Jake Carroll is aiming to build on the best spell of his career when he returns to work at Hartlepool United.
The left-back was one of the players of 2016 having come into form in the second half of the season.
It’s a proud moment for me to have had that seasonJake Carroll
Carroll, by his own admission, was below par in the opening months of the campaign following his move from Sky Bet Championship outfit Huddersfield Town.
The signing of the ex-Republic of Ireland U18 international looked a shrewd bit of business by Ronnie Moore, though it was only in the latter weeks of his reign that Carroll came good.
But he did come good and then flourished under Craig Hignett, scoring his first goal for the club as well as making several assists.
A measure though of the 24-year-old’s progress can be better devised through the fact he played 48 times for Pools, more than double the appearances he made in two seasons for Huddersfield, Bury and Partick Thistle.
“It’s a proud moment for me to have had that season,” Carroll told SportMail.
“I’ve had a lot of recent seasons when I have only played bits and bobs and gone out on loan here and there.
“I’ve not really had a full season so to play for that long and be largely injury-free, bar a bit at the end, is great for me.
“I do look after myself and I think that helps on that front.
“From the FA Cup game against Derby onwards I was pleased with the upturn in my performances.
“The gaffer then came in and instilled confidence in me and I enjoyed the football we played.”
Carroll was one part of an impressive defensive unit, playing on the left of central defenders Matthew Bates and Adam Jackson and on the opposite side to Carl Magnay.
The formation, with Player of the Year Trevor Carson behind them, excelled in the club’s seven-match unbeaten run which moved Pools out of danger and up to 16th.
Hignett has made no secret of the fact he’d love to take that defence into next season, which gets under way on August 6.
Four of the five have either extended contracts or signed improved deals though Hignett will either have to buy Jackson from Middlesbrough or secure another loan arrangement with his former club.
“Trevor has been brilliant and deserved to sweep all before him in the end-of-season awards,” said the Dubliner.
“As a defender, he’s got the back four out of trouble a couple of times!
“I’ve loved playing in our back four, especially alongside Jacko, he’s a great lad and a top player.
“It’s surprising to think he’d never played a senior game before he came here, especially when you see how he played, he was brilliant.”
Carroll was quick to explain that he was not the only player to prosper under Hignett and first-team coach Curtis Fleming, pointing to midfielder Nicky Featherstone.
“Nicky was fabulous after the gaffer came in, like me he had an upturn in form as well,” he said.
“But a lot of lads improved and that’s because of the confidence he gave us and the football we played.”