Hartlepool United boss Craig Harrison reacts to National League fixture release

Craig Harrison
Craig Harrison
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Craig Harrison has revealed that home comforts on the opening day should give Hartlepool United the best possible start to life outside the Football League.

Pools face Dover Athletic on the first day of the season - Saturday, August 5 - before heading to Macclesfield Town three days later, then on to Maidenhead United.

And Harrison, whose side start their pre-season campaign on Thursday night at Billingham Town (kick-off 7.45pm), believes starting off at the Vic, with a big crowd, gives his side the best possible chance getting off on the right foot.

"I am pleased to start with a home game," said Harrison.

"I think it’s important you set your stall out and being at home first will hopefully help us with that.

"I think the lads who have been here will know what kind of atmosphere can be generated at The Vic and the new lads will be enthusiastic to taste that early on so it’s great we start at home and I’m sure there will be a big crowd, which will be key.

Nicky Deverdics former club Dover come to the Vic on the opening day - August 5

Nicky Deverdics former club Dover come to the Vic on the opening day - August 5

"Fortunately, I have seen Dover play live twice in the last 18 months when they have been playing local to me in Chester so I already know a little bit about them.

"Obviously we’ll do our full homework, we’d be stupid not to, but one thing I do know is that it will be a physical test. They’re strong and physically fit and can be quite direct so we will have to deal with that.

"We’re at home though and, as I have told the lads, throughout this season – especially at The Vic – it won’t be all about us but I think 75 to 80% will be about how we do on the day.

"You can get caught up in analysing the fixtures and thinking what could have been better or worse for you but I think the opening weeks overall have been on the kinder side so we’re reasonably happy with the situation.

Pools take on new boy Jake Cassidy's former club Guiseley on August 28

Pools take on new boy Jake Cassidy's former club Guiseley on August 28

"We have to be ready, of course, because the first two months will be very important months."

The festive period has also been particularly kind to Pools.

Two games against local rivals Gateshead - on Boxing Day and New Year's Day are preceded by a home game against Maidenhead, with a trip to Chester sandwiched in between.

Harrison revealed that the club requested the Heed clashes, and are delighted that the powers that be saw fit to grant their wish.

Craig Harrison: "By and large we have to be pretty happy with the festive schedule."

Craig Harrison: "By and large we have to be pretty happy with the festive schedule."

"It’s great that it’s come to fruition," he said.

"We will definitely be looking forward to those games, they should be great occasions. They are local derby games for us so they should be very exciting and there will definitely be a great atmosphere, particularly when we play them at home on New Year’s Day.

"The lads are all professional obviously but ideally you want to be reasonably close to home over Christmas so that they can spend a little time with their families – you have to have that balance to make sure you have a happy squad.

"Obviously we’re at Chester for our final game of 2017 which is a pretty long trip but by and large we have to be pretty happy with the festive schedule."

Traditionally Poolies always roll out the big guns on the final away game of the season and this year it has thrown up one of the tastiest trips in recent memory, with a visit to title favourites Tranmere Rovers on the final day.

Harrison can't wait to see what the Pools fans dish up in terms of fancy dress, he just hopes his players are able to produce the goods on the pitch to back it up.

"I would be quite happy if that game is a straight shootout to win the league, I would take that now," he said.

"I know Pools fans in particular enjoy their last away games and get right in to the spirit with fancy dress but I think the trip to Prenton Park certainly adds a bit more spice.

"Hopefully there will be a good atmosphere because it will be a massive occasion; I have seen the Pools fans in fancy dress over the last couple of years and it’s unbelievable so we’ll take plenty to that game, I’m sure.

"The important thing is that we go there playing for something. We want that to be a game that means something and hopefully it will be to try and win the title."