Mentality, system & staff - the Pools transformation under caretaker Matthew Bates
Continuity or change?
It’s a dilemma faced by every club in light of getting rid of a manager.
Is it best to stick with the coaches already at the club or is the time right to bring in a fresh face to reinvigorate a faltering season?
It’s a decision Pam Duxbury was faced with three weeks back, when her hand was eventually forced into sending Craig Harrison packing after a run of just one win in more than three months.
While Duxbury courted interest in the opening few days of the process, with offers to work for free dropping at her desk, that stance has changed somewhat lately.
It’s understood she has been impressed by what she has seen from caretaker Matthew Bates. And while results have not really changed on the park, performances have improved slightly, which has not gone unnoticed. And some of the caretaker’s work off the field has not only saved the club cash, but also been praised by players and staff alike.
So what has Bates changed at Pools? Here we take a look at THREE key areas the manager has adjusted ahead of tomorrow’s visit to AFC Fylde.
The biggest change under Bates so far has been off the field. Gone are Paul Jenkins and Bernie Hirmer, as well as manager Craig Harrison, from the training pitches at the club’s Durham University base, and in their place have come a former Champions League winner in Ross Turnbull and ex-Sunderland academy manager Ged McNamee.
The early word on the impact of Turnbull is positive. The former Middlesbrough keeper has been having a very hands on role with Scott Loach and Ryan Catterick, as well as taking some of the workload off the shoulders of ex-teammate and friend Bates.
Perhaps the impact of McNamee has been more visible for fans.
The likes of Blair Adams, Louis Laing and Scott Harrison all know McNamee from being kids at Sunderland. It is no shock to see improvement in levels.
Harrison had a bit of a nightmare last weekend, but was constantly talked through the game by McNamee from the touchline. And Adams suddenly looks like the player Pools thought they were getting in the summer.
The players trust their former youth coach, as does Bates, and the results of that are evident.
Gone is the one up front. In its place is a much more fluid, free-flowing midfield diamond with two strikers.
While the system does not cover the full-backs all that well, neither did Harrison’s formation. And instead of a stale, lifeless midfield, Pools now have a one full of movement.
Conor Newton has been allowed a much more free role, with Nicky Featherstone sitting much deeper.
Newton has taken on the mantle of Michael Woods’ festive period form. All he needs to add now is the goals to go with it.
Losing kills confidence. It’s plain and simple.
And the facts don’t lie - Pools have lost far too many games this season, meaning the chance to build up any reasonable level of confidence has been decimated by their abject shows come 3pm on a Saturday.
But, all of a sudden, the mood music has changed at the club. Belief is alive and kicking. See the last 25 minutes on Saturday for evidence.
Bates has given trust back to his players. He wants them to make their own decisions with the ball, without it he’s got them drilled.
He’s cut them loose and they seem to be responding to that little bit of responsibility.