Hartlepool United's Gary Liddle issue

Hartlepool United defender Gary Liddle has enjoyed a solid return to life back in League Two.

Monday, 20th September 2021, 6:00 am

Pools have kept four clean sheets in their opening eight league games and, with just six goals conceded, have equalled their best ever defensive start to a league season.

Liddle was named as Hartlepool’s man of the match during Saturday’s goalless draw at Oldham Athletic.

While manager Dave Challinor felt Liddle was good value for the accolade, he revealed the 35-year-old is struggling with the physical demands of League Two football.

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Barrow's Offrande Zanzala in action with Hartlepool United's Gary Liddle during the Sky Bet League 2 match between Barrow and Hartlepool United at Holker Street, Barrow-in-Furness on Saturday 14th August 2021. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

“I thought that part, the emergency defending side of Lidds’ game was really good,” Challinor said.

"Lidds is struggling a little bit if I’m being honest and a lot of that emergency defending comes from the fact that mobility wise he’s got a bit of a tendonitis issue which flares up and I think we were too open in the second half [at Oldham] which probably came as a result of us struggling to get up the pitch.

"When you do that, you’re naturally going to cause yourself problems. What we did is have someone who was in there and could make the blocks, similar to what [Carl] Piergianni did at their end. That emergency defending side of things was bang on.”

Liddle has been ever present for Pools in League Two so far this season but Challinor admits his experienced centre-back may have to be rested in future games in order to benefit both the player and the side throughout the season.

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With 334 games for Pools under his belt, Liddle is the most experienced player in Pools’ squad. Although he’s known as the ‘Benjamin Button’ of the club, it seems his age is slowly taking its toll as Challinor looks to manage the situation.

The defender remains one of the first names on the team sheet but Pools do have plenty of other defensive options to pick from.

“It is going to be about managing him but at some point we need to have a conversation with Lidds to go as much as we’ve got the emergency part of it and you know what you’re going to get from him in terms of experience and what he brings, at what point is that line crossed and it detracts from our performances,” Challinor added.

“We just have to see how he is and it’s not ideal with a Saturday, Tuesday scenario so we’ll just manage it as best we can.

"It’s certainly not something that will just go away without any treatment or exercise. After everything, you get a little bit older and you get tendonitis issues but we’ve got to try and keep him fit as best as possible.

"Also we have to recognise that if there becomes a point where it weakens us too much or it causes us a problem in terms of what we’re doing then we have to make a decision.

"If it means he misses a game or two in order to clear it up longer term then that may be the case.”

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