It’s no more Mr Nice Guy at Hartlepool United. The time has come to get nasty, says manager Craig Hignett.
Pools have been accused of being too nice, even from players within their own camp.
I don’t want to be a nice team who get bullied.
But those days are gone, he says.
The battling point at Portsmouth at the weekend, proves that Pools have said goodbye to being labelled too polite to fight at the bottom end of League Two.
“Have we got enough characters to stand up and be counted and say ‘bring it on’? Well, this proved we have,” said Hignett reflecting on his players’ performance at Fratton Park last weekend.
“Fans came down wondering what team would turn up and they got the ugly team, the nasty team who we haven’t seen much of this season.
“We played ugly and grafted and dug our way out, I’m very proud.
“I don’t want to be a nice team who get bullied.
“I want us to be able to mix it and play football when we are on our game and when we aren’t on the game then stand up.”
The key to success was making keeping it tight, frustrating the bumper 17,000-plus home crowd and then build from there on the south coast.
While his backline has come in for some considerable criticism in recent months, Hignett was proud of the way his defenders held up under siege.
He continued: “We were under pressure, but we stood firm, frustrated them and stopped them from getting beyond us.
“We frustrated the opposition and the fans.
“We ground out a really important result. It’s not easy and I know they are a top side who should be up there.
“It’s a tough league and there’s no gimmies in this league, we made it hard for them and they couldn’t break us down.”
Hignett says with that ground-out, goalless draw at Fratton, Pools have set the benchmark in terms of performance.
He does not want his players to dip below that again.
“I said to them that it’s the benchmark,” said Hignett.
“If we aren’t playing well and haven’t got the ball then we have to do that.
“You don’t turn into a bad team overnight - it’s about getting that sort of performance out of them.
“They showed belief and that they are in it all together.
“They did everything I asked of them.
“It was hard watching in the stands, but I had a good view where I was sat with the chairman. We both kicked every ball for 100 minutes.”