Peter Hartley brings us the first in his new blog seriesWell, those have been three of the longest weeks of my life! We got eight weeks off during the summer and they flew over, now I feel like we've played a full season already!
The training has been relentless; there can't be another team in the country who have worked has hard as us in pre season so far.
It's been great for the lads though; this type of work makes you mentally stronger and we've got a lot done in terms of power work and now we're mixing that in with team shape and football stuff.
In a way I thought that the two games over in Holland were a little fake because we hadn't done a great deal on shape, it was all about the fitness. Now we're working on that a lot more and I think towards the latter end of pre season you'll see all the lads getting sharper and sharper.
To be honest, it's great to be back among the lads as well. The banter can see you through the season really; if you come in and you're in a bad mood for whatever reason you can guarantee someone will sling a story out or have some banter that will make you smile and turn your day around.
The new lads have all fitted in really well. Big Stevie Howard is someone we all have a lot of respect for after what he's done in the game; he's been and played where we all aspire to be and has brought with him that experience. Simon Walton is the same age as me and we've just clicked straight away; he's a top man and has some good banter too. And I knew Franksy a little bit from playing against him in the Reserves a few years ago when I was at Sunderland.
You can see straight away the kind of players we have brought in have character but they're also mentally tough and that bodes well for us. I mean, Stevie is 36 now but he is still so hungry to succeed - he's told us that he hasn't come here for a jolly, he's here to do well and get Hartlepool as far up the league as possible.
A lot of the lads have come back looking in great condition; everyone looks good in training and we're feeling strong. Of all the players though, I'd have to mention Neil Austin who has hit this phase where he is really focused on his nutrition and he's looking well for it. He's as strong, as lean, as quick and as fit as he's ever been - sometimes people talk about footballers and say they only work half the day, but this is a 24/7 job and Aussie is an example of that. He's really knuckled down and makes sure he does everything right at training and at home.
We all just can't wait for the Crewe game now, everything is focused on that. People may say we could look at that as a last pre season friendly, but that's not our mindset at all, we want to go there and win. There's no reason why we can get off to a flying start and win five or six games; we want to get that winning mentality right from the start, and I think we will.
Finally, I've had a question in from Jordan Richardson asking who I supported as a kid. Well, I was a Hartlepool Season Ticket holder when I was younger so came to The Vic a lot, but I also had a passion for Liverpool; they were my top flight team. I still remember when Cantona scored that goal to win the FA Cup for Manchester United against Liverpool, I went to my room and cried my eyes out!
Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed my first blog; I'll be doing these regularly throughout the season so make sure you keep reading - and if you have any questions then send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll answer as many as I can.