Stability & quality v cold hard facts & defensive issues - the argument for and against progress at Hartlepool United
Progress? What progress?
There’s been much debate on the Hartlepool United fanbase with regards the club, and team’s direction of late.
While things off the field are positive, in the main, results on it have not been so.
With the end of another season in the National League on the horizon, here our writer Liam Kennedy puts forward the points for and against, as progress and perceptions come under the microscope.
A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION - ARGUMENTS SUPPORTING POOLS’ PROGRESS
Financials, stability and a better quality product.
The above three points are a perfect summary of the arguments put forward by Poolies who are more of the glass half full persuasion.
Pools’ balance sheets have rarely been in a better way with Raj Singh and his accountants at the helm. Yes, he’s spent more than he wanted to, but he’s relatively happy doing so - and he’s willing to pay fees for players, something Pools have rarely, if ever, done in recent memory.
Stability comes from the top, it for the first time in a long while Pools have that in the dugout, too.
They have a manager in Craig Hignett who is a real football man, knows his stuff, has considerable contacts, is tactically astute and is liked by fellow professionals. He’s a good ambassador for Pools on and off the field - well, unless he gets a referee he doesn’t like.
Jokes aside, they couldn’t wish for a better man at the helm - and it will be good to see what he can do with the backing of the men above, that brings its own pressure.
And while this season has not produced that many better performances or results, there has also been a stability at the club.
Last season the club flirted with relegation for the majority of the winter and early spring, only saving themselves with a late run under Matthew Bates.
This time around there’s never been any fears of the drop - the main concern has been the drop off at the back end of the campaign.
The quality of the product and standard of players has arguably been much improved this season.
Barrow was a shocker but under Hignett Pools have been a real threat going forward. Goals and chances have come flooding back to the Vic.
Luke James, Nicke Kabamba, Peter Kioso, Fraser Kerr and Luke Molyneux are clear upgrades on what was here before. Gavan Holohan could well add himself to that list, too.
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ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO BACK - ARGUMENTS REFUTING POOLS’ PROGRESS
Last summer manager Hignett, then in his role as director of football, stated to gathered crowds at a talk in, that “this is the worst we will ever be.”
He was, of course, referring to matters on and off the field with that statement.
And while things are immeasurably better off the field - that is not up for debate - the same cannot be said in many ways on it, if you look at the facts.
If Hartlepool United lose 3-0 to Salford City on Saturday, this season will be an exact mirror image of last.
Pools have won and drawn the same amount of games - 14 - lost the exact amount - 16 - have scored the same number - 53 - and picked up the same points - 56.
The key differences from 2017/18 to 2018/19 are that Pools are two places - 17th down to 15th - worse off this time around and have conceded three goals less than they did last season.
Of course they do face one of the form sides of the division this weekend, who have an outside chance of automatic promotion at the Super 6 Stadium.
Fourteen wins out of a possible 45 (46 without victory on Saturday) is just nowhere near good enough for a team who were targeting promotion from the get go.
History might well have been rewritten as results became hard to come by, but the players in the squad wanted play-offs.
They have fallen well short. And in doing so they’ve had issues at both ends of the field.
Defensively Pools are not good enough. The same can be said of last season.
While those mainly responsible for last season’s defensive debacle - the likes of Louis Laing, Blair Adams, Carl Magnay, etc - no longer in the side, some of whom have long since been thrown on the scrapheap, who is to blame now for this season’s issues?
All four of Pools defenders in the last game were signed either last summer - Myles Anderson and Peter Kioso - or from January onwards - David Edgar and Fraser Kerr.
Michael Woods’ goals from midfield have been taken up by Liam Noble, while James has netted just two more goals than Devante Rodney scored last season.
A massive rebuild was needed last summer, the same this. It’s hard to argue progress when you put it like that.