LAST season for Hartlepool United was “nowhere near” good enough admits a brutally honest Sam Collins.
But the club stalwart, who is combining playing with helping to coach the first and reserve teams, insists the work being done in Spain this week will help transform the club’s fortunes.
Pools finished 19th in Sky Bet League Two last year after a season – which at one point promised so much – eventually ended with a worrying fight against relegation.
A refreshed Collins though believes the current crop of Pools players are good enough to beat anyone in the league and is hoping for a more successful and consistent season.
Colin Cooper has taken his squad to La Cala Resort, in southern Spain, where the player’s are taking advantage of the FIFA-approved training facilities in the hot sunshine.
The facilities have gone down well with the squad, who are having to contend with double and sometimes triple training sessions a day to improve their fitness and technique ahead of the new season.
Collins believes there is a lot of potential in the Pools camp but knows they have to improve on last season’s offering.
The respected 37-year-old said: “We have got to improve on last year because that was nowhere near where we want to be.
“By the time the season starts though the lads will be fit and ready for the first game of the season against Stevenage.
“If you get off to a good start then it sets you up for a good season and that has been proven in the past.
“There are always teams that perhaps you thought wouldn’t really be challenging but then have a good start and push on and go for it.
“We have the ability in the dressing room, on our day, to beat any team in this league.
“If we can be more consistent and do that more often than not, then who knows?
“We will be ready come the start of the season though, that is for sure,” added Collins, who has been helping run some of the sessions with Cooper and assistant manager Stephen Pears.
Collins says the training sessions have been “tough - just how they should be” with early morning runs all part of the gruelling schedule.
The veteran defender, in the twilight of his playing career, knows more than most just how important this time of year is for footballers.
But despite his advancing years, he reckons it is getting easier for him because he has learned to look after himself so well.
“You have got to hit the ground running,” Collins told SportMail.
“When I was younger it may take you four or five games until you felt proper bang at it but it is different now.
“As I have got older, I have found that I have got fitter and feel fitter than I have ever done before.
“Over the years I think pre-season training has probably got easier for me because I have learnt to look after myself better and know when I need to push myself and when I don’t.
“Certainly though when you get older you can’t afford to not do anything during the summer break.
“I kept myself fit apart from a couple of weeks rest after the season ended.
“Since then I have been going out running, playing golf, rowing, all sorts of sports just to make sure when I start back I am ready.”
Collins and fellow Yorkshireman Neil Austin have been among the frontrunners during the early morning 4k runs around the golf courses at La Cala.
Speaking to SportMail at La Cala during a break from the rigours of training, Collins added: “The training has been good, tough as it should be with the conditions, but good.
“Pre-season is massively important, especially these first couple of weeks.
“We need to get as much work in as possible and that sets you up for the football later.”