HARTLEPOOL United boss Ronnie Moore has praised his merry band of loanees for their crucial contribution in keeping Pools in the Football League.
Moore was quick to bring in several loan players at the turn of the year after taking charge of the struggling Sky Bet League Two club in mid-December.
Reading midfielder Aaron Tshibola and Scunthorpe defender David Mirfin, in particular, were instrumental in the second-half of the season, as Pools won nine games – three times the amount of league wins they’d managed in the first five months of the campaign.
Preston North End striker Jordan Hugill’s goals proved crucial in the final weeks, while Plymouth Argyle forward Marvin Morgan, left out of the squad for the run-in, scored the winner against Northampton Town and Middlesbrough winger Jordan Jones played his part, at times.
Pools also benefited from month-long spells for Mansfield Town striker Rakish Bingham and Cambridge United forward Ryan Bird before both were recalled given their form.
“Overall the loan players have been fantastic for us, no doubt about it,” Moore said.
“They have done a good job, so much so that two of the strikers were recalled by their parent clubs!
“Bringing in the loan signings changed things around for us and we ended up getting four wins on the trot.
“That lifted us so much, in terms of confidence and you could see that in training.”
And Pools were in desperate need of a lift at Christmas, given they were rock bottom and facing the very real prospect of being a non-league side next season.
It took Moore four games to win his first match in charge, with the experienced boss initially struggling to oversee an upturn in fortunes.
But with his first win came a fresh wave of confidence as Pools slowly climbed their way out of trouble.
Moore admitted: “There was no initial lift when I came here.
“It took a while and normally a new manager comes in and gets a lift but we drew two and lost two.
“I know the impact should have been there but we were rock bottom, confidence was rock bottom and ability was rock bottom.”
The loan signings, coupled with a change in formation and improved performances from the club’s fringe players sparked a remarkable turnaround that resulted in the Great Escape being achieved with the 2-1 win over Exeter City.
Moore said: “I’d asked in the build-up to Exeter how many of the players actually believed, when we were ten points adrift, that it would still be in our own hands [at the end of the season]?
“And none of them put their hands up.
“That’s when we were relaxed [at the bottom] as no-one felt we could do it and then when we got our heads above water it became, as Sir Alex Ferguson said, squeaky bum time.
“I asked for one massive effort, could we grind out one more result?
“It could all be over if we did and in the end we gave it all we had.”