Craig Hignett opens up on his 'tough' Hartlepool United decisions and reveals key factor that will decide it
Craig Hignett admits he’s got some tough decisions to make on the futures of his Hartlepool United players.
But the manager has vowed to be ruthless this summer, with his own reputation and a potential promotion charge on the line next season.
Halifax Town are the visitors to the Super 6 Stadium this afternoon, with just goal difference separating the sides in the National League table.
Hignett accepts a lower mid-table finish in the fifth tier is far from acceptable for a club of Pools’ size, but he has been impressed with the attitude and application of the squad since his arrival in the dugout.
“They have all given me tough decisions,” said Hignett.
“Attitude is massive for me. I’d sacrifice a bit of quality for the right attitude. The players have all shown that - I have not had one problem with any of them.
“It has given me a headache but at the same time it is my job on the line, so I have to be ruthless. I know what I want, I know my budget. There will be tough decisions ahead.”
One player who has really put himself in contention for a deal is Gavan Holohan.
It took the player a long time to get registered to play, then get fit, but Hignett admits he’s been impressed with what he has seen from the Irishman, who netted a late leveller for Pools at
Aldershot last weekend.
“It hasn’t been frustrating for him - he’s just been trying to get fit,” explained Hignett in relation to Holohan’s long wait for a first start.
“We have GPS and we have been able to see where he is with his fitness.
“Recently he has been appearing on the stats so I knew he was ready to come in, fit enough to play.
“For it being his first start since October, I thought he did very well. He could have scored a couple, and got his goal. He wants to do well. He is hungry. And that’s the type of people we
want at this club.
“We want players who will run through brick walls for you.
“We had a gameplan and he stuck to it - that’s what we want from players here.
“I want players to follow instructions and give 110% every time they pull on the shirt.”
Hignett has been clever in using uncertainty over players’ futures and the club’s ongoing contract situation to squeeze the best out of his squad, who have nothing bar pride to play for.
A realist, he accepts the players will lose “5%” because each game they play means nothing, but he’s still expecting results.
Ahead of the clash with the Shaymen, Hignett said: “It is a dead rubber really. Players should be professional and they are in these games. But they just lose that 5%, even though they are
putting it in.
“It is unavoidable. It happens but as a manager you have to try and stop that happening as much.
“These lads, whether subconscious or not, are ready for the end of the season. They know they can’t go up, they know they can’t go down. I will be trying my best to get them up for the
“The last game against Salford (City) is a big one - that could decide whether they get promoted or not.
“If I was a player I’d want to play in that and spoil the party. That’s the attitude my players have to have.”
While a draw at relegated Aldershot is far from ideal for Hignett or Pools, the manager still saw plenty of positives his team can take from the encounter.
“We played on the front foot,” he said.
“I thought we played OK. We were the better side and I was a little disappointed we didn’t win it but in the end when you’re a goal down with 12 minutes left and you take something, you
“It was a tough game. They needed the win, were fighting for their lives.
“Every game at this level is difficult.
“The lads responded well to their setback and got something out the game, which is positive.”
While promotion back to the Football League is the name of the game for Hignett and Pools - the Shots’ plight has to act as a warning.
“It is a reality check. You
can see how much this league can change in the space of a transfer window,” said the boss.
“Solihull and Orient were where we were last year. This year they are up near the top. The same can be said of Aldershot, they’ve gone the other way.
“You can’t rest on your laurels at this level, you’ve always got to be moving forward.
“It is such a tight league. Two or three new players can make all the difference.”