Craig Hignett on Hartlepool United's return to training, trialists and squad fitness
Craig Hignett got the first chance to welcome his full Hartlepool United squad back to training on Tuesday morning as the pre-season preparations progressed.
All 22 members of the Pools squad met-up as an entire group at East Durham College for the first time ahead of the new season.
It was new signing Gime Toure’s first chance to meet and train with his new teammates as well as the three trialists currently at the club.
Former Carlisle United midfielder Jason Kennedy and 18-year-old defender Jack Spark took part in the stringent training session along with Spennymoor Town goalkeeper Matt Gould who was present to work on his fitness ahead of the new National League North campaign with the Moors.
Just two players didn’t take part in training due to injury. Ryan Donaldson was advised to sit out due to a slight muscle strain and Myles Anderson is still recovering from recent mouth surgery in relation to the injury he picked up at Leyton Orient in February.
And upon returning to training, Hignett was visibly positive as he welcomed the local media for the first time this season.
The Pools boss emerged from the changing rooms and looked out to see his players, all emblazoned in brand new training kit, warming up.
“When you look at that team, what do you see?” He said pointing toward his side in the distance. “What’s the first thing that comes to mind?”
“They’re massive,” was the response. “They look like a proper team.”
With a 22-man squad training properly in full kit, Pools didn’t seem like a side only in their second day of pre-season.
They looked like a side ready to go, which is exactly what Hignett is after.
“My aim is to get the players as fit as they can be and be one of the fittest teams in the league,” he said.
“We’ve added a bit of height but we still need a little bit more and a bit more power and that’s why we need certainly a big midfielder.
“I looked at things at the end of the season and I thought, what do we need?
“We needed a bit more pace, we needed a bit more power, we needed a bit more height and I’ve gone out and done that but I’ve done that with the way I want to play in mind.
“I don’t just want big lads who go and bash it and play that way, that’s not me, I want to play football and the lads I’ve brought in can all play football, regardless of how big they might look.
“Gime Toure is a classic example, he’s six foot three, he’s a big lad, he can run, he’s quick, he’s powerful, but he can play and if you see his clips, he can go past people, he can pick a pass, he can score a goal, he just needs a home. For me, he’s not much of a gamble, he’s more of a wildcard for us.
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“Michael Raynes, a leader, six foot four, head everything that will come into the box. Will organise everyone with a bit of experience that we need at the back.”
Hignett laughed as he walked off to take the session: “We’re going to be horrible to play against this season, I can’t wait!”
With pre-season underway, plenty of trialists are likely to take part in training and friendly matches over the summer.
And the Hartlepool manager feels that getting players in on trial will be the best way to assess his next targets.
“We’ve got three trialists in, just to have a look and see where they’re at really,” he admitted.
“Jason Kennedy, Jack Spark who is a young lad and Matt Gould is just training to keep fit for Spennymoor.
“It’s a good way for me, if I’m not sure about someone, to come in and see how they are. I’ll generally know how they can play and what type of player they are, I just want to see what they’re like as lads and around the place.
“At the minute we’ve got a really good team spirit and I don’t want to do anything to upset it because it only takes one or two before it can go the other way and cause carnage so I’m going to be careful about who we are going to bring in because team spirit will be massive for us this year.”
Hignett is still planning on making a couple of further additions to his side after bringing in Nicke Kabamba, Michael Raynes, Ben Killip, Luke Molyneux and Gime Toure so far. And he’s prepared to be patient if it means bringing in the right player.
“I wouldn’t just sign anyone if I wasn’t sure about them, I’d have to be sure,” he continued.
“I’ll have to make sure everything is right and if that means missing out on players now and again then I’ll take that because my main job is to get value for money for the chairman and make sure we bring the right people in.
“It has been stressful and busy but I enjoy it all, all parts of being a manager I enjoy.
“The summer is exciting because you know what you can build and I’ve got a picture in my end of the players I want and the type of team and football that I want to play.
“It’s is always an exciting part of the season for me because this is where you can build and lay the foundations for the start of the season.
“That’s the easy bit, the hard part is going out and doing it.”