Graeme Lee has this message for Hartlepool United squad ahead of Tranmere Rovers, Oldham Athletic, Bolton Wanderers and Blackpool games

Graeme Lee is readying himself for a busy Christmas period as Hartlepool United get set to return to League Two action this weekend.

By Joe Ramage
Thursday, 23rd December 2021, 6:00 am

Pools are due to begin their festive programme with a trip to Mansfield to take on Nigel Clough’s side on Boxing Day after both clubs had games postponed last weekend due to a rise in positive COVID-19 cases within their squads.

Lee was set to take his side to face Colchester United in his first away outing in the league while the in-form Stags were due to take on League Two leaders Forest Green Rovers.

But following the EFL’s desire to continue with fixtures throughout the festive period, Pools now look set to return to action this weekend and Lee admits he is facing a different challenge to what he experienced as a player during this time of the year.

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Hartlepool United boss Graeme Lee. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

The former Pools defender experienced many Christmas fixture lists as a player and knows just how gruelling this period of the year can be.

“I’m obviously going to have to manage players more,” Lee told The Mail.

“As soon as we get Boxing Day out the way we’ve then got the 29th, the first, the fourth and the eighth.

“Up until the eighth you’ve got many games. So it’s going to be a little bit like when I first came in with four games on the bounce straight away, so it’s just about managing players really.

"Who’s fit, who’s not? What can we do?

“I’ll get a plan in place so that we’ve got enough cover in certain areas and hopefully we’ll come through that without many injuries and we can be consistent in our performances.”

Pools’ run of games, which sees them travel to Mansfield on Boxing Day before a quadruple of home games at the Suit Direct Stadium against Tranmere Rovers and Oldham Athletic in the league and Bolton Wanderers and Blackpool in cup competitions, means Lee’s squad will be tested to its maximum.

With five games in 13 days, players are expected to pick up injuries and niggles, but with the current COVID-19 climate as it is, Lee will need to be able to rely on the depth of his entire squad.

“There’s that many games coming up, it’s going to be difficult for the same player to be playing every single game in certain positions of the pitch and what we ask from them. So there’s going to be lads who need to be ready.

“We’ve got a big squad. There’s a lot of depth and a lot of lads who can come in and do the same job or be pushing to do the same job as each player.

“It’s nice to have that back-up and going forward there’s still areas where you want to try and improve on and that’s what our plan will be come the January window.

“The Christmas window is massive with the fixtures coming up. So we’ll assess things again with where we are at the beginning of January.”