Middlesbrough legend Curtis Fleming helps Hartlepool United defender Jake Carroll
Jake Carroll took a little while to get '˜warmed up' at Hartlepool United but the full-back has come back looking quite hot.
Carroll has started the new season as he left off last term – in good form.
The 25-year-old joined Pools in the summer of 2015, then boss Ronnie Moore bringing in the former Republic of Ireland youth international from Sky Bet Championship side Huddersfield Town.
It all started brightly but Carroll, by his own admission, meandered along somewhat before a change of fortunes at the start of this year.
The Dubliner had a great game against Derby County in the FA Cup and has not looked back since.
Carroll is one of only two ever-presents this season and is in fine touch, both in defence and going forward.
And he puts a lot of that down to assistant boss and compatriot, Curtis Fleming, the former Middlesbrough and Republic of Ireland defender.
“There was a turning point for me last season,” Carroll told SportMail.
“I’ve kept that confidence going and I’ve enjoyed my run in the side.
“I’ve also been helped by the belief the manager and Flem have in me.
“Flem has been great with me.
“With him having been a very good full-back himself I’ve learned a lot from him.
“He’s spent a lot of time with me, coaching me on the defence and the attacking side of play.”
The offensive play is vital , especially given the positive approach Craig Hignett demands from his players.
Carroll says the attacking psyche of his manager is something all the players have bought into, including the full-backs, with both Carl Magnay and Jordan Richards getting forward down the right flank.
“Absolutely, yes,” said Carroll, who praises Nicky Featherstone for the covering work he does as the holding midfielder.
“Sometimes you feel conscious about getting caught out, but the manager wants us to get forward and it’s something I enjoy.
“And at the end of the day, that’s how full-backs play these days, they are expected to get forward.
“Once you have that player sitting then like Feathers you have the licence to get forward.
“If I go then Mags or Jordy stays and vice-versa.”
Pools have had a mixed start to the season, with one win, three draws and three defeats across all three competitions.
But Carroll said confidence is high going into tomorrow’s trip to Stevenage, who suffered a good hiding at Grimsby last weekend.
“Definitely,” he said. “The side has been a little unsettled with a few changes here and there so far, but the football has been pretty good, maybe aside from the hiccup we had at home to Notts County.
“We’ll be looking to carry on and build on the good things we have done.
“Stevenage did lose but we’ll be looking at our game rather than them.
“We’re looking to be confident and we’ll try to continue our good football.”
Carroll could well have an eye for goal too.
After scoring once last season – in the vital home victory over Dagenham & Redbridge last March – the left-back came close last week in the exciting 2-2 draw with Newport County during the second half.
“I’m due a goal, I usually get one a season!” he laughed.
“I scored a header against Dagenham, but I am getting forward a lot more and I’m looking to get opportunities.
“I don’t think I’ve had any shooting chances, but I’ll keep looking, and last season I had quite a few assists
“If it’s an assist instead of a goal, I’ll still be happy.”
Carroll has been one of the constants in an ever-changing defensive unit, but he says things will settle down as the season wears on.
“We’ve had a new signing, a sending off, injuries, so it’s not easy,” he said.
“It won’t be settled until everyone is injury and suspension free, which isn’t really happening at the moment.”