FTHREE YEARS ago, when Hartlepool United were a Football League club, they ended the season with four successive defeats under Craig Hignett.

It culminated in a 5-0 thumping on the last day at Plymouth: “I can’t say what I feel, ashamed, embarrassed, disgusted. I said before I didn’t want an end of season jolly up and that’s what I got.

“Non-effort, non-trying, lack of hard work, crappy end of the season performance.’’

Decisions on the future of some players were made on the back of that shambles.

Today, Pools are at Aldershot, they have four games in the National League remaining. Hignett won’t tolerate holiday mode.

“Let’s see the season out with a good run – easier said than done as one or two may be on holiday mode now and it’s up to me to get them focused and on top of their game,’’ he said.

“The players are playing for contracts – I know what I want and need and we have a list of players to work through.’’

Last time around, Pools won five from seven games to lift them away from trouble at the foot of the table. That monumental effort took a lot out of the players, and left them running on empty in more ways than one as the season ended.

“I’ve thought about it,’’ mused Hignett. “I changed a lot last time. Sometimes players are in holiday mode with nothing to play for, they drop off mentally a few per cent. I can’t allow that to happen.

“I think the contract situation does help with no-one knowing what’s to come. They have to be professional and some will think they aren’t getting a contract so will switch off.

“We had a big run last time to make us safe and this season has been fairly mundane – no trouble down over and dropped from a play-off spot. Being comfortable is a dangerous thing.

“There’s only four games left for now and I want to finish them well and win games to look ahead.

“People got finished on the back of that game. I had had enough after that game. I won’t have complacency. It’s a bad habit, a dangerous one – be like that and they will be finished.’’

At Plymouth that day, Pools have backed by over 500 fans dressed as Stormtroopers. For the final away game of the season this time, at Barrow on Easter Monday, over 1,100 will be clad as knights.

“It will look brilliant and no matter what they choose it will look good, everyone buys into it - but where will they park their horses ?’’ quipped Hignett.

Today’s opponents could be relegated this afternoon. After finishing fifth in the last two seasons, this time around they sit 11 points from safety with only 12 to play for.

By then, Hignett hopes to be plotting a Football League return and, a year after the club was saved from oblivion, he admitted: “We haven’t the sort of money some teams in this league have, but the progress in a year is fantastic. Everyone should be proud of themselves – chairman, staff in the office, to the fans. The fans have gone from not having a football club to saving it by giving the chairman time to take over.

“We all want to have a go and see teams having a god. The atmosphere has been positive of late, the fans have stuck by the players even when they go one-down. There’s a spirit here and the lads know they have the ability. The crowd has seen the efforts and responded. Everyone should be proud.

“The lads have been worked really hard in training – making them more robust. We are at the start of something that will take time and muscle strains will happen at the start.’’

Danny Amos (back) has been training with his club Doncaster this week after suffering an injury that forced him out of last weekend’s game. Adam Bale should be fit for the bench, but Josh Hakwes is a doubt with a thigh strain.