Hartlepool United boss Craig Hignett hopes the club’s impending contract talks with players will stop them becoming complacent between now and the end of the season - with the vast majority fighting for their futures.
Pools sit 16th in the National League with four games remaining this term, with no danger of being relegated or any prospect of finishing in the promotion play-offs.
Hignett has been in a similar situation before during his first spell as Hartlepool boss in 2016, when his side lost their final four fixtures in League Two and suffered a humiliating 5-0 defeat at Plymouth Argyle on the final day of the campaign.
The Pools boss is therefore keen to avoid a repeat of that this time around, and hopes to finish the season strongly - starting with Saturday’s trip to Aldershot.
“People got finished after that,” said Hignett, when asked about the Plymouth game.
“There were people who probably would have stayed but after that game I’d had enough.
“I don’t want complacency, it’s a bad habit complacency.
“If you’ve got complacent players then it’s dangerous, so it’s just a case of getting into them, making sure that they’re not like that otherwise they’ll be finished.”
Hignett is determined to avoid another end-of-season slump this term, and hopes his previous experiences will help him keep players motivated and on their toes.
“I thought about it because I changed a lot last time, but I just think sometimes the players are on holiday-mode and there’s nothing to play for for them,” said Hignett.
“Mentally they just drop off a little, five per cent or so, it’s my job to try and not let them do that.
“I think the contract bit has helped with no one knowing what goes on and it’s just a case of them trying to be as professional as they can.
“You’ll get some who think, ‘well I’m not getting a deal anyway and I’m not going to fly into that tackle’.
“That’s up to me to spot those ones.”
Hignett hinted a fortnight ago that contract talks would take place in the coming weeks, yet the Pools boss doesn’t expect any announcements to be imminent.
When asked if there had been any progress on the contract front, Hignett replied: “No, and that’s the way it will stay for the next couple of weeks.
“It makes it easier because they’re playing for contracts. I know what I want and I know what I need, we’ve looked at a lot of players and we’ve got a shortlist of players and I’ll work my way through that.”
This weekend’s trip to the Recreation Ground to face an Aldershot side who are 11 points from safety in the National League marks Pools’ penultimate away game of the season, ahead of a trip to Barrow on Easter Monday.
Pools also have two more home fixtures this term, with a clash against Halifax next weekend and a meeting with promotion-chasing Salford City on the final day of the campaign.
But with the end of the season in sight, Hignett doesn’t want his players to take their foot off the gas, especially when a top-half finish is still possible.
“We’ve dropped off from the play-off spots and we were always just comfortable really,” he said.
“That’s a dangerous place to be when you’re comfortable.
“There’s only four games left now but I want to finish them strongly.
“I want to get a couple of wins, at least, to look forward to next season.”