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Jeff Stelling column: It’s worth a Pools punt!

I was at Royal Ascot busily telling everybody that 25/1 for Hartlepool United to win the National League is ludicrous!

Now I’m not saying we’re going to top the table come the end of April, but we can’t be that much of an outsider.

Famous last words, but the league looks more open this coming season. Leyton Orient and Salford City have gone up and some of the clubs who’ve had money in the past don’t seem to have what they had.

There are decent sides coming up – I’m sure Stockport County are going to be a force to be reckoned with and Torquay United, under Gary Johnson, likewise.

Notts County are coming down and I’ve seen they’re favourites with one bookmaker. I wish them luck, but put it this way, I wouldn’t be backing them. Not with their recent record and we all know what can happen to the big clubs when they come down.

We found it incredibly difficult – Leyton Orient did initially, as did Chesterfield last season.

The Usual Suspects will inevitably be up there. The Wrexhams of this world and I’ve got no doubt Chesterfield will be strong. But seven places to aim for gives you a cracking chance if you get off to a decent start. Will Solihull Moors be up there again? I saw Dagenham & Redbridge have lost Conor Wilkinson to Leyton Orient. It’s going to be really interesting.

There’s a feel-good factor around Pools. We have resolved everything financially now so there is no cloud of debt hanging over us. We don’t have any exceptionally big earners at the club now either.

We’ve made some really good signings. Don’t get me wrong, Scott Loach has moved to Barnet and he’s a fine goalkeeper. But we’ve brought in Ben Killip, who was at Braintree Town last year and, for many, the National League keeper of the year and played for England C.

Fraser Kerr has arrived from Gateshead, who was impressive for them. Luke Williams didn’t kick a ball for us last season. He’s fit again now and if we can keep him fit and rediscover his form, then he could be a revelation.

It’s all ‘ifs and buts’, however we’ve got a much more solid platform to build on now with Craig Hignett in charge. The intention is to be on the front foot – that’s the way Craig plays.

Last season when he came in there was a big uplift. This year he’s had the chance of a pre-season and get some new players in. Like many fans, I’m the eternal optimist. Here’s hoping!

Our UK trek will take us to the limit!

FOUR MARATHONS in four days might not sound as dramatic as some of the previous challenges we’ve done for Prostate Cancer UK – but I can assure you the first four days of the past walks have been the worst!

This is a logistical challenge because we’re going to all four corners of the UK. We’re right against the clock. We have to finish the first leg in time to make sure we can get to the airport and make the last flight to Belfast. Then we have to get over to Cardiff for day three and onto London for the final instalment.

Less recovery time makes it more of a challenge too – there’s no time for a nice steak and beer after each marathon this time.

But it’s Four Marathons, Four Nations, Four Days, One Cause. My idea was we needed to go outside of England because it’s Prostate Cancer UK and we needed to include Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. We’re going to clubs we haven’t been to before and hopefully we can get even more support than ever before and have a real impact. There are no rules about who can be affected by prostate cancer and we want to raise awareness as widely as possible.

Charlie Nicholas will be with me in Scotland, Iain Dowie in Northern Ireland – hopefully Le Tiss and Kammy along with Franny Benali, who is an inspirational figure himself after his Ironman challenge.

It’s also international weekend so we’re hoping we’ll be able to get some pundits involved.

Sky Bet have supported the past March for Men feats. Last year they were bought out by The Stars Group and collectively they’ve decided to, not just continue, but increase their level of support. That’s brilliant. You need a significant backer and we’ve got it. We really appreciate them.

The London leg has sold out and I’m sure the others will follow. So if you want to get involved, get in quick. Find out more by visiting http://marchformen.org

You can donate at https://justgiving.com/campaign/jeffsmarchformen2019 or search Jeff’s March for Men 2019 on Just Giving

Justin is a sad loss to us all

THE sad loss of Justin Edinburgh is beyond belief.

I won’t pretend to have known him well, but every time I bumped into him – as you inevitably do – whether it was at Newport County or Leyton Orient, he always had time for you regardless of the outcome of the game.

He was a fantastic manager but as a person I was just impressed with the way he would always chat away. He could not have been more accommodating.

You’ve just got to look at what everybody who did know him has said – he must have been one hell of a bloke.

It’s a tragedy for his family and really difficult for the Orient players. I was delighted he took them up last year because it’s a smashing club. My thoughts are with them all.

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