PETER Hartley is already well versed with the rigours of League Two – and the skipper admits life will be no stroll for Hartlepool United.
The 25-year-old and his team-mates arrived in Holland today ahead of their four-day training camp which will include two matches, kicking off against Almere City in Heiloo tomorrow evening.
Relegated Pools will begin life in the bottom tier this season for the first time in seven years, although the division is not new to Hartley.
It was during the centre-back’s time at Sunderland that the-then rookie was farmed out to Chesterfield.
Hartley reflects on that loan period with The Spireites as integral to his development as a young footballer.
And even now, some five years on, he is ready to once again draw upon that experience as he leads his hometown club into League Two.
“This will be a hard, hard league,” Hartley told SportMail as he looked ahead to the new campaign.
“I played there with Chesterfield and, although I know I was still young at the time, I remember it as a rough league.
“I would say it is even completely different to League One.
“That’s not to say you can’t play football and I think that’s what we will try to do.
“But first and foremost you have to be prepared to roll your sleeves up and match teams in the physical battle.”
Hartley, though, is reluctant to forecast an immediate return to League One.
Instead, he insists there is a lot of work to be done on the training pitches in Holland and back at Maiden Castle.
“You can’t look as far ahead as getting promotion,” he went on.
“We just have to give it everything we’ve got during pre-season.
“If we all do that as a team then we’ll give ourselves a chance.
“I think it would be foolish to talk of promotion or doing such and such at this stage.
“But this time last year I honestly thought we were one or two players away from kicking on from what we’d done the previous season.
“It just goes to show that football is a crazy living and the difference between success and failure can be a very fine line.
“That’s why we’ve just got to put the graft in first before we start thinking about how well we’re going to do.”