Craig Hignett reveals if Hartlepool United will do any more business ahead of new National League season

A 24 man squad, eight summer signings, a new training set-up and over 3,000 season tickets sold – all signs suggest that Hartlepool United are good to go for the new National League campaign.

Friday, 2nd August 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Friday, 2nd August 2019, 10:20 am
Hartlepool United manager Craig Hignett is feeling positive ahead of the new season. Picture by FRANK REID

The start of a new season often has a sense of optimism about it – it’s difficult not to get excited over the unpredictability and possibility that awaits the next nine months.

In recent years, Hartlepool haven’t had too much to be positive about despite a festering sense of expectation. Going into Saturday’s opener at home to Sutton United, this season feels different.

The expectation is still very much there but now there seems to be clear belief that the club can finally make their mark in the National League.

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Romoney Crichlow-Noble was confirmed as Pools' latest summer signing this week.

With that comes pressure, something that manager Craig Hignett said: “Is always there, we want to do really well and we want to try and get this club back out of this league and into the next league so the pressure is always there.

“We’ve got a really good, strong group of players and like I say, we’re really optimistic about the new season without getting carried away.”

Pools’ summer recruitment has seen Hignett bolster his squad to a healthy 24 players. The loan signing of Romoney Crichlow-Noble earlier this week is expected to be the final bit of business after the signings of Nicke Kabamba, Michael Raynes, Ben Killip, Luke Molyneux, Gime Toure, Gus Mafuta and Jason Kennedy.

“That’s us done now, I’ve had good support off the chairman, I had a budget and I’ve worked to that,” the United boss revealed.

Michael Raynes. Picture by Frank Reid

“Romoney is someone who was the last bit really, we needed another left-back, I think everyone knew that and finding a new one has been difficult but Huddersfield have been great with us, they’ve taken our keeper [academy goalkeeper, Michael Roxborough] and we’ve taken Romoney in as a makeweight in that deal so he’s got a lot of attributes that will suit the league.

“He’s big, he’s quick, he’s got really good technical ability and he’ll improve as a player, he’s only 20 and I’m really looking forward to working with him.

“We’ve recruited really well and we’ve recruited people with a good mix and balance. We’ve got some great under-19s who will go on and have careers in the Football League and we’ve got some experienced lads to show them the way as well.

“With Jason Kennedy, we had him here with a view to signing but after the injury he’s had you want to see that he’s back to what he was and what he can be.

Goalkeeper Ben Killip was brought in as Scott Loach's replacement.

“The Carlisle fans love him and they were disappointed to see him go so he will be vitally important for us, not only with what he does on the pitch but also for how he carries himself away from it and what a good professional he is.

“We’ve got enough now, Luke Molyneux is classed as a new signing but we had him last season and it’s a massive bonus to get him at the football club and the sooner he comes back the better but he’s progressing well.

“Luke Williams is close, if we can get him fit and keep him fit and if he’s anywhere near the player I know he is, he’ll be a massive bonus for us in this league.

“Gime can be frustrating at times but that’s just what you get at this level. If he wasn’t frustrating he wouldn’t be playing here because with the attributes he’s got, he should be playing in the league.

YCFC 2-1 HUFC 17-07-2019. Picture by Frank Reid

“Hopefully we can get the best out of him. I think now we’ve got as a good a chance as anyone of doing that so do it with us, show everyone how good you are.

“The new players add something different to what we haven’t had before. It’s pleasing, we’re in a really good place, the lads are working really hard and have bought into what we’re doing.

“I think there’s a determination in the group and I want to carry that on now into the league season, starting against Sutton.

“We’ve got more ball winners, more competitive people. Bigger, people, stronger people, quicker people and I’m really pleased with where we are at the moment but it all comes down to results at the end of the day.”

Hignett previously managed Pools between 2016 and 2017 when they were a Football League outfit and witnessed a lot of the club’s well-documented issues first hand.

Success on the field is always important for a football club but stability off it is essential. Pools now seem to have a foundation in place which could see them finally fulfil their potential in the National League with Hignett at the helm.

Signing Luke Molyneux on a permanent basis gave Pools a big boost going into the new season. Picture by Frank Reid

“Absolutely, we’ve had a good summer and I’ve probably had the strongest group of players we’ve had since I’ve been a manager at this club,” he continued.

“The club is in as good a shape as it’s been for a lot of years so we’ve had a lot of work to do on the playing side and behind the scenes.

“It hasn’t always been easy and there’s been some hard choices but it’s all for the good of the football club and to move forward.

“The aim for everyone is to get the club up and that’s my aim for the season.”

Jason Kennedy became Hartlepool's seventh summer signing following a successful trial.
Gus Mafuta in action at York City. Picture by Frank Reid
Gime Toure could prove to be an interesting piece of business for Hartlepool this season.