‘A club I'll always hold close to my heart’ – Former Hartlepool United striker Luke Armstrong looking to end unbeaten home run with Harrogate Town
Luke Armstrong will make his return to Victoria Park this weekend as the top scorer in League Two so far this season.
The striker has netted eight goals in his first 13 league matches for Harrogate Town and is looking to extend that tally against his former club on Saturday (3pm kick-off).
Armstrong played a key role in Hartlepool United’s promotion from the National League last season while on loan from Salford City. He scored 15 goals in 32 appearances including the opener in the play-off final against Torquay United at Ashton Gate back in June.
Pools did try to bring the 25-year-old back on a permanent basis following their promotion to League Two but a prompt offer from Harrogate proved too good to turn down.
And it’s a move he’s certainly making the most of so far.
"It's gone really well, I'd probably say I've started similarly to how I started at Hartlepool last season,” Armstrong told The Mail.
“I've scored quite a few goals and I feel like as a whole team we've played really well and clicked almost instantly. The lads who have come in have helped add that extra bit Harrogate needed from last season.
"The decision to join Harrogate was down to the fact that it’s a very stable club in terms of the set-up. The manager [Simon Weaver] has been there a long time and is going to be there a long time and he puts a lot of trust into his players.
"I know a few lads who have made the step up from the National League North to League Two and it just shows he believes in the players he brings in.
"Before I moved there, he spoke with me and he was really complimentary of me and told me exactly what he wanted from me and it was right up my street.
"He likes to use the strikers to get the play going and I thought it was a great opportunity to develop myself as a player.”
Although he’s now an opposition player, and a threatening one at that, Armstrong admits Hartlepool will always remain a club close to his heart.
"It was tough to leave Hartlepool and I was quite emotional when my loan spell had ended,” he added. “It's a club I'll always hold close to my heart because of what the club did for me in the situation I was in.
"I’ll always say coming to Hartlepool is the most important and best decision I've made in my career. At the time, I saw Hartlepool as the last hope of my career really where if it didn't work out then that would be it for me.
"I was at Salford and I didn't enjoy it at all and I didn't really want to play for them that really didn't help me. But when I came to Hartlepool I got a new lease of life and I started loving football again.
"The way the season unfolded, it took me from one extreme to the other as I went from really not enjoying how things were going to absolutely loving even just going into training every day and then obviously experiencing the promotion too.
“The only shame about the majority of my time at Hartlepool was that the fans weren't there to experience most of it with us. I think I only played in front of them twice at The Vic and then Bristol. Of course it was hard to go but that's just the way things pan out in football sometimes.”
Armstrong’s finest moment in a Pools shirt came on June 20 as he scored the goal that would ultimately lead to the club securing promotion on penalties.
"It's 100-per-cent the greatest moment of my career,” he admitted.
“I just think the whole feeling of the ball hitting the back of the next and being 1-0 up in the final was really special, running towards the crowd is something I remember all the time.
"Every time I'm finding things tough in my career, I'll always look back at that and think those are the moments I can achieve. It's something to look back at and use as motivation to try and achieve again.”
Sentimentalities aside, Armstrong is keen to get one over his former club and end Pools’ unbeaten home record.
“I'm excited, it's going to be a tough test and obviously Hartlepool have started really well at home but we've started well ourselves so it's probably one of the biggest games in the league this weekend,” he continued.
"For a change, I'm hoping Hartlepool don't come out as winners this time!
“Obviously I’ve got a lot of time for the Pools fans but I'm sure the fans won't be buzzing towards the Harrogate lads so I expect to be on the wrong end of it.
“Even the limited numbers last season, The Vic was still absolutely bouncing. I'm looking forward to seeing what it's like as a packed stadium and I'm fully prepared for a bit of stick.
“I don't think Chally [Dave Challinor] would make too many changes on the back of a good 3-1 win at Bradford but I know that there's a good mix at the back and I'll have to give it everything to try and break them down.
"Obviously the fans will be a big help to them and give them that extra bit of energy. Obviously I know all about the home record so it's going to be tough to break but hopefully we can be the team to do that.
“If I scored, I certainly wouldn't want to rub it in playing in front of the Hartlepool fans. I'll obviously be happy because it's my job and it's my target to score goals for Harrogate but I wouldn't be doing any over the top or silly celebrations in front of the crowd that's for sure!”