Matthew Bates has revealed he plans to arrange FIVE pre-season games as preparation for his first full season in charge.
Hartlepool United’s hastily arranged summer campaign last year consisted of seven games - too many in the eyes of new man at the helm Bates.
Billingham Town, Dunston UTS, Harrogate Town, Sunderland, St Johnstone, Middlesbrough U23s and Whitley Bay provided the opposition last year. And it hardly proved the perfect prep for Craig Harrison’s side, who got off to a horror start in non-league football, failing to win any of their first six National League fixtures.
This time, though Bates wants to cut back.
Although, when quizzed by the Mail, the manager refused to reveal Pools’ return date this summer, keen to keep his cards very close to his chest.
“Our pre-season return date is set and we are trying to arrange five pre-season friendlies,” said Bates about his summer plans.
“In the past we have had too many games, and that is even forgetting about the workload in pre-season.
“This time we don’t want to cram the games in, especially with a smaller squad which we will be working on throughout the summer.”
Last year Pools made just the one lengthy trip for a warm-up, with a trip north of the border to Perth and Scottish Premiership side St Johnstone, sandwiched between a host of games against mainly Northern League outfits.
Long journeys sound like they’re a thing of the past for Bates this summer, with ‘local’ being the key component in any game.
And as with getting Sunderland to Victoria Park last summer, Bates says the club will be targeting the north east’s big three - the Black Cats, Middlesbrough and Newcastle United - to futher boost the coffers at Pools.
“We will have local games,” he said.
“Let’s see if we can get a couple of the bigger local teams to the Vic to get some money in as well.
“It’s new for me this situation as I’ve never been a manager in pre-season.
“I will learn in the role, but in terms of being manager I was in charge for two months and I will be the same person, the same character, the same manager. It is a new environment, though, with a new situation, new challenges, but ones which I am enjoying.”
This week Bates has been informing each player in his squad whether they will be wanted next season ahead of releasing a retained list within the next 72 hours.
Bates knows how many players he wants to run with, but again remains tight-lipped.
“We have a figure but I will keep that to myself,” he said.