Craig Hignett has saluted Jake Carroll as a shining light of the sort of player he wants at Hartlepool United.
Carroll had been the only ever-present for Pools until the arrival of Hignett.
I think I’ve had the ability but perhaps not truly believed itJAKE CARROLL
The left-back lost his place for Hignett’s debut match in charge, with Dan Jones restored to the side.
But Carroll regained the jersey against Luton Town last month and was outstsanding against Northampton last Saturday and one of the few to come out of the midweek drubbing at Bristol Rovers with his reputation undamaged.
“Jake Carroll is a prime example of someone who has come out of his shell,” said the manager. “The last two games he has been unbelievable.
“If he plays like that consistently then he won’t be here much longer.
“He’s a real good character and he’s been through a lot this season.
“He’s had a tough time, but you can see what a good player he is and can be – the challenge for him has got to be to keep that level of performance going.
“And him doing that, hopefully he will drag others along.”
In the humble opinion of this writer, Carroll has performed well throughout 2016.
The summer signing from Huddersfield Town was excellent in the FA Cup thriller with Derby County and he has carried that form on, making his omission from the win over Yeovil a slight surprise.
Carroll says a session with a sports psychologist has helped him focus on his game and made him a better player.
“At the start of the season I probably coasted along too much,” he admitted.
“I think I played well at times and didn’t play well at other times, the consistency wasn’t there.
“We had a sports psychologists team come into the club and they spoke to the squad as a whole.
“I went to see them personally and that’s helped me a lot .
“I think my mindset wasn’t right and I came to realise how important the physcological part of the game is.
“I re-focused on my own game, my jobs and I thought if I play well myself the rest will come.
“I believe that made me more confident and the gaffer coming in and the way he helps build that confidence in you has also helped.
“I think I’ve had the ability but perhaps not truly believed it. I thought I was doing OK, but looking back, OK is not good enough, I can do better than that.”
Carroll explained that he believed he had been playing well before the arrival of Hignett.
But he said he was pleased to be able to impress the new manager.
“I feel like a new man, not just because the new gaffer has come in,” said the 24-year-old.
“TheDerby game was the turning point for me, something I think clicked in my head that I needed to get out there and perform better.
“I thought I was doing that and then I found myself out of the side (against Yeovil).
“I spoke to the gaffer and said ‘I am out of the team, is there anything I can do to get back in it?’.
“He said I had to bide my time and I’d get a chance.
“The opportunity came quickly and I’m doing my best to keep the shirt.”
Carroll has certainly done that, including Tuesday night when Pools were hammered 4-1 at Bristol Rovers.
While the Dubliner could be absolved of blame, he was wearing his team hat when he said Pools must tighten up tomorrow at Barnet.
“We were solid against Northampton, organised, and had the crowd behind us,” he said. “At Bristol, we had the conditions against us in the first half and we didn’t really cope with it.
“We made a lot of sloppy mistakes which we did not expect and that was our downfall.
“Everything went wrong in that first half and even when we did well, things still went against us when Brad Walker hit the cross bar with that free-kick.
“It felt like we weren’t getting the breaks but we also were not helping ourselves at the same time.”