Rhys Oates set for Hartlepool United reunion as Graeme Lee's side travel to Mansfield Town
and live on Freeview channel 276
Pools travel to Mansfield Town looking to maintain a four match unbeaten run in league and cup competitions but face a Stags side who are knocking down any obstacle in their path at the moment with nine wins from their last 10 games in all competitions.
And within that run Pools’ former striker Oates appears to have found the goal scoring touch that made him worshipped at the Suit Direct Stadium last season with four goals in his last six outings.
It’s hard to imagine, following Oates’ heroics last season, that there would be any acrimonious feeling towards the 27-year-old from Pools supporters.
But following a blistering campaign, where Oates’ incredible run of 13 goals in the final 17 games of the season helped fire Pools back to the Football League, the striker decided to part ways with the club by making the switch to Nigel Clough’s side in the summer.
Oates had been in discussions with Pools over a new deal but failed to agree terms and followed fellow leading scorer Luke Armstrong out of the Suit Direct Stadium. The duo have netted 15 goals between them this season for their new clubs. Pools have scored just 22 collectively.
But while it’s not uncommon for players to move on, there can be no denying Oates’ exit continues to leave a sour taste in the mouth of Pools supporters.
But Pools boss Lee is keen for his players to focus on dealing with the threat Oates will pose to them this afternoon rather than what has happened in the past.
“They have Oates from last season so the lads will know what he’s all about and that will give them a little bit of fire in the belly to try and stop him to make sure he doesn't impact the game which is good.
“We all saw from last season he’s a very good player,” Lee told The Mail.
“I got asked a question when I came to the Exeter game regarding him leaving and why would he leave when we’ve moved up?
“Look, I couldn't answer that question for certain but he might have already had the deal sorted before Hartlepool got promoted into the Football League so that could have been out of his hands and he was moving into the Football League no matter what happened.
“But these things happen. People move on, players move on. I know he’ll be a tough challenge for our lads but hopefully we can keep him quiet on Boxing Day.
“I concentrate on us. He was a good player for Pools, but he’s moved on and it’s our job to try and stop him now.”
In time Pools supporters may be able to look back and remember Oates fondly for moments of individual brilliance such as his stunning solo goal against Maidenhead United, or an emphatic first half performance against Bromley in the National League play-off eliminator followed by a fabulous winner against Stockport County in the semi-final. Today may not be that day, however.