Boss Ronnie Moore admits he is “disappointed” that his Hartlepool United side will not be able to test themselves against Middlesbrough, Sunderland or Newcastle this pre-season.
Pools face a gruelling schedule before August 8’s League Two curtain raiser at home to Morecambe – with an army boot camp and nine friendly matches to play before then.
But none of the North East’s big three – who have all loaned players to Pools in the last year – are heading to Victoria Park this summer.
Pools faced Sunderland and Boro last pre-season, but their biggest friendly fixtures this year are at home to Scunthorpe and Chesterfield.
“I am disappointed that we haven’t got one of the big ones,” Moore said.
“When you look at the clubs that are around here, Middlesbrough, Newcastle and Sunderland, they are going to the likes of York City but not coming here.
“It does disappoint you a little bit, especially when we have helped one or two out in terms of what we have done here. But we were lucky in the end that Scunthorpe fulfilled a gap we thought we had against one of the big clubs and Chesterfield will be a big test for us too, a week before the season starts.”
Sunderland have a tour to the United States and Canada, while Newcastle are also off to the US.
Steve McClaren is taking his side to Gateshead and York City and Moore admits he will be looking to build stronger links with the three neighbouring sides.
Moore added: “I probably need to get out and have a chat with the managers of the big clubs around here.
“We need to build the links and try and get some pre-season games here.
“We have had it in the past when I was at Tranmere – Liverpool would come.
“I know these teams have to go abroad on big tours but it would be nice if we could make it an annual thing.”