Hartlepool United manager and former Middlesbrough, Blackburn Rovers and Leicester City player Craig Hignett hits out at the Twitter generation professional footballer

Hartlepool United manager Craig Hignett has questioned the attitude and ambition of modern day professionals in the National League.

Tuesday, 20th August 2019, 11:45 am
Updated Tuesday, 20th August 2019, 13:01 pm
Hartlepool United manager Craig Hignett during the Vanarama National League match between Hartlepool United and Bromley at Victoria Park, Hartlepool on Saturday 17th August 2019. (Credit: Mark Fletcher | MI News)

The United boss cut a frustrated figure following his side's third defeat in five matches to start the 2019-20 campaign as they were beaten 3-2 by Bromley at Victoria Park.

The week building up to the match saw Hignett scrutinise over the desire of some of his injured players to get back fit and playing for his side.

And after addressing the overarching disappointment of Saturday’s defeat, the former Middlesbrough, Blackburn Rovers and Leicester City player was back with another stunning and opinionated dissection of professional footballers in the lower levels of the game.

Craig Hignett during the Vanarama National League match between Maidenhead United and Hartlepool United at York Road, Maidenhead on Saturday 10th August 2019. (Credit: Ian Randall | MI News)

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The impact of social media on footballer’s image was a particular gripe for Hignett as he stated: “You’ve got to want to [play football], because if you don’t and you’re looking for an excuse, you can make up any excuse that you want!

“I just think it’s the breed of players nowadays, I think it was Grant Leadbitter who said something about players wanting more likes on social media now than actually doing it on the pitch and he’s 100% right, it’s all for show!”

The Pools manager then aimed his sights at his own players with the rallying call – do they have the desire and ambition required to kick-on and play higher?

Having played at the top level during his 21-year playing career, Hignett admits he’s struggling to get his head around players who are supposedly content with playing in the top tier of non-league football.

Craig Hignett of Blackburn Rovers takes the ball past Ashley Westwood of Sheffield Wednesday during the 2002 Worthington Cup semi-final second leg match at Ewood Park. Credit: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

A player’s attitude is one thing largely out of the manager’s control and it’s something that has clearly hit a nerve with the 49-year-old.

He added: “No disrespect to us as a club but why do you want to stay here all of your career? Why don’t you want to go and play as high as you can?

“Why don’t you want to use us as a stepping stone and rather than be happy being here, push on and do everything you can in terms of performances and looking after yourself?

“So you’re thinking well I’m not going to be here for long, I’ll have a great season then I’ll go higher.

Craig Hignett of Leicester celebrates scoring the equalising goal during the FA Barclaycard Premiership match between Leicester City and Arsenal at Walkers Stadium on December 6, 2003. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

“I’m not seeing a lot of that, I see a lot of people happy to be professional footballers, with that title, but not putting the graft in to be better footballers than they are.

“They get to a level and are happy with it. I’m sure the goals of some of the lads is just to be professional footballers, no matter where it is. When they do that, they’re happy and content.”

The Hartlepool manager, who won the League Cup with Blackburn Rovers in 2002 and played in two cup finals at Wembley for Boro, then looked at his own career and how having that drive to succeed helped combat his literal shortcomings as a player.

“That’s never been me, I’m not like that and I can’t understand it when anyone is,” he added.

Craig Hignett (left), Juninho and Curtis Fleming (right) of Middlesbrough face relegation after the FA Carling Premier League match against Leeds United at Elland Road. Credit: Clive Brunskill /Allsport

“I pushed myself, I didn’t have anything that half our players have got. I could run and I was pretty quick but I was tiny, I was small and technical.

“People thought I wasn’t physical enough and I had to grow up with that and I always had that accusation that I was too small to be a footballer. But I played in the Premier League with what I had.

“I remember playing at Crewe and it was tough, my first men’s game was really tough.

“My debut against Wrexham I must have touched the ball seven or eight times and I played centre midfield.

“But I got better and better because I thought ‘I don’t want to be doing this every week, I need to be better’.

“In the end, I remember before I left thinking that the level was too easy and I’d probably score every week if I stayed at that level and I did – I think I had 22 goals before I moved from League Two I think it was then to Middlesbrough.

“That’s you improving and getting better, not just because you’re growing up, it’s because you’ve worked at it and you’ve put your lot in.

“I don’t want to coach here all my life but I know for a fact if I don’t get better I’ll lose my job so I have to be better as well. I have to do more and have to work hard.

“I don’t know, it’s hard for me to watch it sometimes, I get really disappointed with some of it and I think it’s the level that we’re at.

“You’ll ask [the players] and they’ll all tell you everything, the right answers like ‘no I don’t want to do that’ and ‘I want to be playing there’ but how are you going to do it without actually putting it in?

“It doesn’t just happen for people. People are where they are because they’ve worked really hard and they’ve deserved it by doing everything they can to get there.

“I’d hate to be one of those players at the end of my career thinking ‘you know what, I should have played higher’ but they didn’t because they couldn’t be bothered to do the work that they should have been.”