The key January transfer priorities for Hartlepool United's next manager – ins, outs and loans to address
Hartlepool United are little over a month away from the January transfer window – but what are the club’s key transfer priorities going to be?
Pools currently have a squad of 26 players which consists of three goalkeepers, nine defenders, six midfielders and eight forwards. In addition, the club also have two players out on loan.
Defender Jake Lawlor is at Darlington until January 12 and winger Josh MacDonald is at Whitby Town until the end of the season.
Even in League Two terms, Pools have a bloated and unbalanced squad with a lack of strength in depth in certain areas. While their starting line-up is capable of posing a threat to most sides in the fourth tier, losing just a handful of key players at once could prove disastrous.
An active January window for Pools is as likely as it is essential with club chairman Raj Singh confirming there will be money for the new manager to spend.
"Because [Dave Challinor’s] contract was delayed and it went on for three months, I wasn’t happy with that so on the back of that we decided to hold some of the money back which we would then keep for the January window,” Singh said.
“The budget is definitely healthy to get us right up there.”
Pools aren’t too far away, but including all loans, their squad consists of 28 players which means it will have to be streamlined somewhat come January.
Hartlepool currently have four loan players at the club in Tyler Burey from Millwall, Matty Daly from Huddersfield Town and Eddy Jones and Will Goodwin from Stoke City.
League rules stipulate that a club can only name a maximum of five loan players in their matchday squad so there is still scope for a further arrival in that department.
But other than Daly – who is on loan until the end of the season – Pools’ other three loanees are set to return to their parent clubs at the end of 2021.
Realistically, Goodwin and Jones are unlikely to have their stay at Hartlepool extended due to a distinct lack of game time for them both. The pair even returned to Stoke last week to play an under-23s game.
Burey’s situation is slightly different. The 20-year-old scored three goals in four League Two starts for Hartlepool at the start of the season before suffering a serious hamstring injury and returning to Millwall.
He is still yet to return to Pools but interim manager Antony Sweeney has confirmed that the club will be looking to extend the winger’s loan should Millwall and the player agree to it.
Several player’s futures will have to be assessed come January.
Will Goodwin & Eddy Jones
Likely to return to Stoke.
Will return from Darlington in January. Hasn’t started a league game for Pools. Should remain out for the remainder of the season.
Previously made available for loan under Challinor but has since been more involved in the first team under Sweeney. Would benefit from going out and playing regularly on loan.
Similar to Crawford. Will depend on whether Pools are able to bring in suitable replacements.
Fallen down the defensive pecking order following the arrivals of Luke Hendrie, Neill Byrne and the form of Zaine Francis-Angol at the back. Could benefit from a short-term loan.
In hindsight, a desperate signing made outside of the transfer window. No goals in nine appearances and generally looks sluggish when on the field. The new manager should look to offload him come January.
Another free agent signing outside of the transfer window. The jury is still out on Cook due to injury. Looked sharp when on the pitch but hasn’t been on it enough. Could prove a useful squad player once he gets back up to speed.
Only recently returned to the first team picture following injury. Not prolific in terms of goals but his pace and energy could benefit Pools. Will see how he progresses over the next month before making a decision.
Has a £100,000 release clause in his contract and January will be Pools’ best chance to cash in before potentially losing him on a free in the summer. An important player which the club should look to tie down to a new deal.
“I think every Hartlepool fan will agree with me when I say it’s only a bit of tweaking needed in January,” Singh said. “The obvious one is getting some more goals into the side. Other than that, we’re not too far away.”
That effectively outlines Pools’ transfer plans. How a new manager will look to change that remains to be seen but it's clear Pools need more effective attacking options.
Mark Cullen may be in fine form at the moment but the side can’t become too reliant on him, particularly given his well documented fitness issues.
Even a month before the transfer window has opened, Pools are already being linked with players. Football League World has reported Hartlepool are one of three League Two clubs monitoring Southport striker Marcus Carver, who has scored 15 goals in 15 starts for the National League North club this season.
Strikers are the main priority for Pools with at least two solid additions needed to help fire the club up the table.
As mentioned in the summer, while the midfield is technically strong and physically energetic, it is susceptible to being overpowered by more forceful opposition.
An imposing central midfielder will help Pools grind out results and stop teams playing through their midfield without much resistance.
Jones’ likely return to Stoke means the club will be in the market for a left-sided defender once again. With David Ferguson and Francis-Angol available, it’s not a matter of urgency but it is an area a new manager may want to address.