“What have you got to lose?”
That’s the message caretaker boss Matthew Bates has sent to his Hartlepool United players ahead of this evening’s crucial National League clash against Leyton Orient.
The O’s come to Victoria Park looking to extend Pools’ run of defeats on home turf to three in less than two weeks. And while Bates has hinted in the past there is a level of anxiety at the Vic, he thinks his players need to forget all of that because they’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain, with a win keeping them safe in the National League.
“The players should relax and enjoy playing at home. What have they got to lose?” said Bates ahead of a home double header, with Torquay in the North East on Saturday.
“We have to back our last result up with another one - we are due a win at home.
“Leyton Orient will be a different proposition to Sutton.
“It is massively important. We have two home games now, we need to go and show the home fans what we show the away fans. We have not been the same team at Victoria Park.”
On the nerves that seem to take over when playing at home, Bates thinks it is something that emanates from the terraces, but can only be changed by the actions of those on the park.
“Our fans are fantastic when they are behind us, but there is an anxiety,” he said.
“There have been bad performances at home for two or three years now.
“You can sense that with the crowd. It is like when you go home to your missus or your wife and you both don’t say anything to each other but you know there is something wrong.
“I think it is the players’ fault, not the fans. The reason it is the way it is, is because of the fans.
“We need to sustain results so the fans stay with us.
“If the fans know we have won seven, drawn two and lost one of our last ten at home they will stay with us and keep backing us, just like your missus will forgive you.
“It is just the mentality. The fans have been used to rubbish for years. We want to give them something to cheer about and be proud of.”
One player who, despite no win in three, seems to be getting better and better with every outing is Josh Hawkes.
The midfielder netted his second goal in Pools shirt at the weekend, and will be looking to add to that tally against Orient tonight.
“It was a great strike,” said Bates.
“I have been talking to him a lot about his game position. We spoke about thinking about where the ball might drop and I have to say I saw him move inside when the ball was in the air.
“It dropped to his feet after he has anticipated where to be. It was a great goal.”
Bates continued: “He has a bright future.
“There is no doubt he has a long way to go, but for any young lad to be playing at this level at that age is brilliant.
“This is the best place for him.
“He will probably never come across a more physical side than he did on Saturday.
“You will not get that type of learning at the under-23s anywhere else, you only get that in the first-team here.”