NEALE Cooper has delivered an impassioned plea to his under-performing players to show “pride” in themselves and Hartlepool United – but he admits “the buck stops at his door”.
The Scot was still choked with emotion when he spoke to SportMail to look ahead to tomorrow’s visit of Shrewsbury Town, the midweek collapse at Preston North End the source of his stress.
Cooper’s affection for the club and his despair at recent displays is evident, and he has openly questioned whether his players share that passion.
And now, in what is another fervent and heartfelt interview, the 48-year-old boss has called on his men for a major reaction when they take on the newly-promoted Shrews at Victoria Park tomorrow afternoon.
“I don’t kid myself, if results don’t go right then the buck stops with me – that’s football right,” sounded Cooper.
“But I need a reaction from the players – a big, massive reaction, it’s got to come.
“If they have any pride in themselves and this club then they will.
“They’ve got to want it themselves, they’ve got to lead on the pitch when it’s not going well.
“Not just the captain, it’s all of them – I’m looking for that big time.”
He went on: “It hurts me so much because of my love for this club.
“Everyone knows what I think of this place, of the town, the supporters, the staff.
“I couldn’t be closer to the staff here, we all want the same thing.
“But there’s more to football than me loving this club.
“It’s all results-based and that has to come from the players, whoever is playing for us at any time has to perform.
“And I know there’s so much better to come from them, there has to be.”
Cooper insists he’ll be doing all within his power to get Pools’ campaign back on track.
But, again, he says the players first have to prove that they want to give their all for the football club.
“I will do my utmost to change it round and get that consistency we need and have yet to show,” he said.
“But at this moment in time it’s not about tactics or about how other teams play, it’s about having the bottle to go out and play ourselves.
“If boys don’t want to go and play football for this club then you are knacked.
“You have to go out there, want to play, really want to play.
“That’s how I was brought up, that’s how we played and that’s what I’m looking for.
“We have let down the people of Hartlepool and for that I am so sorry.
“So whoever is playing on Saturday has to go and put a right shift in and we have to win this game, we have to, for the supporters and everyone connected with the club.”