Hartlepool United defender Zaine Francis-Angol praised following 'brilliant' start to the season in unfamiliar role
One of the breakout stars of Hartlepool United’s League Two return has been Zaine Francis-Angol.
The defender signed for Pools on a short-term deal and made four appearances at the back end of last season as the side secured promotion back to the Football League.
He then agreed a new deal at the club for the 2021-22 campaign and it was expected that he would provide good cover for David Ferguson at left wing-back.
But the 28-year-old has now started each of Hartlepool’s last nine league matches, most of which have been alongside Ferguson.
Manager Dave Challinor had been looking to fill the left-sided centre-back gap left by the departing Ryan Johnson in the summer. It would turn out the answer would be right under his nose as moving a natural left-back in Francis-Angol to the left of a back three has proven to be an inspired change.
As a result, the defender is one of the first names on the teamsheet at the moment.
“Zaine is playing a different role for us in the back three,” Challinor said. “He provides natural balance on the left and it helps with Fergie being back as they both know each other and have played together.
"Zaine is doing a brilliant job in an unfamiliar position if you like stepping in as a centre-back. We want our centre-backs to play in a certain way and Zaine isn’t the biggest but he competes aerially, has a great spring and is a good athlete.
"He’s aggressive defensively and likes defending one v one so he’s been a good fit for us in that position and long may that continue.”