Hartlepool United manager Craig Hignett discusses his ideal squad size in the National League this season

Craig Hignett is preparing himself for an off-field challenge this season when it comes to team selection.

By Dominic Scurr
Tuesday, 30 July, 2019, 11:45
The Hartlepool United squad are put into their seats for the 2019-20 season team photograph. Picture by Frank Reid

The loan signing of Romoney Crichlow-Noble on Monday tipped Pools’ senior squad to a sizeable 23 players – which is notably more than Hignett was initially aiming for at the start of pre-season.

Prior to the return to training in June, Hignett commented: “18 to 20 players will be beneficial for me and I want to keep it around that because I don’t want people to feel left out, I want everyone to feel part of the team because we’re all part of it and in it together.”

Hartlepool’s squad size gives them flexibility to rotate their squad and potentially loan players out over the course of the season as they already have with young goalkeeper Ryan Catterick.

The National League only permits a matchday squad of 16 players which means up to seven United players, injured or not, will miss out. A decent amount of rotation will be required in order to satisfy the squad and keep morale high.

And the Pools boss is embracing the challenge of managing a larger squad of players as his vision of not leaving anyone out remains.

“That’s the really tough one for me,” Hignett said following Saturday’s 3-0 win over Macclesfield Town.

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“The important job for me is looking after the players who are out. The ones who are in will look after themselves.

“If we are going to do anything this season we need a [big] squad, they are all going to get games.

“The gap in standard between those on the field and those at in the stand will be zero.

“The lads know they have to fight for their jersey but they also know that everyone is important and that we are a real squad, the team spirit is amazing.

“But they know they have to perform, because if they don’t there is someone just as good waiting in the wings. It’s a really nice position to be in and we are improving game by game.”

Hartlepool’s new-look squad will be in competitive action for the first time at home to Sutton United on Saturday (3pm kick-off).