Remainers and Remoaners

BILLY'S CONTRACT gets contentious

It will be interesting to see how many of the 'Remainers' from last season's squad will feature on a regular basis in Craig Harrison's starting eleven, let alone make the bench. I am convinced that the list of players given free transfers at the end of last season would have been much greater had some of those who were retained not had another year of their contracts to run, otherwise they would have been shown the door marked Way Out ...and don't bother coming back. 

 Based on the three friendlies I have seen (v Billingham, Dunston and Sunderland) I would say one of the first names on the team sheet would be Padraig (pronounced Paw rick, Irish for Patrick) Amond. Whilst there are rumours that he might be moving on to better things, unlike Nathan Thomas, he hasn't let it show, You cannot fail to be impressed at his work rate and commitment to the club. If he does leave, I say good luck to the lad. He is 29 and I would not blame him for wanting to play in the Sootball League.

Scotty Harrison is another player who has impressed pre-season, showing grit and determination -- surely first choice centre-half. Rhys Oates when he was played up front at Billingham looked more effective than when he is played out wide but will face stiff competition from the other forwards Craig Harrison has signed unless Amond moves on. Carl Magnay is the player who has impressed me the most so far pre-season and should command a starting place, especially as in addition to left back he can, if required, fill in at centre half and midfield. Unless it is the snug fitting new away shirt, Magnay, judging from his physique, and not unlike Scotty Harrison, seems to have spent much of the close season in the gym.
"I don't think we will see him standing still wearing a suit, folding his arms or using a brolly to keep the rain off his locks. "

I would hope to see Kenton Richardson in first team action. The lad is a natural footballer but will face stiff competition to get in the side in the form of Magnay unless he is allowed to play wide, which I understand is his favoured position. Although he had his critics last season and I name myself among them, I think that Nicky Deverdics could prove to be the surprise package this season. In the games against Billy and Dunston he was very much involved. Like Magnay and Amond he has previous in the National League so he should know what to expect and be able pass on his experience to other members of the squad.

As for the remaining remainers they will have to up the ante greatly to make the first team as Pools, much like last season, have a big squad but, unlike last season Craig Harrison appears to have assembled a good squad of players. To quote Brian Honour, 'He has signed players who have got fire in their bellies', so competition for first team places will be the order of the day.. I don't think (and hope) that we will see Featherstone and Woods in the same midfield. Too similar and not great at getting forward or creating much. Of the two Woods contributes more than his midfield partners but often goes missing for parts of the game.

From what I have seen so far, Craig Harrison's style of play is quick, incisive and flowing football, the ball being passed with pace with plenty of movement on and off the ball and not giving the opponents time dwell and to get back into defensive positions. So where does this leave Nicky Featherstone, who can only pass sideways and in reverse.

We were saying after watching Jack Munns' 40-yard chipped goal at Dunston that if Featherstone had tried a similar effort it would have been an own goal as he would have been facing the wrong way when he took the shot. The only role I can see Featherstone playing is coming off the bench late on, when things are tight or to hang on to a point, and taking the momentum and life out of a game well as the fans. They say David Flitcroft at Bury was keen on Featherstone last season as were Donny. Flitcroft is now at Swindon so might still be interested in signing him. If we get a fee for him all well and good. If not, it is one less player on the payroll, so a win-win situation all round.

I feel that some of our other 'remainers' as a matter of good housekeeping will be shipped out on loan as I am not sure if any of them are capable of commanding a first team place let alone a transfer fee.Therefore I was anxious when I saw the side that was fielded against Sunderland. I was concerned that this was going to be Harrison's first choice starting eleven for the forthcoming campaign, particularly the midfield selection. Newton was obviously selected to get him match fit but on the night that showed, as he looked like a lost soul. Woods and Hawkins carried on much in the manner as they did last season and did not offer much with little creativity and the ball being given away cheaply.

I have said it many times that one of the main reasons, and there are many, why Pools lost their league status last season lies firmly at the door of our midfield, whose performances bordered on the naive at best and shambolic at worst. This is the area that Harrison needs to clearly address. It was notable that when Jack Munns came on as a substitute for the injured Oates, notwithstanding his assist in Donaldson's goal, he seemed to liven things up in that department and was here, there and everywhere. Surely he must be a certain starter for a place in the centre of the park.

The thing that has impressed me about Craig Harrison's signings is that, with the obvious exception of Jack Munns, they are all six foot plus. How many times in the past have Pools struggled against taller teams and come away with nothing. The other noticeable thing is that the teams he has fielded are far more vocal that any I can recall. Harrison himself is quite animated on the touch line and is not averse to issuing instructions. I don't think we will see him standing still wearing a suit, folding his arms or using a brolly to keep the rain off his locks.

Many of the new signings have stated that they have come to a 'Big' club and seem to be delighted to be at Hartlepool United. Even some of the National League fans on their forums view us as the Manchester United of this league.

With that in mind my prediction for Pools for the end of next season. Ever the optimist and not wishing to put any pressure whatsoever on Craig Harrison, I don't see the treble as being unachieveable. I would consider anything less as failure.