JOHN Hughes, the newly-appointed Hartlepool United chief, will meet his players for the first time this morning – and the fiery Scot insists there’s no room for slackers in his dressing room.
Hughes, at Victoria Park yesterday to be unveiled as Neale Cooper’s replacement, starts life in English football with back to back games at Victoria Park in the coming days against Coventry and Oldham.
And, while he admits to knowing very little about the current crop of players – as Falkirk boss he signed goalkeeper Scott Flinders on loan from Crystal Palace – the 48-year-old will demand as a minimum they meet his standards and work ethic.
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He spoke openly yesterday of inspiring the squad and dragging them out of their comfort zone.
At the moment they are also in the relegation zone, and sit nine points from safety.
“I have to do an instant assessment. I basically come here with a fresh approach and fresh mind in terms of no pre-conceived ideas,’’ he said.
“I’m not judging anyone, it’s a clean slate and I’m sure there’s players who will want an opportunity who maybe felt they weren’t getting one.
“The only way to do that it to train really hard, train the way you play and show to me you want to be part of that culture I’m trying to build.
“I’ve been there in a dressing room – I’ve been a prankster, a joker, a leader, a captain, I’ve been injured, I’ve scored, I’ve been there and done it. We all want it. I ask my dressing room to come out of their comfort zone, to do things they’ve not been doing, to give an extra five per cent, to change habits because if we keep doing what we have been doing then results will stay the same.
“I cannot whip them, they need to want to do it. I’m driving this club forward and will do it by the scruff of the neck – my message to the players is don’t get left behind.
“I’m sure they will recognise they have a guy in there with them, who likes a laugh, likes a joke, but knows when it’s time to focus and be ready to go.’’ Hughes left his post at Livingston to move to Pools, and started his managerial career in the SPL with Falkirk before moving to Hibernian.
A keen student of the English game, Hughes will quickly aim to get a handle on League One and will lean on coach Micky Barron for that.
“I’m excited of the challenge in front of me,’’ he said. “The stats might frighten one or two people off, but the face that I’ve left one job to come to another one proves I want the challenge.
“It’s why I came here, the only way is up and I’m 100 per cent convinced we have a dressing room to keep us up. But what we have to do is get galvanised, spirited, organised and be a real hard team to beat.
“I want to bring a culture to the club and make it a club to be proud of again.
“It’s a community club and we have a big part as a club to make the community happy and the only way we can do that is by winning matches.’’ With the Scottish game in a state of flux, Hughes isn’t deserting his homeland. Instead, moving south of the border has always been part of his career plan and he did attract interest from Pools last December before Cooper was appointed.
Now installed in League One, he doesn’t plan on returning home too soon.
“I’ve always wanted to go down to England and there’s always been a lot of managers who have come from Scotland and done well and if I can do that then Hartlepool will be going in the right direction,’’ he said.
“I’m not here for the short-term, I’m not going back to Scotland. If I’m here for 20 years then I’ve been a success and hopefully that’s with Hartlepool.
“If I have to beg, borrow or steal I will do what I have to do to get success here. It will be with the values you need as a football manager and those values I have recognised since I walked into the club – good people. I feel we go together, I really do.
“I’m talking an awful lot here, but talk is cheap. I need to go into the dressing room, galvanise them and inspire them. Get the magic dust out, sprinkle it on them and get results.
“I cannot wait to get started.’’