CRAIG HIGNETT the player had the drive and determination to play in the Premier League. Hignett the manager can’t understand why current footballers don’t have the same desire to reach the very top.

The Hartlepool United boss last week admitted he was frustrated as some players he feels don’t have the willingness to push themselves on their return from injury, content to do the minimum rather than bust a gut to get back on the pitch.

And he confirmed his feelings about how the game has changed – not necessarily for the better – since his playing days.

When it comes to injury rehabilitation, the Pools boss said: “People need to want do it and not have excuses, you can make any excuses you want… it’s society today and how it’s gone. I read Grant Leadbitter saying the other day players want more likes on Instagram than doing it on the pitch and being a player – it’s all for show.

“It’s no disrespect to us as a club, but why don’t you want to use this as a stepping stone and push on and do all you can to have a proper career and go higher?

“I see people happy to be professional footballers but not put the graft in to be better. Some get to a level and are happy with it. The goals of some is to be a footballer, and then they are happy and content.

“I’m not like that and I can’t understand those who are. How do you do it without putting it in? I would hate to be a player who come the end of my career I didn’t push myself.

“I was small, not physical enough and I always had that thrown at me, but I can ‘t think of anyone who wouldn’t have the desire to go all the way to the Premier League. In one year there you are made for life.’’

The riches and profile of the upper echelons of the game are a world away from the National League and, to a certain extent, the Football League.

And the image and hype of the top flight could appear distant for many when it need not seem so far.

He added: “Does it seem that far away now for a lot of lads? We’ve players here who should be in the Championship and potentially Premier League if they put their minds to it – but it’s a massive step up there.

“I wanted to get better and I want my players to be like that. After I left Crewe for Middlesbrough I felt that the level I’d left was too easy and it was a step up in getting better. Work at it and have the desire.’’