TIME flies when you’re having fun. That’s especially the case with Mark Shelton who is fast approaching reaching two years at Hartlepool United.

What a period of time that has been for the club’s history.

A league hampering pandemic and a promotion campaign has added some valuable experience to Shelton’s CV. The midfielder joined the club initially on loan until the end of the season from Salford United in 2020 but regular first-team football and a following season with eyes on a promotion prize persuaded Shelton to sign permanently last summer.

Now that Pools are back in the Football League and looking comfortable, things are looking promising for the club who’s immediate aim is to survive in the league this season. Everyone at the club, including Shelton, has been riding the crest of a wave.

The midfielder has experienced promotion in the past with Salford City but he admits that Pools promotion last season meant to much more as they look at continuing to hold their own in the fourth tier of English football.

“I think I said after the final when we got promoted, this has been ten or twenty times better” said Shelton.

“Just being a bigger part of the squad and having a lot of responsibility to go out there, it’s not just for yourself. There’s a lot of people that it means a lot to so when you do put on the shirt and go out there and play the, it means a lot to a lot of people. You’re sort of holding that burden for them.

“It’s been really good for me. Hartlepool has been the best move I’ve had in my career. In terms of playing games and promotions and doing well so I guess I’d have to thank the club in a way. Let’s just hope that continues this season.”

As aforementioned, December will mark the second anniversary of Shelton joining the North-East side initially on loan following up by a permanent move. He’s gone on to make 60 appearances for the club scoring six goals.

Shelton is a box to box midfield who covers so much ground on the pitch. You’d expect his kilometre count to be right up there at the end of each game. But alongside that, he adds much needed protection to the defence will link the play between attack and midfield.

Although Shelton’s presence on the pitch is obvious, his character off the pitch appears to be just as important as he cuts a popular figure in the dressing room. He admits that he’s feeling like one of the leading statesmen in the Pools squad.

“I thought that because I’ve played at teams before and I’ve been in and out of teams and you’re a bit younger so you’re sort of looked at as a younger character.

“You come to a team like Pools and you play a lot of games. You do well and start of a lot of games and you start having a bit more of a voice in the changing rooms.

“I just turned 25 last week, you start looking and thinking I’m not a kid anymore. But I feel like a big part of this team. Not just on the pitch but off it as well.

Pools have perhaps been the surprise package this season and currently sit in a play-off place after eight games thanks largely to a one hundred per cent home record winning all four of their games.

Exeter City will be the next opponent at fortress Vic this weekend.

Both players and the manager say Pools haven’t looked incapable of beating any of their opponents so far since making the step up but there has been a stark contrast between home and away form.

Shelton added: “I’ve played a few games in League Two but when you do step up you think will it be a bigger step up than you probably imagined.

“There’s big teams with big followings and big grounds and probably big money as well so you don’t have a choice but to step to the plate really.

“If you don’t then you’re going to get left behind. There’s no loyalty in football, someone else will come in and do your job.

“I’m just glad that we have held our own probably a bit more. Even in the games we’ve played, I felt like we’ve been on top or the better team in 90% of the games.

“It was a bit similar to last year where we were going into games thinking we’re going to do well and going to be the better team here. You could probably say the Sutton game where we weren’t at our best, you’re not used to it after the year and a half we’ve had of being on top of every game.

“It’s a good thing to have though. You don’t want to get too complacent and when things aren’t going your way it’s disappointing but we’re in a good place.

“The atmosphere at Victoria Park has probably up five times more than what you’d expect. Even when we had fans in the year before when I came on loan, it was a good atmosphere and compared to other clubs that I’ve been at, it was way beyond that.

“But then you get this season after we’ve been promoted and it takes it up to another level.

“You can see how much it means to everybody. The parade we did after the final and you can’t believe how many people are there supporting the town and supporting the club so it’s an eye opener and I said to people before, I should be surprised at it but you just kind of expect it now which is fair play to them.”