The winners and losers of Hartlepool United's failed National League campaign
The National League season just gone was full of lows and too few highs for Hartlepool United.
It was a season of change and one of underachievement.
While change was not apparent as much off the field, although plenty went on behind the scenes, it was on it.
Players, managers, styles and formation were anything but consistent from August through to April, whether it was Craig Hignett, Matthew Bates or Richard Money at the wheel.
Although 17th was not what was expected of this group, were there any players who saw their stock rise throughout the 2018/19 season, and were there any whose value dropped?
Here our Pools writer Liam Kennedy takes a look at the four players who bucked the trend and saw their stock rise, and the four who went in the opposite direction.
ON THE UP
1. Josh Hawkes - A player who looks like he is improving with every game. It would be a massive shock if at least one of the Football League clubs who have been watching him closely in recent months did not dive in with an offer. Hawkes does have a year left on his Pools deal, although it is not certain he will agree to a longer-term deal. And that could see the player leave this summer. The 20-year-old has a lightening bolt in either foot and is capable of cracking in from any distance with left or right. He finds clever spaces in the No 10 role, but as he gets older may be asked to either drop deeper.
2. Luke Molyneux - He was that good, it would be a shock if he's still a Pools player next season. Could probably do a job for Sunderland, too, but it seems like manager Jack Ross has already made up his mind about the young wideman. A sweet left peg, deadly from dead balls and open play, Molyneux would be a fantastic acquisition for any League Two side. That's where he will probably end up this summer. Not the quickest, but a clever player.
3. Myles Anderson - He started the season as a divisive figure - I'm not all that sure Poolies were convinced about him as a defender. By the end of the campaign, minus a few teeth, he'd turned himself into a real crowd favourite. A whole-hearted, old school type defender. Lacks pace but certainly doesn't lack bottle. A solid performer at left-back, even better in the centre. He came to the club having had a meandering career but really laid down roots in the North East and was loved for it. Will be interesting to see if he remains - this is far from certain.
4. Nicke Kabamba - The striker got his chance to shine after a glittering career in non-league when Portsmouth came calling. But, as can happen, it was the right move at the wrong time for the player. Things did not work out. So, back to non-league he went and the lanky frontman swapped a relegation battle with Lee Bradbury and Havant, for a chance to shine at a bigger, full-time club, just a little higher in the fifth tier. Seven goals in 17 games was a cracking return from the forward. Hignett wants a deal done ASAP for the player.
ON THE SLIDE
1. Niko Muir - Looked a class act at the start of the season, but could barely get a kick near the end. If there is a player who epitomises a slide at Pools this season it's Muir. Not a player who suits playing up top alone, he even struggled to get goals with Luke James, who did a lot of the dirty work for him. We did not get the chance to see Muir partner with Kabamba, but that could well be a link up that clicks. In fairness, this was the player's first season as a professional. It's some jump to go from the supermarket warehouse to the National League. Sure he will come again.
2. Danny Amos - A real attacking threat but defensively very suspect - the Northern Ireland youth international still has a hell of a lot to learn in the professional game. Not at all sure National League football suited him. Players were too big and too direct. A slot back at a league club might well do him the world of good. Unlikely to be back at Pools in a rush.
3. Carl Magnay - When fit, Magnay was a guaranteed starter, but it just seems like injuries caught up with the defender at the end of the season. The defender was one of the stand out players at the start of the season, a solid, consistent performer, but towards the end it's difficult to see where he fits in this Hignett side. Out of contract, but no guarantees where he will be playing his football. Could his experience come in useful? Only the manager knows the answer on that front.
4. Conor Newton - Game over at Pools for the Geordie. And it's fair to say he did little to impress during his time. Having struggled to find a regular place, or hold one down, last season until the final throes of the campaign, Newton has been a peripheral figure this campaign. One of he highest earners in the squad, his departure will free up some wriggle room in the budget this summer. As a player he is more than capable, but we've just not seen it at the Vic. The player himself might see this as two vital years wasted in his career.