Pools boss John Hughes to begin search for striker with Steve Howard set for spell out injured

Steve Howard in action against Bournemouth. Picture by FRANK REID
Steve Howard in action against Bournemouth. Picture by FRANK REID

JOHN Hughes will today begin the search for a new striker with Steve Howard set to be sidelined for up to six weeks.

The departure of Paul Murray has afforded the Pools boss room for manoeuvre on the transfer front.

Murray – whose contract was cancelled by mutual consent yesterday – was at Victoria Park last night to see his former team-mates beaten 2-1 by Bournemouth.

That marked a seventh home defeat on the spin for Pools – a fifth under Hughes – and also saw both Antony Sweeney and Howard succumb to injury.

Sweeney’s problem is a twisted knee which will be assessed today, but the prognosis on Howard was more immediate and Hughes confirmed the veteran forward will be missing for at least a month with a hamstring strain.

Hughes will now intensify the search for his first signing at the Vic, and he admits that a frontman, rather than a replacement for Murray, will top his wish-list.

“I would like to bring two in to try to freshen the group up,” said the 48-year-old, whose side travel to Portsmouth on Saturday.

“But you think ‘what position are we really looking for?’.

“Muzza has gone but we’ve got Jack (Baldwin) in there, Nathan Luscombe as well to come back.

“So with big Stevie being out for maybe a month to six weeks we might look at that option up front.

“If I think my own ones aren’t quite ready then I’ll go out and get one or two in.”

The exit of Murray came as a shock to the majority of supporters who, during the player’s two-and-a-half years at the club, had grown to admire his tenacious approach.

Indeed, he was voted fans’ player of the year last season and had won a place in the side under Neale Cooper.

But the arrival of Hughes saw him miss out on inclusion in several matchday squads and the manager hinted earlier in the month that the former Queens Park Rangers anchorman could be allowed to leave.

Murray will now concentrate his efforts on forging a career in coaching, although he could still win a playing contract elsewhere.

Either way, he leaves with Hughes’ best wishes.

“Muzza is a real trooper,” he said.

“I honestly say that, getting to know the boys over 10 weeks or so, he’s one of the best professionals I have ever worked with.

“But the reason he’s not playing is that we need younger legs in there and there are two or three people who can play in that position.”

He went on: “It took him fours hours to get into training the other day, that’s the kind of professional he is.

“He’s looking to get into coaching and management and I think it’s the right thing for him to go and try to pursue something.

“At the end of the season there will be a rush for these jobs and positions so if he can get ahead of the game then I think we’ve done him a real turn.

“But I’m grateful and thankful for his professionalism in the time I’ve worked with him at this club.”