WIN more points than the teams below us.
That was the stark message from Colin Cooper today as Hartlepool United face a four-game mini season to save their Football League lives.
Gone is the target of a finish in the top half of the table though Cooper would still love such a place.
But the Pools boss knows the need for points is getting desperate after suffering their fifth defeat in a row when losing 2-1 to promotion favourites Chesterfield.
Pools are now 18th and only three points above the drop zone following Northampton Town’s 1-0 win over Burton who, ironically, are the side Cooper’s team must now try to get a result against, at the Pirelli Stadium this Saturday.
“The players are more than capable of getting the results we need to stay above the danger zone,” said Cooper.
“But we are now into a three-week fight for all of our lives.
“We need to get more points than those teams below us in the league to make sure we are not dragged into anything silly at the end of the season.
“That’s the challenge for us now.
“It’s not 50 points, it’s not 51, it’s getting more points than the teams below us.
“If the players do that they will get an awful lot of experience out of it, especially the younger lads.
“The next few weeks will hopefully be the time when
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these young lads become men and the older players who have been through this before will help them by providing the experience.
“We’ll be fighting with everthing we’ve got.”
Cooper is looking for big hearts this week on the training ground at Maiden Castle - players ready to go into battle at Burton and then at home to Morecambe on Easter Monday.
“I want players to be putting their hands up and say ‘I want to play’,” said Cooper.
“Yes, I expect them to be disappointed about Chesterfield.
“May be we were not good enough to win, but it was a game we should not have lost.
“But now we need to put that behind us and go to Burton.
“I want people with strong minds and bodies - players who will say to me ‘I’m ready, whatever Burton have got, I’m ready to stand up to the challenge’.
“I have plenty of those people here and from Monday to Friday I expect them to show me.”
It is a huge weekend for Pools with Morecambe, alongside them on 49 points, visiting the Vic a week today.
“We are more than capable of stopping this loss run,” said the 47-year-old.
“There will be nothing better than going to Burton to get a positive result.
“Then hopefully we can come back here and finish the job off against Morecambe.”
Cooper has continued to preach good football throughout his tenure at the Vic - through bad and good times.
But he will accept putting results above purity over these coming critical weeks.
“We are still in the top of a bunch of teams, but having had five losses in a row you can see one or two players are lower on confidence than they were four or five weeks ago,” said the manager.
“We’ll try to do it the right way but the important thing is doing the basics well.
“It might not be about playing pretty football, it might be about doing the basics and creating a chance here and there and hopefully we’ll take them.”