Neale Cooper begins Pools overhaul and declares: “We need better players”

Neale Cooper gives instruction from the dugouts during the game against Leyton Orient. Picture by FRANK REID
Neale Cooper gives instruction from the dugouts during the game against Leyton Orient. Picture by FRANK REID

NEALE Cooper has begun his Hartlepool United renovation job, declaring: “We need to bring in better players”.

The Pools boss yesterday released five members of his senior squad – Adam Boyd, James Brown, Steve Haslam, Colin Larkin and Callum Hassan all shown the door – while Player of the Season Paul Murray, Evan Horwood, Andy Rafferty and Jordan Richards all agreed new deals.

Gary Liddle and Ritchie Humphreys remain in talks with the club over their future, while news on Nobby Solano’s exit is also expected.

Cooper, though, is set to press ahead with his recruitment drive and a list of potential targets are pinned on the wall of his Victoria Park office.

The manager now has a better idea of the financial parameters in which he is working, and he admits yesterday’s cull was necessary.

“Yesterday was hard – but it’s simple, we need to bring in better players,” Cooper told SportMail today.

“To do that we needed to create space.

“It’s not a case of the hard work starting now, because we’ve been working hard for a while identifying targets, but now we are able to press ahead a bit more.

“We needed to change things – it’s my neck on the line and I want to build my own team.

“I want to build something here which will excite the fans and yesterday was part of that process.”

The biggest casualties of the released list were Boyd and Brown.

Both have been terrace favourites down the years at the Vic and the pair courted the attention of numerous

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top-flight clubs at their peak.

But recent seasons has seen them struggle for form and fitness, and news of their departure was expected.

And Cooper explained: “I have known these two boys for a lot of years.

“I really like them and they are good boys.

“But it’s been frustrating for both of them because of injury and they’ll admit that they’ve struggled for fitness and form recently.

“They had no qualms when we told them the news and sometimes players need a change, it can be good for them.

“So I wish them, and the other lads, all the very best, they’re all terrific lads and I’m sorry to see them go.

“But I needed to change this squad, we had too many similar players.

“We’ve started that process, now let’s see what happens over the next few weeks.”