Hartlepool United chairman Raj Singh gives latest on managerial search with interviews taking place this week

It’s approaching two weeks since Craig Hignett’s surprise sacking as Hartlepool United manager alongside assistant Ged McNamee – but what progress has been made in finding a replacement?

Monday, 21st October 2019, 6:00 pm
Hartlepool United Chairman Raj Singh. Picture by FRANK REID
Hartlepool United Chairman Raj Singh. Picture by FRANK REID

Typically, there have been plenty of applications ranging from experienced tacticians to ‘Football Manager’ chancers.

Around 50 of those applications are thought to have sparked interest from Pools with meetings taking place at Victoria Park throughout the week.

Caretaker manager Antony Sweeney is a candidate to take the role on permanently after leading the side to back to back wins and clean sheets though several others are also under consideration.

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“The search is on to find the right man for the position,” said Hartlepool chairman Raj Singh.

“We have already had a lot of applications and enquiries, some of which are of great interest to us.

“We intend to take our time over this appointment because we feel comfortable that, in the meantime, we’re in good hands with Antony Sweeney at the helm.”

United are currently drawing up their ideal blueprint for the elusive ‘right man for the job’ as they whittle down their shortlist of candidates.

The club will look to learn from previous mistakes and wait as long as it takes to appoint a manager who they feel is the best person to take the club forward after conducting extensive due diligence with no appointment deadline in place.

Several names are currently doing the rounds with former Guiseley and Barrow manager Paul Cox reportedly keen on the position while Rotherham United assistant manager Richie Barker and Newcastle United under-23s head coach Neil Redfearn have also been linked.

Ex-Port Vale manager and Hartlepool defender Neil Aspin is another thought to be interested as meetings take place throughout the week.

Dave Challinor previously distanced himself from the role though Pools could look to tempt the former AFC Fylde boss to make a quick return to management.

The 44-year-old achieved three promotions in eight years with The Coasters before leading them to the National League play-off final last season. The Lancashire outfit were also crowned FA Trophy champions under Challinor’s watch back in May.

He was sacked earlier this month following a run of four consecutive defeats which left Fylde languishing in the relegation zone in the fifth tier.

It’s unclear who the right man for the job is but what is clear is that man, at least in the opinion of Singh, wasn’t Hignett.

“The decision made over Craig Hignett and Ged McNamee was one of the hardest I have ever had to make,” Singh admitted.

“I know how close this club is to Craig’s heart and I also know that he has been doing everything within his power to bring success.

“Likewise, Ged is a very honourable and genuine man. He came into the club at a particularly difficult time and made a significant contribution in keeping us in the National League, originally without any pay.

“Those contributions have not gone unnoticed by me and should be recognised.”

It is believed that Hignett had no contact with Singh on the day of his sacking as the 49-year-old was dismissed via a phone call from chief executive Mark Maguire.

With Pools sitting just four points off the play-offs at the time, Hignett’s departure came as a shock to many connected with the football club though Singh insisted it wasn’t a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to a disappointing defeat.

Instead, the chairman alluded to some issues behind the scenes.

“When you’re involved with a football club, it seems that every waking moment is consumed with thoughts of how to bring success and joy to the supporters across the town,” he added in his programme column.

“It almost takes over your life and any private time you have, so the decision we made was in no way a knee-jerk reaction to the Stockport County result.

“I have held slight concerns about where we were heading as a club and as a team, and there were certain things that still weren’t right behind the scenes.

“In my opinion, these were factors which prevented us from getting the results we should have had this season.

“Of course, the overall situation was also not helped by the injuries and suspensions we’ve suffered so far.

“The bottom line is that we’re on a similar kind of points tally as we have been in the previous two seasons and we were the same distance from the relegation places as we were from the play-off spots.

“Football is all about opinions but, in my view, if we had carried on along the same path then we would have begun to start looking down, not up.

“I didn’t want a position like we had last season and I didn’t want to take the risk of waiting too long and therefore leaving ourselves with too much of a gap to make up on the teams ahead of us in the league table.

“Everybody I speak to has told me in no uncertain terms that this squad we have now is easily good enough to challenge for the play-off places, perhaps with a couple of minor tweaks.

“When you take all of this in to consideration, that is the reason for making this decision – as horrible as it was.

“I would like to place on the record my thanks to Craig and Ged for their efforts, and make sure they know that they will always be welcome back at The Vic in the future.”