DARIO STYLE IS IDEAL FOR CRAIG Hignett aims to give Pools iden­tity

The Football League Paper - - GRAHAM WESTLEY - By Chris Dunlavy

CRAIG Hignett is hop­ing the teach­ings of leg­endary man­ager Dario Gradi will turn Hartle­pool into the new Crewe.

For­mer Mid­dles­brough striker Hignett, 46, came through the ranks at Gresty Road and was one of count­less Gradi grad­u­ates to forge a suc­cess­ful Premier League ca­reer.

Danny Mur­phy, Dean Ash­ton and David Platt all won Eng­land caps af­ter start­ing out in Cheshire, whilst Hignett played in League and FA Cup fi­nals.


Now, af­ter suc­ceed­ing the sacked Ron­nie Moore at Vic­to­ria Park, the rookie boss be­lieves the same self-suf­fi­cient blue­print can trans­form the for­tunes of League Two’s peren­nial strug­glers.

“Dario was a huge in­flu­ence on me, prob­a­bly the best man­ager I ever player for,” said Hignett, who has coached un­der Ai­tor Karanka at Boro and also runs a soc­cer school along­side fel­low Boro leg­ends Gary Pal­lis­ter and Bernie Slaven.

“I’d been at Liverpool as a kid and to meet Dario when I was still so young and im­pres­sion­able was the best thing that could have hap­pened.

“He taught me the game re­ally. He made me see things dif­fer­ently, showed me how to think about foot­ball and an­a­lyse it.

“That’s go­ing to be a big part of the phi­los­o­phy here now. The chair­man here (Gary Cox­all) wants an iden­tity – a struc­ture that will last be­yond me and be­yond any other man­ager who comes in.

“He’s given me free reign to mould the club and what Dario taught me is what I’ll be teach­ing here: play­ing through the thirds, de­vel­op­ing young play­ers and giv­ing them a chance in the first team. Then, if we can sell them on for a few quid, great.

“Above all, we want to make it a more at­trac­tive place to come and play foot­ball.”

For Hartle­pool, that hasn’t al­ways been easy. Yet whilst Hignett – a scouser who set­tled on Teesside way back in 1992 – ad­mits his strat­egy will be based pri­mar­ily on de­vel­op­ing lo­cal lads, he has urged other young­sters to make the long jour­ney north.

“We are out on a limb,” he said. “And I can see why it fails to at­tract peo­ple. But when you get here and when you see the fa­cil­i­ties, it’s a great club for League Two.

“The North-East is my home and I think it’s a fan­tas­tic area. It gets a bad press at times but it’s a great place to live and I can’t un­der­stand peo­ple who wouldn’t give it a chance.You’ve got the coun­try­side, the ma­rina, loads of his­tory.

“Yes, you’ve got three big neigh­bours in Mid­dles­brough, Sun­der­land and New­cas­tle. They will al­ways be a big draw.

“But what we can of­fer that none of the those can – with the ex­cep­tion of Boro – is a clear path­way to the first-team. If you come here, you’ve got a much bet­ter chance of mak­ing it.”

Philoso­phies, though, are for the fu­ture. Right now, Hignett needs to ar­rest a run of six de­feats in eight games that had, pre­week­end, left Pools just a place and four points above the drop­zone.

“I know my pri­or­i­ties,” said the for­mer Black­burn and Le­ices­ter striker. “The chair­man ac­tu­ally said to me ‘I’m giv­ing you two jobs’.

“The long-term job I’ve al­ready de­scribed. The se­cond was ob­vi­ously to get some points and get us away from trou­ble. If we’re in the Con­fer­ence, the longterm plan be­comes a lot more dif­fi­cult.”

Will Hignett use his con­nec­tions at Boro and be­yond to bol­ster the ranks?

“It’s eas­ier said than done,” said Hignett, who played in the fa­mous Boro side fea­tur­ing Jun­inho and Fabrizio Ra­vanelli. “Peo­ple look on a map and say,‘You’ve got three big clubs on your doorstep, they’ll help you out’.


“But there are loads of lit­tle things that can get in the way.You just have to per­se­vere, use your con­tacts and have a good knowl­edge of what’s hap­pen­ing across the board.

“What I know for cer­tain is the way I want to play. I see a lot of de­fen­sive teams and it leaves me cold. I want to play at­tack­ing foot­ball. I want to score goals.

“I’d much rather lose send­ing ev­ery­one for­ward that sit back and hope for the best.”

PIC­TURE: Hartle­pool United FC/Shut­ter Press

MAE­STRO: Crewe Alexandra leg­end Dario Gradi SET­TLING IN: Craig Hignett is un­veiled as Hartle­pool United man­ager

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