HARTLEPOOL United have nothing to fear this season according to Colin Cooper ahead of the campaign opener at Stevenage on Saturday.
Cooper is expecting a tough test against Sky Bet League Two newboys at the Lamex Stadium following their relegation last season but he is hoping to see his side get off the mark quickly.
The Pools manager is wary Graham Westley’s side will be looking to put on a show in front of their home fans after they finished bottom of League One last season.
But he sees no reason why his Pools side won’t be able to compete and pick up their first points of the campaign.
“After last season’s relegation they will be desperate to shake off any negative feelings very quickly against us,” Cooper said at the club’s Maiden Castle training base.
“I’m sure they will be pleased to be starting with a home game but our job is to be hard to beat.
“I have had conversations with [Bradford City manager] Phil Parkinson, as they played Stevenage twice last season, to look for ways and means to beat them but it will be hard especially with them coming from a league up.
“Our job is to try and get off the mark. If that is with a point – brilliant. If we start with three then even better.
“They have been through a trauma so their fans will be excited about the new season and maybe a little worried about last year so the players will be out to build confidence levels quickly.
“From our point of view, we have to put things into practice that we have worked on over pre-season.
“Everyone wants to get off the mark as quickly as possible and we are no different.”
Pools - who finished a disappointing 19th last season - will be looking to improve on last year’s poor start, which saw them go six league and cup matches before picking up their first win.
Looking ahead to this campaign, Cooper doesn’t believe his side have any reason to fear their rivals but has, once again, called for his side to show more consistency.
Cooper said: “No-one stands out for me.
“You have seen over the summer those who have done a lot of dealings and those who went up last year, it was those with money to spend and sometimes it can be a gamble.
“When I walked in last year, this squad was in place so it was revolution not evolution.
“As long as I am here, I will make the squad stronger and the club stronger because I take an interest in all that goes on.
“You will see teams spring up like last year, teams like York and what they achieved and hope to be in the mix.
“That’s the aim for everyone and I am sure - like I said last year - that we can compete.
“Consistency is the question. Scoring enough goals, not conceding too many goals.
“All managers are the same, we don’t go shouting we will do this or that. Instead get your head down and see what it brings.
“We finished 19th last season, had massive ups and massive downs and we ended up where we did.
“It’s my job to make us better and if better means we can compete then brilliant.
“We should have finished higher, but didn’t.
“The job is to improve this.”
Injury free Pools were due to travel down to Hertfordshire today ahead of the weekend curtain raiser and Cooper said the squad is excited about the challenge ahead.
“It’s the new season when everyone is excited and everything is geared up towards the opening day,” added Cooper.
“You want as many people fit and healthy for the first game and hope not to be affected by injuries in pre-season.
“We have done well on that front so far, hopefully it continues.”
Boro, relegated last season from League One, are managed by Westley who entered his third managerial spell with the club in March 2013 and have been busy in the transfer market bringing in more than a dozen players - with more than 20 moved on following relegation.
Westley is hoping his new side will gel quickly, but it won’t include former Pools midfielder Simon Walton.
Walton is banned for the first two games of the season as he completes a four-game suspension carried over from the end of last season.
Adam Marriott, a young striker picked up from Cambridge City, has been in good form during pre-season and could start but Chris Beardsley, Ronnie Henry and Dean Parrett will miss the match through injury.
l TICKETS for the Stevenage match are available on the turnstiles on the day.
Pools have received 500 tickets for the seated South Stand for the fixture at The Lamex Stadium tomorrow (KO 3pm).
Supporters had to buy them before Thursday teatime to get them at the reduced prices. Ticket prices tomorrow will be:
Adults - £22
Under 22s - £14
Under 16s - £10
Under 12s - £8
Pools fans who require wheelchair access must organise this in advance direct with Stevenage by calling their Ticket Office on 01438 223 223 (Extension 62).