NEALE Cooper is looking to the “leaders” among his squad to haul Hartlepool United clear of trouble.
The Scot admits he finds solace in the spine of his team, characters such as Scott Flinders, Peter Hartley, Paul Murray, Tony Sweeney and Steve Howard.
Pools have not won in the league since September 1 – a run of seven matches – and as a result have plummeted to one from bottom in the third tier.
Cooper has dropped several senior stars in a bid to reverse fortunes but, while performances have improved, results remain the same.
Doncaster Rovers are next up at Victoria Park tomorrow, and Cooper insists his men must come out fighting.
“We’re in a very hard place at the moment and we have to fight our way out of it,” he said.
“We have to stay positive.
“It’s reassuring for me to have characters in there who I trust and I need them at this moment in time.
“You need people like that on the park who can lead by example and can also lead by talking.
“There’s that spine of senior players who I know care about this club and I know will do all they can to get us out of this.
“With that the younger lads have done excellently recently as well, we just need that reward in terms of result.
“So we’ll all stay positive and stick together.”
He went on: “It hurts me more than anyone and don’t think it doesn’t.
“But we don’t walk about with big, sad faces – you can’t afford to do that.
“You have to pick yourself up.
“I’m a happy chap who likes a laugh and a joke, but I’ve been feeling it recently.”
Tomorrow’s opponents, relegated from the Championship last term, are currently 10th in League One but have won three times on the road this season.
Cooper, though, is more concerned with his side.
“They’ll be good, we know that, they have experience up front and I like Iain Hume and Billy Paynter.
“But it’s about what we do.
“We have to be as positive as we can.
“We have to come out fighting and show character.”