'It’s one of the highlights of my career' - Hartlepool United manager Graeme Lee reflects on EFL Trophy success ahead of Bolton Wanderers clash
Graeme Lee is hoping he can emulate one of the ‘highlights’ of his career as Hartlepool United look to progress to the quarter final stage of the Papa John’s Trophy.
Pools welcome League One side Bolton Wanderers to the Suit Direct Stadium this evening as the prospect of a Wembley final becomes ever clearer as we move into the second half of the season.
Lee’s side may have stuttered in the league recently with just one win in their last nine games but Pools have been a different proposition on the cup front having claimed three League One scalps in both this competition and the FA Cup so far this season.
Pools booked a date with Bolton with an impressive victory over Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough on the day of Lee’s appointment thanks to goals from midfielder Mark Shelton, a Jaden Brown own goal and a third from the now departed Will Goodwin in a 3-0 success.
And Lee is hoping his side can add another League One name to that list tonight against Ian Evatt’s men and move Pools one step closer to a Wembley final in April.
The Pools boss knows only too well about what success means in this competition having lifted the Papa John’s Trophy back in 2007 as a player with Doncaster Rovers.
Lee scored an extra time winner at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff as Doncaster edged out Bristol Rovers 3-2 in a memorable final 15 years ago.
It’s a memory which Lee considers one of the highlights of his career.
“It’s an incentive [to get to Wembley]. I’ve got a good squad of players and I’ve already been looking at what players could go into that game,” Lee told The Mail.
“Looking at the team and what I've put down, there might be a few changes but it’s still exciting what I’m looking at on paper. We want to win the game.
“It’s one of the highlights of my career is winning that trophy, so each game we go into we want to win. We’ve got two fantastic games to go into.”
Not only is a spot in the quarter finals up for grabs at the Suit Direct Stadium this evening but Pools also have the opportunity to boost their finances further with £40,000 going to tonight’s winner.
Pools have already amassed £60,000 from the competition thanks to their entry before a group stage win against Everton U21’s and draws with Carlisle United and Morecambe as well as earning £20,000 for their dominant win over Sheffield Wednesday in round two back in December.
And Pools will have the chance to earn yet more prize money in Saturday’s FA Cup third round tie with Blackpool, another game Lee is relishing.
“Both games are exciting for us and they’re two different things.
“We’ve got a chance to go to Wembley in one, well, I’ve got to say we’ve got a chance in both, but both games are exciting and both games we’ll be going out to win.”