SPY IN THE CAMP: John Hughes has put the heart back into Hartlepool United
Exiled Poolie GARY MARQUICK reveals why those writing off Hartlepool United ahead of their visit to Glanford Park could be in for a shock...
Fans of most other clubs seem to think Hartlepool are all but relegated. What’s the feeling among Poolies?
I think a few fans of teams in and around us are maybe thinking a bit different in recent weeks as our form has picked up.
We’ve also had some good feedback from recent opposition fans who say we look a totally different side now.
As regards us Poolies, we are so, so passionate and will keep believing that we can stay up.
Should it happen, how would dropping into League Two affect them?
Dropping into League Two, although not good, would not really affect us financially, regards bringing players in, as we have had to rely on free transfers anyway.
In terms of support, I could see some fans staying away but then if we hit the ground running and started next season well, then it is well known fans will come back.
Sometimes you have to take a step back to take two forward.
Pools travel to Scunthorpe on the back of a five-game unbeaten run, what’s been behind the upturn in results?
Results have picked up in recent weeks, which is great. This is down to adapting to a new style of play – our manager is a firm believer of playing out from the back, keeping the ball on the ground – and also a mixture of young players and a change in formation has helped.
We have gone from a 4-5-1, with Steve Howard the target man who we just lumped the ball up to in the hope one of our midfielders could get on to a flick on, to a 4-1-2-3 system.
Simon Walton protects the back four and the front three or five alternate positions between themselves, with Charlie Wyke usually spearheading the attack.
We also now have a Plan A and a Plan B if things go wrong, whereas we were far too predictable early in the season.
The return of Neale Cooper as boss a year ago seemed to be welcomed by most at Victoria Park. In hindsight, was it a mistake? Or are Pools’ problems of a different making?
In my opinion, it was always going to be hard for Neale to repeat how well he did first time around, simply because of the fact I think he was under tremendous pressure to produce the goods.
League One has changed so much from his last spell in charge and while I liked the guy, I just think he did not have enough ideas on how to get the best from our current squad.
In hindsight, maybe it took two months too long to get rid of him.
John Hughes seemed a surprise appointment to succeed Cooper. How has he done?
When we appointed John Hughes a good friend of mine in Scotland told me exactly what he was all about.
He hit the nail on the head too, and although we may get relegated I already like the way he has got us playing and the fact he is giving our good young players a chance.
He has instilled fight and spirit back into the players.
In my opinion, he’s a great managerial signing with a long term plan.
Scoring goals looks to have been a problem this season. Is that a fair comment?
Yes. Scoring goals has been our problem for a few seasons now.
We have some great attacking players but have just lacked that deadly goalscorer.
We also need to start taking more long shots as so many times we try to play one pass too many or just make that wrong choice when in good positions.
But again, in recent weeks we have started to score a few more.
Will anyone at the club come out of the current campaign with any credit?
At this moment in time our goalie, Scott Flinders, has been outstanding and has kept us in so many games, so much so that Premier League and Championship clubs have been scouting him.
Youngster Jack Baldwin has also been very good.
He’s a natural centre-back that has been deployed in the centre of midfield and he is also comfortable at right-back. He has a big future ahead.
Let’s hope come the last day of the season the list is a lot longer.
Who's going down from League One in your opinion?
I truly believe we are going to stay up – though it will come down to the last day of the season for Pools.
So I’d have to go for Portsmouth, Bury, Oldham and Colchester (though that’s not in any order).
Where will Saturday’s game be won or lost?
If we win the game it will be because Scunthorpe have given us time to get into our passing game and play from the back, working through Simon Walton who, in the last half a dozen games, has been awesome in midfield.
His passing and tackling have been outstanding.
Also, we have three fast, attacking players who are very capable of turning the opposition defence back towards their own goal and we play at a high tempo.
If Hartlepool lose it will be because Scunthorpe have outplayed us and deserved to win as we will make them fight and scrap for everything they try to do.