SAM Collins insists his Hartlepool United team-mates have it all to play for in the remaining six matches of the season – including securing their own futures.
While the 36-year-old defender admits the play-offs are now gone for this season, Collins believes a top 10 finish would still be seen as progress this season.
The captain, who has been a regular alongside on-loan Middlesbrough defender Christian Burgess since January, points to the youngsters in the Pools team playing week in, week out.
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But while he admits the long Sky Bet League Two campaign may be catching up on some of them, there is still plenty to play for for 13th-placed Pools.
Collins told SportMail: “There’s a lot of positives to come from this football club and we are all out to see the season off as best we can.
“A lot of the lads here are playing for something, whatever your situation here, playing for new deals, trying to impress the manager – you have a lot to think about.
“I’m one of the players whose deal is up, so we’ve got to see.
“You have to do well in every single game and training session and impress the manager.
“First and foremost we want to win football games because that is what we get paid from the club to do and then see where we finish in the league.
“Come the end of the season, we might be disappointed if we don’t get in the play-offs, which looks more and more unlikely.
“But if we can finish in the top 10 with the young players that we have got, in their first season in professional football, then that is progress.
“A lot of them have done fantastic this season but some of them are starting to feel the affects as it can be rough and ready at times with so many games close together.
“It is brilliant for them though to get so much football and they will only get better and stronger from that and kick on from there.”
Collins said 17-year-old Brad Walker, named League Two apprentice of the year recently, was one of the younger pros to admit he was feeling the strain after the 1-0 Cheltenham Town defeat at Victoria Park.
But he has called on the older professionals, the likes of 34-year-old Marlon Harewood, Scott Flinders, 27, and Simon Walton, 26, to help the younger players through until May.
While Pools may have been on the wrong end of a disappointing defeat to Mark Yates’ side, Collins said the focus quickly shifted to managerless Portsmouth away on Saturday.
Pompey, currently fourth bottom of League Two, sacked manager Richie Barker last week, with caretaker boss Andy Awford in charge for their trip to Newport County which resulted in a 2-1 win.
Collins added: “It always happens when somebody else takes over and they win their next game.
“We have to go there, play like we did on Saturday and try and be that little bit more clinical.
“We have a really young team and it has been a very long season for a lot of them because they have not played this much before.
“But we need to kick on this last month and the older lads need to help the younger ones.
“We want to get as many wins as possible to finish as high up that league as we can.
“All season the home form has been good so to lose two on the bounce we were all disappointed with.
“But there is no point in getting down and sulking about it though, everyone has to come in with a positive attitude and go to Portsmouth and get a positive result.”