Craig Hignett, Steve Watson, Alun Armstrong in for Gateshead job

Contender: Craig Hignett.
Contender: Craig Hignett.

Craig Hignett is one of the leading candidates for the vacant Gateshead job.

The former Hartlepool United boss is on a three-man short list with two Geordies, SportMail understands.

Hignett, who left Pools in January, faces competition from ex-Newcastle United defender Steve Watson and Higgy’s former Middlesbrough teammate Alun Armstrong.

The Scouser has been out of the game since his exit from the Vic. Gateshead have have been a top-half-of-the-table National League outfit under former Pools and Darlington defender Neil Aspin, who has taken charge at League Two strugglers Port Vale.

Hignett had less than a year in the Clarence Road hotseat, with many fans believing had Pools kept the ex-Boro forward that the club would not have been relegated.

Instead, they turned to Dave Jones, out of management for over three years, who ended up taking Pools out of the Football League for the first time in their hostory.

Hignett had not been aided by financial troubles, which led to the late payment in wages and players being moved on to reduce the wage bill, not to mention the departure of his right-hand-man, Curtis Fleming, to QPR.

When times were happier at the Vic, he earned plaudits for the attractive style of football and his ability to get the best from Nathan Thomas.

His attacking approach could earn him a chance at the International Stadium, where Gateshead’s fans were not overly happy with what were perceived as safety-first tactics which Aspin employed.

However, the competition for the Heed position is strong. Ex-Newcastle and Everton defender Watson is currently assistant boss at National League pacesetters Macclesfield Town.

Armstrong is currently flying high as boss of Blyth Spartans, who are third in National League North.

The 42-year-old, who played up front for Stockport, Ipswich and Darlington, is a Gateshead lad and would also be a populr choice among fans.

Heed are 16th in the National League, but only six points outside the play-offs.