Craig Hignett has admitted his transfer business has provided the perfect “gee up” to his squad ahead of Saturday’s League Two opener.
The Hartlepool United boss has some tricky decisions to make for the eagerly-anticipated clash with Colchester at Victoria Park.
And while his four signings hardly constitutes a summer shopping spree it has enhanced competition for places, especially in midfield and up front.
Six days ago, Hignett sent out two midfields when he played two friendlies on the same night, Nicky Featherstone, Michael Woods and Lewis Hawkins at Guisborough and Josh Laurent, Brad Walker and Nicky Deverdics at Seaham Red Star.
Anyone thinking Hawkins maybe a candidate to miss out in the middle will have to re-evaluate after another fine display in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Scunthorpe United.
Far from retreating into the background of a tough battle, the 23-year-old has emerged a ‘must pick man’.
“It [the signings] is a gee up for everyone,” Hignett told SportMail.
“People have to perform to stay in the team, they know that, nowhere more so than in midfield.
“We have so many really good midfielders, anyone of them could play without weakening the unit.
“I’m really pleased with what I’ve got.
“Hawks is getting better and better, he’s had a really good pre-season.
“Woodsy’s looking good, Josh has come back a different player. He’s like a new signing for me.
“I’ve been delighted with him, he’s pushing for a start.
“I have loads of options in midfield and can play a variety of ways.”
Options too exist in the highest part of the field.
Hignett fielded the trio of Billy Paynter, Padraig Amond and Lewis Alessandra as his most advanced players against the League One team, just as he had against Guisborough.
Nathan Thomas started on the bench having missed the midweek romp with a knock picked up at Livingston.
But the 21-year-old injected danger that had been missing from the Pools game to give Hignett a further selection headache.
“I was protecting him a bit [by putting him on the bench], he’s had a little fluid on his knee,” he said.
“With the season being so close I didn’t really want to take any risks.
“But I wanted to give him half an hour and he came on and did exactly what Nathan does and causes havoc.”