ONSIDE: It’s time to get excited about Hartlepool United

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WITH the longest day now behind us, the new football season is on the horizon, and I for one cannot wait.

We are just weeks away from the curtain going up on another season of fun and frolics down at Victoria Park, with the odd smile and inevitable heartbreak thrown in for good measure.

This particular pre-season seems to have flown by, despite Pools playing their last game way back in April.

A lot has happened off the field since then, but fans are now eagerly anticipating the new season with fresh hope and optimism – for the first week at least.

But will the 2013-14 campaign see the new look management team of Colin Cooper and Craig Hignett inspire the team to glory and promotion back to League One, or will it be a season of toil or mid-table mediocrity?

It’s hard to predict at the moment, but on the face of it Pools have a relatively strong squad for League Two, albeit a desperate need to recruit a proven goalscorer and attacking midfielder.

Elsewhere, there is cover and options should further players leave through the exit door onto Clarence Road, namely Scott Flinders.

There have been rumours that Dimi Konstantopoulos, or even Steve Harper, could be set to return to the Vic, or perhaps Connor Ripley coming in from Middlesbrough on loan if Flinders does leave, as seems inevitable at some stage.

We shall wait and see.

But with the players back to training on Thursday, many fans will be disappointed there is, as yet, no new blood in the squad.

Hopefully though, with the contacts Cooper and Hignett are bound to have, it is only a matter of time before new players are added. Middlesbrough’s Curtis Main on loan for the season would do very nicely for starters.

Otherwise, there is a lot to look forward to; the fixtures are out, Pools have unveiled a new kit (which looks pretty smart) and the award-winning turf at Victoria Park is looking in good nick too!

Pools kick off their League Two campaign away to Rochdale before an away cup tie against Nottingham Forest, and the first home game of the new season against Southend United.

Not the easiest of starts, and those early games will set the tone for the nine months ahead.

I’m sure we all remember (many still have nightmares) about the opening game from last season... a 5-0 mauling away to Crewe Alexandra in the cup.

The writing was on the wall from there on in really.

One thing is for sure though, come August 17, the town will be empty as Pools make the short distance to York City.

No doubt Grand Central will have to put on extra trains to cope with the clamour for a trip to York to take on our old foes.

The only down side to the fixtures – apart from the poor festive fixtures – is the last away game, which is traditionally a day for fancy dress, is all the way down at Plymouth.

A long way to go dressed as a penguin or a Smurf you may think, but don’t underestimate the commitment or the passion of the fans to make the town proud once again.

Finally, massive congratulations have to go to Colin Cooper, Craig Hignett and the town’s favourite son Jeff Stelling, who recently completed their mammoth trek to the peak of Kilimanjaro in aid of the Finlay Cooper Fund.

A cracking effort, and if the Pools players show half the desire and will to succeed as their gaffers did, then we could be in for a promotion push after all.