Nicky Featherstone reveals the key factor that will determine Hartlepool United's promotion hopes
Nicky Featherstone doesn’t believe it’s always the best teams that win promotion from the National League - but the most consistent.
And the experienced Pools campaigner, out of contract at the Super 6 Stadium this summer, insists that is key to Pools getting back to where he insists the club belongs - in the Football League.
Pools may have finished 15th and 17th in the National League in their two-year spell out of the Football League pyramid but consistency isn’t a word you’d use to describe Pools recently given the number of managers - Craig Harrison, Matthew Bates, Richard Money and now Craig Hignett back at the helm - plus the financial turmoil surrounding the club before Raj Singh took charge.
Off the field Pools are now a much more stable outfit, 12-months into Singh’s reign.
And now Featherstone - who would like to extend his five-year stay - hopes the club can find a similar level of consistency on the pitch as the club aims to regain its place back in the fourth tier of English football.
Reflecting on another season in the National League, Featherstone said: “We’re not where we want to be, it’s been difficult when there has been changes in manager, so it was important to finish the season well and have managed to do that.
“The owner has brought stability here and the manager has spoken about taking the club back to where we belong, the Football League.
“We just need to find a consistency we’ve not had for the last two years.
“It’s not always the best teams that get out of this league, it’s the most consistent. We need to find that level of consistency.”
Pools ended the campaign with an impressive 3-2 win over Salford City.
“We’d spoken all week in the build-up to that game about getting a reaction to Easter Monday as everyone was massively disappointed by the way we played at Barrow. I think we made up for that.
“I saw Nobs shaping up to play the ball in and I’ve come out of midfield and got on the end of it, Nicke put it on a plate for me really.
“I don’t get many, but it’d nice to finish on a high with a goal. That’s four wins out of five at home.
“Our form hasn’t been great since I’ve been here, the manager wants to make this place a really tough place to come.”
The 30-year-old came in for some criticism under previous managers Bates and Money, but has flourished under Hignett’s command.
Pools are yet to announce their retained list, with Hignett speaking to those out-of-contract players last week. An announcement is expected imminently.
The vast majority of the first-team squad see their deals expire this summer and the Pools boss is set to make some changes over the summer months.
* Meanwhile, work to renovate the playing surface at the Super 6 Stadium is underway.
After hosting several events on the pitch since the end of the season - including Sunday League and Schools FA Finals - the redevelopment project started at the end of last week.
Head groundsman Dave Brown said: “It should take around a month and then we’ll start to see the pitch shaping up for the new season.
“I was fairly happy with how the pitch performed during the last season, though we didn’t really have a big winter to test it, so hopefully myself, Karl, Ian and the team can ensure it’s just as good for the players in 2019/20.”