You won’t often hear Xavi and Nicky Featherstone in the same sentence.
But it speaks volumes that the Hartlepool United midfielder was compared in midweek to the Barcelona and Spain star by Craig Hignett.
They have given me a freedom to play – they don’t mind if I make a mistake as long as I’m trying to do the right thingNICKY FEATHERSTONE
The Pools boss, of course, was smiling when he said it but the 27-year-old is certainly in the form of his football life.
“Nicky has been fantastic for us,” said Hignett. “He never shirks anything, he always wants the ball all the time and he keeps us ticking.
“We’ve seen him bursting forward the last couple of games – Nicky can do pretty much everything.
“I called him the Xavi of League Two the other night, but that’s what he’s like, he gets the ball and he keeps it.
“I want to play good football and people like him are vital for us doing that.”
Featherstone is responding to the Hignett doctrine.
If you watched the Leyton Orient game, the Yorkshireman dropped an early rickett, almost gifting the O’s an early lead.
But thereafter followed a flawless performance – in a complete away team effort came a complete midfield display from Featherstone.
And the player says much of that is down to the belief Hignett and first-team coach, Curtis Fleming, have given him.
“The gaffer and Flem have been brilliant with me,” he told SportMail.
“They have told me to be myself and to get on the ball.
“They have given me a freedom to play – they don’t mind if I make a mistake as long as I’m trying to do the right thing.
“I’ve always been that type of person and player, if something has gone wrong I can put it behind me and get on with my game.
“I have a licence to go and play and for a footballer, that’s brilliant.”
While Pools did not carry on their great recent form at Carlisle, Featherstone’s display was up at its highest level.
He believes Tuesday’s 1-0 set-back will prove just a blip as Pools look to get back on a winning run with a victory at Morecambe.
“I think the frame of mind the gaffer and Flem have got us in, we’re going into every game confident we can get a result,” he said.
“You have been able to seen that over the last eight games. Even that defeat at Carlisle, we’d played well enough not to get beaten.
“We’re a lot more solid as a team now it doesn’t look like we’ll concede goals.
“We’re very resilient and with the occasional exception, we’ve done very well with the ball.
“We’re creating chances – Nathan [Thomas] has been creating chance after chance and Billy[Paynter] has been massive, with Luke [James a threat to]. Hopefully, we can finish this season well and carry the momentum into next season.”
For Featherstone, he says he has not been happier on a football field. It’s all a far cry from the start of the 2014-15 campaign when he found himself out of work after being released by Walsall.
But the former Hull City man always had faith in his ability and it was Paul Murray who brought him to the Vic as his first signing at the end of October 2014.
“I’d had a few offers in the Conference,” he said. “But I believed in myself and decided to bide my time, I always hoped something would come up.
“I’d played a lot of games at League One and Two level.
“I signed for Hartlepool and things have gone well for me – I’m really enjoying at the moment, playing for the new gaffer.
“He plays in a way that I like to play and given me the freedom to go and express myself.”