THE immediate future of Hartlepool United won't be decided today, but boss John Hughes is desperate to start plotting a longer-term future.

Bottom of League One, Pools go to Stevenage today on the back of seven goalless and winless games.

They are eight points shy of Oldham, who have three games in hand. Relegation is a certainty.

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What is uncertain, however, is the future direction of the club. Hughes wants to get stuck into a rebuilding job.

And he's in limbo until he can sit down with the club's hierarchy to reshape his squad.

With a welter of his under-achievers out of contract this summer, the scope is there to change.

Hughes admitted: "To be fair to people who have families and all that goes with it, I need to know if I can keep them or move in a different direction and get younger players in, cheaper and all that stuff - that's how football evolves and that's when I come into life.

"I love the ducking and diving.

"I'd be honest enough and the frustration is there. There's players out there, pre-contract players and those out of contract who I know and could talk to to come to Hartlepool.

"But until I have that meeting with the powers that be then I cannot put any plans in place.''

The need to bolster the squad is all too evident today. Pools have moved Paul Murray, Colin Nish and now Steve Howard on this season.

Evan Horwood and Tony Sweeney are out with hamstring injuries, James Poole has a knee problem and Ritchie Humphreys missed out on Good Friday with a calf strain.

Simon Walton will play, but only because the FA was shut over the Easter weekend - so Pools' appeal against his red card from the MK Dons game means he can start with the three-game suspension on hold until it is reviewed.

Howard moved to Sheffield Wednesday on Thursday's loan transfer deadline day.

He wasn't included in the Owls' matchday squad for their game with Barnsley on Saturday and remains under contract at Victoria Park for next season.

"They maybe want to keep him on another year after this so I would never stand in his way," said Hughes.

"Can you deny someone the opportunity to play in the Championship when we're fighting for our lives?

"You don't want to do that, especially at his age. They were after him in January but it fell through then.

"It came up again on Thursday and I spoke to him and he said 'what do you think?'.

"I said I wouldn't stand in his way."

Hughes has not been able to sign a player since his November appointment and the frustration at missing out on a number of targets is evident.

"I've been wanting to bring players in since I came to the club,'' he admitted.

"I was disappointed we could not do it quicker and get one or two in off the back of it.

"I'm still hoping there are one or two out-of-contract boys who we could get in.

"But I understand the restraints at this club, we're right at the 65-per-cent salary cap."

He added: "I need to sit down with Russ Green and the chairman ASAP," he said.

"That's paramount, we need to have that meeting to start planning for the summer.

"It's a meeting which does not faze me, we have to do it in the next couple of days."

Stevenage appointed Graham Westley as manager over the weekend. Today will be the third time he's faced Pools this season after completing a double over them as Preston boss.