IT wasn’t that long ago that Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka was hailing Craig Hignett’s qualities after recruiting the Boro legend as his assistant.
Yet within the space of nine months Hignett has today suddenly left the Championship club with immediate effect - leaving the Spaniard in need of a new Number 2.
Recruited from Pools back in March this year, Hignett was widely credited with helping boost Boro’s fortunes which has seen them become realistic challengers for promotion to the Premier League this season.
But his return to the club ended abruptly today.
It came as a major surprise given the pair had, on the outside at least, formed a strong bond, with Karanka hailing Hignett’s qualities after eventually deciding on a new assistant manager.
Four months had amassed since Karanka’s arrival on Teesside and the appointment of a number two.
The Spaniard cited the need to make the correct decision, owing to Jamie Clapham’s lengthy caretaker spell as his understudy.
“I had to make the right decision,” he said back in March.
“I want to say thanks to Jamie because I was very good with him and he supported me a lot.
“The right person is Craig.
“He is fun, of course, but a worker too.
“He is a person who knows the leagues, the supporters and the players.
“He has all the things I want: a person who loves football, played football here and knows everything. His character is fun and this is important.
“I was assistant at Real Madrid and I believe 100 per cent in the assistant’s role.”
Well, that role at Boro no longer belongs to Hignett, who had also impressed during his time as assistant manager to then Pools boss Colin Cooper.
The pair joined the club in May 2013 and flirted with the play-offs last season before Hignett’s departure in March.
Cooper was less than impressed with the timing of Hignett’s departure from the League Two club but wished him well as he moved up the leagues with Boro.
“The timing is crap, let’s be honest,” said Cooper back in March this year.
“We are eight weeks from the end of the season and we have plenty to play for but these things happen in life and football.”
Indeed, when Hignett left Pools the form of the League Two side plummeted and they flirted with relegation in the final weeks of the season, struggling to score and losing six on the bounce.
That dreadful run of form can’t be down to Hignett’s departure alone but there can’t be many coaches with as good a win ratio as his over the past 18-months.
Speaking after he left, Cooper added: “Craig has been good at his job - the job that I employed him to do.
“What it has done is proved, probably to himself and other people, that the opportunities that he hasn’t been given in football he actually can do.”
No doubt it won’t be long before Hignett is back in a dugout soon.