NEALE Cooper admits he needs his players more than ever as Hartlepool United head into a crunch League One double-header.
Pools entertain newly-promoted Crawley Town tomorrow – The Reds flying high in fourth – before a midweek trip to the only club who currently reside below them in the table, rock bottom Bury.
The Victoria Park outfit are without a win in 10 and their latest showing was a lacklustre 1-0 defeat at Leyton Orient on Tuesday which drew frank criticism from Cooper.
But the Pools chief, accepting his own position is under threat, insists he remains right behind his men.
“I need the boys right now,” Cooper told SportMail.
“I don’t need them wanting to kill me.
“I’ve got to keep them onside so we can battle through it.
“But they are good boys.
“It’s not like they’re arguing or anything, there’s a good atmosphere among us.
“We all need each other right now.
“It’s tough but we have to battle through it.”
He went on: “But I felt that something had to be said afterwards on Tuesday because I was disappointed.
“We’ve been playing better recently but then some of the boys never turned up.
“That’s why I was angry.
“The players know, they’re honest enough.”
Pools’ home form is one slight reason for cheer when the first-team coach comes to his search for positives.
His side’s only victory of the campaign came at The Vic and they were within two minutes of another maximum return against Doncaster Rovers last weekend.
But Cooper agrees the home crowd are long overdue another triumph.
“If we could bottle what we had in that second half against Doncaster then we’d be okay,” he said.
“But we have to do it for longer periods and be more consistent with it.
“Things, though, are better at home.
“It’s a positive for us, as is the support, that’s been vital.
“It’s strange and surreal how the supporters are with us.
“Even after the other night (at Leyton Orient) their support at the end was brilliant.
“They have every right to criticise but they’ve stuck with us.
“So whoever is playing on Saturday has to go out and give them something back.”