Hartlepool United's pre-season in-tray: Five things for John Askey to address upon pre-season return including Nicky Featherstone's contract

Hartlepool United return to pre-season duty in full on Monday and there remains plenty of work to do for John Askey.
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With little over a month to go until the new National League campaign, Askey will be keen to resolve a number of key issues as we head into the pre-season programme.

Several members of the Hartlepool squad returned for a series of tests at Teesside University before Askey’s full quota of players will be back at the club’s training base on Monday, July 3.

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But with pre-season to get underway, what issues does Askey need to address?

John Askey's squad are set to return to pre-season training ahead of the new National League campaign. (Photo: Mark Fletcher | MI News)John Askey's squad are set to return to pre-season training ahead of the new National League campaign. (Photo: Mark Fletcher | MI News)
John Askey's squad are set to return to pre-season training ahead of the new National League campaign. (Photo: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

Nicky Featherstone’s contract

One of the standout issues to confirm is the position of Hartlepool’s captain, Nicky Featherstone.

Featherstone’s nine year stay at the Suit Direct Stadium is set to come to an end with his contract soon due to expire.

The midfielder came back from an early season injury to make 39 appearances for Hartlepool last season but was unable to help the club avoid relegation.

Nicky Featherstone is still to agree a new deal with Hartlepool United with his contract set to expire. (Photo: Chris Donnelly | MI News)Nicky Featherstone is still to agree a new deal with Hartlepool United with his contract set to expire. (Photo: Chris Donnelly | MI News)
Nicky Featherstone is still to agree a new deal with Hartlepool United with his contract set to expire. (Photo: Chris Donnelly | MI News)
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Featherstone suggested to The Mail at the end of last season he would be keen to extend his stay into a 10th year, with manager Askey also complimentary of his captain in the final weeks of the campaign.

“Nicky is coming up to 10 years with the club. He’s not as quick as he used to be but when he’s on the ball you know what he’s going to do and, because of his ability, sometimes you think the ball is getting away from him but he somehow still manages to find his own man,” Askey said of Featherstone following the final day draw with Stockport County.

“He’s still got a bit left in him, Nicky. And not only has he still got more than a bit left in him football-wise, he’s part and parcel of the football club, like Tony [Sweeney].

“And they can make other players appreciate what it means to play for Hartlepool.”

Kyle Letheren left his role as player-coach with Hartlepool United this summer. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)Kyle Letheren left his role as player-coach with Hartlepool United this summer. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)
Kyle Letheren left his role as player-coach with Hartlepool United this summer. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)
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The lack of movement on Featherstone’s contract at this stage of the summer, however, is undoubtedly a concern for supporters.

Both parties, it’s understood, were content with the somewhat slow nature of negotiations at the end of the season, with the player keen to enjoy time away with his family.

But with pre-season upon us, and confirmation, one way or the other, still to be provided, there will be growing concern Featherstone may have played his final game for Hartlepool.

Player attitude

Hartlepool United assistant manager Mark Goodlad may take over goalkeeper coaching responsibilities following Kyle Letheren's exit. (Photo: Mark Fletcher | MI News)Hartlepool United assistant manager Mark Goodlad may take over goalkeeper coaching responsibilities following Kyle Letheren's exit. (Photo: Mark Fletcher | MI News)
Hartlepool United assistant manager Mark Goodlad may take over goalkeeper coaching responsibilities following Kyle Letheren's exit. (Photo: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

If Featherstone were to depart it would be another key character to leave the dressing room, something which Askey will be keen to address.

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Towards the end of the season the Pools boss made little secret of his shock and anger towards certain members of the Hartlepool squad and has often since highlighted the need to bring in players with better attitudes if they are to have a successful season back in the National League.

Whilst a number of players have left the club, some of those Askey had been referring to are, at this stage, set to return for pre-season duty and it will be important for the manager to hold any discussions necessary with regards to certain players who may still see their future elsewhere so that everybody is pulling in the same direction.

Further exits

There have already been a number of players to leave the Suit Direct Stadium this summer, whether it be players who are out of contract such as Jamie Sterry and Ben Killip, or players such as Mouhamed Niang who, it’s understood, moved on despite still having time to run on his deal.

Askey hinted there would, perhaps, be ‘one or two’ players moved on who are under contract with the club and Niang may not be the only one with the likes of Josh Umerah still likely to attract transfer interest over the course of the summer, whilst players such as Brody Paterson and Mikael Ndjoli, who were sent out on loan last season, may be deemed surplus to requirement.

Joel Dixon is one of two summer signings made by John Askey for Hartlepool United. (Photo by Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images)Joel Dixon is one of two summer signings made by John Askey for Hartlepool United. (Photo by Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images)
Joel Dixon is one of two summer signings made by John Askey for Hartlepool United. (Photo by Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images)
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Although some of these issues may drag on over the next two months, Askey will be keen to tie down the nucleus of a squad of players who he will know he will have at his disposal throughout the season as early as possible ahead of August’s National League kick-off.

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New arrivals

In order to get that nucleus of players there will need to be further movement when it comes to arrivals.

So far, Pools have brought in two new faces with goalkeeper Joel Dixon from Bolton Wanderers and young defender Kieran Burton arriving from Scarborough Athletic.

Askey stressed the significance of recruitment this summer but, as things stand, Pools still have plenty to do on that front.

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With contracts set to officially expire as we head into the new month, things might start moving more favourably for Askey who recently suggested both he and sporting director Darren Kelly had been in talks with several out of contract players.

Whilst there is a little bit of wiggle room in that Hartlepool do not host their first pre-season fixture until mid-July, Askey would have preferred to have had more players at his disposal ahead of the squads full return to pre-season.

Staff assurances

Although the playing side of things is of the most importance for Hartlepool, Askey may need to address certain areas within his backroom staff.

It’s no secret that Hartlepool saw a huge turnover of non-playing staff last season from club directors, secretaries to physios and several in between.

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Goalkeeping coach Kyle Letheren became the latest to leave the club earlier this summer when, after announcing his retirement from playing, he departed the Suit Direct Stadium to take up a role with Doncaster Rovers.

Letheren’s absence has yet been filled although it is surmised assistant manager Mark Goodlad will initially take over goalkeeper coaching duties.

Askey revealed to The Mail there was no reason to change his backroom staff but following a season of such turnover, assurances may need to be given.