PETER Hartley says he was “haunted” by his failure to kick on from his Player of the Year campaign at Hartlepool United – and that is what prompted his move to Stevenage.
The 25-year-old yesterday completed an undisclosed five-figure transfer to the League One side after four years on Clarence Road.
Hartley found himself the subject of interest from Championship clubs 12 months ago after a season of rapid improvement and subsequent end-of-year honours.
But the centre-back admits it was a different story last time around as, despite being awarded captaincy of the side, he struggled to rediscover his best form with Pools eventually demoted to the bottom tier.
Now, though, Hartley is relishing what he describes as a “new challenge”.
And, in an exclusive interview with SportMail, he outlined the reasons for his decision to leave Victoria Park.
“Sometimes you have to think about what you want out of your career,” he explained.
“I’m a hungry and ambitious person.
“This is a new challenge – it’s a new set of lads, a new manager, a new town and new ambitions, it’s what I need.
“I made so much progression two seasons ago at Pools and it still haunts me now how I did not kick on from that.
“I honestly tried everything but I just couldn’t get that level of form back on a consistent basis.
“Maybe the fact that I was from the town and lived in the town did weigh a little bit heavy on me.
“I had a lot of chats with the gaffer (Colin Cooper) and the chief executive (Russ Green) and they were brilliant about things.
“I think I need this new start to improve again and I’m excited by it.”
Hartley, however, insists upon offering thanks to his hometown club.
“I came on leaps and bounds at Hartlepool and I’m so grateful to the club for giving me the opportunity to relaunch my career after Sunderland,” he said.
“It’s sad leaving the club that you have supported for a long time and I’ll forever be in debt to them.
“I wish them every luck for the future, the players, the fans and the management.”
The former Sunderland trainee is joining a side notorious for their physical approach under the stewardship of controversial – yet hugely successful - boss Graham Westley.
And Hartley went on: “If I buy into what they’re trying to do here then hopefully things can take off for me and the team.
“People talk about their style of play, but I can tell you from personal experience, they’re a very hard side to beat.
“I love the physical battle, it’s a man’s game after all.
“Graham Westley is well known for his physical teams and I want to be part of that.”