Five Ways Craig Hignett Has Affected Hartlepool United In His Six Months In Charge

Padraig Amond
Padraig Amond

Craig Hignett has been in charge at Hartlepool United for six months now - but how has he influenced the Pools team?

SportMail examine five key areas that have changed under the guidance of the Pools boss

Attack, Attack, Attack

As a former striker it is perhaps not surprising that Hignett likes his team to play on the front foot.

In the recent 3-3 draw at Crewe Alexandra, when Pools clawed back two late goals to snatch a point, Hignett could have shut up shop and settled for a point.

Instead, he reverted to a 4-2-4 formation and urged his team to push for a winner.

To some that may seem bizarre, but the Pools boss is intent on attacking and entertaining football.

His summer recruitment reflected this as he brought in Padraig Amond and Lewis Alessandra to strengthen his striking options.

In the early stages of the season Hignett has encouraged Alessandra and Nathan Thomas to push high up the flanks, with Amond playing off the last man and Billy Paynter playing a poachers role.

Full-backs Carl Magnay and Jake Carroll have also been encouraged to bomb forward by the Hartlepool boss as he plays with a far from conservative style.

Flexible Formations

There are many managers who stick with one formation regardless of the opposition, but Hignett isn’t one of those managers.

We mentioned his switch to a 4-2-4 against Crewe, but that wasn’t the only change in shape he made during the game.

Having started in a 4-4-2, Pools moved to a 4-3-3 when they went 3-1 behind and these flexible formations have been seen regularly in the opening weeks of the season.

Hignett has made no secret of the fact that 4-3-3 is his preferred formation, but he has been open to changing this.

Against the Railwaymen, Hignett started in a 4-4-2 to match up to the hosts and he did similar when Pools travelled to Preston North End in the EFL Cup.

His willingness to be flexible in how his side line-up will ultimately see Pools better equipped to deal with their opponents, while the ability for the side to seamlessly change shape during the game means United can react to events as they happen.

The change in shape worked at Crewe, and it probably won’t be the last time Hignett changes things around during a game.

Clear Recruitment Policy

It’s sometimes hard to forget that Hignett is only just entering his first full season as a manager.

His recruitment policy for this summer resembled that of a gaffer with far more experience than himself as he snapped up his intended targets early on in the window.

The players brought in by Hignett – including Alessandra, Amond, Nicky Deverdics and Toto Nsiala – are all ambitious players with experience of League Two.

Instead of picking up other teams’ cast-offs, Pools have secured a high calibre of talent with a number of clubs also keen to sign Amond and Deverdics.

Hignett clearly knows the players available and if he keeps on doing his research he’s sure to continue to recruit some exciting players.

Never Say Die

Having fallen behind in their first three league encounters it could have been easy for Hartlepool to fall apart.

But Hignett has instilled a confidence into his squad which sees them continue to believe – and so they should believe.

The boss insists he always believes that his side will fight their way back into the game, and the players now evidently share that belief.

Settled Squad

Hignett did his businesses early this season, bringing in five new players by the start of July.

This meant that the Pools squad had plenty of time to gel before the new season started which should prove beneficial going forward.

Previous seasons have seen Pools sign players late on in the window or sign players on emergency loan deals, thrusting new players into the squad and risking disrupting squad harmony.

While Hignett has been aided by the abolition of the emergency loan window, it is still rare for a manager to have the vast majority of his playing squad in place by the start of July.

This shows that Hignett had a clear plan for how he wanted to shape his squad and wanted time for new players to bed-in before the start of the campaign.

The Pools manager has spoken of high spirits in the camp this season and this is likely down to the settled nature of his playing squad.