Hartlepool United meeting the opposition.

Hartlepool United FC – meeting the opposition.

Following Tranmere’s 3-0 victory at home to Gillingham on Saturday afternoon, where they displayed the quality that they possess, The Rovers are back on the road this Tuesday and this brings a test in itself as the club’s form on the road is a concern for Micky Mellon’s side.

The side that they will come up against are Paul Hartley’s Hartlepool United, who have had a tricky start to the season. Before the game, I caught up with Pools fan Lewis Stott.

Last season, Hartlepool finished 17th in League Two and they were knocked out of the EFL Trophy at the Semi-Final stage with a defeat against Rotherham United. How do you reflect on the 2021-22 campaign as a whole? 

It was a very good first season back up, it was a shame to lose Challinor but the cup runs and surviving comfortably was more than we could have asked for.

This summer, twelve players have been brought to the Suit Direct Stadium as three loanees have arrived. Are you happy with the business that the club has done in the off-season? Would you say that there are still some positions that need to be strengthened? If so, which positions would they be? 

Nope not at all, not many additions I’m excited for to be honest. We need to strengthen the forward line massively, Umerah is very good but apart from that there are no real striker options. 

Whilst on the topic of players coming in, it would be unfair to mention the players that have left as centre back Neil Byrne joined Tranmere. What is your opinion on Byrne and would you have liked him to stay at Pools? 

I thought Byrne should’ve been player of the season last year, he was so consistently good and I think that we will miss him this season. Even though the defenders we’ve brought in aren’t bad, I would love him back.

Beloved gaffer Dave Challinor was replaced by Graeme Lee last November as Challinor was appointed manager of Stockport County but it is Paul Hartley that is the Hartlepool manager now. Is the future bright with Hartley at the helm? What is his playing style? Also, what were your thoughts on the Challinor departure? 

If he’s backed, Hartley will do well in my opinion. His track record in Scotland speaks for itself really, just needs a bit of adjusting to the English game. His play style is a bit unclear to be honest, he came in saying he was going to play attacking football then we got battered so now we are playing more like we did last season. However, I feel like it could change back at any point. With Challinor I was gutted he left as I think he is one of the best managers in the league and could have taken the club forward.

Owner Raj Singh bought the club at the end of the 2017-18 season. What are some of the greatest things that he’s brought to the club and if you could change one thing, what would that be?

The Play-Off Final is an obvious one, he backed Challinor well that season so I’d give him credit for that. However, if I were to change anything I’d want him out as false promises with the budget this season is really splitting the fan base.

Who would you say are your side’s key players and where will the key battles lie come Tuesday night? Touching on the strengths that the side has, which league position do you view as a realistic ambition for this season? 

I’d say Josh Umerah is our biggest threat, he’s looked great so far this season with very little service and support. Apart from him, the same as last year there’s Sterry and Ferguson who are the best set of fullbacks in the league in my opinion. However, it seems like Tranmeres fullbacks are good as well so that’ll be a good battle. At this point I can’t say any higher than 20th as we’ve not looked great in any game really and look like we lack a goal scorer.

How do you see the upcoming game panning out? What is your score prediction? The last time the two clubs met was in mid February as Hartlepool won 1-0, the goal came from a Peter Clarke own goal.  

I think it’ll be a tough game for us, it doesn’t help that Rovers won on Saturday as that’ll make the confidence sky high. However, I’ll say 2-1 Pools.

If you have been keeping up with Rovers this summer, what are your thoughts on their business and how do you believe The Whites will do as they have recently adopted and favoured a back five system? 

I feel like Tranmere always start off mid table and climb their way up slowly but I can’t see you getting in the playoffs this year to be honest. There have been some good signings such as Byrne, Turnbull and Bristow but then some I’d question like Jameson and Lewis. I feel like Mellon is past it now as well, I’d suggest that you need to freshen things up.

The Suit Direct Stadium is the home of Hartlepool United. The last time Mellon’s Tranmere visited here was in mid-February as they were defeated 1-0.

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