Forget the old cliche ‘one game at a time’ – Hartlepool United’s sights are on a 46-match promotion journey.
New club captain Carl Magnay insists aiming for the top is the only destination Pools should be looking at in the National League this season.
Relegation from the EFL in May was a painful experience, but new manager Craig Harrison has breezed into Victoria Park and blown away the feeling of failure.
And Magnay says he and the players can’t wait to bring success to the Vic.
“It’s important to have a clear plan about what you want to achieve,” he said. “It’s not about a game by game basis.
“We have aspirations to get promoted and everything we do will be focused on that.
“The aim, of course, will be to try to lift a trophy at the end of the season – whether that’s promotion by the play-offs or outright by winning the league. That’s my personal goal and what I want to rub off on the squad.
“Sacrifices will have to be made and everyone will have to give absolutely everything and it’s my job as captain and the manager’s job to make sure the players are motivated to do that.”
Magnay says success will not just be built on skill, a commodity Pools do not see to be short on, especially judging by the friendly displays against Sunderland and Middlesbrough.
But the 29-year-old accepts that steel is going to be just as vital.
“Mental toughness is huge,” said Magnay. “There is not going to be an easy game in this league.
“I’ll make sure the lads know how tough it is – a lot of them have played at this level and know that, but it’s about reinforcing the message every single fixture.”
Magnay admits after season after season of struggle at the bottom end of the Football League that the new division brings new challenges.
Pools will be expected to be up at the top of the National League, a competition Magnay and a number of his team-mates know intimately.
Former Chelsea defender Magnay spent a season in the fifth tier with Grimsby before joining Pools in 2015.
A successor in the Mariners’ squad, Padraig Amond, fired them to promotion, while summer signing Jack Munns won the National League with Cheltenham in May 2016.
Other Pools signings, like Scott Loach, Luke George, Jake Cassidy and Ryan Donaldson, have knowledge of the division – keeper Loach was a Wembley winner in the FA Trophy last season with York, for example.
“Expectations will be different this season – we haven’t had a winning pressure here for a long time,” said Magnay. “There’s been a big turnaround in players.
“The new lads coming in have dealt with pressure, particularly in this league. We’ve got lads who have won this league and been promoted from it, so that sort of pressure won’t be new to them or bother them.”
Magnay, who will lead out the side this Saturday against Dover Athletic at the Vic, says he is enthused by the challenge.
He follows in the footsteps of some famous Pools club captains, like Michael Barron, Ritchie Humphreys, Sam Collins and Billy Paynter, to name just four.
The Gateshead-born player is “proud” that Harrison selected him to wear the skipper’s armband, but says that having more than one ‘voice’ on the field will be vital this season.
“To be stood here as captain is a very proud moment – this is a great club,” he said.
“There were five or six of us who could be captain. I am happy that in the squad we have five or six lads who will be like captains, even though I’ve been the one appointed club captain.
“There will be other voices in there, which I think is great from a team perspective. They are needed and it’s good for the squad to have that.
“I’m delighted to have the faith and trust of the manager and I will do everything I can to repay that faith.”
Magnay explained that he will look to “lead by example” and will never pretend to be something he’s not.
“How will I captain?” he said. “I’m a leader on the pitch. Off the pitch, I don’t think there will be any change it’s important to be yourself, not be something you are not, not try to be a dictator.
“I’ll take a lot from Bill Paynter, who did a fantastic job as capatin off the pitch.
“A lot of what I’ll do will be led by example on the pitch.”