Joe Ramage: Steadfast Paul Hartley makes strong first impression on Hartlepool United bow

You never get a second chance to make a first impression but just what can we learn from Paul Hartley’s first impression at Hartlepool United?

By Joe Ramage
Thursday, 16th June 2022, 1:00 pm

In a nutshell, you could argue, not a lot.

These days players and managers are well versed when it comes to how to put on a show and what they can, can’t, should or shouldn’t say in the media.

And yet with Hartley, you couldn’t help but walk away from the Suit Direct Stadium with a little intrigue following his official unveiling.

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Paul Hartley gave a strong impression during his Hartlepool United unveiling. Picture by FRANk REID

Although Hartley was perhaps a little more introverted than some of his predecessors in the Pools hotseat, he did not need to be expansive in order to get his point across.

Instead, Hartley’s steadfast approach was rather striking and was something which can exude confidence among Pools supporters.

This may be Hartley’s first job in England, but this is by no means his first rodeo in management. With over 400 games and five promotions on his CV, when Hartley suggested ‘I think I know what I’m doing’ you find it difficult to disagree with the 45-year-old.

And while some may pour scorn over the level Hartley has managed at, with his most recent job at Cove Rangers predominantly being in the lower leagues of Scottish football, this is also a man who has played at the highest level as a player when competing in the Champions League with Celtic.

(Left to right) Assistant Manager Gordon Young and Manager Paul Hartley outside of the Suit Direct Stadium. Picture by FRANk REID

The Scotsman earned 25 caps for his country including his debut, handed to him by the late Walter Smith in 2005 against Italy in the San Siro.

This isn’t, therefore, somebody who doesn’t know a thing or two about the game and what it takes to reach a significant, and continuously, high level.

But what was particularly encompassing was the way in which Hartley was unmoved over both his and chairman Raj Singh’s targets for the new season.

Singh revealed that a push for the play-offs should be the least Pools aim for under Hartley next season - that despite their first season back in the Football League finishing in 17th place on the back on a nine game winless run to end the campaign.

But Hartley insists he is not here to ‘float around’ in mid-table or towards the bottom of the league. He has grown accustomed to success in Scotland across the four teams he has managed and it is a habit he does not want to give up.

As it stands, a promotion push seems ambitious.

Pools finished 23 points adrift of Mansfield Town in the final play-off spot last season and a further three behind Bristol Rovers in the final automatic promotion spot and can barely reach double figures when it comes to making up the numbers in the squad.

It’s a lot of ground to make up in a very short window of time.

But the very fact those issues did not deter Hartley from making the switch to Pools, and that he remains convinced, that with a successful summer of recruitment, he can guide the club up the League Two table is admirable.

Hartley may have made a strong first impression, the hope is he will be able to provide a lasting one.