Hartlepool Utd boss challenges players to earn place

Neale Cooper
Neale Cooper

NEALE Cooper has challenged some of his players to prove they are worth a place in his Hartlepool United squad – or risk being moved on.

The Scot told us yesterday that he is still hoping to bring one or two new faces to Victoria Park before the transfer window closes at the end of August.

Cooper, however, knows that will involve freeing up funds to allow for the extra outlay on wages.

And, speaking to SportMail in Holland ahead of tonight’s friendly with Almere City, the Pools chief had this warning for some of his men.

“It’s up to these boys to show me something,” he declared.

“These next few weeks they have to prove to me that they’re good enough to be here and want to be here.

“It’s down to them now.”

Asked if one or two of his squad were still “on trial”, Cooper came back: “Big time.

“Those lads know it, they have to perform.

“I’ll give them that opportunity, but they have to take it.”

It is all strong stuff from a boss who is determined to stamp his own mark on the team he inherited some seven months ago.

Cooper often spoke of his frustrations towards the back end of last season as he watched his side struggle to score goals or even create chances, and that is why his focus remains on the final third of the park.

“It’s too important not to get it right,” he said.

“This was always going to be my chance to build my own team.

“I was lucky in that there are a lot of very good players here, boys I like, but I knew I had to bring in others to improve us.

“I’ve said all along it’s about giving us more options and better quality in the final third.

“I think the three signings so far (Steve Howard, Jonathan Franks and Simon Walton) have done that, but if we need one or two more then it’s something I’ll have to look at.”