JOHN Hughes admits that his Christmas wish is something of a well-worn cliché – but three points at relegation rivals Carlisle United is right at the top of his list.
The Cumbrians, who Pools travel to on Boxing Day, are just one place above the League One drop zone, but still some 14 points clear of Hughes’s men.
The manager, however, believes the festive fixture offers his side the chance to reclaim ground in their quest for safer terrain.
“I know it’s a cliché but all I want for Christmas is that win,” he told SportMail today as preparations continued at Maiden Castle.
“I’m still doing everything with a smile, but if we could win that football match then I would be beaming.
“And it is coming, believe me. I can see in training that things are improving.
“There is a spirit there, for definite.
“Even in games I think we’ve seen that.
“Maybe we just need that slice of Lady Luck to kick us off.
“Win one and then another and all of a sudden the picture looks very different.
“Carlisle are just above the relegation places and this is a real chance for us.”
Pools’ home game with Portsmouth on Saturday fell foul to the torrential rain which hit the region towards the back end of last week.
That means the suspensions of Neil Austin and Jack Baldwin will carry over for the trip to Brunton Park.
Peter Hartley will return in place of Baldwin at the heart of the defence, while Jordan Richards will continue to deputise at right-back in place of Austin.
And Hughes went on: “The big disappointment with the game being postponed is that the suspensions carry over.
“But with football it’s always a case of one door closing and another opening for someone else.
“Peter will come back in and Jordan will continue at right-back.
“Jordan has been excellent in there and has taken his chance.
“So we go there relatively fresh and in good spirits, let’s just hope we come back with that win I want so, so badly.”
And Hughes had a Christmas message for the club’s supporters.
“I wish the fans all the best, they have been brilliant with me since I came down here,” he said.
“I hope they have a fantastic Christmas and, if they’re going to the game, then I hope we give them something to celebrate.”
POOLS (probable): Flinders; Richards, Hartley, Collins, Horwood; Franks, Humphreys, Sweeney, Monkhouse; Wyke; Howard. Subs: McHugh, Holden, Murray, Walton, Luscombe, Poole, James