If you had taken votes for Hartlepool United’s player of the year in the early and late weeks of last season there would have been one stand-out candidate: Carl Magnay.
The former Grimsby Town defender started and ended his debut season at Pools in great form.
It’s always tough against a team coming down from the league aboveCARL MAGNAY
But the spell in between proved hugely frustrating for the 27-year-old, banned by the Football Association for a crime he was adamant he did not commit, before suffering a persistent groin injury.
Magnay hopes that the 2016-17 programme passes off without any hitches and he is “confident” Pools have the squad to be challenging at the right end of the division.
And while the results in pre-season have hardly shook the world, the Geordie has seen enough on the training ground and in the games to feel that optimism is justified ahead of tomorrow’s showdown with Colchester United at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium.
“I’m really looking forward to my second season,” he told SportMail.
“The first one was important for me – my first one back in the league after coming from the Conference
“It was about getting as many games as possible and now I feel esablished at this level.
“I’ve been looking forward to this season for a long time, both for me and the team.
“A lot of preparation has gone in.
“We had a fantastic week away in Tenerife – it was a real bonus for the boys to be able to have a week at a facility like that.
“There has been frustration at a couple of results and some people have mentioned that not many goals have been scored.
“But I’m really confident and positive that when it comes to the competitive fixtures that we’ll step up to the plate. and put on a good performances.”
The former Chelsea player began last season in the centre of the park, an inspired move by then boss Ronnie Moore.
While Magnay had played with some success at right-back at previous club Grimsby, Moore picked him as his holding midfielder, a role he performed to great effect.
But it all went horribly wrong when after scoring his first goal for Pools, at Wycombe, he was red-carded at Adams Park.
Not only that, the FA charged him with misconduct, finding him guilty of spitting at a Wanderers fan as he left the field, an accustation Magnay strenuously denied – and still does.
Magnay returned only to get injured but he did come back strongly at the end of the season, playing right-back in the final 18 matches.
“I think I had a good start to the season and then maybe didn’t hit the standards I set myself,” he explained.
“Towards the back end of the season I think I picked up again, but the middle of the season wasn’t great.
“It was really difficult trying to get back into the swing of it after missing nine games after the FA ban and I had an injury too, so it was very much stop-start for me.
“But I finished the season well in a good back four which helped us to safety, well clear of the drop zone
“I liked my stint in midfield but I’ve always felt the team would benefit having me in a more comfortable position for me, which is right-back.
“I really enjoyed that –it’s been great getting a full pre-season under my belt in that position has really benefitted me.”
Unless boss Craig Hignett springs a surprise, Magnay will be in the number two slot tomorrow against Colchester at the Vic.
It looks, on paper at least, a tough first hurdle for Pools to clear, but the defender points to the double over Leyton Orient last season as evidence that the side should not be quaking in their boots at a fixture against a team having come down from League One.
“It’s always tough against a team coming down from the league above,” he said.
“They’ll want to bounce back at the first attempt and they’ll want to be putting down a statement to their fans to that effect.
“I’m not sure how many players Colchester have kept from League One.
“But we’ve come up against teams who have come down from League One and done well.
“We had it against Leyton Orient last season – we beat them home and away, and the fixture in London was quite comfortable so it’s nothing to be worried about.
“The gaffer is very intent on us concentrating on ourselves and not worrying about any other side and that’s how we’ll approach it.”