The key dates for Hartlepool United this summer
Hartlepool United players and staff will return for pre-season on Monday as they continue what has already been an eventful summer at the club.
Craig Hignett has retained the services of the majority of last season’s squad as well as making five smart additions to the Pools side.
Nicke Kabamba, Michael Raynes, Ben Killip, Luke Molynuex and Gime Toure were all brought in on permanent deals ahead of the 2019-20 campaign.
It’s been a busy summer so far but it’s just getting started for Hartlepool – here are the key dates to look out for...
Monday, 24 June – pre-season training officially gets underway
The entire staff and squad return from their summer break to take part in their first full pre-season training session at East Durham College.
It will be the first chance new signings like Killip and Toure will have to meet the rest of their teammates as Hignett’s intense pre-season approach gets underway.
“It’ll be down to the last yard the way we do pre-season, it will be scientific,” said the Pools boss.
“It’ll be GPS, so many steps a day and if you don’t do those steps then they’ll have to get out running to get the steps in so it’ll be as scientific as it can be and we’ll make sure that come the first day of the season they’ll be flying and ready to go.”
Tuesday, July 2 – pre-season kicks off at Billingham Town
In just over a week, Pools will play their first of six pre-season friendlies lined up so far this July.
They will make the 10 mile journey to face the 2018-19 Northern League Division Two champions Billingham Town.
Kick off at Bedford Terrace will be at 7pm (Stockton-on-Tees, Billingham, TS23 4AF).
Wednesday 3 July – National League fixture release
Always a big day in the football calendar, the fixture release day is when all National League sides will find out who they will play and when over the course of the season.
The fixtures are set to be released at 1pm and gives clubs and fans the chance to plan for the upcoming season as the countdown to the opening day heats up.
“Now Gateshead have gone there’s no team I’ll be looking out for in particular,” Hignett admitted.
“I’ve got no real preference over who we face on the opening day to be honest but it’s a tough one for us because we’ve got more miles this season than we have the previous two.”
Saturday, July 6 – Shildon (A), 3pm
Pools then travel to another local Northern League side in Shildon for their first 3pm Saturday kick-off of the season.
The Railwaymen finished 6th in Northern League Division One last season and play their home matches 24 miles away from the Super 6 Stadium at Dean Street (Shildon, DL4 1EZ).
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Tuesday, July 9 – Newton Aycliffe (A), 7:30pm
2016 Durham Challenge Cup winners Newton Aycliffe are next up for Pools as they complete their Northern League tour at Moore Lane Park.
The Newtonians finished 12th in the Northern League top flight last term and play their home matches just 22 miles away from Hartlepool’s home (Newton Aycliffe Sports Club, Moore Lane, Newton Aycliffe, Durham, DL5 5AG).
Sunday, July 14 – Middlesbrough (H), 1pm
The flagship match of Pools’ pre-season programme so far. The home match against Championship side Boro will hopefully bring a good crowd to The Vic on a Sunday afternoon.
Hartlepool faced Boro in a friendly last summer as a crowd of 1,747 (544 Middlesbrough) watched the Teesside outfit ease to a 5-0 victory.
Wednesday, July 17 – York City (A), 7pm
Another big game in Hartlepool’s friendly calendar will be the trip to National League North big hitters York City.
The Wednesday evening match against the Minstermen is likely to provide a good test for Hignett’s side as they near the start of the competitive season.
Although York were set to move to a new stadium this summer, a delay means the match will take place at their usual Bootham Crescent home (Newborough St, York, YO30 7AQ).
Saturday, July 20 – Sheffield United U23 (H), 3pm
The final match of Pools’ pre-season to be announce so far will see them host a young Sheffield United side at the Super 6 Stadium.
With the match taking place exactly two weeks before the National League season is set to get underway, Hignett has confirmed that at least one more friendly match will be announced.
“We’ll put another one in definitely, one or two,” he revealed.
“Ideally two because I want to play lots of games and with the squad I have, I think I’ll be able to.”
Saturday August 3, National League season kick-off
It’s the big day, the start of the new competitive season with all 24 National League sides filled with hope and excitement of what the next nine months will bring.
With eight games to play in August, a positive start is imperative.
It will be the first of a 46 game slog for a lot of teams but it’s also a great opportunity for Pools to kick-on and finally fulfil their potential in the top tier of non-league football.