Billy Paynter says Hartlepool United’s players are “counting down the days” until the start of the season.
The Pools skipper and his team-mates have just four days to wait for the eagerl-awaited League Two clash with Colchester United.
We had a good start to last season, but could not sustain it, hopefully we will this timeBILLY PAYNTER
As the newly-appointed captain 12 months ago, Paynter led Pools to victory in the first four matches of the 2015-16 season, scoring in the first three.
And Paynter is looking for a similar start, or hopefully even better this time around, though he admits the U’s will prove a tricky hurdle to clear.
“Colchester have come down from League One and they’ll be looking to bounce back at the first time of asking,” the striker told SportMail.
“They will obviously be trying to get a good start.
“We had a good start to last season, but could not sustain it, hopefully we will this time.
“All the lads are looking forward to it and are counting down the days.”
Paynter said he and Pools took positives from their final pre-season outing against League One Scunthorpe United, even if it ended in a 1-0 defeat at Victoria Park.
“Scunthorpe are a team who’ll be pushing at the top of their league and hopefully we’ll be doing the same in ours,” said the 31-year-old.
“Now we’re looking forward to the league starting after the good work we’ve done in pre-season.
“The manager was pleased with Saturday, we wanted a good test and that’s what it was.”
Paynter goes into the final few days of pre-season in a position he rarely finds himself in - not guaranteed his starting spot.
Last season, the Scouser was skipper, top scorer, talisman, almost everything in fact.
Manager Craig Hignett has signed two forwards in the summer, the National League’s top scorer from last season, Padraig Amond, and Lewis Alessandra, from Rochdale, who have both featured alongside Paynter.
The trio have started the last two friendlies though not all may be in the XI to face the U’s, depending on the formation the boss opts for.
But Paynter says he has no issues over the battle for the jerseys.
“As a player, you want competition,” he said. “You don’t want it easy or expect to play every week.
“The gaffer has signed some very good players.”
Hignett has, in his own words, “mixed and matched” during the six-game friendly programme, so it will be intriguing to see his firs line-up.