Play like Barcelona? Craig Hignett loves being in charge of Hartlepool United

Craig Hignett
Craig Hignett

Craig Hignett quipped how he expected Hartlepool United to “play like Barcelona” on his managerial debut.

But this was not the Nou Camp or Camp Nou if you wish to be pretentious.

I know what I want to do, I know how I want to do it – everything is clear in my mind.


This was Victoria Park and Hartlepool United and Hignett could not have been happier.

Maybe he could, but after the first 90 minutes in charge of Pools, a club he has “unfinished business” with, the 46-year-old was a satisfied man.

“I’ve loved every minute of it,” he said. “I knew it would be nerve-wracking yet, but I’m so proud of all the lads.

“It’s been a busy few days, all the texts, well-wishers on Twitter, even people singing songs in the car about me – it’s been a bit surreal.

“I’ve wanted to be a manager for a while.

“I know what I want to do, I know how I want to do it – everything is clear in my mind.

“This only confirmed what I knew – I love the job.”

Of course, a 2-1 victory over Yeovil Town in a crucial bottom-of the table helped the former Middlesbrough favourite’s Saturday evening – and that of the near 4,000 fans who were at the Vic.

“I thought I was quite calm, but at other times you do feel a bit frustrated,” he said. “Overall, it was as I expected but I don’t want to have to sit through that last minute every week – the game should have been dead and buried.

“But these are the things we have to learn, like being more professional.”

Hignett had just two training sessions with his squad in the build-up to the visit of the Glovers, having only been installed as the new manager on Wednesday night.

Rome was not built in a day and neither will the Hignett era. He was not afraid to make some instant changes – Jake Carroll, the only player to start every match this season, came out for Dan Jones, while Nicky Featherstone and Michael Woods were restored to the side.

The new boss played what in effect was a 4-3-3, with holding midfielder Featherstone having Woods and Jake Gray in front of him, with Billy Paynter spearheading a frontline with Luke James and Nathan Thomas.

Hignett wants the width to come from full-back and with Jordan Richards in good form down the right, you can understand wide.

“Once the players get used to the new system, you will see a more attacking side,” he revealed.

“The full-backs fly-up and the lads who may be were wide I want them halfy-half.

“It’s not going to be perfect overnight, we’d only had two days of training and I’m happy with how they have gone about it.

“I’m really pleased with the lads, we worked hard and I’m pleased what I have seen.

“It will take time to get it right but I was pleased with the commitment, attitude and outlook.

“When they are out there, Iwant them to think about the game and work things out for themselves.

“It’s easy for me to see it from the sidelines but I want them to work as units.

“They react to what is happening in a,match and I have enough players out there who understand the game.”

Hignett admitted though he had a sleepless night on Friday, knowing, for the first time, he was having to leave players out.

“I was a nightmare on Friday night,” he said. “There were butterflies and a thousand things going through my head.

“The hardest thing to be fair was letting people down.

“For those first two days, the lads have been brilliant, they have impressed me.

“I didn’t know how they would feel about me coming in. I knew some of the lads, not all. The standard and how they worked in training was fantastic, so it’s hard letting people down.

“But this is a team effort, it’s not just the 11 out there.”