DESPITE committing himself to another season as Sky Sports Soccer Saturday Presenter, Jeff Stelling is hoping to get to a few more Hartlepool United games to watch his beloved club next season. But as Pools braces itself for a new era of management, Stelling, an investor of the club, is confident of a bright future.

Despite not being in the stands for much of last season, Stelling was pleased with how their first season back in the EFL went and believes creates the right platform to kick on. He told the Northern Echo: “I was gutted that I didn’t get here anywhere near than I would have often as I wanted to. I saw lot more football last season actually in the National League.

“When you look at the season, newly promoted side, didn’t finish our season until 20th June 2021 so we were a month behind a lot of teams. Lost players, lost the manager early doors. If anybody had said you’ll pretty much mid-table in League Two, you’ll get to the fourth round of the FA Cup, you’ll play against a Premier League side, you’ll get to the semi-final of the EFL Trophy and be within moments of a Wembley appearance, you’d say ‘yeah, I’ll take that’.

“As a supporter, I would definitely say it’s a successful season.”

Pools finished 17th in the League Two table but the season was tainted by a run of one win from 11 games to end the campaign, a run of form that has cost Graeme Lee his job as manager.

In mid-March, Pools had just lost their Papa John’s Trophy semi-final to League One promotion candidates Rotherham United on penalties. The club were looking up the table rather than over their shoulders towards the relegation places and Lee was aiming to chase down a place in the top seven.

“There was one stage this season where I thought the play-offs were a genuine possibility. We had a great run” added Stelling.

“It’s not an easy job. You look at some of the sides who are up there and some of the money that they have available to them. The playing field, as it is in every league, is not a level playing field. We’ve got quality players, the squad was stretched paper thin by the end of the season.”

Now that run of form can be consigned to history, this current moment in time is a crucial period for the club. With efforts geared towards securing a manager for next season, players face uncertain futures with the likes of Luke Molyneux, Timi Odusina and others out of contract later this summer.

The Northern Echo: Jeff Stelling roars on the Hartlepool United players during a match in the National League.Jeff Stelling roars on the Hartlepool United players during a match in the National League.

Stelling concedes it may be a period of change amongst the squad as he continued: “The problem is because we were back in the Football League and we were back in the limelight a lot last season with the EFL Trophy and the FA Cup, we were obviously going to lose some players who we wouldn’t want to lose. It’s players who we are inevitably going to lose.

“As long as we strengthen in the right areas. I was delighted to see David Ferguson sign his new contract the other day because he has been absolutely brilliant for us and I hope a few others will follow suit. No reason why we shouldn’t push up the table. Always assuming that Raj (Singh) appoints the new manager. That’s his problem thankfully.”

The appointment of a new manager at seems to be making progress. The club have recently identified ex-Sunderland boss Simon Grayson and current Gateshead manager Mike Williamson as potential candidates for the role.

Chairman Raj Singh is currently toying with which type of manager he wants to go for. Stelling 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.”