PETER Hartley believes both he and Hartlepool United owe a debt of gratitude to Chesterfield – but insists that won’t count for anything tomorrow afternoon.
It was following a loan spell with the Spireites back in 2008 that the-then Sunderland trainee was spotted by the-then Pools boss Chris Turner.
Hartley, though, argues his stint at Saltergate readied him for life in the Football League and persuaded Turner he was worth a punt.
That is why the Pools centre-back, who played 12 times during a three-month stay in Derbyshire, admits he will be forever grateful to the club with whom he cut his professional teeth.
“I was only 19 when I went there but it was a great experience,” he told SportMail today.
“It was brilliant and when I went there we won our first few games, so I stayed in the team.
“I classed that time as my first introduction to proper, league football.
“The lads were great with me and David Dowson, who I went down with, and quite a few of them are still there.
“I went back to Sunderland a mentally stronger player – I had learned the real game.
“It’s all tippy-tappy in reserve-team football, but Chesterfield was a wake-up call in terms of the physical side and it only benefited me.
“I went back to Sunderland’s ressies as a stronger person and that’s where I got noticed by Chris Turner, because of my aggression and that’s how I ended up at Hartlepool – so I’ve got a lot to thank them for.”
It will be the first time Hartley has played at the club’s B2Net Stadium and he admits the new ground should be a world apart from the decaying Saltergate which he classed as home for that short spell three years ago.
“My mam and dad didn’t enjoy Saltergate because they were just sat on brick!” he laughed.
“But they’ve got a great, new stadium now. It’s just a shame my mam and dad aren’t coming because they could’ve enjoyed a plastic seat!”
But while Hartley has nothing but affectionate words for his time at Chesterfield, he admits he’ll have no qualms in getting one over on his former pals tomorrow.
“There’s Jack Lester, Gregor Robertson, Derek Niven and Aaron Downes who are all still there and it’ll be nice to see them,” he went on.
“If Jack plays I’ll have my hands full because he’s a good player, but I won’t be looking to give him an inch because I want to get back on my game.
“We’ve lost three in a row now and I’ve been disappointed with my own game in the last two.
“But we’ve got what it takes to get out0 of this – without a doubt.
“We’ve got that strength in depth now and the gaffer will change things if he’s not happy. I think it’s nothing but a blip and I know fine well we’ll get back on track.”