AFTER taking the first steps into a brand new care home right in the heart of the town, Hartlepool United Chairman Raj Singh is quickly, but naturally, collared by the press for a ‘quick’ word.

“I have no idea what you’re going to ask me about then!” he joked as the pack shuffled their way into a corner of a newly furnished living area. He’s a man who rarely gives much away but how much weight was he carrying on his next big decision for the club?

Hartlepool United are diving headfirst into another crossroads moment in their history and this one feels substantially huge. With the processes of a managerial appointment gathering pace, Pools fans are hot with anticipation to see who will spearhead the next phase of the club’s history. Chairman Singh was in good spirits having seen a brand new facility open as part of his other enterprises but he knew very well that the importance of his next managerial appointment ranks very high.

After a season of consolidation back in the Football League, the club are planning on wasting no time in catapulting up the League Two table and assert themselves as promotion candidates or play-off contenders. But what type of manager is going to get them from A to B? For the owner, that is the million dollar question he is currently toying with.

The next month will be absolutely telling for the club. The end of May or the beginning of June is when we expect to see a new man at the helm and the club are working their way through the candidates to meet that time frame. There is an expectation that the club will hold in person interviews very shortly. That’s when it will come to the crunch.

The Northern Echo:

Part of Singh’s rationale for dismissing Graeme Lee of the manager’s role was down to the concern over the way they finished the season. His biggest worry at the time was whether that level of performance would naturally continue into the following season. For Singh, he wasn’t prepared to take that gamble but in effect, he has taken on a different gamble by relieving Lee of his duties. He has to get this next appointment right to justify his rationale.

There has been mooted talk of some managerial candidates so far but effectively, it’s open season considering Singh is yet to pin his colours to the mast over the type of manager the club wants. Halifax Town manager Pete Wild has been linked with the job but any potential appointment would need to see some hurdles overcome due to the Shaymen’s involvement in the National League play-offs.

Ex-Sunderland manager Simon Grayson is an avenue that could be explored by Pools while Bromley boss Andy Woodman, who was heavy favourite for the job before Lee’s appointment, has also been mentioned.

When asked specifically whether there has been any form of conversations with Wild, Singh responded: “Not yet. He’s in the play-offs and he’s not going to speak to anyone until that is concluded.”

For the owner and his trusted advisors, he is currently deciding which type of manager he believes will be the best fit to go straight into the role at Hartlepool United.

He continued: “There are quite a few different managers. For me, there is three different categories of managers that we are looking at. Do you go for an up and coming manager who has had some success and take a gamble on him? Or do you go for somebody in the league below who has been successful? Like we did with Dave Challinor at the time.

“Let’s not forget, a lot of people were against Challinor’s appointment at the time because it was all talk of him having a massive budget at Fylde and he hasn’t had a successful season so why are we taking him on? But that worked out alright.

“The third category for me is tried and tested manager who is looking to prove himself again and has had success previously. All the usual names have been mentioned.

“That’s the big call for me. Which bracket are we going to go for? I’m generally split because whatever I do, you are not going to please anyone and that’s the biggest dilemma for me.

“I’ve got to go with my gut feeling and people around me who are advise me to say which way are we going to go. At the moment, it’s open because this is a big decision so we will see.”

The Hartlepool Chairman is now onto his sixth manager with Matthew Bates, Richard Money, Craig Hignett, Dave Challinor and Graeme Lee completing the list of predecessors. He is no stranger to the processes of appointing a new manager at the club and went through the same routines during his time at Darlington. One thing is for certain that he is well prepared to do his due diligence with the help of his advisors.

The Northern Echo: Matthew Bates with Ged McNamee, front left, and Ross Turnbull, front right. Chairman Raj Singh and director of football Craig Hignett are standing

But a passionate fanbase who ‘Never Say Die’ for their club are waiting with baited breath. Some will be wanting to justify Lee’s sacking whilst some will be excited for the new direction that the club aims to be heading in. Singh acknowledges that he is virtually wasting his time attempting to appease everyone.

“Whichever manager we go for, we are not going to satisfy everyone” he continued as he took another sip from his early afternoon cuppa.

“Some the fans will say ‘look let’s go for up and coming manager who has had a load of success’. The other guys will say ‘no, let’s have an experienced manager’. The other fella will reply to that and say ‘well what’s he done recently?’.

“That’s football. It’s all about opinions and it’s all about debates. That’s the hard bit for me, it’s all on my neck! We’ll talk about it amongst ourselves and interview as many people as we can so it’s a good process. Then we will make a decision.”

The dust has barely settled on an acceptable first season back in the EFL for Pools who have their own matters on the field to sort out with players out of contract in the summer. It’s a fine balancing act and it’s going to take some assured heads to steer the club through this period. Something that the Club’s Honorary President agrees with.

Sky Sports Presenter Jeff Stelling was all smiles as a guest of honour at the opening of a brand new care home. As expected, he was next to be collared by the press as he sat in the same seat as Raj did at the care home around 15 minutes later. He said: “It’s always difficult to judge whether you should go for young thrusting up and coming manager or whether you want to go for somebody who is an old hand, been there and done that or somewhere in between.

“It’s great that they’ve got good contacts in the game because at our level we need to use the loan market intelligently.

“With the last two appointments, I would say Dave Challinor was a rip roaring success and Spike (Graeme Lee), I would say, had a successful season. I think he’s done well with the last two appointments so fingers crossed for the hat-trick.”

Time will tell who the right man is but for now, Raj is right about one thing. It will be on his neck.