Former Newcastle United defender Jamie Sterry raising the bar with Hartlepool United
Jamie Sterry has taken like a duck to water to League Two football with Hartlepool United – but are we really surprised?
Since first joining Pools back in December 2020, the right-back has emanated a Football League swagger that looked completely out of place in the National League, for all the right reasons.
A uniquely polished player to be playing non-league football – Sterry’s Premier League upbringing was obvious.
But his five years as a professional at Newcastle United interjected with a few loan spells yielded just 29 league matches across the top four divisions.
The 25-year-old’s arrival at Victoria Park last season was circumstantial more than anything. It was about playing games and getting fit after being released by Newcastle in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Pools boss Dave Challinor wasn’t afraid to admit that Sterry was at the club to put himself in the shop window. But 10-months on and the defender has a family, a promotion under his belt and is tied down to a two year deal at Victoria Park.
He has since admitted joining Pools has been the best and most enjoyable decision of his career.
It’s funny how things work out in football.
Of all the players in Pools’ squad, Sterry looked to be the one most comfortable with managing with the step up into League Two.
But so far, Pools’ number 2 has more than just ‘managed’, he’s raised the bar even further having just scored his first ever league goal.
“I’m loving it, I’m loving being in the league here,” he admitted. “Last year I did love my football here but I didn’t love the league.
"This year I feel like I’ve gone up another level and I say that with my mind coach who I work with all the time."
Sterry’s perfectionist mentality has been on full display since he first arrived at the club. Even after impressive performances, Sterry would be open and honest about what he and his teammates can do betterrather than basking in the glory of three points.
While players often show the National League a lot of respect, Sterry seemed to treat it with a genuine sense of contempt and his drive to get back into the Football League was infectious.
Sterry notoriously commented: "No disrespect, but some teams in this league are not very good,” after Pools beat Stockport County in the National League play-offs last season.
The same can’t be said in League Two, and it’s an environment the defender looks to thrive in.
“The main thing for me is to be the best that I can be,” he added. “Some of the opponents we played last season weren’t great and you try and get the best out of yourself but it can be hard because you can bring your levels down based on the opposition and lose a little bit of concentration.
"My main focus is to do as well as I can but I want to play as high as I can and I’ve still got more to come. If I can keep pushing and working on myself then I should get there.”
Sterry’s ambitions clearly stretch beyond Pools, but he’s certainly enjoying his time here.
He even intentionally puts his water bottle on the sidelines by the North West Corner so he can take a victory sip during a break in play while fans boastfully chant ‘we’ve got – – Jamie Sterry!’
While the defender’s impressive start to the season is sure to attract plenty of attention from elsewhere, Pools crucially have him contracted until the summer of 2023.
And manager Dave Challinor believes the former Newcastle defender’s stock will only continue to rise the more he plays.
“He has stepped up but I still think there is more to come from him if I’m being ultra-critical,” said the Hartlepool manager.
“He’s above this level, it doesn’t take a genius to work that out, but how is he going to be able to step up?
"If it’s here then brilliant or whether someone comes in and goes ‘what a player he is’ and paying a lot of money for him. Without question, if he continues to perform like he is, we will struggle to keep hold of him.
"But he’s contracted here and if I’m a manager at a club higher up then I’d be paying good money to get Jamie Sterry in my squad.”
While Sterry remains driven to play higher, it’s his and his family’s happiness that is paramount following the birth of his first child, Ronnie, earlier this year.
And being settled and happy at Pools means he has no plans on going anywhere just yet.
“With us doing well and going up it was a big reason that made me want to stay,” he told The Mail. “I thought for my career I really needed to be in the league.
"If we didn’t get promoted, it would have been tough for me to stay, that’s just me being honest but we’re not in that situation so it doesn’t really matter. What matters is I’m here and I’m really enjoying it.
“And that’s the most important thing for me. If you’re not happy off the pitch, you’re coming into work and it’s so tough.
"I remember at Crewe, it was the worst part of my life suffering from depression. If you’re not happy away from football, like at Crewe I would go to bed, wake up not wanting to train but go in and then go to bed as soon as I came back for the rest of the night.
"Being at home here with my family and my baby is unbelievable and is huge for me.”