THREE key areas Hartlepool United must strengthen this summer
Matthew Bates and Craig Hignett are looking to oversee a complete overhaul of the Hartlepool United squad this summer.
A lot of the work they hope to complete depends on whether they can shift a number of unwanted squad members out the door, but either way it will be a busy summer of ins and outs at Victoria Park.
But what areas do Pools need to strengthen most?
Here our writer Liam Kennedy takes a look at the three key areas Bates and Hignett need to address between now and the start of the National League season.
ONE - Plug the gaps
If there was an overriding problem with Pools last season - let’s be honest there were many - it was their inability to see out a game and increasing habit of throwing away points due to the simplest of errors.
Now players from all areas of the park were culpable to a point last campaign, but there errors were more prevalent among the defensive ranks, and in particular, those who occupied the central roles.
Louis Laing grabbed the headlines on this front last season with his errors proving particularly costly but others who played alongside him, barring Carl Magnay at the back end of the season and Keith Watson earlier, were far from perfect.
It would be no shock to see Bates go out and get at least two new centre-backs.
A lot will depend on whether Scott Harrison and Laing can be moved on. The only certainty is that skipper Magnay is probably certain to lead from the back, with a new partner alongside him centrally.
TWO - Improve the spine
Every good team at any level has a strong, solid spine.
Pools have anything but.
Take Scott Loach out of the equation from front to back, right where it matters, Pools are nowhere near as strong as they need to be.
While defensive frailties have been covered above, and a lack of goals below, the midfield has to be beefed up by Hignett and Bates.
At the moment just Lewis Hawkins is 100% certain to be at Pools next season, with Josh Hawkes also capable of playing deeper but much more at home further up the park in the No 10 role.
Michael Woods has had his contract extended for another year, with the club taking up an option on his deal, but a lot of clubs are monitoring his situation and it is by no means certain Pools will not receive bids for last season’s 11-goal top-scorer.
Nicky Featherstone has been offered a new deal but is yet to put pen to paper while Conor Newton and Jack Munns have been told they are free to find employment elsewhere. This, of all the areas on the field, is likely to see the most change.
THREE - Goals. We need goals!
Fifty-three goals in 46 games in the league is just nowhere near good enough.
Compare that with the 64 as the lowest total any team scored from seventh above and it’s easy to see why Pools slid so far down the fifth tier so easily.
Fylde, who finished seventh, scored a remarkable 82 and play-off winners Tranmere Rovers not far behind on 78.
Pools hoped a striker who netted eight goals in a struggling Guiseley team the season previous would be the answer - Jake Cassidy’s five strikes, despite some decent performances, was nowhere near enough.
Rhys Oates chipped in with seven but was chopped, while Devante Rodney’s odd cracker is not something the club can rely on, such is his inconsistency, stemming from his relative youth.
It’s not like Pools need a 20-goal-a-season man, although it would help.