Heartbroken Nathan Thomas says he and his team-mates do not want to become known as “the team who took Hartlepool down.”
Pools have just 180 minutes to save their season and the club’s Football League life.
The side take to the field at Cheltenham Town today knowing they need to win their last two games AND hope results elsewhere go in their favour.
A draw or defeat for Pools at Whaddon Road, allied to a Newport win at Carlisle, would condemn United to the drop into the Football League.
It’s a scenario that Thomas, and his colleagues, can’t begin to comprehend, hence the determination to avoid the unthinkable.
“If this goes under we go down the team who took Hartlepool down,” said the talented forward. “No one wants that.
“I’ve have had a bit of stick, other lads as well. This situation hurts us all as players as much as it does supporters.
“I signed my contract to take Hartlepool up the leagues, the same with the other lads – not down.
“It hurts us and it hurts me being a local lad. The last thing I want is Hartlepool to go down.”
Fans turned on the players last Saturday when they surrendered meekly to Barnet, the 2-0 defeat sending Pools into the bottom two.
“You’re not fit to wear the shirt” boomed the supporters and Thomas admits while upsetting was no surprise.
“When your intentions are questioned it does hurt,” he explained in an at-times emotional interview.
“You can’t say it’s not been warrented, we have been awful and you expect the stick.
“But we are in it together now, players,the new management, staff and fans, we all give it our all the last two games and with everyone behind us we can get out of it.”
Thomas is convinced Pools can do it after boss Dave Jones was removed after a disastrous three-month rule.
Results had been poor, but the wheels truly came off in back-to-back defeats to out-of-form London clubs, Leyton Orient and Barnet.
Thomas says the appointment of Matthew Bates and his coaching comrades, Billy Paynter, Stuart Parnaby and Ian Gallagher has given Pools a new lease of life.
“I think the biggest thing with the new lads in charge is that no one knows this group of people better than they do – they have been part of it for years,” said the 22-year-old.
“They know how to get the best out of players, know the style of football we need to play, know what different players need to perform on a Saturday afternoon.
“Training has been brilliant, the lads have loved it.
“The intensity has been through the roof, everyone had a smile on their faces
“The belief we will get out of it is massive now.
“After Saturday, some of us, me included, may have felt it was all over.
“But it’s like we have turned the clock back six to seven months to when we were flying and playing well.
“It’s amazing what such a change can do on the team.”