JOHN Hughes is looking to his players to set their own standards – and cited one of Hartlepool United’s elder statesman as an example.
Pools are at MK Dons tomorrow and up against one of the division’s more powerful teams.
But Hughes isn’t the sort to overly concern himself with what the opposition do, he’s more worried about Hartlepool United.
While confidence on the pitch might have been at a low ebb when he took over last month, Hughes is slowly instilling some welcome belief and understanding in his players.
“Last week there were signs of improvement, I’ve seen it and I hope supporters do,’’ he reflected. “Short, sharp passing, better ball retention and trying to win a football match.
“As long as it keeps improving then I’m hoping the first victory won’t be far away.
“We go to MK Dons, a team renowned as being one of the best football teams, so it will be a big ask. But I feel a spirit, players expressing themselves more.’’
Humphreys was man of the match in defeat to Stevenage last weekend and the head coach said: “We had some real good performances, Ritchie Humphreys getting his foot on the ball and passing it, Jack Baldwin at the back.
“Ritchie set an example. Training and coaching is so different to a game. We can put a training session on for the boys to work and get a sweat on. I watched him and he was exceptional in training, getting it going, passing it and with quick feet – that’s training the way you play.
“Seeing that performance in the game didn’t surprise me one bit.
“I asked the boys to express themselves. I’m looking for leaders, who will grab the game by the scruff of the next. You can be vocal, demanding and put effort and commitment in. Performances there inspired me as a coach and manager.’’
With training hampered by the weather conditions, Hughes hasn’t been fully able to get stuck in on the Maiden Castle training pitches in Durham.
But he’s happy with the work he has done and the marginal improvements that have followed.
“Training has been affected, it’s been difficult since I came here and it will get worse,’’ he said. “But I won’t complain, we are out there doing a job we love and the bits and pieces we have done in training have been implemented on a Saturday.
“A lot of supporters I’ve bumped into around the town have said they can see it coming.’’
Pools picked up a welcome point in their last away game, at Walsall three week’s back.
Tomorrow will be a tough test and Hughes admitted: “MK Dons are a goods side, have a number of players who have been there a few years who know their style of play. It’s a challenge for us to take the game to them.
“We got a point at Walsall, but my biggest concern is consistency in performance. If we can get that and play well week in, week out then we will get there.
“Last week we should have been better in the second half, but the way we played will win games for us.
“Go and express yourself I told them and I felt it was the case. Beat a man, go and enjoy it and that’s what I’m trying to implement and take that expectations level off them.’’
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