Hartlepool United and Craig Hignett: The perfect fit says Boro legend Higgy

New Hartlepool United manager Craig Hignett. Picture by FRANK REID
New Hartlepool United manager Craig Hignett. Picture by FRANK REID

Ken Hodcroft would have been having kittens!

Craig Hignett turned up for the media conference for his unveiling as Hartlepool United manager not in a suit and tie or club blazer but in his training gear.

I’m really pleased to have been given the opportunity to come back and finish what me and Colin started two years ago

CRAIG HIGNETT

“I’ve been working,” quipped the 46-year-old.

He has much work to do given the situation Pools are in – 22nd in League Two and just four points above the relegation zone, though there are games in hand.

Hignett has vowed to work his socks off and bring success to Pools, a club he spent the latter days of his playing career at, and took his first management steps as assistant boss to Colin Cooper in 2013-14.

The ex-Middlesbrough forward left Pools that season to return to his beloved Boro as right-hand-man to Aitor Karanka.

He is now thrilled Pools chairman Gary Coxall has given him a return to Victoria Park – and now as the main man.

“I feel I have unfinished business here,” said Hignett.

“I’m really pleased to have been given the opportunity to come back and finish what me and Colin started two years ago.

“With the chairman’s vision, this is the perfect fit for me, this is everything I want and I’m not going to let him down or the fans down.

“I’ll give it a real good go, he knows how hard I’ll work at the job as well.”

Since leaving the Riverside, following a bust-up with Karanka, Hignett has been working as a media pundit, covering many Liverpool games, launching his own soccer school and operating a car business.

But he knows he’s always wanted to be a manager and talks with Coxall were concluded very quickly.

“My conversation with Gary was refreshing,” said Hignett.

“He does have a clear vision for the club, but it’s a long-term one so it made me feel he was here for the long haul.

“I’d like to repay that and be here for the long-term too.

“The last time I was here did not last long.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but, looking back now, I would never have left and that’s true.”

Hignett feels at home at Pools and while he is ambitious to test himself at a higher level, he says he will be shedding blood, sweat and tears to make this job a success.

He told SportMail he had no qualms about taking on a club placed 90th in the Football League.

“The chairman has a vision of what he wants to put in place.

“Not many managers will come into a job, their first job, and have a free rein to do what I want.

“Gary has given me that.

“It’s fantastic for a first-time manager.

“Having had two assistant jobs and those going well, I feel ready and ready to be a manager. I left Boro and it was the right thing to do, a joint decision. Things happened and we moved on.

“I hope Boro go up and my aim now is to help Hartlepool improve and I am confident we can do that.

“I’d love to do a really good job here. I’m not looking any further than this club.

“I am an ambitious fella, but I want to do a proper job here.”

While Hignett admitted he wished he had not left Pools in 2014, he explained that both assistant manager jobs have been invaluable.

Working alongside Karanka has improved him immeasurably.

“I don’t think I could have done this job if I hadn’t done those two roles first,” he said. “ It would have been too much.

“I have got close to jobs and looking back now if I had gotten them I would not have been ready.

“That first time here with Colin was a massive help, then to see how Aitor did things was also a real big help.

“I’ll take bits of both of them and add my own twist.

“Looking back, doing those jobs has been a massive help.

“The training methods are very much Middlesbrough, what Aitor was doing, that Jose Mourinho method.

“It’s about intensity, timing, methodology.

“I was really impressed by the way Aitor did training and that’s something I will take with me, as well as the game prep.

“The game prep is different because Boro obviously have more resources than we have.

“I’ll have to do that myself, I will make us as professional as I can, with what we’ve got.”

Hignett will not have an assistant with him tomorrow – but hopes that will change come Monday.

There has been no announcement but the favourite for the spot is Hignett’s former Boro team-mate, Curtis Fleming.

“I have someone lined up,” said Hignett. “He can’t work straight away as it has all come a bit too quick and he has commitments, but it should be all sorted out by Monday.”