Hartlepool United have already pulled off their two best signings of the summer - Liam Kennedy assesses Pools' summer so far

Craig Hignett has already pulled off his two main bits of business this summer - and he did before the calendar clicked over from May to June.

By Liam Kennedy
Saturday, 01 June, 2019, 23:16
Hartlepool United boss Craig Hignett (Shutterpress).

There's been a lot of talk about who Hartlepool United have signed this summer, and even more about who they haven't.

Only one player has been added to the squad who did not play for Pools last summer. That fact has many punters alarmed.

Michael Raynes and Nicke Kabamba were both part of Hignett's side last season, only Ben Killip has come in from outside the squad to cover for the departing Scott Loach.

In my view, Poolies need not panic.

Yes, they've failed to significantly add to the squad who laboured to a 15th placed finish in the National League last season, but they have managed to do hang on to players who, at times this summer, have looked like they could head out the exit door.

While Loach is massive loss to Pools, having started 100 games on the bounce and won player of the year awards galore across his two-year stint, two other players, for me, would have been a whole lot harder to replace. And for very different reason.

The biggest business done by Pools is to tie skipper Ryan Donaldson and top-scorer Liam Noble down to contract extensions.

Donaldson is everything you'd want in a footballer.

He's the most professional player in the squad, a good character, few at this level are fitter, he's versatile. He'd walk into most sides in the fifth tier and whole lot a division higher, too. And he'd walk into XIs in three or four different positions.

Last season he was Hartlepool's best right-back, left-back, wing-back and central midfielder at times in the campaign. That's without even mentioning him playing in his favoured, attacking position.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Finance looked like it could get in the way of a deal but Pools have dug deep to keep their man at the Super 6 Stadium and that must be seen as a massive positive.

Noble, similarly, is a massive boost for different reasons altogether.

Last summer Pools were crying out for character, bottle and fight.

Within 10 minutes of his home debut in pre-season against Sunderland you could see exactly what Pools were in for.

He has bite in the tackle, quality on the pitch and departing keeper Loach took to Twitter this week to describe Noble like a "firework" that lit up the Pools dressing room last season.

Losing someone as big as Noble, on and off the field, would have been some blow. For all he can be seen as divisive by some, without probably knowing it, the player is the glue that holds it all together.

And to look at the players' goals tally, or the number of penalties, only tells a fraction of the story of the impact the player had last season.

Donaldson and Noble may well be top class work by Hignett, but he needs more if he's to transform this side. Even if he simpley kept the squad he had, I've no doubt Pools would be pushing top 10, because they were transformed under the former Middlesbrough hero.

But a club like Pools, whatever their budget or whatever their plight, should be aiming for more than just top 10. Top seven has to be the bare minimum. And I don't think that's an unrealistic target, even without the full-backs and the extra striker so desperately needed.

Long may the positive business continue at Pools.