Pools' Craig Hignett can become the new Eddie Howe, says former Bournemouth hero Fletcher
Craig Hignett can become the new Eddie Howe in the English game.
So says Hartlepool United promotion winner and Bournemouth legend Steve Fletcher.
The powerhouse striker started his career with Pools and was part of the Pools squad who went up from the Fourth Division in 1991.
But he made his name with the Cherries, enjoying a career spanning over two decades at Dean Court, where he played alongside Howe and then for him.
Howe, still only 38, is a highly-touted boss following his success with Bournemouth, who he has taken from the edge of oblivion to establishing them in the Premier League.
Hignett is a little older than Howe at 46, but Fletcher sees not only similarities, but optimism.
“Craig Hignett is a good up and coming manager, very in the mould of Eddie Howe,” said Fletcher, who was at Seaton Social Club on Friday night for the 25th anniversary promotion dinner.
“He’s a little older than Eddie, but he’s what I’d view as a young manager coming through.
“Hartlepool is his first opportunity. I think it is brilliant that young English managers, like Eddie at Bournemouth, and Craig here, are given their chance.
“So often clubs go over the same old ground with managers who have been there and done it but not all have been that successful.
“Eddie was 31 when he took over at Bournemouth and, yes, Craig is that bit older, but it’s great to see he has his opportunity and here.
“He’s been a very good player and has done his time in coaching at Middlesbrough.
“Craig has made a good start at Pools and I think given what he’s done so far, people are optimistic he can produce that next season.”
Fletcher points out that Howe took the Cherries all the way from the foot of League Two right through to the top flight.
Indeed, the Poolie scored the all-important goal which kept Bournemouth in the league after the side stayed up – just – following a 17-point deduction.
“You only have to look at what we’ve done to see what’s possible,” said the 43-year-old.
“Some might say ‘that’ll never happen here’ but why can’t it?
“We were in the same position as Hartlepool not that many years ago.
“We were one match away from going out of the Football League.
“If we’d gone down I think we’d have gone into liquidation and out of existence.
“Look where Bournemouth are now, so never say never.
“Don’t forget, it was only 11 years ago Pools were eight minutes from getting in the Championship.
“Why can’t that be done again, of course it can be done! You just have to have belief, through the whole club, not just the manager.
“It’s the staff, the fans, the owners, it’s everyone.
“I’m sure Craig will be instilling that belief and Pools have a chance.
“No-one would be prouder than me if Hartlepool make it up through the leagues.”