Craig Hignett talks keeping it simple at Hartlepool United, costly mid-season dips & the captain's armband

Football is a simple game made complicated by people who should know better.

By Liam Kennedy
Saturday, 23 February, 2019, 09:40
Craig Hignett.

Managerial great Bill Shankly said it, Craig Hignett is trying to put that famous phrase into action at Hartlepool United.

It's Hignett's view that keeping direction and tactics simple, while giving his players licence to hurt the opposition in the final third is the only way to success.

Less coaching on the negatives - like defensive errors - and more focus on the positive - scoring and creating goals.

"I think it’s about keeping it simple for players," said the manager, whose side take on Bromley at the Super 6 Stadium today.

"As a striker have I scored this week? Have I made a goal? As a wide man how many crosses have I put in? Have I made a goal for someone?

"As a defender have we kept a clean sheet? How many tackles have I made? How many headers have I won?

"You can work as a unit and people need to know their roles in a unit, but win tour headers, get your shots off, cross it well and you will find you win games.

"It’s not rocket science is it? Just make them feel good and ask then what they have done. Let them enjoy it."

Pools are 11 points off the top seven with just 12 games left to play, it would take a minor miracle for them to muscle in on the promotion race.

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Their poor run of form in the winter months is exactly the reason why their early season promise petered out into mid-table mediocrity.

This is nothing new, though, it happened last season, too - the only difference being that Pools were so bad in 2017/18 they almost got themselves relegated.

Hignett does not think the mid-season dip is a trend, he simply puts it down to the mindset of the dressing room.

“There was a dip last season around Christmas, but when things start to go wrong or you lose a few then people panic," he said.

"The answer to that is, don’t panic. People have dips and downturns. It's what happens in football."

Meanwhile, Hignett has refused to be drawn on whether Ryan Donaldson will keep the captain's armband until the end of the season.

In fact, when quizzed about it the manager suggested the responsibility could be shared around, if he saw fit.

"Ryan has been captain and he has been excellent with the responsibility," said Hignett.

"I decided to let him keep it and at this stage there is no reason to change. It could be the case that we move that responsibility in the future but for now he has it and has done well with it."