Craig Hignett has admitted that the ferocity of competition for places at Pools this pre-season means even he is finding it hard to decide upon his strongest line-up.
The Pools boss has been backed to strengthen his squad with six new signings during the summer and that has provided him a wealth of options as the new season moves closer.
Personnel isn’t the only thing that has changed though. Hignett is now demanding more of his players, on and off the pitch, after suggesting that the bar had slipped at the Club in recent years.
And after seeing his hungry squad smash in another seven goals at Newton Aycliffe on Tuesday night, he repeated that determination to reassert high standards from top to bottom.
“I was adamant that the standards would go up, all across the Club,” Hignett told Pools PlayerHD.
“We’ve brought players in who will lift those standards and there are players in there who need to step up now because the competition for places is massive.
“If you look at the squad now, I am struggling to pick a starting eleven and I see them every day so I don’t know about everyone else!
“That drives other people though and you’ll find that there will be some who step up and lift their own standard and there will be others who find it too much and wilt.
“Maybe we will get one or two of those as we go along but competition for places is massive at any football club.”
The 7-0 win at Moore Lane on Tuesday was Pools’ third victory in succession so far this pre-season after they thumped Billingham Town 6-0 and Shildon 4-0.
And while Hignett is delighted with the ruthlessness his side have shown in their trio of battles with Northern League Division One opposition, he is expecting things to get a little tougher from here on.
Championship neighbours Middlesbrough are next up for Hignett’s side when they visit The Super 6 Stadium this coming Sunday and that marks the step up in class that the Pools boss is seeking.
“There are warm-up games for us but the fashion in which we’ve gone through them has been really impressive so I am pleased with the lads,” he admitted.
“What we’re doing in training I can see coming out on the pitch which means I have a really good group who want to learn and who want to get better.
“We’ve done what we’ve had to do in the first three games but now we’ll get some real tests and with that I’ll find out more about the character of the players.”