Paul Hartley makes this claim as he prepares for his first game in charge of Hartlepool United at Walsall

It’s been a long six weeks for Paul Hartley as he prepares to lead Hartlepool United for the first time, officially, as their new manager.

But you could also argue it has been a long decade or more for the 45-year-old who, 11 years on from his first foray into the dugout as a manager with Alloa Athletic, will manage in English football for the very first time.

Within a 400-game spell in Scotland, Hartley has achieved great success in winning five promotions across the four clubs he has managed including twice with his most recent side Cove Rangers.

But the end goal has always been to test his ability within the Football League. Can that success, and those methods, translate to Pools in League Two this season?

Paul Hartley prepares for his first official game in charge of Hartlepool United. Picture by FRANK REID

The journey to find out begins at Walsall this afternoon and for Hartley, who has featured in the Champions League as a player with Celtic, and was handed his international debut by the late Walter Smith in the San Siro against Italy, he admits the sole focus is on ensuring his side come away with three points at any cost.

“Your life depends on it. This is where it matters. You’re going for three points,” explained Hartley.

Supporters are turning up. They’ve paid a lot of money to travel and we want to put on a good performance for them, so this is where it counts now.

“Forget the rest of pre-season. That’s gone. Forget the results, forget the performances. We’ve done well, but now the real stuff starts. That’s where we’re judged.

Paul Hartley and assistant Gordon Young on the touchline during Hartlepool United's pre-season defeat to Blackburn Rovers. Picture by FRANK REID

“It’s why I came down,” he added.

“I’ve been given the opportunity and hopefully I can take it.

“It’s my first game in English football as a manager so I’m really looking forward to it.

“I think we’re in a good place. We’ve got a good organisation about us and a real work ethic to the group.”

Hartley’s first month in charge has not been easy to say the least, with Pools having to replace up to 16 players who left the club from the end of last season.

So far, 13 new arrivals have joined Hartley at the Suit Direct Stadium with a number of those in line to make their official debut this afternoon. And that number is set to increase over the coming weeks with Hartley still keen to add to his squad.

Pre-season has yielded a mixed bag of results against varying opposition, but the encouraging signs have been on the eye in Hartley’s methods imposed on the training ground coming to fruition during games.

“Yeah, I think I've noticed it over the last couple of weeks. The work they’ve put in, they’ve been excellent. They've been first class with a great attitude so I’m really pleased with them,” Hartley told The Mail.

“I think they’re ready. They’re fit. Their mentality is good. The culture is good. The spirit is good and they’re ready to work.

“Mentality is just about winning. I’m not saying that’s not the case in pre-season, but it rarely counts. This is where it does. This is for three points. So you have to win at any cost.”

As with any season, there will be ups and downs for Hartley and his new-look Pools side this year. For Hartley himself, coming up against 23 different teams in the league as a manager, as opposed to half of that, in a season will be a change in itself, with a trip to Walsall the first of those.

And Hartley says his side feel suitably prepared for the challenge that lies ahead, having been to scout the Saddlers personally himself this pre-season.

“They've got good players and they're aggressive,” said Hartley.

“They’ve got a good forward line so we need to be aware of that. We’ve got to work hard off the ball.

“It’s the first game of the season and the crowd will be behind them, but I’m sure we’ll take a noisy travelling support to get behind us.

"We’ve got to start the game well and be patient in our work and go and play the way we can play.

“This is what we’ve worked for. We want to play good football. This is why we’re here. That’s why we’ve worked on what we have for the last five or six weeks. We’ve got a certain style and we have to bring it out.

“[But] I’m feeling good, I’m feeling excited. I think we’ve put a lot of work in. It's just about trying to pick the right team to win the game.

“That’s why we’re going there. We’re going to go there and be as positive as we can against a very good Walsall side.

“We've seen a lot of them, we’ve had them watched, I’ve watched them myself live. So our preparation has been good and we're really looking forward to the kick off.”

Hartley has worked hard for a long time, achieving great success, to reach this moment. In reality, win, lose or draw and his stepping out into the dugout for the first time as Pools manager will be a moment to remember.

But for Hartley, it will only be a moment for him to saviour if the result goes the right way.

“Maybe after the game, if we get a good result, [I will take it all in],” said Hartley.

“As a manager I don't think you reflect too much, you just look forward to the next game. Can you enjoy it? I don’t know. Your intent is always to try and get that right result.”