Hartley relishes fresh start after quitting Hartlepool United for Stevenage

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PETER Hartley says he was “haunted” by his failure to kick on from his Player of the Year campaign at Hartlepool United – and that is what prompted his move to Stevenage, writes CRAIG HOPE.

The 25-year-old former Sunderland reserve-team defender yesterday completed an undisclosed five-figure transfer to the League One side after four years at Victoria Park.

Hartley found himself the subject of interest from Championship clubs 12 months ago after a season of rapid improvement and subsequent end-of-year honours.

But the centre-back admits it was a different story last term as, despite being awarded Pools’ captaincy, he struggled to rediscover his best form, with the team eventually demoted to the bottom tier.

Now, though, Hartley is relishing what he describes as a “new challenge”.

And, in an exclusive interview, he outlined the reasons for his decision to leave.

“Sometimes you have to think about what you want out of your career,” Hartley explained.

“I’m a hungry and ambitious person.

“This is a new challenge – it’s a new set of lads, a new manager, a new town and new ambitions. It’s what I need.

“I made so much progression two seasons ago at Pools and it still haunts me now how I did not kick on from that.

“I honestly tried everything, but I just couldn’t get that level of form back on a consistent basis.

“I need this new start to improve again and I’m excited by it.”

Hartley is joining a side notorious for their physical approach under the stewardship of controversial – yet hugely successful – boss Graham Westley.

The defender added: “If I buy into what they’re trying to do here then hopefully things can take off for me and the team.

“People talk about their style of play, but I can tell you from personal experience, they’re a very hard side to beat.

“I love the physical battle, it’s a man’s game after all.

“Graham Westley is well known for his physical teams and I want to be part of that.”

Meanwhile, Hartley’s exit will free up funds for Pools boss Colin Cooper to bolster his squad, with a new forward the priority.