Michael Woods: Now is the time for Hartlepool United’s experienced stars to step it up!

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Michael Woods says it is time for him and Hartlepool United’s other ‘old’ stagers to “step up to the plate”.

While hardly a veteran at the age of 26, the midfielder admits it’s vital those few players with experience make it count.

I’m only 26 but I’m a senior pro in this group, I’m getting called an old man!

Woods was in tremendous form in the 1-1 draw with Plymouth on Saturday, following on from a fine second-half display at Luton.

The ex-Chelsea midfield prospect took the game to the Pilgrims with Lewis Alessandra and Nicky Featherstone, both 28, also impressing in the centre of the park.

“It’s our responsibility now,” said Woods.

“It’s our role, we’ve lost a few senior members, Billy [Paynter] and Trevor [Carson] are out and they are two big senior pros we are missing.

“It’s about time we stepped up to the plate.

“Saturday was positive against a very good side – Plymouth will go up, they are as strong a League Two side as you will see.

“If we take that level of performance into the games we have coming up then we’ll be all right.

“I’m only 26 but I’m a senior pro in this group, I’m getting called an old man!

“I look at the young lads at the back and it’s scary!

“Feathers and Lewie are experienced players and Podge is our senior pro further up!

“We have a young squad, you just had to look at the benches on Saturday, Plymouth were bringing on players with hundreds of appearances in the Football League under their belt.

“That’s what we’re dealing with at the minute but we can’t use it as an excuse.

“It’s an opportunity for the young players to try to grasp and I thought the lads stood up to be counted.”

The average age of the back five

Woods was encouraged by the temperament displayed by the young players - the average age of the back five is only 21.

“They were brilliant,” he said.

“With a few Football League games under your belt the young lads are not going to be the finished article by any means.

“They are not coming into the team in a comfortable situation, there is a lot of pressure on their shoulders at a very young age.”

But he added that the players needed to use their brains though, in Dave Jones, he feels Pools have the perfect man to be managing the youngsters.

“We are still naive at times,” said Woods. “We should not be conceding daft free-kicks against big sides when you are inviting pressure on yourselves.

“We have to learn quickly on that front.

“But the young lads have been brilliant and I think the gaffer knows how to deal with them.

“With his experience, he knows when to put an arm around them and when to put the boot in, which helps.”