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FIVE key players Matthew Bates can build his Hartlepool United team around

Josh Hawkes
Josh Hawkes

Matthew Bates and Craig Hignett will soon have to decide the make up of Hartlepool United’s squad for next season.

Both have hinted that changes could be in the offing, with up to 10 of last season’s first-team squad set to be shown the Victoria Park exit door.

Three players are definitely out of contract, while a whole host of others have one-year options in their deals from last season.

But who will stay and who will go?

Here we take a look at the FIVE key players who Bates and Hignett can build a team around next season, as well as highlighting one who must be given his chance to shine.

Josh Hawkes

He is the future, plain and simple.

We only got a glimpse of just how good this lad is last season, this campaign could turn out to be a massive one for the youngster who has been attracting admiring glances from the North East’s big three, Sunderland the most keen.

Looks like he can be a No 10 in the league already with his clever positioning, confidence and quality in either boot.

But for the time, you get the feeling there is time to run on his apprenticeship at Pools yet.

Scott Loach

He was easily Pools’ player of the season.

Hands down the best shot stopper outside the Football League.

He has faults in his game, yes. But who doesn’t at this level. That is why these players are playing in the National League in the first place.

Doesn’t come for enough crosses but more than makes up for that deficiency with unbelievable agility and reactions.

The biggest thing in his favour is not even his ability, it’s his character. A leader on and off the park.

Get the feeling the armband might well head his way this summer.

Ryan Donaldson

Injury made his first season at Pools in a full-time capacity a nightmare.

In a poor Pools team at the start of the season he was one of the side’s most consistent performers, without really pulling up any trees.

Has one year left on the deal he signed last summer, and as one of the highest earners in the squad he really needs to make this campaign count.

Can get goals and become a key component of any Pools attacking unit across any position in midfield or up top.

Jake Cassidy

Let’s talk facts - five goals for a striker across a whole season, struggling team and injuries or not, is nowhere near good enough.

We know that and I am sure Cassidy does, too.

If he is to hold down the central striking role in Bates’ side he needs to improve in that department.

But, as for the rest of his game, he was an absolute gem last season.

His hold up play is second to none. When he is on his day he is a right handful for defenders, never stops grafting and is physical, too. His character is unquestionably good around the dressing room.

Getting to the core of the problem, the lack of goals might well be because far too much of his good work is done 25 yards away from the opposition box. If he can get further up the park and in the box more he can be a real threat. If Pools get a decent partner for him and a winger as well, he’s a 20-goal man at this level, no doubt.

Conor Newton

A mindfielder more than happy to run beyond the strikers and tuck in to support every attack.

His runs from deep became more and more prevalent as the season went on but we have still not seen the best of the former Newcastle United trainee.

A player more than capable of chipping in with the type of goals tally Michael Woods got last season, if played in the right way.

The balance of Pools’ midfield was awful last season. Too many players playing the same role, making the same runs.

If Newton is deployed with a sitter alongside him, he could become a very useful player indeed.

Chance to shine?

Kenton Richardson: With funds tight this summer it could be time for the youngster to step up to the plate.

Has had his chances in the first-team and has not let Pools down.

Now, with Bates eyeing Carl Magnay as a central defender, the right-back slot may become available. It’s Richardson’s to grasp.