Hartlepool United's to do list ahead of 2021-22 League Two season – six matters Pools need to address
It’s been two weeks since Hartlepool United’s promotion back to the Football League but not a lot has happened since.
Season tickets have gone back on sale and the club has announced its retained list but other than that we have been experiencing ‘the calm before the storm’ as the new season approaches.
Some of these are blindingly obvious but here are six things Pools need to sort ahead of the big League Two kick-off on August 7.
Get players tied down
Last Sunday, the club confirmed that Nicky Featherstone, Gary Liddle, Rhys Oates, Luke Molyneux, Ben Killip and Jamie Sterry had been offered new deals at the club.
These are players who were key to Pools’ promotion success and would help form a strong core to build from for the upcoming campaign.
They are now out of contract and their futures should be made clear in the coming days.
But at the time of writing, none of these players have been confirmed to be staying at Victoria Park yet all of them have been subject to interest or offers from elsewhere.
Zaine Francis-Angol and Ryan Donladson have also been in talks regarding new deals though no further developments have emerged.
With Gavan Holohan, David Ferguson, Timi Odusina and Mark Shelton the only first team regulars contracted as it stands, getting some more familiar faces tied down is going to be crucial.
Ideally all of them will stay, but that doesn’t look likely.
Make some signings
This is an obvious one as it simply needs to happen. Even if Pools are able to tie down every player they’ve offered a new deal to, their squad would still be well short of what is required to compete in League Two.
Dave Challinor will need to bring in around 15 new faces before the end of the transfer window in August in order to Pools to be competitive in League Two this coming season.
A loan return for Lewis Cass is on Pools’ radar while former Hartlepool goalkeeper Trevor Carson has been linked with a move from Motherwell. The club also have a reported interest in goalkeeper Tom King following his release from Newport County last month.
Things have been moving slowly so far but with the squad set to return for pre-season training this coming week, we can expect to see several trialists looking for permanent deals on show.
Another one that needs sorting very soon. As it stands, Pools have just one friendly match at Gateshead on Saturday, July 24 (3pm kick-off).
But this friendly has not been officially confirmed on the Hartlepool club website with the club’s pre-season schedule looking very unclear.
We’re now into July and most clubs already have full pre-season schedules in place so organising friendlies, particularly against fellow Football League sides, is going to be very difficult.
We can expect to see another pre-season schedule against local non-league and academy sides this month.
This is one that should have been sorted in the days following Pools’ promotion with Dave Challinor expecting some clarity and Raj Singh stating on BBC Radio Tees that he was ‘very confident’ in securing a new contract for the manager.
Fortunately Challinor is still contracted until next summer but he has been subject to plenty of interest from elsewhere given his success at Victoria Park.
There has been little to no progress when it comes to a new deal for Challinor which isn’t an immediate concern but does suggest he isn’t completely on board with the clubs’ current vision for the future, whatever that may be.
Hopefully a new deal can be ironed out and give us all some peace of mind heading into the new campaign.
The boost of a new deal for Challinor will undoubtedly have a positive knock on impact when it comes to recruitment and season ticket sales, so Pools’ best course of action should be to get it sorted sooner rather than later.
Appoint a new CEO
Since the coronavirus outbreak, Pools have operated with a skeleton staff behind the scenes with no recognised chief executive officer following the departure of Mark Maguire.
The club are looking to recruit someone as CEO ahead of the new campaign which should provide some much needed structure and guidance when it comes to off field matters.
In a lot of areas, Pools have been relying on the goodwill and passion of volunteers to help keep things running smoothly as possible. While cost effective, it is an approach that obviously has its shortcomings and will likely be exposed should it remain in place at an EFL club.
A restructure is needed behind the scenes in order to get the club properly prepared for League Two football and the appointment of paid staff in key roles will be crucial.
Announce a new kit and sponsorship
Now Pools are in the Football League, they are undoubtedly an easier sell from a commercial standpoint. Their EFL status should open up more commercial and sponsorship opportunities to bring in some much needed income.
The club were able to secure some big sponsors towards the back end of last season with Teesside International Airport and Brunel Group partnering up with the club as stand sponsors.
The club now need to confirm a new shirt sponsor and kit for the upcoming season. Raj Singh’s company, The Prestige Group, were the shirt sponsors for the previous campaign with the club unable to secure a suitable external sponsor.
Pools’ previous sponsorship deal with Utility Alliance was worth in the region of £80,000 per season in the National League. Ideally Pools will be looking to secure something even more lucrative now they’re back in the EFL though the coronavirus pandemic is bound to make things more difficult in that regard.
The added income from sponsorship as well as shirt sales is something the club should be looking to really push over the next month or so.