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Hughes sees a big improvement in Pools since Coventry mauling
WHEN John Hughes took charge of his first game of Hartlepool United, it was a bit of a reality check.
Pools were in desperate form and, any hopes of an instant lift from the new manager were brushed away as easily at Pools were in losing 5-0 to Coventry at Victoria Park.
At the time, heavy defeats were the norm and they've tightened up no end since November 17.
Pools have only lost once in ten games and face the Sky Blues this afternoon.
"I said at the time we played Coventry it brought a wry smile - I've got that sense of humour,'' he smiled.
"I do get angry and frustrated like most people, as a manager you need to be calm and have your game head on.
"Never once, since I've come here, have I raised my voice to any individual. They need a hand, not hitting with a big stick and it's worked a treat.
"In all the games I've had here, they are still the best team we have faced, a right good team.
"They are aiming for the play-offs and if they don't then it will be automatic for them next season. We are going to have to be at our best and it's one to enjoy.
"I'm really looking forward to the next two months, no matter what happens. We might get success and we are heroes, or it might not go our way and people think I'm a numpty.
"But bring it on, let's jump into it. That's what I say about the nominations for the manager and player of the month awards - it's for everyone and we've gave ourselves a fighting chance.''
He added: "They have play-off aspirations, so we know what we are up against. They did us a turn the other night by drawing with Colchester.
"It's one to look forward to. We went to Sheffield United, no-one gave us a hope, and won. If we can go there, then take inspiration from that and see.
"Going to Coventry holds no fears. We are a good side when we get going. There's been a change, a real pride here. When I first came in, I felt a real lack of confidence about the place, trepidation in their football, an acceptance of getting beat and we've turned it around.
"I know about pride, wearing your heart on your sleeve and embrace the situation. Results have helped, but the boys have listened, took things on board and played a part.
"We aren't the best football team in the league, but the best team doesn't always win the game - there's plenty of ways to skin a cat.''
Opposite number today, Sky Blues' recently-appointed boss Steven Pressley, is a one-time Hughes player.
And the ex-Scotland defender paid tribute to his former manager at Falkirk.
"John has a done a wonderful job there, turned them round from a desperate position and got them back in the mix with a chance of survival,'' he said.
"He took me to Falkirk for my final five months as a professional player. He's a very good manager and I'm under no illusions about how difficult this will be.
"I learned a lot from John, who was a first-class coach and very detailed coach. He was very much one of the coaches who began to change the game a little bit up the road because he was very forward thinking and successful at Falkirk, so I have a lot of respect for what he has done in the game this far, and he's certainly making progress in England, so he's an excellent coach.
"The form guide would suggest that they are one of the form teams although their league position doesn't show that. But like every game, we'll approach this one with a real mentality about winning and that's what we'll be setting out to do."