Billy Paynter hints he may see out career at Hartlepool United
Billy Paynter has given his strongest hint that he would love to see his career out at Hartlepool United.
The leading scorer has signed a contract extension at the club and he told SportMail he would be happy to stay beyond next season.
Paynter hit 15 goals in his debut campaign, the second best tally in his career, following his move from Carlisle United last summer.
The 31-year-old was made captain by Ronnie Moore and responded by leading Pools from the front as well as finding the net so many times, despite spending almost three months out injured.
“I am thankful to Ronnie Moore and Sam Collins who gave me the chance to come here,” said the Scouser.
“I was surprised to be given the captaincy but it was an honour.
“I’ve led a good bunch of lads and I think we can now kick on from here.”
Moore’s successor, Craig Hignett, has been impressed by the performances and leadership qualities of the much-travelled striker and had no hesitation in extending his deal.
And Paynter, who has become a fans favourite, was thrilled to sign and is looking to remain for as long as possible.
“I still feel young and I hope to be at Hartlepool for many years,” said the striker who finished runner-up to keeper Trevor Carson in three player of the year votes, the supporters, player and Hartlepool Mail awards.
Hignett is looking for new forward options to assist Paynter next season, having released joint second top scorer Scott Fenwick, while Luke James has returned to parent club Peterborough United.
The future of Rakish Bingham, who started the programme up front with Paynter, is up in the air though Rhys Oates has been retained.
Paynter hopes Pools can follow in the footsteps of Bristol Rovers next season after rating them as the best team he’s seen in the division.
The Gas, managed by double Pools promotion winner Darrell Clarke, clinched the final automatic place in the dying seconds of the season.
Pools gave tough games to the other two clubs to go up, Northampton and Oxford, but could get no-where near Rovers, who beat them 3-0 at the Vic and 4-1 at the Memorial Stadium.
Paynter says the way their advanced players could inter-change and attack at will made them a very dangerous side.
“Bristol Rovers were probably the best team we’ve played, home and away,” he said.
“Their front players were something else, we were like ‘what is going on here?’ when we played them.
“Darrell Clarke brought them through the Conference and straight up, they have been phenomenal.
“Their chairman must be over the moon with him.”