Blackburn job: Would Craig Hignett join list of ambitious Hartlepool United bosses to leave?

Surely anyone with blue and white blood running through their veins should take it as a compliment?

Friday, 13th May 2016, 10:30 am
Updated Friday, 13th May 2016, 12:11 pm
Craig Hignett

Hartlepool United’s manager is a wanted man with Blackburn Rovers peering across the Pennines at Victoria Park as they seek to fill the vacancy left by Paul Lambert’s departure.

How many times over the years has it been the case that a serving Pools boss has been taken on by another club?

This reporter can count the occasions on one hand.

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l Brian Clough to Derby County in the summer of 1967

l John Duncan to Chesterfield in the summer of 1983.

l John Bird to York in the autumn of 1988.

l Chris Turner to Sheffield Wednesday in the autumn of 2002.

The vast majority of Pools bosses see their employment ended by “mutual consent” – legal-speak for the sack – but there will be real fears in town that Hignett will join the list of departures.

Clough, Bird and Turner had all displayed their credentials at the Vic over a sustained period – each man had inherited a mess and tidied it up impressively.

Hignett too, though it has to be said that it is still early days in his reign.

The former Middlesbrough star has been in charge of just 20 games, winning eight, drawing three and losing nine.

At one stage, the 46-year-old had Pools in promotion form, though four defeats in a row at the death, and six in the last 10, tarnished that.

However, averaged out over an entire season, the record of Hignett would put Pools a couple of wins off the play-offs.

It is not just the fact that Pools have climbed the table, it is the way they have done it.

The Bristol Rovers and Plymouth away games aside, Pools have been a difficult side to beat and have been, at times, breathtaking, going forward.

They have been comfortable in possession, not always a trait you could associate with Pools, and they have been competitive in almost every game.

And Hignett has done that with the existing squad – all the players who have excelled have been Ronnie Moore, Paul Murray and Colin Cooper signings.

The Scouser has proven to be an ace motivator, just look what happened post-Bristol.

Having been beaten 4-1 at the Memorial Stadium, Pools responded with a seven-match unbeaten run, a spell which included four clean sheets.

Hignett has shown to be highly adept at moulding what he inherited into a real force and that’s what will be attracting Blackburn.

Rovers are not in the greatest of financial states and there is unlikely to be much – or any – cash to spend for the new manager.

Blackburn’s parachute payments from the Premier League have also ceased, so Ewood Park is not awash with dosh.

The club are £102.4million in debt, though £87m of that is an interest-free loan from the team’s billionaire owners, the Venky’s.

Ex-Villa boss and Champions League winner Lambert aside, the Indians have not really gone for high-profile bosses, having previously employed Steve Kean, Henning Berg, Michael Appleton and youth team boss Gary Bowyer.

While job security is hardly strong in that corner of Lancashire, it would be a challenge which Hignett may find hard not to get excited about, should the Venky’s come calling.

For a rookie boss to get the opportunity to manage in the Sky Bet Championship and potentially be one season away from the Premier League would be too good a chance to turn down.

Of course, Hignett does have a strong emotional pull at Pools and a tremendous working relationship with chairman Gary Coxall.

Higgy even joked that he may be “hung” should he leave Pools again, as he did when Middlesbrough made him Aitor Karanka’s right-hand man in March 2014.

“With the chairman’s vision, this is the perfect fit for me, this is everything I want and I’m not going to let him down or he fans down,” Hignett said on his third coming at the Vic in February.

He added: “I am an ambitious fella, but I want to do a proper job here.

“I feel I have unfinished busines. I’m really pleased to have been given the opportunity to come back and finish what me and Colin started two years ago.

“My conversation with Gary was refreshing, he does have a clear vision for the club, but it’s long-term.

“I’d like to repay that and be here for the long-term too.”

Hignett has, thus far, shown no desire to ‘jump ship’ and SportMail understands there has been no approach in either direction between Blackburn and their former midfielder.

But, you would not be shocked should Rovers want him.

Nor, for all the prospect of losing a bright, intelligent, talented boss who looks capable of taking Pools places is unpallatable, should we be shocked if he was interested.

Who wouldn’t want to work in the Championship?