SHEFFIELD UNITED: John Hughes refuses to abort mission impossible

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AT first glance, a flamboyant showman with bleached blond hair and penchant for brightly coloured pants seems an unlikely role model for Hartlepool as they battle relegation.

But manager John Hughes, speaking ahead of tomorrow’s visit to leaders Sheffield United, believes recreating the spirit of Medinah represents their best hope of League One salvation. Not adopting a muck and nettles approach.

“I watched wee bits of television over Christmas and the one thing that came to mind was the Ryder Cup and the performance of Ian Poulter,” the Scot said. “How he led from the front and how it inspired the other players to claw their game back - that’s what we have to do.

“Who is going to be our Ian Poulter? Who is going to lead from the front? Who is going to inspire others?”

If Hartlepool, 14 points adrift of safety following a 3-0 defeat at Carlisle earlier this week, can claw themselves to safety then Poulter’s efforts in north-eastern Illinois would seem mundane by comparison.

They head to Bramall Lane, where Danny Wilson’s side are two points ahead of second placed Tranmere, at the foot of the rankings and without a win since September 1.

Hughes, who took charge when Neale Cooper resigned in October, recently admitted the odds are stacked against survival. But the former Hibernian, Livingston and Falkirk chief said: “Me, as a character, I’d love the position we’re in.

“Everybody is laughing at us and we’re the whipping boys down the bottom of the league. I would love that – I’d roll my sleeves up and say ‘bring it on’.

“I’d grab the guy next to me and say ‘if we’re going down we’re going to go down fighting’. I would enjoy doing it because we have nothing to lose.”