JOHN Hughes admits it might take a “miracle” for Hartlepool United to escape relegation – but in football he believes anything can happen.
That is the new manager’s verdict on Pools’ seemingly perilous plight having now taken charge of his first two matches and enjoyed a week on the training pitch.
They venture to Walsall tomorrow knowing that defeat could open a 13-point chasm between themselves and safety heading into the two-week break.
But Hughes remains positive ahead of his first away fixture in English football, although he is realistic as to the situation he has inherited.
“It’s going to be difficult and it’s going to take a miracle to get out of this,” the Scot told SportMail today.
“But I’ve been in football a long time to know that a couple of back-to-back wins can soon get you out of things.
“Football is a funny old game, it really is, and stranger things than this have happened.
“But we’ve got to dig in - it’s all about spirit and leaders of men.”
The Saddlers themselves are in the midst of a 13-match winless streak.
Pools, though, produced arguably the best performance of their own 18-game run without victory when going down to a 2-1 defeat against Oldham Athletic on Tuesday.
That came on the back of Saturday’s 5-0 drubbing against Coventry City.
Hughes is well aware that a half-decent display has invariably been followed by a heavy defeat this season, and that is why he will adopt a cautious approach at the Banks’s Stadium.
“All I want to coach is expansive football but I realised if we keep playing that way, like we did against Coventry, we could get our backsides kicked,” he said.
“I felt we had to be more compact against Oldham.
“That keeps us in the football match – and I’ll tell supporters that it might have to be like that for a wee while.
“I apologise to the likes of Charlie (Wyke), (Ryan) Noble and Poolie (James Poole) who want to get on the ball and make things happen.
“But I have to give this team the best chance to win a football match.
“I want to bring that expansive style and I’ll have to drip feed that in, but at the moment we can’t do that.
“Hopefully our football will evolve but at the moment we just need a back-to-back performance.
“We need to be solid and create that siege mentality.”
Hughes is excited by the challenge of his maiden away-day, and he hopes the change of venue can go some way to alleviating pressure on his men.
“Sometimes in front of your home support it can bring a trepidation because you’re trying so hard,” said the 48-year-old.
“On the road you can have nothing to lose and go there with a bit of pressure off.
“I’m well up for this and I’m up for any challenge against any team – bring it on.”