Nicky Featherstone to begin ninth season with Hartlepool United against ex-club Walsall

Nicky Featherstone will begin his ninth season with Hartlepool United this afternoon as he gets set to captain his side against Walsall.

And while Featherstone would have preferred a home fixture to begin the new League Two season, the midfielder is content with a trip to the Midlands to take on his former club.

Featherstone, 33, spent two years with the Saddlers prior to his move to the Suit Direct Stadium in 2014 and admits it’s a club he remains fond of, albeit not this afternoon.

“Ideally you want a home fixture. But I'm quite excited for this one personally,” said Featherstone.

Nicky Featherstone previews opening day trip to former club Walsall. Picture by FRANK REID

“I spent two years there in League One. I had two really good years there. There’s some really good people at the club and I was sad to see them drop down to League Two.

“Hopefully they have a good season, but not a great start.

“It’ll be a tough challenge,” added the Pools captain.

“It’s a tough place to play. It’s their manager’s first real summer. They've made a lot of signings as well as us, so I suppose it’s a bit unknown at the minute.

Nicky Featherstone will begin his ninth season with Hartlepool United. (Credit: Will Matthews | MI News)

“The manager is proven at this level, I think he’s taken Newport to a couple of play-off finals so he knows the league and I’m sure it will be a tough game.”

Featherstone featured for 90 minutes in Pools’ final pre-season fixture against Championship side Sunderland earlier this week, with the experienced midfielder admitting he is raring to go for the new campaign after revealing he finds it easy to transition from a pre-season mind-set into a league game focus.

“I find that easy. These are the games that mean something and these are the games that excite you,” Featherstone told The Mail.

“Pre-season serves a purpose for me. You want to go out and win the games, and you want to be competitive, but ultimately you want to stay injury free and get as fit as possible and be as ready as possible for the first game of the season.

“I’ve had more of a summer this year, we had a short break last season, and I’m feeling good now.”