How pleased can Hartlepool United's new manager Darren Sarll be with his summer business so far?

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Hartlepool United announced their first two signings of the summer last week. So, how pleased can new boss Darren Sarll be with his first bits of business?

After such a disappointing return to the National League, followed by the controversial decision to replace Kevin Phillips a week after the season ended, Pools needed a strong start to the summer.

Fans, who were already frustrated by such an underwhelming campaign, felt they suffered another kick in the teeth when the club announced their decision to increase season ticket prices despite not consulting any fan groups, notably the Supporters' Trust.

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The situation was exacerbated by a number of their National League rivals making fast starts to their summer business - Barnet have announced eight summer signings, while the likes of Working, York and Forest Green Rovers have already made a series of big moves in the window.

New boss Darren Sarll landed his first two summer signings last week.New boss Darren Sarll landed his first two summer signings last week.
New boss Darren Sarll landed his first two summer signings last week.

Sarll provided a summer update two weeks ago, stressing the need to keep calm and emphasising his refusal to rush. For the first time since he's taken over, the signings of AFC Fylde forward Luke Charman and Halifax Town midfielder Jack Hunter seem to have brought him some breathing space.

As with every summer, there are a host of factors at play, and all 24 National League managers will have different views on how best to go about their business.

Sarll's late arrival means that, while he seems to have been in contention for the Pools job since he was first linked with it in January, he has some catching up to do when it comes to planning, making connections and completing deals.

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He was at pains to point out that this summer's break is longer than usual, a message which some fans have misinterpreted.

One of the qualities Sarll seems to cherish above all is character. That means meeting potential new signings and getting to know them on a personal level is, presumably, a prerequisite before the new boss can be persuaded to give the green light to any deals.

There are, of course, pros and cons to all the different ways of doing things.

Barnet's flood of eight new signings were all announced before May 28th. The fact that manager Dean Brennan is established in the role means he likely had the time to do his due diligence as the season drew to an end, but four of his new faces came from a lower level, while goalkeeper Nick Hayes was the only one of the octet to sign from a Football League club, although he never made a competitive appearance for previous side Ipswich. While the Bees, last season's runners-up, must be well-fancied to go one better next term, there are risks to their approach too. Would Pools fans be placated by a raft of recruits from lower down the leagues?

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Sarll, meanwhile, has said he prefers working with smaller squads. Whether he truly is totally convinced of that, or whether it's a tactic that takes the pressure of Pools, is hard to tell. Either way, it seems unlikely that supporters should expect a similar flurry of signings in the North East.

No matter Sarll's approach, the fanbase will surely feel more optimistic now than they did at the beginning of last week following the additions of Charman and Hunter.

Both new recruits seem to suit Sarll's style while the pair also fit the profile he outlined last month. The new signings are local, have experience at this level and look to have qualities Pools appeared to be lacking last term.

In Hunter, who came through the ranks at Newcastle and helped Gateshead win the National League North title in 2022, Sarll has secured the services of a much-needed holding-midfielder who featured 44 times in a Halifax side that reached the National League play-offs last season.

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Charman, meanwhile, was born in Durham and adds pace, power, and threat out wide which, with the notable exception of the impressive Joe Grey, Pools lacked last term.

His energetic, robust approach should help Pools press from the front next season, something Sarll's sides are renowned for. Under John Askey, Lennie Lawrence and Kevin Phillips, Pools tended to invite sides onto them, although it's worth nothing that Phillips inherited a squad of players and would surely have shared some of Sarll's plans for the summer ahead.

Probably the most pleasing thing is that both new signings seem well-placed to fit into Sarll's side, both in terms of their style and their character.

Recruiting round pegs for round holes - something Sarll was keen to emphasise at his unveiling press conference in May - is so important, although it's not a tactic Pools have always favoured. Last summer's business left John Askey lacking a dominant central-defender, a ball-winning midfielder and options out wide, while the legacy of Paul Hartley's haphazard approach continued to haunt Pools last season.

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So, it seems like a good start for Sarll, although there is much more work still to be done. Pools still need, at least, another goalkeeper, some defensive cover, two more midfielders, another winger and a back-up to Mani Dieseruvwe.

Sarll, with support from head of football Joe Monks and chief scout Ronnie Moore, will need to achieve this without the financial pulling power of some of the league's wealthier sides such as Forest Green, York and Oldham. On the plus side, the financial disparities are much less wide than further up the pyramid, so teams with smaller budgets can still achieve considerable success.

It's likely that the signings of Hunter and Charman are a sign of things to come - local, in the prime of their careers and with National League experience. And that all bodes well.

Sarll will be hopeful of having completed more of his business before the players return at the end of this month, while it will be important to have the core of the new group together when Pools begin their pre-season campaign, nominally with a trip to local side FC Hartlepool on July 6th. The first real test of Sarll's squad will be against Scarborough on July 16th, meaning he has just over a month.

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Poolies can certainly afford to feel more optimistic, although Sarll will be well aware that he has no time to rest on his laurels. Given the ill-feeling still lingering among some sections of supporters, the new boss will need to make a fast start come August.

A host of new faces, allowed time to settle, should give him a fighting chance.

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