Size does matter for Hartlepool Utd

Hartlepool Mail Chief sports writer Craig Hope talking to Neale Cooper. Picture by FRANK REID
Hartlepool Mail Chief sports writer Craig Hope talking to Neale Cooper. Picture by FRANK REID

NEALE Cooper admits that size matters in League One – and the Scot believes his boys have the capacity to mix it this season.

The Pools chief bemoaned his side’s “soft centre” on several occasions last term.

That prompted entry into the transfer market over the summer and powerhouse pair Steve Howard and Simon Walton were duly brought in.

Already Cooper sees a steelier resolve to his team, and the former midfield enforcer – famed for his own uncompromising style – is happy with the physical make-up of his new-look Pools.

“If you look at us now we’ve got a good presence to our team – I think you need that in this league,” he told SportMail today, with preparations continuing for Saturday’s visit of Hull City.

“We’ve said amongst ourselves, going from the back we are a big, strong team.

“Scott (Flinders) in goal has Sam (Collins) and Peter (Hartley) in front of him, three strong boys.

“In the middle of the park we’ve got Simon and Tony (Sweeney), they complement each other very well.

“Simon has a good size about him and he has that snarl that you need in the middle, he’s not afraid to mix it.

“Monks (Andy Monkhouse) on the left is a good height and is excellent in the air.

“Then, of course, you’ve got big Stevie up front - he is just getting better with every game.

“He’s a good out-ball but we will still look to play football.

“You have to mix it up and do whatever suits the game you’re playing, but we’ve certainly got more options this year.”

One of Cooper’s other gripes from last season was the lack of goals from set-pieces.

However, having seen skipper Collins head a late leveller from a Jonathan Franks corner during Tuesday’s 2-2 draw with Middlesbrough, the 48-year-old believes their deadball return will improve this time around.

“We’ve done a lot of work on defensive set-pieces and we’ll do more on our own ones,” he said.

“We didn’t score enough from set-pieces last season, and I don’t think the deliveries were to blame, we just weren’t getting on the end of things.

“We need to work on that and I think the size we have this year will make a big difference.

“If Stevie doesn’t win it then the defenders don’t get a clean header.

“That allows the likes of Luke (James) to pick up on things.

“And we saw on Tuesday that Sam took advantage of Stevie being in there with his goal.”