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Hartlepool v Yeovil preview
JOHN HUGHES has called on Nathan Luscombe to make the most of his opportunity in a Hartlepool United side – while admitting he is one of a number playing for their futures.
The midfielder will start his first game of the season this afternoon, as Pools take on Yeovil at Victoria Park.
He appeared as a substitute for the injured Jack Baldwin in midweek against Colchester and will replace him in the starting XI today.
Since moving from Sunderland at the start of last season, Luscombe has made only three other starts.
With Pools in a precarious position in League One, with a return to the bottom division a reality, Hughes will be restructuring his squad in the summer.
Luscombe, 23, is one of a number whose future is up in the air, with ten vital games remaining this season.
“Nathan did well on Tuesday,’’ admitted Hughes. “You have to, as a manager, engage with people. Ask yourself, if I’m coming in this morning still a bit fatigued from Tuesday, then what would I want to do in training?
“Where is my mindset? What do I want? Then look at Natty and ask what I was doing at that age as a player?
“He has to realise and the penny has to drop. No disrespect, but if you are let go from Hartlepool then where do you go?
“If you get a chance here, then make the most of it and stay in the first team.
“Then he has to look at his lifestyle, he could do with shedding a few pounds and it could make him better. Then, on the other hand, if he did that would we be taking something away from him?
“He’s robust, but quick and fit. I’ve not a bad word to say about him. I’ll put my arm around him, I love him to bits – what can I do to help him, what can he do to help me?
“He is full of banter and a character around the place. No doubting him as a footballer, he can see a pass, play a range of passes, knows the game and I think there’s goals in him. He has a desire.
“But he has to realise he has to grab it.’’
And Hughes, whose side have lost just one in eight in making a fight of their scrap to remain in League One, admitted: “A few players are playing for their futures, there’s no mistaking from it. We spoke about it six weeks ago. We all love doing something we love and the adulation is great – you are a professional footballer.
“You put the appreciation in the dressing room and hope people are humble.
On the other side of it, when you are playing for your livelihoods there’s a wake-up call and it brings a pressure, but you have to do something about it.
“It’s the same for Hartlepool as it is Manchester United – pressure situations. Financial difference is vast, but we are all still doing the same job.
“Grab it, appreciate it. It’s not just a football team, it affects everyone at the club, and the community. But I feel we have put some pride back in the place, talking to managers I see we are gaining respect.’’
Defeat at Doncaster last weekend was Pools’ first since mid-January and they’ve going five games without a loss at home, a run of results that followed an horrific sequence of 12 winless games at Victoria Park.
Performances have improved no end and Hughes, who should be named manager of the month for February when the award is announced next week, admitted: “We cannot lower standards, it’s easy to say and talk about it and write about it when it’s winning. It’s a result we all want and sometimes we get lost in who we are playing and the style we are playing.
“For us to have a chance, in any game, we have to play with an energy, standard and work that we did against Crewe. There’s a lot of ingredient to look at and weigh up. At this moment in time, ten games left, I’ll take ten scrappy 1-0 wins.
“We cannot drop our standards, we have to keep at it. We do all we can to help the players along. Days off, back in, rest, bring them in later, anything to keep them fresh and give them an edge.
“We played Doncaster and they were worthy winners, we played Bournemouth and could have got something, The only team to beat us convincingly was Coventry and for the rest we have been in there battling away.
“But you can lose when at your best, you can win at your worst.’’