Ex-Middlesbrough hero Craig Hignett had all the qualities Hartlepool United were looking for

Gary Coxall
Gary Coxall

With Hartlepool United’s Football League status hanging in the balance, chairman Gary Coxall knew time was of the essence.

As soon as the decision was taken to sack Ronnie Moore, the club’s former No 2 Craig Hignett was quickly established as the frontrunner for the job.

Colin Cooper and Craig Hignett on the sidelines during the game against Bristol Rovers in 2013. Picture by FRANK REID

Colin Cooper and Craig Hignett on the sidelines during the game against Bristol Rovers in 2013. Picture by FRANK REID

And Coxall has spoken of his delight at securing the former Middlesbrough striker – his “number one” target.

Hignett has long had aspirations to become a manager in his own right after successful spells as assistant to Colin Cooper at Pools and Aitor Karanka at Middlesbrough.

He has been out of the frontline since leaving Boro in December 2014 but Coxall is adamant he has the “right qualities” to steer the club away from relegation trouble.

Since leaving Boro he has kept busy doing coaching and media work, including co-commentating on Sunderland’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool last Saturday.

We immediately identified Craig as our number one target and we believe he has all the right qualities to help instil confidence

GARY COXALL

A regular at the Vic since leaving in March 2014, the 46-year-old was confirmed as the new manager last night – just hours after Moore departed following a meeting with Coxall.

Coxall admits it was an “extremely difficult decision” to sack Moore, who had signed an improved, long-term deal in the summer alongside former assistant Sam Collins.

But he was delighted to quickly seal the services of popular Hignett, who takes charge for the first time against Yeovil on Saturday.

“It was essential that we moved quickly to get a new manager in place,” said Coxall.

“We immediately identified Craig as our number one target and we believe he has all the right qualities to help instil confidence back in to the players and help us move up the table.

“He has a wealth of experience in football and has been looking for an opportunity to move in to management so we’re delighted to give him that chance here at Victoria Park.”

Hignett’s emotional departure from Pools was seen as a huge blow at the time, with the club’s form dipping alarmingly after he left.

He admitted in a recent interview that he was in tears with chief executive Russ Green when he confirmed he was leaving Pools. But joining Boro, where he enjoyed the best years of his career between 1992 and 1998, was too good an opportunity to miss.

Hignett’s spell at Boro lasted less than a year though and he almost got the Pools job before Moore was appointed, but it was too soon after his departure from the Teessiders. He has now replaced Moore in the dugout, and Coxall has praised the work done by the 63-year-old.

On Moore’s departure, Coxall added: “This is an extremely difficult decision but one we feel is right for the football club.

“Ronnie has worked tirelessly to bring success to the club during his time at The Vic and we thank him sincerely for those efforts.”

–RICHARD MENNEAR