EXCLUSIVE: Gary Coxall Q&A – chairman talks guilt over Hignett, taking care of the club and ambitions of Hartlepool United making the Championship

Gary Coxall and Dave Jones
Gary Coxall and Dave Jones

Gary Coxall opened up about the club’s financial situation is a frank, honest Q&A with Mail yesterday.

The three winding up orders, the club’s financial future and the appointment of Dave Jones were all discussed at length by the Hartlepool United chairman.

In part two, Coxall addresses his guilt at the sacking of Craig Hignett and the end of what he saw as something special at Pools, exclusively to writer Liam Kennedy.

He also talks about his duty of care to look after the club and how he believes Championship football is not out of the Hartlepool’s reach.

How easy was the decision to get rid of Hignett?

GC: “The whole situation sits with me. And it doesn’t sit well.

“I got on really well with Craig.

“I firmly believe that with the right support we would have got through it.

There is some guilt there to be honest. I still think it could work.

“But if our season was to start Saturday are we in a position to survive. The way we were playing under Craig I’m not sure we were.

“That is why I had to make a decision which I said I wouldn’t make.

With the benefit of hindsight, do you think the appointment of Hignett was a mistake?

GC: “I didn’t want to end it after just a year.

“If you get a manager and sack him within a year you have messed up.

“If you get a manager in and he does three years then it goes wrong that is his fault.

“To get get rid of Craig after just 11 months shows that I messed up. That is how I look at it.

“I will not shy away from criticism for that. I won’t make excuses.

“It was my decision to bring him in and mine to get rid of him.

“I know inside that I could have helped him more. That responsibility and guilt sits at my door.

“I still believe that with a bit of luck Craig would still be here now. But we didn’t want to gamble any longer.

“The difference with Dave is that he has done it all before.

“My input will be minimal. My input with Craig was minimal but I did need to help him more.”

Having flirted with the relegation zone for much of this season, what does the future hold for Hartlepool?

GC: “For me the only way we can sustain going through the leagues is if we are ready for it.

“I want us to be a League One team in League Two before we go up.

“At the moment we are not. That doesn’t mean we can’t go up this year – we could have a freak end to the season. Who knows?

“I don’t want to be a League Two club sitting in League One. I don’t want to be in the mindset of the underdog, every week a cup final.

“We need to grow before we go up. We can develop – I know that.

“Any team can go up and come back down. To sustain success you must have the infrastructure.

“You could but a 30 goal a season striker now. But if he gets injured what have you got? A squad that is otherwise not equipped. We need a structure in place.

“We want to be one of the strongest teams in League Two, then we go up. We build, then do the same in League One.

“Then who knows? The Championship is a mental division.”

The Championship? Is that a realistic aim for the football club long-term?

GC: “Clubs have done it – there are examples.

“You only have to look at Shrewsbury. They went up last year and have struggled. That is not what we want to be. Look at Burton – they have the infrastructure and momentum. In football that is huge.

“When Blackpool went to the Premier League they smashed it. It was because they had the confidence and belief when they went up.

“I don’t want to be feeling like we don’t belong when we go up. We can be better than that.

“An inherent arrogance is something we need to grow. We need to feel like whatever game, whatever opponent we can win. The manager has that belief in abundance. He oozes it.”

Despite all the optimism and ambition is it important that progression does not come at a cost, or is of the detriment of the club as a whole?

GC: “We have got a duty of care to look after this club, this company.

“People have a vested interest in it. They invest their emotions in a club, much more than they would a shop or any other business.

“There are times when the situation gets too much. You think you are doing something brilliant for the club, then the consensus is that it’s a bad thing. It is hard to work out sometimes.

“Quite often people do not see the bigger picture.”