Cooper wants to get the best out of Steve Howard

NEEDS HELP: Steve Howard. Picture by FRANK REID

NEEDS HELP: Steve Howard. Picture by FRANK REID

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NEALE Cooper admits that Hartlepool United must learn how to get the best out of Steve Howard – and fast.

The Pools boss is yet to settle on his favoured sidekick for his 36-year-old summer signing.

Luke James and James Poole have both been paired in attack with Howard, yet Cooper believes neither mounted a convincing case for permanent inclusion alongside the big man.

But Cooper insists it is not just Howard’s strike partners who must adapt to his strengths, and admits the entire team must make better use of their target man.

“We have to link up better with Stevie,” said Cooper, “The quality of passes into him has to be better.

“He is not going to run about in behind defences - that’s never been his game.

“He needs quality balls into him from the centre of the park and good link-up play from whoever plays alongside him.

“That’s what we have worked on but it’s a learning curve for everyone.

“James Poole did well with him against Swindon but then never got in behind him at Notts County.

“Luke James also didn’t really feed off the knock-downs as well as we would have liked.

“But Stevie needs that, he needs people in and around him.

“He wins so much in the air and we have to start taking advantage of that.

“That includes the wide boys such as Jon Franks and Andy Monkhouse, they have to get up and support him more than they have done.

“I accept it’s a bit different for the players – they haven’t really had anyone like that in the squad to work with before now.

“But we need to get on with it and work out a way which brings out the best in him, because he is some asset to have in your side.”

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