Club Chairman Raj Singh reflects on the work done so far this summer and looks ahead to the new campaign.
I know Craig Hignett has been keeping you all informed as much as possible throughout the summer with his Blog here on the Official Website but I thought it would be a good idea for me to give you a little update from the Club and on the work that has gone on in recent weeks.
Firstly, I would like to touch on the outgoing players and thank them all for their efforts. When Craig completed his Retained List there were a few factors to be taken in to consideration, such as the budget for the coming season, the wages of the existing in-contract players, and the targets he had in mind to bring in to the Club to help us challenge for promotion.
We sat down and put together what we thought were fair offers to a couple of our existing players that were lower in terms of wages than they had been on with their expiring deals – one of those players was Scott Loach.
As much as Scott loves the Club and has been an excellent servant to Hartlepool United - and we would have loved him to stay - the financial gap meant that unfortunately it was not possible in the end.
However, I would like to thank Scott for all the effort and commitment he put in during his two years with the Club. He made 100 consecutive and very consistent appearances during that time but I was especially impressed with the way he conducted himself when he left the Club. There have been no bad feelings; he understood our position and we understood his so Scott will always be welcome back as a visitor to the Club at any time in the future.
In such an important position it was crucial we found the right player to replace Scott and we’re delighted that Ben Killip has joined the Club this summer. He’s a very highly-rated young goalkeeper who we believe has the scope to improve and play at a higher level so we’re excited to have him. I won’t tell you how many clean sheets he’s promised me in the new season – that can stay a secret between him and I!
The lads who have stayed on with new or restructured deals, such as Ryan Donaldson, Nicky Featherstone and Liam Noble, are all very good players with their own skillsets so I am sure they can continue to make big contributions to the team.
We also have on the books players like Adam Bale and Gavan Holohan, who are back with us for the new campaign after coming in at the end of last season and showing that they can add energy to our midfield – something which was perhaps lacking during stages of last term.
Now we come to the new signings. One thing which was glaringly obvious last season was the lack of height and physicality in the squad – something which I think you need in this league. We pushed the boat out towards the end of last season to do a deal for Fraser Kerr and now we’ve added Michael Raynes, Nicke Kabamba, Gus Mafuta and Gime Toure. Hopefully that means we have gone out and addressed that issue we had.
Young Luke Molyneux signed a permanent deal with the Club and I don’t think I really need to say too much about that because everyone knows what we will get from him. Like the fans, I am really excited to watch him play again in the coming season.
All in all, within the Club we are all really pleased with the players we have signed – it certainly looks as though we are going to have an attractive and attacking team for 2019/20.
Personally, I am happy with our summer business not only because we have built a really promising squad capable of challenging for promotion but also because we have done it by being wise with our budget and I would like to think we’ve got really good value for money.
I have said in the past that obviously money helps, but over the years we have seen plenty of examples of money being wasted and I would suggest that the most expensive eleven players don’t necessarily make the best team in the league. A prime example of that would be Salford City last season.
I believe more in creating a strong team spirit and a togetherness that sees everyone encouraging each other within the Club and working in a positive environment. When the players are enjoying their training it shows in games – and a prime example of that is Gateshead, whom I firmly believe would have gone on to make the play-offs last season had it not been for the chaos behind the scenes.
I would like to congratulate Craig on what he’s done so far. I know that he has missed out on two or three of his identified targets where agents or players have overplayed their hand or tried to play us off against other clubs. He didn’t give in though; he just went after other players instead and made sure we got good value deals done for people who want to give their all for Hartlepool United.
As you can see, we are getting geared up for a big push in the new season so it’s really pleasing to hear that we moved past the 2,000 mark for Season Tickets ahead last week. I think people will remember that in one of my early columns in the Programme last season I said that if we could give fans a team that they can be proud of and that excites them then we can attract 3,500 to 4,000 every week and I still believe that.
It would be brilliant if we could get somewhere close or break through the 3,000 barrier for Season Tickets in the coming week before Friday’s Early Bird deadline. If I could offer any encouragement on that front, I would simply remind you all that every penny that is spent on Season Tickets will go back in to the Club and in to improving the playing squad.
There is also a lot of exciting stuff going on behind the scenes at the Club. Mark Maguire and everyone on the commercial side have worked really hard to try and bring down the losses of the business and that is important in terms of making the Club sustainable for the long-term. That work goes on.
As part of the summer operation, Mark has organised a Open Day which will take place at The Super 6 Stadium on Saturday 13th July (click here for more information). That event is put together with the aim of bringing the town, the fans and the team together and help us to build a real unity ahead of the new season. We’ll also be unveiling the brand new O’Neills kit too so I hope that as many of you as possible can come down and enjoy the event with us.
Finally, I just want to thank each and every one of you for your ongoing support and loyalty. I did have a little chuckle when I read the comments of Pools fan Sue Horton (who bought the 2,000th Season Ticket last week) when she said she felt like we were going to do very well but then admitted she thought that every year! I think all football fans can relate to that kind of thinking but hopefully this season we can fulfil your prediction, Sue.
Let’s really push on now and get over that 3,000 mark for Season Tickets because that would give everyone around the Club and the town a big lift and tell everyone else that we’re all in it together.