COLIN Cooper says it would be naïve to judge Hartlepool United with the season still in its infancy.
The Pools boss returns to former club Nottingham Forest this evening in the first round of the Capital One Cup (kick off 7.45pm).
Cooper’s reign began with a 3-0 defeat at Rochdale on Saturday as Pools failed to capitalise on a positive start before defensive frailty set in.
The 46-year-old, however, believes that any verdict returned on how his side will fare this season is somewhat premature.
“It was the first game of 50 and we got a kick up the backside,” he told SportMail.
“I’ve been working with the players for five-and-a-half weeks.
“I’m going to be learning things for a long time yet.
“If we’re going to judge ourselves now then that is a little bit naïve.
“I see this as a long-term project.
“We want to play a certain way and try to be creative.
“On the other side we have to keep the ball out of our goal.
“Both things are going to need an awful lot of work over a long time.”
Cooper, though, says the beauty of football is the immediate chance for redemption.
And that opportunity comes at the City Ground tonight, a challenge the Pools chief expects his players to embrace.
“Football is an unbelievable sport – you feel rotten but get an immediate chance to turn things around,” he went on.
“And what a great challenge it is for us.
“Nottingham Forest will be looking to push towards the Premier League so it’s a huge test.
“It’s an even bigger test after the kick up the backside we got on Saturday.
“We’ve got to go to a top end Championship side and react to that.
“As a player I would love that.”
And it was as a player that Cooper enjoyed some of his best years with the Tricky Trees.
He made more than 200 appearances between 1993 and 1998 and is sure to be afforded a good reception this evening.
“I had five fantastic years at Forest,” he reflected.
“I achieved a lot there and enjoyed it thoroughly.
“I go there with excitement and enthusiasm but with a big task on our hands.
“We’ll enjoy it though and go there aiming to make it through to the next round.”