Hartlepool getting the ugly side of the game right

Colin Cooper has put Hartlepool United’s charge towards the top seven down to mastering the ugly side of the game

Hartlepool United manager Colin Cooper
Hartlepool United manager Colin Cooper

From being a shot-shy team incapable of converting their chances at the start of the season, Pool have now generated genuine momentum with a four-match winning run that has also featured a 473-minute run without conceding a goal from open play.

They head to mid-table Scunthorpe just three points shy of a clutch of teams hovering around the play-offs and with belief apparently growing within the group that they have turned a corner.

Cooper has been delighted with the contribution of his players but he continues to hammer home the mantra that they need to stick to the basics.

“The conversation we had with the players on Tuesday was to remember how good the feeling was and to try and continue with that for as long as we can,” he said.

“We keep talking about confidence being a big part of professional football and I think it is. But the players need to remember that the things that have given them the chance to win games have been getting the ugly side of football right.

“It has been about the organisation, the hard work, the working for each other off the ball – those are the things that have got us into the position where we win games and score goals.

“As soon as we take our foot off the pedal on these things we’ll get our backsides kicked again because that is how football works.

“We have every right to be feeling confident but we cannot let that overconfidence turn into arrogance. A lot of the results and positive things that have been happening to us are solely down to hard work.”

Pool head to Glanford Park this afternoon with the play-offs in sight, something that felt a long way away a few short weeks ago.

Cooper does not want to engage too much with talk of gate-crashing the top seven but he feels that improvement can still be coaxed out of the group.

“For me it’s a case of not wanting to set targets. I simply wanted to see the players get better at the start of the season,” he said.

“If they want to get better then the work-rate will come and the effort comes and the shape of the teams comes as well.

“That is pleasing for us because we have some really talented players, so if we get the hard work right then we will keep improving as a group and we’ll keep collectively getting better.

“We’re giving ourselves a chance at the moment and that is what I really want to continue. Everything else will just slot into place. So far all we’ve achieved is to get ourselves away from the bottom of the team and into the pack of teams who are chasing.

“Our next little target is on Saturday against Scunthorpe. If we win that game we overtake them, which is another little step.”

Apart from Jack Compton, who is suspended for another two games, Pool have virtually a full squad to choose from for the trip to Scunthorpe. Cooper admits that staying injury-free and fortunate are big parts of the recent improvement. “Maybe at the start of the season Lady Luck was not with us but thankfully, it feels like we have had a bit of good fortune of late,” he said.

“Another thing we’re happy about at the moment is the lack of soft tissue injuries. Myself and Craig’s job at the moment is to manage the players’ workload. It is really about rest and recovery and then trying to get them through games.

“The team has basically picked itself the last few weeks and that does make things a little bit easier.”

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer