Craig Hignett ponders big changes at Hartlepool United
Craig Hignett had planned tweaks to his Hartlepool United squad in the summer.
Now, the “angry” Pools boss is contemplating major surgery in the aftermath of the humiliating 5-0 defeat at Plymouth Argyle.
Just two Saturdays ago, Hignett was buoyant about the future at Victoria Park, having seen Pools play so well at Oxford, a club who have clinched promotion to League One.
But following the weekend’s defeat at Home Park against a below-strength Pilgrims, Hignett admits he may need a re-think.
“Absolutely,” he declared
“It’s changed my plans for the summer – from thinking I needed three or four, now it’s seven or eight. That’s for me to try to sort out.”
How far Hignett can go with altering his squad is open to question – he will have to work to a budget set out by owners JPNG.
He has released six players, a group including the two Scotts, Harrison and Fenwick, while Pools are currently in discussions with another five players over new deals.
Hignett may have scope for bringing in some quality to add to the foundations he feels he has.
But he is demanding the existing players up their game.
“I’m livid about Plymouth, as is [first-team coach] Curtis,” he said. “I want standards of this club to be upped one million per cent on that performance.
“A couple of weeks ago I said ‘we are not far away’ but when you look at that, we might be miles away.
“Once the first went in we crumbled. There was a real lack of belief, a lack of effort.
“I said to the players ‘if that’s what we’re going to get, then you may as well finish now’.
“Performances like that I won’t tolerate.”
Hignett scoffed at suggestions that the difficult, yet successful sequence of fixtures in march, when Pools transformed their season, took a lot out of them.
“Yes, we had a good run in March,” he said.
“But if you only play for one month then you are in the wrong job.
“I have no time for one-month players.
“If they are signing a contract, then they can tell me if they are a one-month player, I’ll pay them one-month’s wages.
“If they are a three-month player I’ll give them three-month’s money. I want honesty.
“Football’s hard, every game is hard, if a player hasn’t got the stomach for that, then he’s always going to be a League Two player, someone who can do it for one week, have two or three off, then play well again for a week.
“Players in the Premier League and Championship do it week after week.
“You get consistency from them.
“Look at the successful teams in this league.
“We’ve played them all and, OK, they might not be great, but they have a level of consistency.
“They might not be brilliant game after game but the consistency is there. That’s the difference.”
Pools were not helped at Plymouth by the absence of Matthew Bates and Jake Carroll, while the back four as decimated again at half-time following injuries to Rob Jones and Carl Magnay.
“Yes, we had injuries, when two of your best defenders are out, Jake Carroll and Matthew Bates, you are going to miss them,” said Hignett.
“While we have a decent [first] XI we certainly need to strengthen our squad and that highlighted it.”