Hartlepool will not repeat relegation fight this season - Michael Woods
Battle-hardened Michael Woods knows what it is like to struggle in League Two.
Two and a half years at Hartlepool United has taught him all he needs to know about the occasional highs and many lows of life in fourth tier football.
And while this campaign appears to be heading the same way as the last two, Woods has moved to assure fans this one will be different.
The former Chelsea midfielder insists a relegation battle will not be on the cards at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium. Not under his watch.
“It feels different to other years,” said Woods.
“I have said it before - I think this is the strongest squad we had in my time here.
“I have been at this club two or three years now.
“You are either on the crest of a wave and everyone is buzzing or it is the other way totally.
“We are either feeling like we can win the league or get relegated here. There is no in between.
“I am confident we have the ability to be looking up not down this year.”
Speak to any player in the dressing-room and the message is the same - Pools’ position in the division is false.
In fact, the word from those in and around the workings of the club concurs also, including the management team.
While that may seem odd to the fans, who can only judge what they see on a matchday, the belief is unwavering that Hartlepool’s talented squad are underachieving this campaign.
Woods agrees. He knows just how good the players can be. He sees it every day on the wintery pitches of Durham University’s Maiden Castle.
Although, he says continuing to come up short on a weekend can only go on for so long.
Woods believes it’s about time Pools bucked up their ideas and produced the goods for all to see on a Saturday.
He said: “There is still a big belief that we have got the ability to achieve something here.
“If you can put a win of two or three wins together we know we can jump up the division.
“But the fans don’t want to see me talking in the media saying we will do, we will do that. We need performances on the pitch.
“We need to put some wins together on the bounce. That way our outlook will change.”
The 26-year-old, who is again expected to be given the chance to shone in the heart of the Craig Hignett’s midfield against Cambridge United tomorrow, continued: “Training has been great.
“I am not just saying that because it is what people want to hear.
“There has been no dip at all.
“But that is fine on the training pitch. We need to take that in to the games.
“We need to prove to people how good we are.
“From the outside looking in people must wonder what we are keep saying it for. From what they have seen we are not.
“Talking is cheap. Some of the performances have not been good enough.”
Hartlepool set themselves the ambitions target of bucking the trend of recent years by fighting for a play-off spot this season, rather than for their League Two lives.
Despite many thinking Pools are a million miles away from that, Woods is confident that kid of talk is only a win or two around the corner, given how tight the division is.
“I don’t feel like we are that far off, at risk of sounding like a broken record,” he said.
“Looking at the teams at the top, we have done well against them.
“If anyone says we are a million miles off then I think they are wrong.
“But the time to stop talking is now. We need to do our talking on the pitch.”
Pools struggled with the physical approach of Wycombe last time out in league action, and Woods says the team need to take a look in the mirror and toughen up ahead of this weekend.
“The players have got to look at ourselves,” he said.
“We are making it far too easy for teams on a weekend.
“Other sides have identified that if they get in our faces we struggle. We have to deal with that.
“We have shown early on this season we can score goals but we have to deal with the other side of the game.
“Last week was not acceptable. We know that ourselves. We don’t want it to happen again this weekend.
“We can say all the things in the world but the lads need to put it right.”