Barcelona's Xavi in great form in League Two with Hartlepool United
Nicky Featherstone is Hartlepool United's Xavi.
That was the boast of Pools boss Craig Hignett, who likened the in-form midfielder to the Barcelona star.
Featherstone has been one of the, admittedly many, outstanding figures in the revival under Hignett as Pools have lifted themselves from 22nd place to 17th in League Two.
Even when Pools saw a dip in midweek, the 27-year-old stood out in the 1-0 defeat at Carlisle, the first loss in eight games.
“Nicky is the Xavi of League Two, isn’t he?” said Hignett.
“He is so much more confident and he’s enjoying the way we are playing.
“Nicky is so important to how we play and he was outstanding again at Carlisle.
“But, having said that, he’s been outstanding for the last four, five, six weeks.
“The credit goes to Nicky. After a sticky start, he has proved what a really good footballer he is.
“I’ve never doubted him, I always knew he had it in him, but he’s really showing it now and he’s doing more than when I first came in.
“He’s getting involved a lot more, he’s not just a link player, he’s making forward runs, so he’s adding all kinds to his game every week.”
Featherstone found himself further up the field at Brunton Park than ordinarily.
Hignett said that was a deliberate ploy and was happy with how it worked.
“We asked him to push on a bit more because of the way Carlisle play, we wanted to stop them a little bit higher up the pitch,” said the boss.
“The closing down and pressing was brilliant, exactly what we wanted.
“We worked on it this week because we knew how Carlisle were going to play.
“In the end you saw they resorted to long balls, diagonal balls.
“It’s great for the lads, we couldn’t get played through.
“The way we set up is to make it difficult for teams who want to play football to play through us and they end up launching it.
“I’m delighted when that happens.”
The influence of Featherstone spreads throughout all areas of the field as Hignett explained.
And he feels he is the perfect character as well as footballer for his Pools philosophy.
“Nicky does such a good job for the team, making us tick over,” said Hignett.
“He’s always available, he’s a player who wants to receive the ball.
“If he makes a mistake, he does not let it affect him, he just keeps going to get the ball again.
“They are the people you want in the team, especially if you are trying to play the football we are.”