Ex-Middlesbrough star a key man to Hartlepool United coaching staff says Craig Hignett

Craig Hignett will this week look to complete the first stage of his Hartlepool United building plan.

Monday, 16th May 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 16th May 2016, 12:21 pm
Scott Harrison: Welcome to return for pre-season training. Picture by FRANK REID

But the Pools boss says getting it right off the pitch is as important as on it, pointing to the contract given to former player Stuart Parnaby on the coaching staff.

Hignett has already tied up the majority of his key players for next season, including leading scorer Billy Paynter.

Four-time player of the season Trevor Carson, defenders Carl Magnay, Matthew Bates and Jake Carroll and in-form midfielders Nicky Featherstone and Lewis Hawkins, have all agreed contract extensions.

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A number of players fall into the deals-pending bracket, including Michael Duckworth, Rob Jones, Michael Woods and Rakish Bingham.

Hignett hopes to have the futures of all four sorted out by the end of business on Friday.

But he says he can’t emphasise enough the importance of adding Parnaby to his coaching staff.

SportMail reported last month how the 33-year-old would be working with the Pools squad as the club’s pre-rehabilitation and conditioning coach.

Parnaby decided to retire earlier this season after suffering an injury just days before the then boss Ronnie Moore planned to bring him into his League Two squad for the trip to Exeter City.

And Moore’s successor says the ex-Middlesbrough defender will be a key man for Pools next season.

“We are adding to things all the time,” said Hignett.

“We want to make the club as professional as we can and bringing in Stuart helps us do that.

“By having Stuart to work alongside Craig Hubbard, the fitness coach, it just makes that section complete.

“He’s been fantastic with the players – before he joined the staff, he had been coming in and doing a job on a voluntary basis and the lads love him.”

Parnaby endured a frustrating career, suffering a catalogue of injuries, though there were highs and played for Boro in their 2006 UEFA Cup run, including the final.

The defender, signed for Pools by then boss Colin Cooper in 2014, wanted to stay in the game but concentrate on working with players on the physical and psychological side of fitness and conditioning.

Having a fit and healthy squad Hignett feels is vital to success.

“Stuart is very good with his preventative stuff,” said the manager.

“The lads had been coming in early to do a session with him and that’s just getting them ready to train with Flem and myself.

“It’s a warm up to warm up I suppose but really important.

“Stuart knows his stuff, he is really, really good at what he does and I’m delighted he’s joined our staff.”

One of Parnaby’s first jobs in pre-season could be to work with defender Scott Harrison.

The 22-year-old was released by Hignett, who has told him he is welcome at Maiden Castle when Pools return to work.

Harrison missed the end of the season with a foot injury and clearly the door is not closed on the ex-Sunderland centre-half.

It promises to be an interesting week at Victoria Park.

Hignett made his first signing last Friday when he gave a contract to no 3 keeper Ben Dudzinski but getting the signature of Michael Woods on the dotted line will be a priority.

SportMail understands there are League One clubs interested in Woods and Duckworth, while Bingham, a Londoner, could return south.