NEIL Austin could lead out Hartlepool United at York City tomorrow – but the long-serving defender admits he has a point to prove this season.
The 30-year-old signed a new deal at Victoria Park during the summer after a campaign he concedes was the worst of a 12-year career.
The season culminated in Austin’s first-ever relegation as a professional.
And that, he says, has given him added incentive this time around.
“I was delighted to sign the new deal,” the right-back told SportMail.
“Last season was the worst I’ve had as a professional so it’s now about putting that right and bouncing back.
“Without a shadow of doubt last year was the worst I’ve suffered – no-one wants relegation and it puts a downer on everything, it does affect your life.
“On a personal note I was nowhere near good enough so that’s why I was so delighted to get the opportunity to put things right.
“A lot of the lads feel the same way so it’s up to us to do something about it.”
Pools actually signed off from last year with a four-game unbeaten run.
That form, however, has been replaced by three straight defeats at the onset of the current campaign.
And Austin went on: “When we look at the back end of last year we thought we’d done well and given ourselves something to take into this season.
“It’s disappointing it hasn’t worked out that way, especially when you consider how good the gaffer (Colin Cooper) has been.
“But we can’t cry over the start we’ve made.
“If we do that then we’ll get left behind.
“We all feel like the gaffer has changed things for the better, we just need that first break and after that I’m sure we’ll be fine.”