Higgy’s Summer Blog: Friday 28th June

Craig Hignett, Hartlepool United Manager

The Pools boss returns with his weekly update to reflect on all the news coming out of the Club over the last seven days.

Hello everyone and welcome back to my latest Blog here on the Official Website.

I have to say it’s been an excellent week and a really positive start to pre-season. The lads have thrown themselves in to it and had a right good go at everything we’ve asked of them. It’s been hard work and it’s been tough but I am really pleased with what I have seen from them so far.

I know that the days are gone where players report back out of shape but the lads have all come back in great nick – and that’s perfect for me because it means we can get straight on with some ball work and really hit the ground running from Day One.

Obviously the weather was quite poor earlier in the week so that made it a bit more difficult but then we had a very hot day on Thursday and I’ve gone and burnt my face so we’ve definitely got that pre-season feel about things now!

People will have read about the distances the players will cover in training this week and see that they’re doing a marathon. That’s not just a marathon at a slow plod though. It’s all about the accelerations, decelerations and a lot more that goes in to it rather than us just saying ‘you’ve got to run the distance of a marathon this week, go and get on with it’!

It’s tough for them. They’ve had a few weeks off where they won’t have done too much but kept ticking over. To suddenly come back and be straight in to the kind of intensity we’re asking of them is difficult and will take them time to adjust but that’s what this first week has been all about. Come Tuesday and that first game they will be somewhere near to where I want them to be.

We’ve already started some work on team shape and patterns of play. We have a plan, the pre-season is all in place and we know what we’re doing on a day-to-day basis right through until August. Some of the lads will know how we want to play but some of the newer ones will need to learn that and find out how we want to attack and how we want to defend, that’s all built in to the next month.

We’ve got really organised at the training ground and with everything that is in place there now we’ve been able to get so much more work done. Last year things weren’t quite right and we had to go to the training ground for that part of the day, then back to the ground to work – now we have an office and space at training and everything we need on hand so that’s made us more efficient as a unit.

At the moment we’re working three days in advance of what we’re doing but we already have the entire pre-season mapped out in terms of the overall picture and we’re looking forward to the first game already.

After the first week of pre-season it can start to drag a little but that’s why it’s great we’re going straight in to our friendlies programme on Tuesday. Once the games start coming I always feel like pre-season passes that little bit quicker so we’re looking forward to getting them underway.

The majority of the lads will get 45 minutes on Tuesday and then probably the same again next Saturday. Then we can step it up to an hour as we go along but over the course of the game schedule I imagine most of the players will have accumulated four games or more before the real stuff starts.

Earlier today you will have seen the announcement of Gus Mafuta as our sixth signing of the summer and his arrival gives us even more options across the middle of the park.

Gus is someone who we earmarked as a target fairly early on. He’s the kind of player we needed – he’s 6ft 2ins, he gets about, he tackles people and the Pools fans will probably remember him playing for Salford on the final day of last season when he went around clogging a few!

He’s a defensive midfielder who will destroy things and win us the ball back but he can also play a bit too. He got promoted with Salford last season and played plenty of games for them so he knows what the league is all about and he’s a strong and competitive player.

In midfield we now have people who can run, people who can destroy and people who can play so that gives us plenty of options. Competition for places is what drives people on though and we’re lucky because we have that this season.

The work is still going on behind the scenes and we’re still looking because we will always be aiming to improve. I have to admit that I am quite close to my limit budget-wise now so any more players that come in now will mean I have to have a conversation with the Chairman to see if it can or can’t happen!

We won’t stop looking though. I think the squad is okay now and we’ve done our business early, which pleases me. By the time we started back last year I think we’d only brought two in so it’s nice to be settled and be working with virtually the squad that we’ll go in to the season with.

I wanted to say a massive thank you to everyone who has bought a Season Ticket so far this summer to take our sales figure over 2,000 – that’s simply amazing so far in advance of the season and it really gives the staff and the players a boost. Let’s keep it going and see how high we can take it!

Finally, I wanted to congratulate the Lionesses on their brilliant win over Norway on Thursday night to reach the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup. I didn’t see too much of the game but I heard they were excellent and it’s great to see them making such progress in the tournament.

They’re having a right good go and now they will have a big game coming up against a strong team whoever wins that other quarter-final but I really hope they go on and win it. I actually missed most of the game because I was doing housework while the missus watched it – how the tables have turned, eh?!

Anyway, that’s all for now. I will try and bring you another update from inside the camp next week – have a great weekend!

Craig.