JOHN Hughes admits that major renovation work on his Hartlepool United squad will have to wait until the summer – but has challenged his players to remain part of his plans.
The new boss understands that a new-year shake-up of playing personnel will not be possible, budget restrictions dictating as much.
Hughes is quickly identifying the areas of his team which need improving, and the Scot is likely to find a cause for concern in the majority of departments.
As many as half of the current first-team squad will be out of contract come June and, if Hughes is to bring his own men in, several players will have to be released.
That leaves four months for those players to impress their manager, as Hughes told said: “I’d like to think that all of my major work will be done at the end of the season where I can shuffle the pack a wee bit.
“So to everyone in that dressing room who might be out of contract I say ‘prove to me that you can be here and part of it next year’.
“But I’ll be honest with the fans – if we were paying real top dollar then I’d be going to sign players from the Premier League!
“We have to be realistic and it might be a case of moving one or two about for it to happen. But I have to say that I’ve seen improvement since I came to the club.”
Hughes makes no secret of his desire to build a side capable of producing an attractive brand of football he sees as his trademark.
The former Livingston chief was impressed with what he saw of MK Dons at the weekend, and that, he says, is his vision for the future at Victoria Park.
“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that if I’m going to turn Hartlepool into a type of MK Dons, then I have to bring the right type of player here,” he went on.
“They have to be available within our budget though and I understand that. But that intrigues me and it’s a challenge which excites me.
“If I can make Hartlepool as good as MK Dons then I would have done a wonderful job at this football club. That’s what we have to strive towards.”