Hughes issues a Victoria Park rallying cry

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

JOHN Hughes had an instant message to supporters on his appointment as Hartlepool United manager: help us to get out of this mess.

While there was an element of surprise at Pools' choice of boss on Tuesday evening, the new chief made a quick impression on his appointment.

He met the players for the first time yesterday. Their double training session gave an indication of what is expected under his regime.

And his rallying call to the Victoria Park faithful before tomorrow's home game with Coventry City is a simple one of trust: "I know over the years fans will say 'here we go again, a new manager, same old story', a manager who blabs out the same old stuff.

"My message to supporters is come on, come and support the team, really support the team. We all get frustrated when it's not going our way. Don't let that filter to the pitch, leave the players and let them get on with it.

"Listen, if we were all top top players, we would be playing for Real Madrid and Barcelona.

"There has to be an understanding - get behind the team, the fans have a massive part to play. For me, the supporters are the football club.

"They are the lifeblood. We will take a few knocks, but I promise we will have a team going out there to play football the right way, with a pride and even in defeat, I hope the supporters recognise what we are trying to do.''

His predecessor Neale Cooper is one of football's more jovial characters, and fellow Scot Hughes is another who wants his players to enjoy their work and training.

Laughing and joking can be, for Hughes, the best medication for a team struggling at the bottom of League One.

But the manager is at Victoria Park long-term and he revealed: "The vision I have ... I did it at Falkirk and I'm 100 per cent convinced it will drop into place. We are doing a job we love, being paid to be involved in football - enjoy it.

"If I'm seeing someone walking around without a smile, then smile.

"You need to appreciate your job, first up let's make sure we are smiling and there's a positive energy about the club, a trust, a bond and a positive spirit.

"Do that and we are halfway there. Then the football, my football philosophy, ask anyone, I'm a real football man - I want my goalkeeper to roll the ball out, to play between the lines, play with overloads. I've come up with systems to cause problems.

"I don't think I really need to know the opposition because if I work hard and get the best out of my team, my mindset is to let them worry about us.

"That's not being blase about it - that's being positive. If we can do that, and get an instant response, it can start on Saturday with three points. That will give us confidence.''

Pools meet Oldham at Victoria Park next Tuesday and, with back to back home games as an introduction to League One, Hughes has a chance to make an instant mark.

But they lie well shy of safety and have only won once this season.

"I'm under no illusions about how difficult it will be,'' admitted Hughes. "I've been in dressing rooms as a player as a manager when people are low, where everywhere you turn it's going against you, leaking goals and missing chances. I've been there.

"If the players are listening then my message is that they are coming to work with a guy who has an understanding. It might be unfair for me to ask them to play a certain style of football when there is a bit of trepidation in their game.

"We have to make sure the back door is closed to nick games and win games and get three points. Long-term, my mindset is that this is a hotbed of passion in the North-East.

"I will keep my head below the parapet and play real good football and, after a few years, people will want to go and watch football at Hartlepool because they play the right manner, they pass it properly and see if we can overtake some of the North-East teams in those footballing terms, it's hard because they are big boys, but we will give it a go.''

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