Dave Challinor on a pre-season like no other as Hartlepool United ramp up preparations ahead of League Two return
It has been a remarkable summer at Victoria Park and a pre-season like no other.
Just three weeks separated Pools winning promotion in such dramatic fashion against Torquay United to the return to pre-season training ahead of the new season.
Given the National League started later due to Covid-19 the play-off final didn’t take place until June 20, with the players returning to training at the end of last week ahead of the League Two campaign.
While far from ideal, Dave Challinor doesn’t mind the fast turnaround given the club finally ended its stint in non-league to win promotion.
The squad is hard at work on the training pitches at Maiden Castle, returning to the site the club used to train at, while work is ongoing off the field to build a squad capable of competing in the EFL.
Challinor said: “It’s a different pre-season for us.
"We’re footballers so the ball has been out straight away with the players getting back into it.
"The first three days were more of an introduction because we’re working with reduced numbers with players in isolation and we didn’t know how they’ll be affected by Covid so we’ve got to see where we stand there.
"We then had people back in Monday and have been back at it fully.
"We’ll have different groups of players because we’ve got our players from last season who played a full calendar year and played the play-off final just a couple of weeks ago but then we’ll have some lads who won’t have kicked a ball since May 9 when the Football League season finished.
"We’ll have different levels and people needing different things so I’d expect some players to need more minutes than others in pre-season.
"It’s another challenge but it’s one that I’d always take given the position we’re in now looking ahead to being back in the Football League.”
On the return to Maiden Castle, Challinor added: “It’s an amazing place.
"The football club was here a while ago but there has been a huge amount of money spent on it and it will only get better.
"The 3G surfaces are great and we’ve got the option to use grass but the big thing for me is the inside stuff.
"The S&C, the recovery, the nutrition, it’s an environment for elite sports people and there’s no better environment for the players to be involved in on a day-to-day basis.
"We looked at other facilities and were looking to try and get back to training in the town but instead we’ve got the best facilities in the area and it’s something that will massively help us moving forward.”
The Mail previously confirmed that Pools would be returning to Maiden Castle for the 2021-22 campaign after spending the past few seasons at East Durham College.
The move will see Challinor’s side benefit from the new £32 million Sports and Wellbeing Park in County Durham.
The partnership will also see Pools work with Durham University with student placement opportunities including coaching integration and sport science collaboration.