Pools boss admits to disappointment after Steve Howard was not replaced

John Hughes in the dugout during the game against MK Dons. Picture by FRANK REID
John Hughes in the dugout during the game against MK Dons. Picture by FRANK REID

JOHN Hughes admits he was disappointed that the deadline-day departure of Steve Howard did not leave him enough time to bring in a replacement striker.

The Pools boss watched his side extend their scoreless run to 10-and-a-half hours following yesterday’s 2-0 defeat at home to MK Dons, a result which leaves them eight points from safety heading into Monday’s trip to Stevenage.

Just 24 hours earlier Howard – the biggest earner at the club – had left to join Championship outfit Sheffield Wednesday in a loan deal until the end of the season.

And, when asked by SportMail if the failure to sign a replacement was a point of frustration, Hughes came back: “I’ve been wanting to bring players in since I came to the club.

“I was disappointed we could not do it quicker and get one or two in off the back of it.

“I’m still hoping there are one or two out-of-contract boys who we could get in.

“But I understand the restraints at this club, we’re right at the 65-per-cent salary cap.”

Howard, 36, has a year to run on his Pools contract but Hughes says he could remain at Hillsborough for that period.

“They maybe want to keep him on another year after this so I would never stand in his way,” he said.

“Can you deny someone the opportunity to play in the Championship when we’re fighting for our lives?

“You don’t want to do that, especially at his age.

“They were after him in January but it fell through then.

“It came up again on Thursday and I spoke to him and he said ‘what do you think?’.

“I said I wouldn’t stand in his way.”

Despite the exit of Colin Nish, Paul Murray and now Howard, Hughes has not been able to bring in a single new player.

And he will this week demand a meeting with chairman Ken Hodcroft and chief executive Russ Green.

“I need to sit down with Russ Green and the chairman ASAP,” he said.

“That’s paramount, we need to have that meeting to start planning for the summer.

“It’s a meeting which does not faze me, we have to do it in the next couple of days.”

He went on: “You have to duck and dive in the transfer market and beg, borrow and steal to get players in.

“I was watching the television on Thursday and seeing how clubs were talking about loans giving them that impetus to go where they want to go.

“I did that with Anthony Stokes at Falkirk, he scored 18 goals to take us where we wanted.

“That challenge excites me.”