COLIN Cooper has challenged Steve Howard to work his way into the Hartlepool United starting line-up and score the goals to win over the club’s fans.
The 37-year-old was met with a mixed reception when being introduced from the bench during Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at home to Southend United.
Howard has split supporters since revealing he intended to stay at Victoria Park last month, many believing the striker was on his way having spent the back end of last season on loan at Sheffield Wednesday.
His pre-season was disrupted by fitness problems and the veteran frontman has been used as a second-half substitute in the opening three matches.
But Cooper says Howard is edging towards his first start of the campaign and believes he can turn those fans who perhaps remain unconvinced as to his commitment.
“Stevie realises he has to win everyone over,” Cooper told SportMail today.
“The way to do that is keep working up to match fitness and then score goals – that will turn the crowd.
“ And that is what he wants to do, he wants to get fitter to make the people believe he is the player he can be and wants to be.
“We will work away with him because we want him on from the start.
“But he knows his body better than anyone, so we will use him how we can.”
Cooper’s side are yet to score in League Two but have fashioned a host of chances during their two defeats.
Howard, with over 200 career goals, boasts the most-proven pedigree among Cooper’s options and the Pools boss is confident he can add a new dimension to his side’s attacking efforts.
“Stevie will be a constant threat if we get the ball into that box for him,” he went on.
“He still needs to find that extra yard and there was a chance on Saturday where it just got away from him.
“But we have to use him cleverly - it’s easy just to go up to him.
“If we just crash it up there it’s difficult.
“He can handle a ball in and around his chest, so let’s use the ball well into him.
“Do that and he’ll bring others in and hopefully start getting on the end of things closer to goal.”