Hartlepool boss Colin Cooper is ready for an emotional return to the City Ground as he looks to quickly banish the sour taste of Saturday’s managerial debut.
Cooper’s Pool revealed familiar failings at Rochdale as they tumbled to a 3-0 defeat that emphasised the size of the task facing the new Victoria Park boss and number two Craig Hignett.
And life barely gets easier for Cooper and his team when they head to Nottingham Forest tonight to face one of the Championship’s promotion favourites in the Capital One Cup.
Cooper needs no introduction at the City Ground having spent five years there – a productive spell that saw him make nearly 200 appearances for the club. That will make it a special night for the Pool boss as he looks for instant respite from Saturday’s disappointment.
“My first memory from signing for Forest was sitting in Frank Clark’s office having just done the deal and being blanked by Stuart Pearce,” he said.
“I had actually been on holiday with my family in Majorca when Forest wanted to sign me and Millwall gave me permission to speak to them so I flew back in to London to meet Frank Clark.
“I agreed the deal and we went to Nottingham and did my medical and I was in Frank’s office waiting to get everything finalised so I could fly back out to Spain and be with my family.
“At the time Stuart Pearce was rumoured to be close to going to play in Japan and he came in to Frank’s office to talk about that and completely blanked me.
“He just looked straight through me like I wasn’t there – I remember thinking that must be where he gets his reputation for ferocity from. We actually went on to become good friends but he clearly had a lot on his mind that day!
“I’ve not been back to The City Ground much since I left. I think the first time in about 15 years was when I went to watch an England Under-21 game there with Gareth Southgate.
“I had five fabulous years there, I loved every minute and it was probably the best and most productive spell of my career.
“I captained Forest to promotion and also played for England so it was a really happy time.
“I’ve said it before but if it wasn’t for Middlesbrough coming knocking on the door I think I would have played out my career there because I really love the club. It will be nice to go back because there are a lot of people still there I know and I’ll look forward to seeing them. I’ve had a lot of nice message both when the draw was made and since but I’m just really excited about the game.
“I’ll just have to try and make sure I don’t do a Ron Atkinson and go and get in the wrong dugout and put my foot in a bucket.”
The serious side of Tuesday night is that it is a chance, with the pressure off, for Pool to rustle up a more productive performance. “I made the point on Saturday that both boxes is where football is won and lost,” Cooper said.
“We’ve analysed Saturday and we’ve highlighted that some of the things we’ve been trying to do did come out. We created lots of good chances to score goals and if we continue to create that volume then hopefully the penny will drop with the players in the attacking positions.
“I was disappointed with the concession of the goals – we’ve looked in detail at that and we feel that we can tweak things and certainly improve in that area. We met with the players at the training ground on Sunday to do a warm-down session and we took the opportunity to look at some video of the game too.
“We showed them the positives to come out of it and also the negatives – what we have to do now is try and learn from our mistakes but keep on encouraging the players to do the good things we saw on Saturday.
“Tuesday will be a big challenge for us but if we can sharpen up a both ends of the pitch then I am confident we can give a good account of ourselves.”