JOHN Hughes will not talk about survival until Hartlepool United snap out of their losing streak – but the new boss has already seen improvement during his first week at the helm.
Pools were beaten 2-1 at home to Oldham Athletic last night to extend their winless run to 18 matches and condemn them to a fifth straight defeat.
Hughes’ first game in charge was Saturday’s 5-0 hammering at the hands of Coventry City, like Oldham, a relegation rival.
That pair of results has left Pools 10 points adrift of safety at the bottom of League One with the halfway-stage of the campaign just around the corner.
But Hughes insists that he has seen his influence wear off on the players over the course of the past week.
“I asked for improvement and that’s what I got,” said the Scot, whose side suffered stoppage-time heartache when Jose Baxter turned home the rebound from his own missed penalty, Pools’ Tony Sweeney having earlier cancelled out Baxter’s opener before Neil Austin was sent off for the hosts.
“It was cruel on the lads.
“We put so much into it and were spirited.
“It was much more solid and we tried to pass the ball in parts.
“We created chances and scored a goal – even that is an improvement.
“We didn’t go under when we conceded, it galvanised us.
“So although it’s hard to be too optimistic in defeat there were positives.”
It was exactly a week ago that Hughes was appointed by Pools.
He arrived promising a positive energy which could help arrest the club’s slide towards League Two.
And that is a pledge he is sticking to despite the losing start.
“I have to be the leader, I can’t be down,” he went on.
“I have to have the enthusiasm and energy.
“I will try to keep encouraging them because we need that first result and then we can talk about survival.
“Supporters might not want to hear this but we’re struggling for confidence and there’s a wee bit of trepidation.
“It might not be pretty between now and the end of the season but games like this give us a platform to build on.
“I feel for the players so much because I know one or two of them are better than what they are right now.
“I’ve been there when you’re a little afraid to express yourself.
“But we have to create that siege mentality.
“We need that mindset where we’re going to roll our sleeves up for each other and last night I thought we did that.”