Jeff Stelling has “every confidence” in Craig Harrison – but won’t put any pressure on Hartlepool United’s new boss.
The club’s high-profile fan and former president called in at Victoria Park on the penultimate leg of his March For Men last night.
I don’t want to put the pressure on the manager by saying ‘we’re going to go up automatically’JEFF STELLING
He will complete his 2017 walk from St James’s Park, Exeter, to Newcastle United’s St James’s Park today, but he was thrilled to visit his beloved Vic.
“I spoke a lot to Craig Harrison and I have every confidence in him, I think we are heading in the right direction,” he said.
“It’s going to be a new adventure and I think we can do really, really well.”
But the Hartlepool man explained that promotion is not a given, pointing out how a big club like Tranmere are preparing for third successive season outside the Football League.
Indeed, Rovers finished with 95 points and still did not go up.
“It’s hard,” said Jeff. “I’ve been to Tranmere and they’ve been trying to get up for the last two years.
“You look at them, they have a Championship set-up, they have big crowds.
“I don’t want to put the pressure on the manager by saying ‘we’re going to go up automatically’.
“But I certainly think we’ll be there or thereabouts.”
Stelling has been impressed with Harrison’s work in the transfer market, signing keeper Scott Loach, midfielder Luke George and the attacking trio of Jake Cassidy, Ryan Donaldson and Jack Munns.
“We’ve signed a lot of players with Conference experience, which is really important,” said the Gillette Soccer Saturday host, who was happy that the manager has persuaded Carl Magnay to sign a new deal.
“I’ve walked with Cheltenham fans who’ve said ‘Jack Munns, what a good player’.
“Ryan Donaldson’s a very good player so I think we’ve done some really good business.
“Keeping Carl Magnay is fantastic, he’s got experience and he’s a leader. That is one of the best bits of business so far.”
Stelling said that he has been overwhelmed by the good wishes of fans throughout his journey from the South-West to the North-East.
Pools dropped into the National League on a dramtic last day of the season, when Newport scored a late, late winner against Notts County.
“The empathy clubs have for Hartlepool United has been very evident,” said Jeff.
“When we were at Shrewsbury, a bunch of fans were saying they were punching the air when we scored against Doncaster.
“We’ve had that reaction at so many clubs – they all feel for Pools.
“It was a difficult day, but it happens. Two teams go down every season and it was our turn this year.”
Jeff received a hero’s welcome at the Vic and the man raising money and awareness for Prostate Cancer UK was thrilled to see the new sign on the side of the club.
Following Utility Alliance’s big sponsorship deal, the ground is now Victoria Park again.
“It is the Vic,” he smiled. “It’s great to be below a sign that says ‘Victoria Park’ – none of the sponsored stuff – which is absolutely great.
“That makes me feel good.
“It’s lovely to be back.”