We get the thoughts of Pools boss Matthew Bates following the release of the Club's National League fixtures for 2018/19.
So, the fixtures are out and now we can all start making our plans for the new National League season. It’s always exciting when you see the schedule for the first time and it’s another marker along the way in pre-season towards the big kick-off.
All the lads have been interested to know who we’re playing on the opening day, where we’re at over Christmas and where we end the season so there’s a buzz around the training ground and the anticipation for the new campaign just went up a notch.
Ideally you want to kick-off on home soil but we’ve been handed a trip to Maidstone United where we made some good memories last season. We got a good win there during a difficult period but I have to say I was quite impressed with Maidstone so it will be a tough start for us down there, I’ve no doubt about that.
It’s obviously difficult to know how things will pan out, I don’t think many would have tipped Macclesfield Town to win the league at the point the fixtures came out last summer so it’s going to be interesting to see how it develops.
I don’t tend to look at the league table until there are at least ten games gone and it’s starting to take shape. Of course, that point will come quite quickly this season with 14 games being played in the first couple of months so it’s going to be a very busy opening period to the campaign.
I think when you look at the first couple of months we’ve also got quite a few long trips thrown in there so that means we have to make sure our preparations are spot on. It’s all about looking after the players and making sure we recover well between games. That makes it even more important that we do the hard work we’re getting through now on the fitness side because there won’t be much time to work on that when the season gets underway and it’s Saturday/Tuesday for a while.
I think as a player you’d be quite pleased with the amount of games in August and September, particularly if we can get off to a good start and get in to the winning habit. When you’re winning there can be a real momentum built and you just want the games to come thick and fast so hopefully that will be the case for us this season.
Looking to the festive period we’ve got two good games against Gateshead to look forward to once again. Last year they were both exciting fixtures which finished 2-2 but they certainly had a derby feel about them and I’m sure they will be exciting again this year. It’s an English tradition to play over Christmas and I know fans will enjoy the Boxing Day and New Year’s Day fixtures so hopefully we can get a couple of wins this time around.
One of the dates we look out for these days is the last away game when the fans all descend on different away grounds in their fancy dress costumes! I’m not sure Barrow will be fully prepared for the invasion that day – not many clubs in the past have been so it’s another day to look forward to. The aim is for that to be a meaningful game where we’re still got something to play for and I think that will only add to the enjoyment for our supporters if it’s the case.
Then we welcome Salford City on the final day and I think that has the potential to be another very big game. Obviously they have a lot of spending power at this level so will be fancying themselves to be at the top so if we can be in there battling with them then the dream scenario for us is that the last day fixture is a huge game where we’re in there fighting for something.
It’s great the fixtures are out and now the real planning can take place. Obviously we’ve had a plan in place for pre-season training but now the games are in we can start our scouting work for the first couple of months and look at accommodation and other preparations more closely.
Everything is coming along nicely now so long may that continue – and England won too so it’s been a pretty good couple of days!