Hartlepool United boss Craig Hignett calls for Checkatrade Trophy revamp

Hartlepool United boss Craig Hignett.
Hartlepool United boss Craig Hignett.

Hartlepool United boss Craig Hignett has called for a revamp of the Checkatrade Trophy for next season.

Hignett says competition organisers – the English Football League – have struck the wrong balance for the trophy, of which Pools are now eliminated, in its present format.

While he has no qualms about the inclusion of Premier League sides youth teams, he does have a problem with the extra games, as well as the restrictive rules on how many players from his own youth system he can play.

He said: “Midweek was of absolutely no value.

“It’s all about the future of the game stuff.

“But I cannot play mine. But Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Chelsea can and they maybe have a pool of 40 or 50 players to pick from. They can play any of them.

“I would love to have played a few more youngsters or had more on the bench but I couldn’t.

“Because of the format of the competition, with guaranteed three extra games, it is a worry for me with the senior players.

“If the format had stayed the same I would play senior players to try and get to Wembley.

“If it is this format I want to play the young players because of the extra games but I can’t.

“For that reason it is a waste of time for me.”

Having such a tight squad, like many teams in the fourth tier, Hignett fears burnout among some of his players.

“For the young lads it was great. James Martin, Ben Pollock and Jake Orrell have proved to me that they are up to playing at that level.

“As for the rest it was about getting minutes on the pitch.

“I didn’t want to play them. If you look at Lewis Hawkins and Josh Laurent they are young and have played lots of games on the bounce. They need a rest.

“The competition is meant for the younger players to get experience.

“When you start putting extra games on top of the Saturday’s that’s when players need rest.

“It’s tough. Something has to happen.”

Looking ahead to today’s clash with Crawley, Hignett is hoping for a change of luck on home soil.

He said: “We haven’t won at home yet, but we have only lost one. We would have beat Luton with 11 men, the same with Newport.

“Colchester on the opening day we could have won, same with Mansfield.

“The big thing for me is the belief and being hard to play against and hard to beat.

“It’s fine margins that sometimes go for you and lately it feels they haven’t. It’s all about belief.”