THREE key areas Craig Hignett is keen to strengthen - plus Hartlepool United transfer latest as Nicke Kabamba and Luke Molyneux’s futures remain unclear
He wasn’t keen on the idea of it, but Craig Hignett is set to oversee a complete squad overhaul this summer.
Pools are yet to release their retained list for the summer - last year’s came around a fortnight after the end of the season - and question marks continue to hang over the heads of a whole host of players within the squad.
Who remains will have a big bearing on who is signed before the start of the 2019/20 National League season - a campaign which has been earmarked for a promotion push by owner Raj Singh, as well as Hignett, in private at least.
So what areas will Hignett look to strengthen this summer? Here our writer Liam Kennedy takes a look at the three key areas the manager will be keen to add quality before August.
Full-backs - right and left
This has been a problem area for Pools all season.
In truth, they have not had a right-back or a left-back by trade they can call upon in either position since day one.
Skipper Ryan Donaldson was the stand out on the right in a five, with Peter Kioso doing the same job in a four.
Over the other side Mark Kitching was the player who Hignett turned back to with his four-man backline, with Myles Anderson and Danny Amos also doing admirable jobs in the role over the course of the season.
This is something the manager will be keen address this summer.
Full-backs at this level, quite often have size and speed and Hignett is keen to sign players with both of those attributes as a priority.
Hignett allowed former Pools defender James Martin to train with the squad at the back end of last season but his slight stature and lack of height, make him an unlikely fit at this level, despite his qualities.
Winger - keeping the creative spark
I know lots of people will be wanting a transformation in the middle of the park, but should Pools need to they can definitely run with what they already within their ranks, should Hignett see fit.
The biggest change in the way Pools played coincided with the emergence of Luke Molyneux in the last months of the campaign.
His ability to beat a man with a slight of movement or change in direction as well as his ability to shoot or deliver into the area from any distance, changed Pools from a side who struggled to forge chances, to one who looked like scoring and creating at will.
Molyneux’s future remains uncertain. He is likely to be shown the door by Sunderland this summer as his contract comes to an end at the Stadium of Light.
His destination is a little more certain. While Pools would love to keep Molyneux, and he has enjoyed his time at Pools, there’s sure to be interest from the Football League in the youngster this summer. And who would begrudge the player a move to a higher level?
He will be very difficult to replace, though, and that responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Hignett.
While Luke James provides the legs as one third of the frontline, and the focal point is likely to come from Nicke Kabamba or A.N Other striker, the third slot remains up for grabs.
Another Sunderland kid, Jack Diamond, is a player Pools have watched this season in that area.
Striker - Kabamba deal still pending
Kabamba remains the number one target in the central striker role, but, if a deal can be struck, he’s unlikely to be the only player added in this department.
Pools are likely to sign at least two strikers, with Jake Cassidy’s slot in the squad also replaced this summer.
The club are still in negotiations to agree a deal with Kabamba, whose part-time contract at Havant & Waterlooville ends this summer.
With family bonds and relationships keeping the seven-goal striker tied down south, the big move north on a permanent basis is the big sticking point. The club are hopeful, though. The only fear would be if a side from closer to home, who can also offer full-time terms, come knocking.
A Plan B, much more likely to score than Cassidy, is also a must this summer.