The inside track on Hartlepool United manager Paul Hartley and his time at Cove Rangers

Hartlepool United boss Paul Hartley begins work next week but what can Pools supporters expect from their new man in charge?

By Joe Ramage
Thursday, 9th June 2022, 4:45 pm

Having analysed some of Hartley's stats during his time as a manager in Scotland with Alloa Athletic, Dundee, Falkirk and Cove Rangers here at The Mail we now get the views of someone who has dealt first hand with Hartley over recent years during his time with Scottish League One champions Cove Rangers.

Jamie Durent, a sports writer for the Press and Journal, has covered Hartley’s success at the Balmoral Stadium and he gives us the inside track on Hartley and what Pools can expect.

What can Pools supporters expect from Paul Hartley in terms of system and style of play?

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Paul Hartley has rebuilt his career with Cove Rangers after guiding them to the Scottish League One title. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

During his first two seasons at Cove he stuck with a 4-2-3-1 system which worked really well for them. In Mitch Megginson he has had one of the best strikers in the lower leagues and he thrived with the chances they created for him.

Last season the turning point came in October when he switched to a back three (3-4-1-2) which provided greater solidity at the back and allowed him to pair Megginson and Rory McAllister up front. They also got great performances out of left wing-back Harry Milne, who earned himself a full-time move off the back of his season.

His Cove side have pressed from the front, strived to be on the front foot in every game and create plenty of goalscoring opportunities.

Is Hartley vocal on the touchline or does he tend to be more reserved?

Former Raith Rovers striker Mitch Megginson became a key player for Paul Hartley's Cove Rangers side. (Photo by Jeff Holmes/Getty Images)

Paul is not one to be idle on the touchline. He is vocal, constantly giving directions and instructions to his players.

Does he mix things up with his team? Will he look to utilise his squad and substitutes bench?

I would say he had a consistent group of about 14 or 15 players he knew he could rely upon. The squad has never been big enough to make wholesale changes but he has had a couple of players – Blair Yule and Connor Scully – who are very versatile and have been able to fill in a number of roles, if others are missing through injury or suspension.

Sum up Hartley's time as a manager both at Cove and in general so far?

He was a big-name hire when Cove came into the SPFL in 2019 and delivered results on the pitch.

They finished first, third and first under him in his three seasons in charge, which I don’t think many expected. Cove were a dominant team in the Highland League and have continued that success in the SPFL.

There are similarities to the job he did at the start of his managerial career with Alloa Athletic, taking them through to the Championship on a part-time budget. He then took Dundee up and got them into the top half of the Premiership, which is something they’ve not done since.

He did struggle at Falkirk but he’s not alone in that. They have turned over managers regularly and despite being one of the biggest clubs in the lower-leagues, have struggled to get out of League One.

What has Hartley been like in the transfer market with Cove Ranagers? What type of player has he favoured?

It varies year-to-year. He relied heavily on experience this season, bringing in players with a lot of top-flight nous after they had been let go by Aberdeen, Ross County and Dundee United. Signings like Shay Logan and Iain Vigurs were considered major coups at this level.

His and Gordon Young’s contacts at Dundee, Dundee United and Motherwell have seen them source a number of players, be it loans or permanent deals, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this is an avenue they go down at Hartlepool.

Are there any players you see him coming back for?

This is a difficult one. With Cove being a part-time club, most of the players have full-time jobs and given the bulk of the squad are in their late-20’s or early-30’s, it may not be conducive to them to relocate a significant distance for a few years of full-time football.

Had Harry Milne not already joined Partick Thistle, he would have definitely been one I could have seen him coming back for. He had just finished his university studies and as one of the few players in the squad who had not played full-time football, the timing was right for him to try it.

From a press point of view, what is Hartley like to deal with? Can supporters expect him to give much away?

Paul tends to be quite reserved when dealing with the press but having been in the game for 30 years, is used to the scrutiny that comes with the territory.

He is not one for making wild or provocative public statements in the media and Cove have tended to do much of their transfer business behind-the-scenes.

Your views on this appointment from a Pools point of view. Should they be excited? How do you see him faring?

After falling out of love with the game following his Falkirk experiences, Paul has rebuilt his career at Cove and Hartlepool should be getting a manager back on top of his game again.

From afar it appears that managers at Hartlepool maybe don’t have the longest tenures, so I hope he gets the time to implement his plans and take the club forward.

He felt he wanted to test himself in England so they should certainly get a manager who will leave no stone unturned to make the most of this opportunity.