Improving standards, training & travel issues, finances - Hartlepool United's hybrid full-time/part-time model evaluated
Hartlepool United are exploring the possibility of bringing part-time players into their full-time setup for next season.
This would be a massive culture shift at the club, but one manager Craig Hignett, who even considered the idea during his first spell at Pools, is convinced can work.
The idea in itself may sound revolutionary when it comes to business at the Super 6 Stadium, but it is something a number of clubs who float between part-time and full-time football have used, including near neighbours Gateshead.
But what are the potential positives and pitfalls of such a plan? Here our writer Liam Kennedy explores the concept from all angles.
BETTER PLAYERSThe whole idea is born out of the thought that Pools aren’t always able to get the best players from the region to sign for them.This can be for a variety of reasons but a sticking point encountered by Hignett when Pools were even in the Football League was that the best part-time talent would not sign.Players have jobs, earn good money, own businesses, have families, with bills to pay - the dangling carrot of a full-time football career, with at best a two-year contract, is not enough to convince them to give up their long term security.Allowing some part-timers on to the scene could increase the quality of player at the club.
TRAINING PROBLEMSThe nature of having a job, most of the time, means working through the day. But Pools train at Peterlee in the morning.If working patterns make things inflexible, training would have to switch.Hignett has hinted at a move to night training sessions, which would align with what is done at the likes of South Shields, Blyth Spartans and Spennymoor Town.How that would work with gearing a team, squad towards a game would be a problem the manager would have to quickly face up to.
TRAVEL ISSUESThis could also be an issue with travel for away games.If you work on a Friday would it always be possible for you to travel with the squad on a Friday afternoon for one of the many lengthy away days in the fifth tier?And what if Pools are playing Dover Athletic on a Tuesday night? That would soak up the whole of Tuesday and Wednesday from the working week. Annual holidays would soon be eaten up. This could rule out even many at National League North or South level.
BIGGER SQUAD - SAVE CASHHaving more part-time wages on the books, should in theory allow more wriggle room for a deeper squad.The one caveat to this is that the best semi-professionals in North East football earn as much as some of Pools’ pros.
FITNESSIt would take a certain type of player, with a very professional mindset, to make this work for them.Essentially they would be working with lads who train EVERY day, and have done for most of their lives.But plenty of part-time clubs have come to Pools and shone, so there’s no reason a player or two could not do the same FOR Pools.
PERMANENT SWITCH TO PART-TIME?As previously mentioned, money talks.And were Pools to be at this level for say, a decade, I’m sure conversations would be had about going part-time.This is not something under consideration by Pools at present. They are keen to incorporate three or four part-timers to the setup, not a wholesale change.