Pools boss Craig Harrison has given his thoughts after his side's National League fixture schedule for 2017/18 was unveiled.
Good afternoon and welcome to my latest Blog here on the Official Website – and I’m delighted to say that this one is all about the fixtures finally being released for 2017/18.
My first reaction was that I was pleased to start with a home game as we host Dover Athletic at Victoria Park. I think it’s important you set your stall out and being at home first will hopefully help us with that.
I think the lads who have been here will know what kind of atmosphere can be generated at The Vic and the new lads will be enthusiastic to taste that early on so it’s great we start at home and I’m sure there will be a big crowd, which will be key.
Fortunately, I have seen Dover play live twice in the last 18 months when they have been playing local to me in Chester so I already know a little bit about them.
Obviously we’ll do our full homework, we’d be stupid not to, but one thing I do know is that it will be a physical test. They’re strong and physically fit and can be quite direct so we will have to deal with that.
We’re at home though and, as I have told the lads, throughout this season – especially at The Vic – it won’t be all about us but I think 75 to 80% will be about how we do on the day.
You can get caught up in analysing the fixtures and thinking what could have been better or worse for you but I think the opening weeks overall have been on the kinder side so we’re reasonably happy with the situation.
We have to be ready, of course, because the first two months will be very important months.
The next thing you look at is the Christmas schedule and we’ve been lined up to play at Gateshead on Boxing Day before welcoming them back to The Vic on New Year’s Day. That’s something that both clubs requested with the National League so it’s great that it’s come to fruition.
We will definitely be looking forward to those games, they should be great occasions. They are local derby games for us so they should be very exciting and there will definitely be a great atmosphere, particularly when we play them at home on New Year’s Day.
The lads are all professional obviously but ideally you want to be reasonably close to home over Christmas so that they can spend a little time with their families – you have to have that balance to make sure you have a happy squad. Obviously we’re at Chester for our final games of 2017 which is a pretty long trip but by and large we have to be pretty happy with the festive schedule.
I am sure that one game that stood out for you as much as it did for is the last day trip to Tranmere Rovers! I know Pools fans in particular enjoy their last away games and get right in to the spirit with fancy dress but I think the trip to Prenton Park certainly adds a bit more spice.
I have to say, I would be quite happy if that game is a straight shootout to win the league, I would take that now! Hopefully there will be a good atmosphere because it will be a massive occasion; I have seen the Pools fans in fancy dress over the last couple of years and it’s unbelievable so we’ll take plenty to that game, I’m sure. The important thing is that we go there playing for something. We want that to be a game that means something and hopefully it will be to try and win the title.
The excitement goes up and I think it can focus you a little more too once the fixtures are there in black and white. You look at it and we’re only four weeks on Saturday away from getting underway so we have a little bit of building time still but it will soon come around.
Now the fixtures are out it gives us the opportunity to sit down as a staff and plan in a bit more depth how we’re going to structure the schedule and plot how we can get this Club back in the EFL as quickly as possible.
All things are looking positive at the Club so we’re all really looking forward to our first game at Billingham Town on Thursday and then making sure we get all the preparations right and are in good shape for that opening game on Saturday 5th August.