Hughes targets transfers from across the border

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

JOHN Hughes is considering targets from outside England for next season at Hartlepool United.

With a return to League Two on the cards amid a woeful campaign at Victoria Park - Pools go to Shrewsbury today seeking only a third win of their programme - Hughes is well aware of the need to revamp his squad.

While the odd addition is on the cards, major changes may not happen imminently during the January transfer window. However, a number of his players becoming out of contract in the summer will give him the chance to ship out some of the squad and give him scope to bring others in.

And he is looking at the possibility of tying down some players on pre-contract agreements for when their deals expire in the summer.

Scotland is a likely hunting ground for Hughes, it's a market he knows inside out and transfer regulations allow cross-border deals to be signed on a pre-contract basis for players who are out of contract in the summer.

"January is a difficult time, usually all the best are under contract and you have to be very careful what you bring to the club,'' he said.

"Anyone to come in, or if we can spin plates, then get one or two in until the end of the season to get a good look. I'd be very surprised if players were getting two or three year contracts at this stage of the season.

"But I want to sit down and know the market, listen to agents and I'd like to think that we can look at signing pre-contract agreements with one or two players. It's a peculiar one, because if you do that and the player picks up an injury playing for someone else then are you liable?

"We are 100 per cent switched onto getting the best our of these boys, train well and know the game and the players will look after themselves.

"Signing can give everyone a lift, it's important we do that. It's also about a response off the current players.''

He added: "It's no different in England to Scotland the transfer window. The phone is non-stop, we have one or two trialists in which I think is good. As a player, I'd be looking and wondering, it sends a message to the dressing room and they (trialists) have to be better than what you have got.

"I've been making calls and in terms of bringing the right players in, I will do everything, far and wide, not just in England, but other countries.''

And one of his most experienced players could be on the way this month. Paul Murray, last season's player of the year and with 98 Pools appearances in League One to his name, has only been a bit-part player under Hughes in recent weeks, appearing in just three of his eight games in charge.

He has been hampered by a knee problem, but Hughes accepted the midfielder has been frustrated at a lack of action.

"Muzza is a trooper, trust me,'' he insisted. "He trains, snarls, demands off his players, but has had an injection in his knee and needs them regularly. Can he rest for a few days and then come back in?

"I wanted to see what Simon (Walton) has got, he's training well, he's fit.

"Aussie (Neil Austin) can go in there and show more legs. It's about seeing what you have got and giving people a chance, but Muzza is one you want around.

"There's an understanding that Muzza isn't happy when he's not playing football so that's something we might have to look at as well in the window.''

Pools won their last away game, shocking Sheffield United in a 3-2 win. Today's opponents are unbeaten in seven, but remained threatened by relegation.

Hughes' side may be cut adrift at the foot of the table, but the coach insisted: "I'm in there fighting and a couple of back to back wins could give us a chance. I've not seen anyone else in the division diving to bring other players in.

"I feel if we can b e organised, hard to beat and carry a bit more luck then we are more than capable of winning back to back games.

"I feel there are four or five in this division who on their day area away and better than you, but the rest are much of a muchness.

"Can we do the fundamentals and be hard to beat? I feel we are getting towards that.

"I'm looking for leaders, characters and those who are motivated by the situation we are in. They might read a newspaper and be inspired by what has been written about them.

"I've seen plenty over the last few weeks and they know I'm in there with them, I'm behind them and not against them.''

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