Ronnie Moore had a beaming smile on his face as he met with the media on the eve of the new season.
A BIG summer at Hartlepool United has seen a major overhaul both on and off the pitch and Moore is looking forward to the challenge facing his new-look Pools side in what he believes is one of the most exciting and competitive divisions in years.
Expectation levels among Pools fans have risen, given the new blood that has come into the squad.
But Moore has fired a warning shot ahead of the new season, with the likes of Portsmouth, Leyton Orient and Yeovil Town all strengthening their squads - with Notts County adding 17 new players to their ranks.
Pools will be a “younger, quicker, counter-attacking side” this season says Moore but the experienced manager knows the level of competition is stiff this year.
“This is going to be an exciting league, there are some really good teams in it,” Moore told SportMail.
“And if you are not organised and doing the right things then you will be in trouble.
“The big teams will be in and around, or at least they should be with the money they have and the squads they have at their disposal.
“It looks like there will be a top seven or eight, then a middle bunch and four or five thinking this might be there time [to drop out of the league].
“But that is where you will get your surprises because sometimes those teams who you expect to be near the bottom actually end up in the top seven.
“If you get 17 players in, like at Notts County, you have to be very lucky too for them all to gel.
“They are a massive club though and shouldn’t be where they are and I’m sure they won’t be for too long.
“There’s some big clubs in our league now – Notts County, Cambridge, Portsmouth have all thrown money at it.
“It’s a fantastic division this season and the only disappointing thing for us is the travelling – with only five teams in and around to us. But then a lot of London teams and southern teams have to come to us.”
Moore shipped out a lot of the deadwood in the summer, players at the wrong end of the age spectrum, with the focus shifting on bringing in younger, quicker players.
The average age is around 23 to 24 and Moore is confident they will be capable of playing a range of systems over the course of the season.
With Pools finishing third bottom last season, narrowly avoiding relegation to the National League, what is a realistic target?
“Our expectations are to improve,” added Moore.
“We all want to win the league don’t we? Then top three, top seven. But we have to be stable as a club and move in the right direction – come April and in with a shout then brilliant.
“I read an article yesterday that we were going down – let’s see on that. People are writing us off and it will spur us on. They get paid to put a point of view across, I don’t agree and a few thousand in and around Hartlepool don’t agree either.”
When quizzed over the rising expectation levels, Moore added: “The expectation level at the club is as high as it can be at this present time.
“Everybody thinks we are going to have a fantastic season, I don’t know if we are because I don’t have a crystal ball.
“But we are going to give it a good try and it won’t be for the want of trying.
“We have younger lads in but they are not as experienced as the lads that have gone and you are very lucky if you get a 19-year-old who has played 300 league games!
“You have to go one way or the other. It is about developing the younger players and if they hit the ground running, we have a really good squad here.”
Pools host Jim Bentley’s Morecambe tomorrow and The Shrimps have this week signed forward Shaun Miller and young Preston North End striker Jack Ryan on a three-month loan.
“It’s a good start for us at home,” added the Pools boss. Morecambe are a good footballing side and they play a nice brand of football and I like the two guys in charge.”