Darrell Clarke is still putting what he learned in his spell at Hartlepool United into place as a manager.
And the popular midfielder, twice a promotion winner with Pools, will return to Victoria Park tonight for the first time as a boss.
It was a great time to be involved at the club and to be in HartlepoolDARRELL CLARKE
Clarke brings his Bristol Rovers side to the Vic for a League Two match and he’s sure to get a warm welcome from the Pools faithful.
The former midfielder was popular with a capital P during his time at Pools.
He was signed from Mansfield Town to fill the void left by Tommy Miller’s departure.
And what a job he did, becoming a key figure in midfield, with a number of goals thrown in, before Danny Wilson released him in the summer of 2007 following promotion back to League One.
Clarke went into management with Salisbury, where he finished his playing career. He had tremendous success, before becoming assistant boss to John Ward at Bristol Rovers.
He succeeded Ward at the Memorial Stadium, where he was unable to save the Pirates from the drop in 2014.
But he guided Rovers back into the Football League after winning the 2015 Conference Premier play-off final at Wembley.
“I can’t wait for the game,” said the 37-year-old. “I have great affinity for Pools
“I had a brilliant six years there, still have friends in town and I am looking forward to seeing a few old faces.
“It was a great time to be involved at the club and to be in Hartlepool. There was a really good feeling in the town.
“Our success started under Chris Turner, but even after he went the club kicked on.
“Yes, we had a setback when we were relegated but we bounced straight back.
“We had a great togetherness in the squad.
“We were all friends and socialised together, that was a big thing for us.
“But it wasn’t just about having a good time – it was all about winning. There were days when we didn’t play well but our spirit got us through and we dug out wins.
“Team spirit is so important and I’ve always looked to carry that on.
“Bristol Rovers hit rock bottom when we went out of the Football League.
“Not many clubs bounce back at the first time of asking – I think there have only been five who have done it.
“I’m very proud of that achievement.”
You would imagine Clarke would be looking to consolidate. Not so.
“I think it’s a bit of a cop out,” he said. “We’re not a big-spending club, but we have a good squad and we’re well-supported.
“But I don’t like the word consolidation. We all start the season on a level playing field and my aim would be to see us try to break into the top seven.”
Tonight could prove a vital game in that regard – Rovers are 17th on 10 points, just three points behind Pools.
“We’ve had similar starts,” said Clarke. “We’ve had a tough start and played six of the top eight, but our performances have been good.
“I think us and Pools are evenly-matched. Pools are just one point off the play-offs and us not far behind. I think it will be a good game.”