Matthew Bates believes that Hartlepool United are competing in a ‘stronger’ National League this year - but says it is no surprise.
And the Pools boss feels that his current side could have been ‘in the top three or four’ of the same division last season.
The introduction of several new clubs to the division - including current leaders Salford - has seen the quality levels in the National League sharply rise.
And with high-profile players moving to the division and crowds ever-growing, it’s no surprise that on-field competition is arguably at an all-time high.
Such developments came as no surprise for Bates, who anticipated the change in the league, but it is a ringing endorsement of the fine job done by Pools’ new regime that they find themselves able to compete in what is now a league full of strong sides.
“I think it’s exactly the same as I thought and the league has got stronger than it was last year,” he admitted.
“If you look at our points total and where we are in the league, we could have been top three or four [last year].
“That kind of shows that the league is stronger.
“It says a lot for the club though, where we were at eight months ago and where we’re at now.”
The Pools boss pointed to two newly-promoted sides as the perfect example of the improvements within the league, but feels that standards have improved across the board.
“You’ve had Harrogate that have come up from the league below, Salford coming up too and they’re in the top three of four,” he added.
“There’s two teams that straight away have come in and mixed in with the teams coming down.
“It’s a good league and it’s getting better each and every year with better players coming here and more fans in stadiums.
“It’s a good league for us to be in, but there’s no surprises for us.”