HAVING worked his way back into the fold in recent games at Hartlepool United, Mark Shelton has vowed to cement his place in the starting eleven and deliver better for the fans within the town.
Under Paul Hartley, Shelton had made just one start in League Two this season as Pools endured a nine match winless run that ultimately cost the Scot his job.
Shelton, who recently racked up his 100th appearance for the club, has been part of the journey that has seen the club climbed from the National League to the EFL. Along with a National League promotion winners medal, he helped the side reach the fourth round of the FA Cup and the semi final of the Papa John’s Trophy last season whilst also ensuring safety in their first season back.
However, their current run of form sees them sitting at the foot of the club without a win in the league all season. For a player who has shouldered the responsibility of promotion campaigns and cup runs during his time at the Suit Direct Stadium, he knows first hand how the fans will be feeling at this moment in time.
Shelton said: “We’re a group of professionals at the end of the day. We have a lot of responsibility for the town, for the football club and how much this means to people.
“A lot of people want us to win and we want to win for our own careers. Everyone wants to pull in the right direction which is winning games of football. When you are not winning games of football, you have to start looking at each other and ask questions.
“You can look at the manager, the style of play, characters when it’s not right. You can look at everything but at the end of the day, you have to look at yourself and see what you’re doing. Your plan to improve whether you are playing football or not.”
With the team out of form in the early part of the season in what was a constantly changing team under Hartley, the shift in dynamics proved to be difficult to get to grips with as Shelton continued: “One week you might be out of the squad, the next week you might be playing. It’s difficult as a player to get your mentality to the point where you are ready regardless of what is going on. I’ve probably been guilty before of not playing and thinking ‘what’s going to happen now?’
“You look forward to things like coming to the end of your contract and there are lot of things that go on in a professional footballer’s life. Not just what you see at three o’clock on a Saturday. But like I said, we are professionals so we have to deal with that as soon as we can.”
The newly appointed interim boss Keith Curle has a job on his hands steering the club away from a relegation dogfight. His first game in charge ended a goalless draw with Gillingham at the weekend.
The 26-year-old played the full 90 minutes at the Suit Direct Stadium and as aforementioned, game time for Shelton was a rarity under Hartley. The midfielder revealed he had multiple conversations about his lack of game time with the former boss which came to no resolution.
“I’m not going to say too much but some things felt a bit unfair” Shelton continued. “But that’s football. It’s not fair and that’s the same as life. You’re going to find yourself on the wrong end of decisions, manager’s decisions.
“They bring people in, they want to play them and see what they’re about and that pushes other people out of the equation. That is just football. Same with me. If I’m playing, someone else isn’t playing so that’s just the way it goes.
“Obviously, under Paul Hartley, I didn’t play as much football as I would have liked to. I’ve played a lot of football over the years under Challinor and Graeme Lee so hopefully Keith Curle has come in, he’s played me in the first two games and I felt I’ve done alright so I can hopefully stay in the team for a period of time now.”