Hartlepool United manager backs Nicky Featherstone to thrive in new player-coach role

Hartlepool United legend Nicky Featherstone made his coaching debut during Saturday’s pre-season opener against FC Hartlepool. There were no first-team players on display as Pools began their warm-up campaign with an 8-1 victory, featuring a squad of trialists and academy players.

The match was also a significant event for Northern League Division Two side FC Hartlepool, who continued their pre-season preparations in front of a record crowd of 1,498 at their Grayfields home.

The Pools squad delivered several impressive performances on both ends of the pitch, while FC Hartlepool showcased outstanding spirit and commitment. However, a series of substitutions after the break disrupted their flow.

Nicky Featherstone chats to Lennie Lawrence, who remains at the club in an advisory role, during Saturday's pre-season opener against FC Hartlepool.

With boss Darren Sarll watching from the sidelines, academy manager Ian McGuckin led the team, giving some of his young players valuable experience in senior men’s football. Nicky Featherstone, the club’s sixth-highest appearance maker, supported him. Featherstone, who signed a player-coach contract in May, has been with Hartlepool for over a decade and was a key figure in their promotion-winning campaign in the 2020/21 season. He turns 36 in September, and his role on the pitch next term remains uncertain.

Featherstone initially left the club last summer due to a misunderstanding but returned in October and played 34 times for the remainder of the season. Despite his efforts, the team’s midfield was lackluster, leading to the release of Tom Crawford and Callum Cooke as new manager Darren Sarll began rebuilding the midfield. Jack Hunter and Nathan Sheron, both nearly 10 years younger than Featherstone, were brought in to add more dynamism.

Despite this, Sarll is a big fan of Featherstone, valuing his experience, composure, and football intelligence. Featherstone is expected to combine his playing duties with his new coaching responsibilities, supporting Sarll and assistant Carl Dickinson throughout the campaign.

McGuckin, who worked alongside Featherstone on Saturday, believes the midfielder will excel in his new role. “It’s new for Nicky,” he said. “He’s starting that transition from playing to coaching. He’ll be playing this season, but he’ll be helping with the coaching side of things as well. I think he’s quite keen to learn from others and start that transition. He’ll do a great job.”

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