CONSISTENCY. It is something all football managers are desperate for from their teams.
And Colin Cooper is no exception.
The Hartlepool United boss is looking to see his team make a push up towards the Skybet League Two play-offs, starting with a result against Rochdale at Victoria Park tomorrow.
The gap between Pools in 15th and Fleetwood in seventh is a mere seven points, hardly an Everest-style climb given there are 22 league games remaining.
“We’ve played everyone now and one team, Bury, twice,” Cooper said.
“We believe we can give anyone a game in this league.
“We believe in the players but their challenge is to believe in themselves
“But we need to make sure that the away displays at Morecambe, Exeter, Mansfield and the home match with Wimbledon are the performances we produce on a more regular basis.
“If we do that there is no reason why we can’t bridge the gap between ourselves and the play-offs.
“If we don’t then we’l find ourselves a little bit short.
“I believe we have more than enough [quality] here and with some additions that should give us the opportunity to keep in touch with the top half of the table and hopefully nicking on the end of the play-offs.
“We have 19 weeks of the season left and if we perform to a good level for the majority of that we’ll be in and around where we want to be.
“If we have highs and lows we’ll probably end up not far from where we are now.
“If we have a lot of lows we’ll end up in the bottom half of the table.
“But I know we have enough ability in this club to be in the top half and pushing towards the play-offs by the end of the season.
“Consistency will be the watchword – it’s probably the hardest thing in football but we will keep driving them on.”
Energy is another important word. And Cooper hopes last weekend’s breather after Pools had been eliminated from the FA Cup will have done his squad good the world of good.
“We’d had a busy spell and there was a chance for the players to go and refresh their minds and bodies and see family and friends they may be hadn’t had chance to over Christmas,” Cooper said.
“It would have been nice to have done it on the back of a victory, but, all in all, December was a pretty good month.
“If you take the FA Cup out of the equation, league-wise we were unbeaten.
“It was the right time to say to the players to ‘go and switch your minds and bodies off’.”
“We didn’t start 2014 great against Bury, but December wasn’t a bad month. Let’s start again this week.
“Having had a little break, I’m hoping the players will come back refreshed and enthusaistic.”
Cooper did not take last Saturday off though.
“For me and Craig [Hignett] it gave us a chance to go and watch Rochdale beat Leeds in the FA Cup,” he said.
“They more than deserved their victory. Keith Hill had them organised but they also looked fresh and bright and played some nice football.
“It could have been more than 2-0.
“It was good to watch them first hand.
“We get reports from scouts and that’s all good valuable information, but nothing beats watching a team with your own eyes.”
The 46-year-old admits he liked what he saw at Spotland.
“Having seen the whole division now I’d have to say Rochdale are one of the best footballing teams in League Two,” he said.
“Hopefully we’ll have a good football match.
“Rochdale don’t give you much and they have the ability to score goals.
“They will give us a lot of problems, that’s a fact, but I’m sure we’ll give them problems
“It’s going to be about who gets the upper hand on the day.”