HARTLEPOOL United’s players are being whipped into shape on the training field – and are also being shown how they will hopefully win promotion from League Two.
New Pools boss Colin Cooper and his assistant, Craig Hignett, have both been out on the training ground at Maiden Castle, while the Durham University fitness experts have been giving players thorough work-outs in the gym.
Fitness, you feel, is not going to be an issue this season and nor will goals, according to Hignett, who was a promotion winner as a player with Pools in 2007.
Pools struggled to find the back of the net last season as the club were relegated from League One.
They scored only 39 times – the lowest total in the entire Football League – and were one of only two clubs who failed to average a goal-per-game.
Hignett, no stranger to finding the net himself throughout his career, will have a responsibility to end the barren run.
“It was a problem and we’ve looked at that,” said the 43-year-old.
“I think there was a period when the side went eight games without a goal and earlier in the season there was a similar run when they hadn’t scored in six.
“Hopefully, the way we want the lads to play, we’ll create lots of chances and then if we bring in the right people to put the ball into the back of the net then that’ll be great.
“Certainly we’ll be playing a more expansive game but the gaffer, being a defender, he may curtail that a little bit!
“But I’m sure when it comes down to it, we’re looking for the right players and if we get them then we’ll create loads of chances in this league.”
Hignett joked that the two former Middlesbrough legends would be forming a “bad cop, bad cop” partnership on the training ground and in the dressing room.
But the Scouser added that he thinks the pair, with their differing positions and personalties would be the ideal mix.
“Colin can’t be a good cop and if I’m the good cop, I want a little bit of badness now and again,” he smiled.
“We haven’t really said we’ll be anything like that.
“As time goes on, as the players get to know me and Colin, they will know who does what
“My personality is different to Colin’s.
“He is very serious and professional – his head is on his work. Me? I am more outgoing, a little bit cheeky now and again.
“I think Colin might have looked at that and thought ‘that complements what I do really well’.
“He obviously knows me, he’s seen me coach [at Middlesbrough Academy] and he knows how I am with people.
“I think you need a bit of that [personality].
“Players have to enjoy training – if they aren’t enjoying what they’re doing then you are banging your head against a brick wall.
“Hopefully they will like and buy into what me and Colin are trying to do and my personality will probably lend itself to that.”
Hignett though is being a little modest – he’s more than just a character with a warm line in banter.
Someone who has spent two decades as a professional footballer, including a long spell in the Premier League, knows his way around a football field and shows the right attitude off it.
“I’ve played at a reasonable level myself and that’s good for the lads to see,” he said.
“If the players are ever going to question anything, then they have two people who have been there and done it.
“And done it from where they are as well. I played in this league when I was a kid at Crewe and Colin was in the Boro side which won promotion from Division Two after liquidation.”