Relegation fears proved final straw for Craig Hignett at Hartlepool - Gary Coxall

Pools chairman Gary Coxall
Pools chairman Gary Coxall

The fear of yet another relegation fight was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back for Craig Hignett at Hartlepool United, according to Gary Coxall.

Yesterday brought the news that Pools had parted company with former Middlesbrough assistant Hignett, after just 11 months in the top job at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium.

After all of the money that has been spent we did not think we would be looking over our shoulders

His results, coupled with a number of under-par performances in recent weeks made Coxall’s mind up, with the lifeless loss to Crawley on Saturday, in which Pools had one shot on target, proving Hignett’s last act at the Vic.

And Coxall believes Pools, who are just four points above the fourth tier dropzone, should really have been aiming for better than that this season, especially given the financial outlay, which he claims is the club’s biggest for “some time”.

“We should not even be talking about relegation at this club,” said Coxall, speaking exclusively to the Mail.

“I really felt that this season we would be better than that.

“This season we have had the biggest playing budget for some time at the club. That is why our situation is so disappointing.

“After all of the money that has been spent we did not think we would be looking over our shoulders.

“But that is the situation we find ourselves in.

“And that is the very reason why I had to act swiftly with Craig.”

While few fans have registered their displeasure at the departure of Hignett, it was with a heavy heart that Coxall let him go.

Upon his appointment Coxall had grand plans for a long-term strategy, guided by Hignett as manager, but that is in tatters after a difficult campaign.

It was nothing personal, it was a decision taken with the best interests of Hartlepool United at heart.

“It was not an easy decision,” said Coxall.

“But something had to change for us.

“The manager has given everything for this club but we have had some bad results and Saturday was a particularly bad performance.

“If we had another bad month like the last one, then we will be right in the relegation fight.

“People talk about points targets for safety - I had hoped this season would put an end to all of that.”

Hignett’s departure comes right in the midst of the winter transfer window.

The manager had already made plans for a number of players to come to the club, with Middlesbrough’s Brad Fewster just one of a host of players in the Pools pipeline.

Coxall admits that additions in this window will have to be shelved for the time being, although he knows the need to sign is of high priority.

And transfer targets and contacts will be a massive part of the selection process for the new man at the helm, with just a fortnight left of trading.

“Craig had a list of players and positions that we need to strengthen,” said Coxall.

“That still remains, of course.

“Everyone who has seen us knows that we need to add a bit of pace in the team, as well as some bite.

“We simply have not looked like scoring a goal for the last two games, at home to Grimsby and on Saturday.

“Transfer plans do take a little bit of a backseat now, as it will be up to the new manager to come in and decide what he needs.

“But I can confirm that transfer will be a big part of the selection process for any new man.

“We need to ask what they can bring to the club in the next few weeks.”