Why new manager Darren Sarrl's aggressive style and bullish approach could be the perfect fit for Hartlepool United

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New Hartlepool United manager Darren Sarll might not be the most glamorous name to have ever graced the Suit Direct Stadium, but his no-nonsense, straight-talking approach and robust style could be exactly what Pools need.

Sarll has big shoes to fill, replacing legendary Sunderland striker and former England international Kevin Phillips.

Although Phillips only lasted three months in the job, there was a lot to like about the former prolific marksman's time in charge.

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He inherited a Pools side who looked lacklustre, low on confidence and lacking in direction but masterminded an instant turnaround, winning four of his first five games.

Darren Sarll's robust style and bullish approach could make him the perfect fit for Pools.Darren Sarll's robust style and bullish approach could make him the perfect fit for Pools.
Darren Sarll's robust style and bullish approach could make him the perfect fit for Pools.

The one major black mark against him was a 7-1 humiliation at local rivals Gateshead, Pools' heaviest defeat in 28 years.

Phillips changed his shape, switching to a back three for just the second time in his tenure, with dire consequences.

Pools, who had been much more solid since the arrivals of experienced defenders Tom Parkes and Luke Waterfall, suddenly looked all at sea, shipping six second half goals on a miserable evening that will still haunt the nightmares of the more than 1,300 fans who made the trip to the Gateshead International Stadium.

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That was one of the few times when Phillips, in his second role in management, let his inexperience show but, to his immense credit, he galvanised his side and Pools beat an in-form Halifax less than 72 hours later.

After taking over with Pools 17th, on a run of just three wins in 19 matches, and threatened with the prospect of a second successive relegation, Phillips steered his side clear of trouble and reached the 60 point target he was rumoured to have been set. At the time of John Askey's sacking on December 30th, a 12th placed finish seemed about as good as even the most optimistic of fans could have hoped for.

Of course, things weren't perfect, but Phillips was forced to contend with a squad ravaged with injuries and lacking pace without ever having much of a chance to bring in his own players.

So, following the divisive decision not to renew his deal - made all the more controversial given Phillips' accusation that the club withdrew an offer of a two-year contract - as well as a much-lamented hike in the price of season tickets, Sarll is set to start somewhat on the back foot. He will need a good summer as well as a strong beginning to the campaign.

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In many ways, the new boss could hardly be more different to Phillips; Sarll's playing career peaked at Conference South level, while his style is set to be more direct than his predecessor's, who promised to assemble a team capable of building through the thirds next season.

However, Sarll's approach could be exactly what Hartlepool United need.

Indeed, the town and its people pride themselves on being salt of the earth types, full of grit, determination and passion. In that sense, Sarll and the supporters seem like a match made in heaven.

For much of the last few seasons, Pools have been too passive and easy to play against. That was, at times, the case under John Askey, Lennie Lawrence and Phillips, although the latter could make a convincing argument that there was not much more he could have done to be more front foot, especially after various loan signings failed to hit the mark.

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If there's one thing Sarll, who is a disciple of former Newcastle, West Ham and England coach Glenn Roeder, won't be, it's passive.

His sides are renowned for their energy and intensity as well as their press.

That means that next season, Pools fans can expect to see their side harass and harry all over the pitch, with new signing Luke Charman set to lead a press right from the front.

Given that fans in the North East, probably more so than anywhere else in England, demand a relentless, tireless, blood and thunder approach, Sarll's tactics should find favour on the terraces.

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When Pools sat back, especially under Askey, fans didn't tend to wait too long before getting on their side's back. At times the players were just following the manager's instructions, but the perceived lack of aggression was, understandably, a real source of frustration.

Sarll is set to instill a new, more dynamic, robust and competitive approach, even if that comes at the cost of attractive football; he admitted at his maiden press conference that he'd quite happily accept fewer completed passes in exchange for more points.

As well as his style of football, supporters can expect an extremely committed approach on the touchline. Sarll wound up a number of the home fans when he last visited the Suit Direct while in charge of Woking; frustrating as that may have been then, it's the kind of thing supporters love when it's their manager rather than the opposition's.

Crucially, he has a good track record in the National League, leading both Yeovil and Woking to the play-offs. Given the fast start some of his rivals have made to their summer business, another top seven finish feels like it would be a real success next term.

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Sarll has also promised to be - and has a reputation for being - brutally honest. Askey, in particular, tended to keep his cards close to his chest, which meant he never struck up too much of a rapport with the fanbase. Sarll will be desperate to do things differently.

The new boss could be just the type of man to thrive in the unique footballing hotbed that is the North East. He might not be a local, and this might be his first time managing in the area, but his intense, front foot style and bullish approach could well endear him to the Hartlepool faithful.

Results, of course, will define Sarll's stay at the Suit Direct Stadium. Fans can afford to be hopeful that his style might buck the trend and turn recent disappointments into some much-needed success.

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