CRAIG HIGNETT is backing Niko Muir to come through the first test of his professional career and get back to his very best.

The striker moved to Hartlepool United last summer, stepping up from part-time football with Hendon in the Southern League Premier Division.

He started his time at the club in positively, scoring two in his opening four games and impressing with his outlook and attitude.

But he has not scored since the end of October, finding himself on the fringes of the first-team. He will be on the bench again today when Pools go to Boreham Wood.

Pools have signed Nicke Kabamaba on loan from Havant and Waterlooville and he has netted three times in as many games for the club. And the manager is confident the pair of them will go on to make big impressions with the club.

The Northern Echo:

“Niko has got some great ability and a good character,’’ said Hignett. He is the type who will come through that, he won't fold.

“Niko and Nicke are the types we want at this club. They will work hard, won't sulk if you take them out, want to be here.

“I want players who want to be here, not ones who are simply tolerating being here.’’

Hignett moved from Crewe to Middlesbrough in 1992, but before then played in the National League, on loan at Stafford Rangers, after he was released by Liverpool.

He added: “People look at this level unfairly.

“I had games at Stafford Rangers, then went to Crewe and some people look at you and think that's your level. You need a manager to take a chance on you.

“It goes back to character. My character was hard-working and professional. There are players out there.

“If they are not getting a chance or have come back after getting a chance, it's probably to do with their character.’’

Pools have allowed Jake Cassidy to go to Maidstone thanks to the arrival and impact of Kabamba.

And Hignett said: “Kabamba is an example of a player with the right attitude. He wants to do well and wants to have another crack at it. he knows if he does well here that opportunity will come. That's the type of player we want here.

“Niko is the same. He started the season on fire. It is his first season in football after working in a supermarket. He was always going to hit a brick wall at some point. We knew it.

“He will come through it. He has the right character.

“Training every day is the difference. Part time players can have the fitness, but it is the adjustment of pushing yourself every single day. It's the conditioning of your body, at some point it always wears you down - it is hard.’’

Pools drew with Leyton Orient last week, an entertaining game at the Super 6 Stadium. They go to Ebbsfleet on Tuesday following today’s game.

“We have three strikers here, Niko, Nicke and Luke James and I rate all three and they will have a big part to play. Luke’s workrate, he plays such a big role. Coupled with Nicke’s physical presence which gives us a threat and he runs and puts himself about.

“He has taken to life here, coming from the south and sometimes southerners don’t travel up here. But he’s got stuck in, embraced it all and is enjoying his football and scoring goals. Couldn’t have asked for more.

“The challenge now is to keep it going.’’