“HIT me over the head with a shovel if I haven’t improved this squad.”
That is the challenge Mick Wadsworth has thrown to anyone who believes his summer recruitment hasn’t left Hartlepool United in a stronger position.
On the early-season evidence it appears the manager’s brow will be staying intact.
Wadsworth has brought six players to Victoria Park since the end of the last campaign.
Two of them – Nobby Solano and Colin Nish – have been first-team regulars thus far, while James Poole and Nathan Luscombe, both still 21 years old, have made an impressive contribution from the bench.
Stephen Wright, signed on a free transfer last month, had won a starting jersey until a recent knee injury saw him sidelined, while teenager Jack Baldwin is catching the eye at reserve-team level.
And Wadsworth told SportMail: “We have improved as a squad and as a team and a club.
If we hadn’t then someone should hit me over the back of the head with a shovel – we had to make it better.
“The chairman and board have been supportive in what we do and for that I appreciate it.
“We hope for a good season and it’s now about working really hard to maintain a fantastic start.”
Wadsworth, however, accepts that expectation has hit unprecedented heights given the club-record start.
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If the bookmakers were to be believed then Pools were headed for a season-long struggle at the wrong end of the League One ladder.
Promotion odds, on the other hand, were fanciful to say the least – a price of 33/1 having now been slashed to just 8/1.
The reason is the unbeaten start which, prior to today’s visit of Sheffield Wednesday, had stretched to nine matches.
Wadsworth, though, believes the league will only start to take shape over the course of the next couple of weeks, but he admits his men are hopeful of hanging around in the upper echelons of the third tier.
“As we go on unbeaten the mentality changes from one of nervousness and apprehension to one of great optimism,” he added.
“Expectation to win games is that much stronger now than it was at the start of the season before we played MK Dons on the opening day.
“But the league is still very changeable and one loss or even a draw can see you slip a good few places.
“On the same token if you keep on winning then you’ve got a great chance of staying up there.
“We’ve given ourselves that chance but it’s early days.
“If we’re still there after 12 or 13 games then we’ll say ‘yeah, we might do okay this season’.”