Steve Harper and Dave Jones in the frame '“ after Pools axe Hignett

Former Newcastle and Sunderland goalkeeper Steve Harper could be a surprise name in the frame for the vacant Hartlepool United job.

Monday, 16th January 2017, 8:00 am
Last match: Craig Hignett watches as Sunderland-born Jordan Richards prepares a throw in Hartlepool United's defeat at Crawley, the Merseysider's final game at the helm.

But, as things stand, no decision has been made on who will fill the void left behind after the departure of Craig Hignett from the League Two club.

Yesterday brought the confirmation that Hignett and Pools had parted company by “mutual consent”.

The former Middlesbrough assistant’s 11-month tenure came to an end after yet another demoralising defeat – Pools’ sixth in their last nine games – to Crawley Town, and with the club teetering just four points above the drop zone.

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Since Hignett’s exit was confirmed, Pools have been inundated with applications for their managerial role.

It is understood that more than 30 CVs have been sent to the club, with former Southampton, Wolves and Sheffield Wednesday boss Dave Jones, out of work since 2013, believed to be one of them.

Further to that, the club have already spoken to four applicants as they look to fill the role swiftly.

It is not known whether Harper, currently on the academy coaching staff at St James’s Park, is one of those who has been spoken to by chairman Gary Coxall, but he is believed to be interested in taking the leap into management, with Pools providing the perfect opportunity.

Seaham-born Harper, now 41, applied for the role when Hignett was appointed, when he was on Sunderland’s books. Back in 2007, Harper spent some time on loan at Victoria Park, playing 18 games under boss Mick Tait.

Meanwhile, chairman Coxall has confirmed that Pools will not dwell on the departure of Hignett.

Coxall insists that time is of the essence when it comes to an appointment of the Scouser’s successor.

Despite some bookmakers closing the market on who would succeed Hignett, with Jones the favourite, Coxall says nothing has been set in stone. “No decision has been made,” he insisted.

“We don’t want this to drag out but we also want to make sure we get the right man in place. We have had applications already and will take time to look at them.

“Hopefully, with a number of high-quality managers being out of work, we should be able to make an announcement in the near future.”

In the meantime, former Under-21 boss Sam Collins, a makeshift number two under Hignett since the departure of Curtis Fleming to QPR, has taken over first-team duties.

Hignett’s final match in charge saw a toothless performance from Pools, who were second-best in every department and managed just a single shot on target.

Goalscorer James Collins had the run of Pools’ box for 90 minutes. Three defenders had the task of keeping an eye on one forward. They were unable to do so.

Coxall added: “We should not even be talking about relegation at this club. I really felt that this season we would be better than that. This season we have had the biggest playing budget for some time at the club. That is why our situation is so disappointing.

“After all of the money that has been spent we did not think we would be looking over our shoulders.

“But that is the situation we find ourselves in. And that is the very reason why I had to act swiftly with Craig.”

Crawley Town: Morris, Connolly, McNerney, Yorwerth, Young, Smith, Clifford (Henderson 86), Payne, Cox (Roberts 69), Collins, Boldewijn (Bawling 76). Subs: Mersin, Blackman, Djalo, Watt. Booked: Collins, Connolly, Young. Goal: Collins 63

Hartlepool: Bartlett, Bates, Harrison, Donnelly, Richards (Oates 82), Featherstone, Woods (Walker 87), Laurent, Kavanagh, Amond (Paynter 61), Alessandra. Subs: Deverdics, Hawkins, Martin, Dudzinski. Booked: Donnelly, Woods, Laurent, Walker. Att: 4,266. Ref: Darren Handley (Lancs)