Hartlepool United’s Ryan Donaldson admits he’s loving life under manager Matthew Bates.
And the wing-back, who has been one of the stand out performers for Bates this season, knows that’s the same across the Pools squad despite the club’s current dip in form.
Three National League defeats on the bounce has seen Pools slide five points outside of the fifth tier play-off mix. They sit a further eight away from the top of the table.
That predicament has done little to dampen the positivity in the camp ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup trip to League One Gillingham.
Nor has it changed the Pools players views of their manager, according to Donaldson.
“Everyone loves playing for him because he is so enthusiastic,” said the former Newcastle United trainee. “For a manager, at the age of 31, it is amazing the work he is doing.
“He is really clear in his messages. There are no grey areas.
“You know what he wants you do to and he will always help you do it.
“He has respect. He never calls anyone out in front of others, he does everything with the idea of helping everyone to improve.”
Bates’ tactics, system and substitutions may well be coming under some scrutiny from the terraces, but Donaldson says that’s not the case from within the dressing room.
“We have a gameplan, a set way of working which non-negotiable. We have a set of rules, a system, none of that changes,” said Donaldson.
“The best teams have that kind of continuity, an identity they stick to. “The worst thing is trying to find answers every week. We have a plan and try to make it better and better.
“Everyone in the squad knows their job in the team, the system.
“All the best teams have that kind of continuity and togetherness.”
In the players’ eyes, things could not be more different to last year.
Although Donaldson understands the frustration of fans who pay their money to watch the team perform.
Whatever the results of late, Donaldson believes the Pools’ players continue to have faith in what the manager wants to do.
“Fans have a right to be frustrated. We are frustrated,” he said.
“There is not a lot that needs to change, really. It is just down to us to work smarter and harder. We have belief in what we are trying to do here.
“We trust that we are going the right way.
“OK, we haven’t performed at our very best, we accept that. Results haven’t been good either.
“Win, lose or draw we have to be on it. And if we are things will change. Things will turnaround if we keep doing what we are doing. And if we do we will finish in the top seven - I am sure of that.”
Hartlepool have to keep their heads, while those around them lose theirs. It was a message put out by club captain a fortnight ago and it is even more applicable today, according to Donaldson.
It’s a case of keep calm and carry on at the Super 6 Stadium.
“We are not worried that we have dropped out of the play-offs,” he said.
“Everyone has bad results, no matter how good a team you are.
“We are on a bad run but we need to keep some perspective. We had highs - we got up to fourth at one point - now is a low.
“I am sure we will go on another run and get back where we want to be.
“It’s about not getting carried away in what will be a long season. It is only November, we have to remember that. All told we are in a good place.”
Not many outside of the club will probably believe it but Donaldson not only thinks Pools have the quality to be at home among the top seven - he thinks they’ve proven they can mix it with the National League’s big three (Wrexham, Leyton Orient and Salford).
“The quality at the top is better than last year but we think we can be up there,” he said.
“We think we have shown when we have played the teams at the top that we belong in that company. We have that kind of faith in our ability.”