`

FIVE things to look out for in Hartlepool United's first pre-season friendly

Here's what you should be looking out for on Saturday...
Here's what you should be looking out for on Saturday...

Hartlepool United take on Billingham Town in their first pre-season friendly this weekend.

It's been a summer of change at Victoria Park, with new ownership accompanied by a change in manager and a raft of new signings.

It's been a summer of positive change at Victoria Park

It's been a summer of positive change at Victoria Park

That means there will be plenty of intrigue surrounding the club's first pre-season outing at Billingham on Saturday, July 7 (kick-off 12pm).

READ MORE: Bates' warning to Pools' player ahead of 3,000 mile summer

So what should supporters be looking out for as Matthew Bates' men take to the field for the first time this season?

Here's five things to keep an eye on at Bedford Terrace:

The fixture at Billingham is Liam Noble's first chance to impress

The fixture at Billingham is Liam Noble's first chance to impress

NEW SIGNINGS

Pools have been impressive in the transfer market this summer, with all six new additions boasting some impressive pedigree on paper.

But now it's time for the arrivals to showcase their talents on the pitch.

The trip to Billingham offers the first opportunity for Pools fans to see their latest recruits - and first impressions are vital.

What does the future hold for Jake Cassidy?

What does the future hold for Jake Cassidy?

The likes of Andrew Davies and Liam Noble - both of whom are vastly experienced at higher levels - will be keen to start stamping their authority on the side during these early games.

READ MORE: Pools players are 'buzzing' after fixture release

Niko Muir, signed after netting 40 times for Hendon last season, will undoubtedly be the subject of plenty of intrigue, too.

Myles Anderson, Mark Kitching and Paddy McLaughlin will also likely feature, and should be looking to impress the Pools' fans early on.

TRANSFER-LISTED PLAYERS

A number of players were transfer listed by Pools last summer and, while some have moved on, several remain at the club.

Jake Cassidy, Ryan Donaldson, Louis Laing, Jack Munns and Conor Newton were all made available for transfer by the club but have yet to find new employers.

It's therefore a possibility that they will feature in some part against Billingham in this first pre-season outing.

READ MORE: Paddy McLaughlin hoping for a 'tough' pre-season

A good performance in this game could be key to their future - whether that be to attract the attention of a prospective new club or to convince Bates that they should remain at the club, regardless of their wages.

TRIALISTS

In his recent blog on the club website, Bates confirmed that trialists would be present at the club's training ground.

So could any of them be handed an opportunity to impress in this friendly?

Trialists have become a staple of pre-season campaigns in recent years and certainly provide some early entertainment for fans.

Bates could well be tempted to hand some an opportunity to impress should they have stood out in training so far.

It's a risk-free way for the boss to weigh-up whether they are worth taking a longer look at, so don't be surprised if 'Trialist A' appears on Saturday's teamsheet.

SHAPE AND STYLE OF PLAY

This is another area where Bates has already provided some clues, confirming that he would look at playing with three centre-backs during the friendly.

Pools operated with a flat back four for most of last season, but struggled defensively.

Now, having reinforced the backline with the additions of Anderson and Davies, Bates is keen to test out the new system and incorporate Laing and skipper Carl Magnay.

It's a different concept, but one which could provide Pools with the stability that they have previously craved.

READ MORE: Pools boss reveals mixed feelings over player departures

Also interesting to observe will be Bates' chosen style of play - will he look to play more directly or could his side look to pass it out from the back?

Such tactics could naturally be tweaked as the season progresses, but this friendly may provide some good indication as to the direction Pools are heading in.

POOLS' LOYAL FANS

The promise of England in a World Cup Quarter Final won't deter Pools fans - who will still come out in numbers to cheer on their side.

Season Ticket sales - having now passed the 2,500 mark - continue to be impressive and better than many Football League clubs.

READ MORE: What will Liam Noble add to the Hartlepool squad?

And the trip to Billingham is the first opportunity for the club's fans to showcase their superb support in the 2018/19 season.

Expect plenty of Poolies making the journey as they get their first glimpse at Bates' new-look side.