Exclusive: Hartlepool United initiate contract talks with in-demand midfielder as they bid to tie down key asset
Hartlepool United have opened up contract talks with in-demand attacking midfielder Josh Hawkes.
Craig Hignett this week suggested he would put contract negotiations on hold this week after the Barrow debacle on Monday.
But the Mail understands talks have begun with Hawkes' representatives as Pools look to hang on to their prized asset.
Hawkes, who will see a one-year option triggered by the club in May, has been a revelation under Hignett, having endured a frustrating start to his second season as a first-team player.
Matthew Bates and Richard Money did not select the 20-year-old in their starting XI all too often but Hignett has used Hawkes, when fit, at every opportunity.
And the player has repaid that faith, scoring four goals in his last five when selected.
Hawkes, who has been scouted by the likes of Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Newcastle United this season, has nine goals this season in 27 National League games.
Even though the youth product is set to be contracted for another year, Pools are keen to extend that stay.
Hawkes is set for a recall on Saturday for Pools' last game of the season against Salford City at the Super 6 Stadium.
And manager Hignett admits his side will have to up their game considerably in order to even compete against the second-placed National League promotion-chasers.
"If we play like we did against Salford we will lose by five or six," he said.
"I know results have not gone for them but they are still in with a shout. If Salford win they can still go up as champions.
"It's a massive game. We cannot have a repeat of Monday.
"If this is a one off in 14 games then I will give them that. It can't happen again."
On the prospect of making changes this weekend, Hignett continued: "The performance suggest we will have to change it.
"I will have a think about that.
"These lads have got to earn their way into the side.
"The club is moving in a different direction now, we have got GPS - I know how hard the players are working.
"If you don't work hard and you aren't match fit, I won't pick you."