On top of this were the abject performances against Sheffield Wednesday, Tranmere, and who will forget the display against Carlisle? They had ten men for most of the match, and even then we only managed one attempt on goal. As for the away match against Walsall, need I say more? Only that my heart bled for Colin Larkin.

I sincerely hope that we have learned from last season’s lessons, and that we cut out the elementary mistakes and show a bit more bottle at times like we did at home to Brighton. At times we were really goal shy last season. The majority of our goals coming from midfield or from our goalkeeper. I think....and I am hoping that the surprise package of this season with Nish as his partner could be Adam Boyd. I have a funny feeling that if he puts in the effort in it is going to be his year. Seeing him at Ritchie's Testimonial dinner (great night by the way), he looked very lean and 5 years younger, and I am hoping that he well and truly proves his detractors wrong. Don't let us down Boydy - I for one am rooting for you.

Whilst I would never expect him to play 30, let alone 40 plus games a season, if Browny can avoid injury I can see him getting a fair amount of goals as well to complement Boydy’s efforts. It is a crying shame that his potential has not been realised due to the injuries he has sustained during his exciting but brief career.

In conclusion, I hope the reader does not think that my initial comments in this article are too negative - as those that know me would confirm, I am ever the optimist, otherwise I would not have had a ten quid bet that Pools would gain promotion this forthcoming season. I would have had £20 on them but the West Ham odds of being promoted were too good to turn down, so I stuck a tenner on them as well!

Talking of daft bets, as all bets are - Leicester and Boro to miss out on promotion and Sunderland to finish above the Mags...The Mags to be relegated (along with Blackburn and Swansea).