This is why Nicky Featherstone is looking forward to Hartlepool United v Sunderland friendly

Nicky Featherstone is expecting Hartlepool United’s fixture with North East rivals Sunderland to have a little more ‘needle’ than the average pre-season friendly.

Paul Hartley’s side wrap up their preparations for the new League Two season with the visit of Alex Neil’s Black Cats to the Suit Direct Stadium on Monday with the Pools captain admitting he is expecting the game to be a little bit more of a dress rehearsal ahead of their trip to Walsall to begin the new campaign.

Pools have stepped up the intensity of their schedule over the last week with games against Lincoln City and Blackburn Rovers with the Wearsiders set to provide another stern test for Hartley’s side.

Pools enjoyed a warm weather training camp in Portugal including a fixture with Hibernian before a non-league double header upon returning to home soil against Billingham Synthonia and Marske United.

Nicky Featherstone says he is raring to go for the new season with Hartlepool United. Picture by FRANK REID

And while Featherstone remains keen to add further minutes under his belt ahead of the trip to Walsall, the midfielder believes we may see a little bit more from both teams on Monday.

“I think so. There should be a few fans in, they’re going to be bringing quite a few as well, so hopefully it will be a good atmosphere,” Featherstone told The Mail.

“You say it's a pre-season game but those local derbies tend to bring out a little bit more and there might be a little bit more tempo and needle to that game than you’ve probably seen in the last few pre-season games.”

The 33-year-old added: “But a bit like what the gaffer has said to us before, he wants us to build a habit of winning games and getting that winning mentality so it’s about then being able to take that moving forward into the season.”

Nicky Featherstone admits he was glad for the summer break at the end of last season. (Credit: Will Matthews | MI News)

Featherstone came off the bench for the final 30 minutes in the defeat to Blackburn in mid-week which may suggest the midfielder could be set to feature from the off against Sunderland.

Featherstone struggled at times in the final weeks of last season, as Pools’ form dipped, having picked up a slight groin issue.

But the Pools skipper admits he is raring to go for the new season, which will be his ninth at the Suit Direct Stadium, after enjoying a well-earned break over the summer after such a short turnaround 12 months ago having helped the club regain its Football League status.

“I had a little bit in my groin but nothing too serious. I probably needed the rest in the summer more mentally than physically really,” he explained to The Mail.

“I think we only had 10 days off last summer and I’ve said it a load of times, but probably eight days of them 10 we had COVID because of the celebrations.

“So it was nice just to get away with my family and have a holiday and totally unwind from football to be honest.

“But I’m ready to go now and hopefully I’ll get a few more minutes against Sunderland and then be good to go for the Walsall game.”